The copied email below, which was sent to me by a Scamicide reader, appears to come from PayPal in regard to a payment for premium services at Pornhub which is the largest adult website on the Internet and which claims it had 42 billion visits last year. As always, the purpose of a phishing email is to lure you into clicking on links contained within the email or providing personal information, in this case by phone if you call to dispute the phony bill . If you click on links in phishing emails, you end up downloading malware and if you provide the requested information, it ends up being used to make you a victim of identity theft. This particular phishing email provides a phone number to call if you wish to dispute the obviously phony invoice. If you call the number in the phishing email you will be asked for personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft. The phone number is not that of PayPal.
Millions of people still use AOL. One reason for this is that you get greater email privacy when compared to some other email carriers. Due to its popularity, scammers and identity thieves often send out phishing emails that appear to come from AOL, such as the one reproduced below. If you click on the link in the email where it reads “CLICK HERE TO VERIFY NOW” one of two things can occur and both are bad. Either you will end up providing personal information to an identity thief or you will, merely by clicking on the link, download dangerous malware such as ransomware on to your phone, computer or other device.
I have warned you a number of times in the past about the danger of identity theft that occurs when criminals steal your mail from your mailbox. Among the dangers of mail theft are criminals gathering personal information contained in your mail to set up accounts in your name or getting your credit card bill and using the information in your bill to access your credit card. However, sometimes the criminals don’t even have to steal your mail, they can get the United States Postal Service USPS) to deliver your mail directly to the criminal by submitting a change of address form with the post office on your behalf either in person or online that results in your mail being sent directly to the criminal. One of the ways that the Postal Service tries to prevent this type of fraud is by sending a letter to your old address confirming that you wanted your mail sent to a new address, however, this can be circumvented by clever scammers who merely submit a form to the post office on your behalf to hold your mail, as many people do when they are on vacation, which enables the scammer to get extra time before the scam is discovered. Other times, the identity thieves will steal the notice from your mail knowing it is coming.
Today’s security update corrects 26 critical vulnerabilities in the popular search engine Google Chrome. It is important to remember that while Google will automatically send your computer the updates as soon as they are issued, you need to restart your browser to install the updates. Some people leave their browser open for days at a time so it is important to download and install any Google Chrome security updates as soon as they are available.
Being in debt is a difficult situation faced by many people. Unfortunately, it can be made much worse when debtors are targeted by unscrupulous scammers posing as debt relief specialists who steal from the people in debt. In the Scam of the day for July 18, 2020 I told you that the FTC and the Florida Attorney General had settled their lawsuit against an organization called the Helping America Group that got people to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a month by falsely promising to pay, settle, or obtain dismissal of their debts and improve their credit scores. Over time, victims found their debts unpaid, their accounts in default, and their credit scores severely damaged. Some were sued by their creditors, and others were forced into bankruptcy. In the July 18, 2020 Scam of the day I informed you that the FTC was sending more than 16 million dollars to victims of the scam. Now the FTC is sending a second round of checks to people who lost money to this scam because the FTC was able to recover an additional 6.5 million dollars from the Helping America Group to reimburse victims of the scam.
The federal government has just launched its website where you can sign up for free Covid-19 tests. With an average of 777.453 new Covid-19 cases and 1,797 new deaths each day, according to Johns Hopkins University, many of us are concerned about the disease and home testing is a major part of the strategy to combat the disease. The Biden administration has pledged to initially distribute 500 million free rapid tests to Americans who use the new website or call a telephone hotline that is expected to be set up soon. This is a very positive development for many people who have had difficulty obtaining home tests. The scam will be coming when scammers start setting up phony websites that appear to be that of the official government website. In these phony websites it can be expected that the scammers will ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number which they will use to make you a victim of identity theft.
Counterfeit check scams take many different forms, but their most common form is where you are provided a check, under a wide variety of pretenses, for more than you would be paid and asked to wire the difference back to the person giving you the check. The check is counterfeit and after you deposit it into your bank account, it will ultimately bounce and be rejected, however, the money you wire from your bank account believing that the check was legitimate is gone forever with no recourse.
Criminals around the country are increasingly stealing mail with checks in them from U.S. Postal Service mailboxes, “washing” the checks with simple nail polish remover to remove the name of the person or company to whom the check was made out and then writing in their own name. In other instances, the criminals will also change the amount of the check. In recent years Boston and New Orleans, for example, had large numbers of such mailbox thefts of checks that were then altered and cashed. Identity theft is a high tech, low tech and no tech crime and while we often tend to focus our attention on high tech identity theft tactics such as spear phishing, no tech tactics such as fishing for mail with a plastic bottle covered in glue that is lowered into blue public mailboxes to capture mail being sent with checks is making a comeback. In other instances criminals can either steal or buy a USPS mailbox key which are sold on the Dark Web, that part of the Internet where criminals buy and sell goods and services for as much as $1,000. Some criminals, rather than use the “washed” checks themselves are now selling the checks on the Dark Web to other criminals directly. In addition, criminals can also can use the account number of your check to create counterfeit checks to access your checking account.
Romance scams generally follow a familiar pattern with the scammers establishing relationships with people, generally women, online through various legitimate dating websites and social media using fake names, locations and images. The FBI has issued a warning about a new trend in romance scams in which the scammer tells his victim that he has inside knowledge about cryptocurrency investing and directs the victim to a phony website that purports to be a legitimate cryptocurrency trading site. Not long after “investing” in the cryptocurrencies provided, the victim soon finds that there is no investment and that she or he has lost all of the invested money. This scam originated in China in 2019 and is called sha zhu pan or pig butchering in English. The name is derived from the practice of luring in victims, “fattening them up” by convincing them to continually “invest” more money and then stealing all of the money.
Scam of the day – January 16, 2022 – Interesting Takeaways from the FTC’s Biennial Report to Congress about the Do Not Call List
The Federal Trade Commission has issued it biennial report to Congress about the National Do Not Call list. Since it began in 2003, the National Do Not Call list has grown to include more than 244 million phone numbers. When you register your phone number with the Do Not Call list it becomes illegal for telemarketers to contact you by phone. The Do Not Call list does not apply to charities so you still may be contacted by charities even if you have registered for the Do Not Call list. However, when you receive a call from someone purporting to be representing a charity, you can never be sure who is really calling so you should never give your credit card number to someone who calls you allegedly from a charity. If you are interested in a particular charity, contact the charity directly to make your contribution.
Navient, one of the largest student loan servicing companies in the United States has reached a tentative settlement of lawsuits brought by the Attorneys General of thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia. According to the terms of the settlement which still requires court approval, Navient agrees to cancel 1.7 billion dollars in delinquent student loan debts and pay 95 million dollars in restitution to 66,000 borrowers who had loans with Navient.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported that in the first nine months of 2021, consumers lost 148 million dollars to scams in which gift cards were used as the payment method. This amount was more than in all of 2020. Scammers are big fans of gift cards because they are easy to purchase, easy to send to the scammer and impossible to trace to the scammer. It is not even necessary for the scammer to be in possession of the actual gift card to use it. Sending the gift card numbers or taking a picture on your phone and transmitting it to the scammer is sufficient for the scammer to use the gift card to buy things that can then be sold and converted into cash. In many instances the scams involved scammers posing as large companies or government agencies such as the IRS demanding payments. It is important to remember that no legitimate company and no government agencies asks for or accepts gift cards as a payment method so anytime you are asked for a payment by gift card, you can be confident it is a scam.
While attendance at movie theaters generally continues to be dramatically reduced from pre-pandemic levels, in-theater attendance at the new “Spiderman: No Way Home” movie is breaking box office records around the world. Unlike Marvel studio’s” Black Widow” which was released simultaneously both in theaters and online last summer after having its release postponed repeatedly due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the new Spiderman movie is presently only available in theaters However, there are many people who either don’t want to go to a theater due to the pandemic or merely prefer to watch movies conveniently at home and scammers are taking advantage of this situation by setting up sites that purport to provide you with a streaming version of the movie, but end up either taking your money or harming your computer.
With the return of cold weather throughout much of the United States there has been a dramatic increase in telephone scams involving scammers posing as utility company customer service representatives demanding payments and threatening to turn off electrical power if a payment is not made immediately. Scams involving utility bills for electric, water or gas services have long been popular with scammers. These scams have multiple variations.
Scam of the day – January 11, 2022 – Beware of Fake Endorsements for Phony Erectile Disfunction Products
The Kraken is a mythological sea monster of epic proportions so it is not surprising that scammers have taken that name for a totally phony erectile disfunction (ED) supplement that the scammers represent as being as being the equivalent of legitimate ED treatments Cialis and Viagra. The scammers advertise the worthless supplements primarily on social media and contain totally false representations that the supplements were endorsed by Clint Eastwood, Dr. Phil and Fox News. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers to avoid approximately fifty male enhancement and weight loss products found to contain hidden ingredients that pose serious health risks. Here are links to lists of the specific products that make up this most recent warning. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/tainted-sexual-enhancement-products and https://www.fda.gov/drugs/medication-health-fraud/tainted-weight-loss-products It is important to note that merely because a particular product does not appear on this list does not mean that it is legitimate or safe. Indeed many of these products are not only ineffective, but are harmful to your health
With the Omicron variant of the Coronavirus wreaking havoc around the country, many people are desperately trying to get tested and unfortunately, in many places around the country finding a testing site can be difficult, which provides an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of the situation for purposes of luring victims into identity theft. More and more we are seeing pop-up testing sites in parking lots and shopping malls throughout the country and while many of these are legitimate, many of them are not. In St. Louis a Covid testing site in a mall parking lot was asking people to provide their Social Security number which you don’t need to do to get a test. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has warned Baltimore residents to avoid “illegal, unlicensed pop-up COVID-19 testing sites” that collected personal information that could be used for purposes of identity theft.
The phony invoice scam is a common scam popular with scammers because it is quite effective. It starts when you receive an email that purports to be from a popular company with which many of us do business that indicates that you owe them a significant payment. The scammers count on people being concerned that they are being wrongfully charged for a product they did not order. You are provided a telephone number to call if you dispute the bill. If you call the number, you will be prompted to provide personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft.
Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, more and more people have been going online looking for home and apartment rentals rather than meeting with landlords in person. Fortunately, there are many online listings of legitimate real estate agents and landlords. These websites can be easy and efficient ways to locate a home. However, unfortunately there are also many scammers attempting to rent apartments to you that they do not own.
Last week the federal court for the Southern District of Florida issued an order permanently barring Gerald Vito, James Eleby and Gerald Vito LLC d/b/a Income Tax Services from preparing income tax returns. According to the Justice Department who brought the civil action against these defendants, they prepared income tax returns for their clients that claimed phony and overstated charitable deductions, medical expenses and employee business expenses that reduced their clients’ income taxes. Often these defendants deducted additional fees from their clients’ refunds without disclosing the fees to their clients. Tax season is about to start and there are many phony tax preparers who commit a variety of crimes including those of the Florida defendants who not only attempted to defraud the IRS, but also made their clients, who signed the returns criminals as well. Criminal tax preparers also often steal the personal information provided by their clients to make them victims of identity theft.
As was made abundantly clear by 2017’s massive Equifax data breach which affected 148 million people and was perpetrated by hackers exploiting a vulnerability in Apache software for which Apache had already issued a security update, but Equifax failed to install, constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats. When new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices. Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use. Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results. However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update. Today’s security update involves serious vulnerabilities in the popular search engine Google Chrome. It is important to remember that while Google will automatically send your computer the updates as soon as they are issued, you need to restart your browser to install the updates. Some people leave their browser open for days at a time so it is important to download and install any Google Chrome security updates as soon as they are available.
Broward Health, a network of more than thirty health care facilities has just disclosed that it suffered a massive data breach in which sensitive personal information including Social Security numbers, patient medial history and bank account information of more than 1.3 million people was stolen in a data breach that occurred in October of 2021.
Clever scam artists are increasingly setting up phony websites that appear to be for customer service or tech support of many of the companies with which we do business. Often they either purchase an ad to appear at the top of a search engine search or they manipulate the algorithms used by Google and other search engines to make their phony customer service number appear high on a search. They also purchase telephone numbers that are a single digit off of the legitimate phone numbers for many companies’ tech support or customer support in order to take advantage of common consumer misdials. Compounding the problem is the fact that many companies, particularly social media companies, do not provide a customer service telephone number to call and speak to a real person about your problem. They only provide online support.
Having unique, complicated passwords for each of your accounts is an essential element of online security. However, remembering all of your passwords can be a difficult task for many people, which is why so many people use online password managers, which store all of your passwords for you. These companies, however, are tempting targets for identity thieves. In 2015 I told you about online password manager company LastPass suffering a data breach in which customers’ email addresses, password reminders and encrypted master passwords were taken. Recently, there were initial indications that LastPass had been hacked although it was later determined that no individual accounts were hacked. Rather, cybercriminals appear to have attempted to use the master passwords of LastPass customers to access their accounts and gain access to the passwords for all of the sensitive accounts of LastPass customers. Fortunately, LastPass recognized that the attempted access to the accounts was coming from Brazil and determined that what was happening was that due to data breaches at other websites, passwords used at those websites were compromised and, in the situation where LastPass customers used the same password for multiple accounts, they put themselves in jeopardy.
More than a billion people use the WhatsApp mobile messaging app that helps you send text messages, photographs, videos and audio. Due to its extreme popularity, it is not surprising that WhatsApp has become an attractive platform for scammers. I have reported to you for years about the various scams targeting WhatsApp users. A common WhatsApp scam that is happening frequently involves social engineering used to hack your account and then use your account to scam other people. The scam starts when you receive a message through WhatsApp that appears to come from a friend or family member. The message tells you that you are about to receive a text message and requests that you send that message back to your them. The truth is that the message you received through WhatsApp is from an account taken over by a hacker who is looking to take over your account too. The text message that you are sent on your phone is actually a dual factor authentication code sent to you because the hacker is trying to take over your WhatsApp account and if you sent it to your “friend” as requested, you are actually turning over that code to a hacker who can then use it to take over your WhatsApp account in order to send out messages with malware or lure your WhatsApp friends into becoming victims of scams because they believe the messages sent by the hacker with malware and scams are coming from you.
With both the Delta variant and Omicron variant of the Coronavirus continuing to rage throughout much of the country and many parts of the world. much attention has been focused on antibody tests for the Coronavirus. A proper antibody test can determine if you are infected with the Coronavirus whether or not you are symptomatic.
Legitimate antibody tests are available, but it is no surprise that scammers are jumping on the bandwagon and trying to sell you bogus tests that not only are worthless, but in the process of selling you these phony tests, the scammers are often asking for information that can later be used by the scammers to make you a victim of identity theft. In 2020 the FBI issued a warning about these scams and recently the Georgia Attorney General issued a strong warning about the problem of phony Covid tests. While this latest warning came from the Georgia Attorney General, the scam is being perpetrated everywhere.
Scam of the day – December 31, 2021 – Cryptocurrency Investors Scammed Out of 7.7 Billion Dollars in 2021
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are extremely popular with the public and scammers are exploiting that interest with a wide variety of scams featuring Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Over the years I have written about a wide variety of cryptocurrency scams, many of which are related to attempts by scammers to steal cryptocurrencies from both the large cryptocurrency exchanges, but more often from the particular cryptocurrency wallets of individual holders of cryptocurrencies. The company Chainalysis recently reported that cryptocurrency related scams cost victims 7.7 billion dollars in 2021.
Recently Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and its National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) announced that they had discovered 225 million stolen emails and passwords that were compromised in multiple data breaches and were being made available to cybercriminals on the Dark Web, that part of the Internet where criminals buy and sell goods and services. We all have many devices and online accounts that require a password. While it is always a good idea to use dual factor authentication and other security enhancements when available, a good, strong password is still at the core of protecting yourself in the digital world. Unfortunately, too many people use common passwords that are too easy for an identity thief to guess and this can lead to identity theft. In addition, many people use the same password for each of their online accounts which puts them in jeopardy when a data breach at just one place provides the password to all of his or her accounts to a cybercriminal.
Millions of people still use AOL. One reason for this is that you get greater email privacy when compared to some other email carriers. Due to its popularity, scammers and identity thieves often send out phishing emails that appear to come from AOL, such as the one reproduced below. If you click on the link in the email where it reads “UPDATE NOW” one of two things can occur and both are bad. Either you will end up providing personal information to an identity thief or you will, merely by clicking on the link, download dangerous malware such as ransomware on to your phone, computer or other device.
Laundering money derived from a scam is an essential element of many scams. Scammers can be extremely clever at distancing themselves from their scams in order to avoid detection. The people they enlist either as willing or unknowing participants in the laundering of the proceeds of a scam are called money mules. Scams in which innocent people are lured into being unknowing money mules are numerous. One of the more common of these involves work at home scams where your job is to receive goods, often electronics that have been shipped to you, inspect them and then reship them to an address provided to you by your new employer. The problem is that these goods have been purchased with stolen credit cards and you have just become an accomplice to the crime when you ship them to someone else who will then sell them to turn the merchandise into cash. Other times the scammers will say that your job is to receive funds sent to you by the scammer, deposit the funds in your own bank account and wire the funds to people who the scammers tell you are either clients or suppliers of the scammers phony company.
Scam of the day – December 27, 2021 – Student Loan Pause Extended to May 1, 2022 – Scammers Will be Pouncing
In the Scam of the day for December 21, 2021 I told you that the present pause on student loan payments and interest put into effect during the pandemic which had been extended numerous times, was scheduled to end on January 31, 2022 with payments required to resume in February. Now, however, the federal government has again extended the pause until May 1, 2022. The sudden resumption of payments by 40 million student loan borrowers at that time will surely prompt scammers to contact students and their families with a wide variety of scams related to repayment or forgiveness of student loans. Some scammers will be contacting students posing as the student’s loan servicer. In order to verify that you are being contacted by your real loan servicer, you can go to the Department of Education’s federal student aid website where you can get detailed information on your current student loan servicer including contact information. Here is that link. https://studentaid.gov/
In 2020 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning about the dangers presented by skimmers on gas pumps. I have warned you about the dangers of skimmers for many years. Skimmers are small electronic devices that are easily installed by an identity thief on gas pumps, ATMs and other card reading devices. The skimmer steals all of the information from old style magnetic strip credit card or debit cards which then enables the identity thief to use that information to access the victim’s bank account when the skimmer is used on a debit card. If a credit card is used, the identity thief can use the stolen information to access the victim’s credit card account. Each skimmer can hold information on as many as 2,400 cards.
Online greeting cards are a great product for anyone who tends to be a bit late in sending out holiday greeting cards by regular mail. You can even send one on Christmas day and not be late. They are easy to send and many are free. They also can be very entertaining and offer a chance to send a timely greeting even if you have forgotten an important holiday, birthday or anniversary until the last minute. However, they also are fraught with scams and dangers. Clicking on a phony online greeting card sent to you can result in your downloading a wide variety of malware including not only ransomware, but also a keystroke logging program that will steal all of the information from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft. An additional problem is that even if you have the most up to date security software on your computer or phone, it will not protect you from the latest “zero day” defect malware that exploit previously undiscovered software vulnerabilities. It generally takes security software companies at least thirty days after first becoming aware of new strains of malware to develop security software to combat those threats.
In desperate times people often let their guard down, which provides a lethal combination for scammers offering loans to people even if they have poor credit. You may get a solicitation for a loan through an email or you may even see it in legitimate media, but you should always beware. Just because an advertisement for a loan appears in a legitimate newspaper or other media does not mean that the loan offering has been investigated for legitimacy by the media carrying the advertisement. In fact, in difficult financial times when advertising dollars are hard to come by, the standards of media for taking advertisement seem to drop. Other times the loan solicitation comes by way of a robocall or text message.
Scam of the day – December 23, 2021 – What to do When You Become a Victim of a Data Breach Over the Holidays
Recently, the federal government issued a warning to business leaders to be ready for inevitable cyberattacks during the Christmas and New Year period. Many times in the recent years, major cyberattacks and data breaches occurred over the holidays when businesses, government agencies and individuals are not paying as much attention to cybersecurity as they should be. According to the National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, “Historically we have seen breaches around national holidays because criminals know that security operations centers are often short-staffed , delaying the discovery of intrusions.”
According to a study recently released by Javelin Strategy & Research more than 1.25 million children became victims of identity theft last year and the true number is probably much greater because in many instances child identity theft is not discovered until the child reaches age 18. Identity thieves steal the identity of a child and then run up large debts using the credit of the child, who generally does not become aware that his or her identity has been stolen until he or she reaches older teen years when the teenager might first apply for a car loan or financial aid for college.
The present pause on student loan payments and interest put into effect during the pandemic has been extended numerous times, but is scheduled to end on January 31, 2022 with payments required to resume in February. The sudden resumption of payments by 40 million student loan borrowers is prompting scammers to contact students and their families with a wide variety of scams related to repayment or forgiveness of student loans. Some scammers will be contacting students posing as the student’s loan servicer. In order to verify that you are being contacted by your real loan servicer, you can go to the Department of Education’s federal student aid website where you can get detailed information on your current student loan servicer including contact information. Here is that link. https://studentaid.gov/
Ever since the start of the Coronavirus there have been a tremendous amount of online purchases and while Federal Express, UPS and the United States Postal Service are doing a very good job in delivering packages in a timely fashion, a significant number of items that should have been already been delivered are late or out of stock. As always, when something affects many people, scammers take advantage of it to scam us. In this case, scammers, posing as the United States Postal Service, Federal Express and UPS and Amazon are contacting people apologizing for the delay in receiving their orders and offering a refund of their money. The emails contain a link for you to click on to process your claim for a refund, but unfortunately, if you click on the link either you will automatically download harmful malware or you will be prompted to provide information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft.
Receiving a telephone call from a debt collector is not a pleasant experience. Being hounded by someone attempting to collect a debt you do not owe is fraud. Recently the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled its complaint against phantom debt collector National Landmark Logistics, LLC. The FTC accused National Landmark Logistics LLC with using illegal robocalls to leave deceptive messages that consumers would face imminent legal action or even arrest for unpaid debts that in many instances did not even exist. Collecting payments for debts that are not owed is often referred to as phantom debt collection. According to the FTC, National Landmark Logistics, LLC collected on debts that didn’t exist or that National Landmark knew it had no right to collect. Debt collection through robocalls is always illegal. One of the conditions of the settlement is that National Landmark Logistics will be permanently barred from the debt collection business.
Scammers and identity thieves view the open enrollment period as senior citizen hunting season as myriads of Medicare scams are common during this time. Seniors may be contacted by someone purporting to be from their insurance company asking them to verify information. This is a common tactic of identity thieves trying to trick their victims into providing information. They also may be contacted by people claiming to have supplemental insurance programs that will save them thousands of dollars. Here too, you cannot be sure that they are legitimate when they contact you by phone, text message, email or even regular mail.
The recent tornadoes that devastated parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and particularly Kentucky is the most recent example of how scammers set up phony charities and pose as legitimate charities in order to steal money from generous people trying to help the victims of a natural disaster.
Peer to Peer Payment Payment Services (P2P) such as Zelle, Venmo, ApplePay, PayPal, Square Cash and PopMoney are popular ways to quickly and conveniently send money electronically from your credit card or bank account. These services are used by 113 million Americans. These services also provide easy ways to be scammed and unlike scams targeting your credit cards directly, you may not have as much protection under the law to get your money back if you do get scammed. Zelle which originated in 2017 is operated by a consortium of banks and appears on your mobile banking app. Sending money through Zelle only requires you to enter the recipient’s phone number or email address. In addition to scammers luring their victims to pay for worthless items through P2P services, scammers have also been sending phishing emails and text messages in which they lure their victims into providing their Zelle usernames, passwords and PINs to take over their victims’ bank accounts through their Zelle accounts.
Yes, Virginia, even Santa Claus may scam you. A number of phony websites and postings on social media are offering personalized letters from Santa Claus that you can purchase for your children. Unfortunately, while the spirit of Santa Claus is real, many of the companies offering these letters from Santa are not and all that you end up doing is turning over your credit card number to a scammer who then uses it to make fraudulent purchases while you receive no letter from Santa Claus. There are some legitimate companies offering letters from Santa for a fee, but it is important to check them out thoroughly before hiring their services. An easy first step to do that is to merely Google the name of the company with the word “scam” and see what comes up.
Due to computer chip shortage, automobile manufacturers are producing fewer new cards and many consumers are turning to buying a used car. A problem about which people often are unaware involves the sale of used cars that were damaged in a storm or hurricane. In the past, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and other state RMVs have issued warnings to consumers to be on the lookout for used cars with phony title papers that indicate that the particular used car in which you are interested is from a state such as Oregon when in fact, these cars are cars that were from hurricane ravaged areas with many of them containing hidden water damage that could present serious safety problems.
Scam of the day – December 12, 2021 – FTC Sending 3rd Round of Checks to Victims of Business Coaching Scam
Business coaches are people who advise and guide business owners in the operating and growing their businesses. They can be quite helpful, particularly to entrepreneurs. However, scammers posing as business coaches take advantage of trusting business owners by selling worthless services to their unwary victims. I have reported on this scam numerous times in the past, but it is timely again with the FTC’s settlement of charges against the operators of Coaching Department and Apply Knowledge who scammed millions of dollars from consumers by falsely promising their victims that they could easily earn thousands of dollars each month if they bought the business coaching services offered.
Many of you may not remember the name of Mavis Wanczyk, but she was the lucky winner of a 758 million dollar Powerball drawing in 2017. Not long after she claimed her prize, a scam started appearing in which many people received emails with the message line referring to the Mavis Wanczyk Cash Grant. The email indicated that you were chosen to receive a large cash grant from Mavis Wanczyk. All the lucky strangers receiving the emails had to do was provide personal information in order to qualify for the grant. In addition, phony social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were also set up in Ms. Wanczyk’s name through which people were contacted with the same phony offer of free money informing them that in order to qualify for the grant they merely needed to provide personal information.
The holiday shopping season is well underway and, many people are looking for coupons to cut the cost. Everyone loves coupons and like many things in our lives, coupons which used to be found commonly in newspapers and magazines have migrated online. Last year the Better Business Bureau issued a warning about phony coupons appearing on social media. Among the companies affected by these phony coupons were Bath and Body Works, Costco, Aldi, Starbucks and Trader Joe’s. As I have warned you many times in the past, Facebook has become a hotbed for phony online coupons. The phony coupons looks quite legitimate which means nothing because it is very easy to copy the company logos and make the coupons appear to be genuine. The way that many phony coupon scams work is that in order to qualify for the coupon, you must complete a survey in which you are required to provide much personal information that is used to make you a victim of identity theft. In other versions of the scam, the scammer actually asks for your credit card numbers. In yet another version of the scam you are required to buy many costly items in order to claim your “free” coupon. Many of the coupon scams also require you to forward the coupon to friends which make the phony coupons look more legitimate when they are received by your friends. Ultimately, in all of these scams, the coupons are worthless and you get nothing, but the opportunity to become a victim of identity theft.
Recently in Tennessee, Shamari Johnson was convicted of mail fraud and identity theft charges and sentenced to 75 months in prison. Johnson cruised through neighborhoods stealing both outgoing and delivered mail from the mailboxes of residents. From the stolen mail that included checks, he was able to create counterfeit checks. He also used personal information contained in the mail for purposes of identity theft.
I have been warning you about the jury duty scam for nine years, but it continues to snare many unwary victims. This scam has been used effectively for years by scammers to con people out of their money. The scam starts with a telephone call that you receive purportedly from a law enforcement officer informing you that you have failed to appear for jury duty and that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. You are told, however, that you can avoid arrest and greater fines by paying a fine through a credit card or or prepaid cash card. Of course, the phone call is a scam. Even if you have missed jury duty, you will never be called by legitimate court officers and shaken down for a payment. The FBI warning noted that often now the scammers will use a technique called “spoofing” to make the call appear on your Caller ID as if it is coming from a legitimate law enforcement agency or court. In some instances of the scam you are asked to confirm your identity by providing your Social Security number which will then be used to make you a victim of identity theft. Recently the scam has evolved to where people are also being contacted by text messages or emails from scammers posing as a representative of the local court system.
Scam of the day – December 7, 2021 – Hacker Sentenced for Stealing Millions of Dollars Worth of Cryptocurrencies.
Garrett Endicott recently was sentenced to prison for his role in a hacking conspiracy perpetrated by a criminal group known as “The Community” that stole millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies from their victims through SIM card swapping which gave Endicott and the other five members of “The Community” access to the cryptocurrency accounts of their victims.
The email came from the email address of a person who is a friend and client of mine, but it was pretty clear to me that my friend had not sent the email. Rather, her email had been hacked and used to send emails to people on her contact list asking for the payment. As I often tell you, you can never be sure who is actually calling you on the phone, sending you a text message or sending you an email. Therefore you should never give personal information, credit card information, gift card information or wire money in response to such a communication unless you have absolutely confirmed that the communication is legitimate. Gift cards and wiring money are two of the favorite ways that people are scammed so when you are asked to provide either of those, you should always be skeptical.