Scam of the Day

Date: 2/20/2018 5:03 PM PST

Prisoners serving their sentences have a lot of time on their hands and it appears that many of them are using that time to make a variety of scam phone calls using contraband cell phones smuggled into the prisons. Georgia Attorney General issued a warning about phone scams being perpetrated by prisoners in the Georgia state prisons where more than 1,400 contraband cell phones were confiscated in just the last three months of 2017 and this problem is by no means limited to Georgia. The scams include common phone scams such as calls indicating there is a warrant for your arrest and unless you make a payment over the phone by credit card, you will be arrested; calls indicating that you have missed jury duty and will be arrested or phony bill collection calls, often for utility bills where dire consequences will follow unless you make a payment over the phone. These phone calls may even look legitimate because it is a simple matter for the scammers to use apps to "spoof" another telephone number so the call may appear on your Caller ID as if it is originating with the local police, court or utility company.

TIPS

Whenever you receive a phone call, you can never be sure who is really calling you which is why you should never provide personal information such as your Social Security number or your credit card number to anyone that calls you. If there is a real warrant for your arrest, you cannot resolve it by making a credit card payment over the phone. Courts do not call prospective jurors about missing jury duty and will not ask for personal information such as your Social Security number over the phone to confirm your identity. That is the realm of identity thieves. As for utility companies, they will not be threatening to turn off your service immediately unless you make a payment over the phone. If you believe you may owe a utility bill or any other bill, merely hang up and call the real company at a telephone number that you know is accurate to find out the truth.

Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/19/2018 2:55 PM PST

Recently, Adobe confirmed that it will stop updating and distributing Adobe Flash at the end of 2020 although frankly, it would be wise for you to migrate away from this very vulnerable software program as soon as possible. In 2010 Steve Jobs vociferously complained about its security and would not allow it to used on iPhones, iPods and iPads due to its serious vulnerability to being hacked. Flaws in Adobe Flash have been exploited by hackers and identity thieves against individuals, companies and government agencies including the U.S. State Department and the White House. Adobe will still be issuing security patches until the end of 2020, but now is a good time to move away from Adobe Flash if you have not already done so.

TIPS

If you are going to continue to use Adobe Flash, it is imperative that you update your software with the latest security patches when they are issued.  Here is a link to the latest updates for Adobe Flash.

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2017/11/14/Adobe-Releases-Security-Updates

However, it may well be time for you to replace Adobe Flash to avoid future problems.

Here is a link to a website with alternative plugins you may wish to consider to replace Adobe Flash.

http://alternativeto.net/software/flash-player/

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Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/18/2018 2:11 PM PST

Customers of T-Mobile recently received the following text message that some people thought was a scam, but was entirely legitimate. The text message read, "T-Mobile Alert: We have identified an industry-wide phone number port out scam and encourage you to add account security." A port out scam occurs when a scammer contacts your mobile carrier and convinces them to change your phone number to a new phone controlled by the scammer. This enables the scammer to move on to scams such as taking over bank accounts that may be tied to your phone for security purposes through dual factor authentication. With dual factor authentication, whenever you are going to access an online account, a special code is sent to your smartphone after you have typed in your user name and password. However, if the scammer has taken control of your phone, he or she is able to defeat dual factor authentication. I have been warning you about this type of scam for five years and it is becoming more serious.

More and more, scammers are contacting mobile providers and tricking customer service into changing the SIM card of targeted victims to one in a phone controlled by the hackers. A Subscriber Identity Module, more commonly known as a SIM card, is an integrated circuit that stores information including your smartphone number and is used to authenticate subscribers on mobile devices.  The SIM card is able to be transferred between different devices, and often is, when people update into a newer smartphone.  

TIPS

Fortunately, there is an easy way to enhance your security to protect your SIM card from being switched thereby thwarting the protections provided by dual factor authentication and that is to set up a PIN or password to be used for access to your mobile service provider account.  Sprint and Verizon use PINs while T-Mobile and AT&T will let you set up a password. If you are a T-Mobile customer, you click on this link to add a password to your account to be used in order to take steps such as changing a SIM card. https://www.t-mobile.com/customers/secure 

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Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/17/2018 4:37 PM PST

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a well-known, legitimate charity founded by Microsoft creator Bill Gates and his wife. It does not give random grants to people, however since 2015 a scam based on that premise has been victimizing people. Below is a copy of an email that is presently being circulated. As with many similar scams, when someone responds to the email they are told that they need to pay a fee in order to receive their prize. One recent victim paid $11,000 to the scammers before she realized that it was a scam.

"DONATION When Tuesday, 06 February 2018 04:30 AM to 05:30 AM (GMT) Greenwich Mean Time - Dublin / Edinburgh / Lisbon / London WhereWrite to my private email **********************@gmail.com Message Welcome to Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), also known as the Gates Foundation, is a private foundation founded by me, I, Bill Gates and my wife Melinda Gates have decided to donate $1,400,000.00 to randomly selected individuals worldwide from the funds we Mapped out to help people and you are among the lucky individual, i saw your profile on Microsoft email owners list and i picked you, Kindly get back to me at your earliest convenience, so I know your email address is valid. Thanks Bill Gates"

TIPS

Lottery and sweepstakes scams continue to snare people because too many of us get blinded by our own greed to remember that while it is difficult to win any lottery, it is impossible to win one that you have never entered.  Further, no legitimate lottery ever will ask you to pay anything to claim your prize.  While income taxes are owed on lottery winnings, those taxes are either deducted from your prize before you receive your prize as with state sponsored lotteries or you receive the entire prize and are responsible on your own for paying the income taxes on your winnings.  No legitimate lottery or sweepstakes ever collects income tax payments from lottery winners.

Another telltale indication that this is a scam is the poor grammar used in the email, which often is an indication that the scam is originating in a country where English is not the primary language.

The real Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has a page on their website where they warn you about the various scams linked to their foundation. https://www.gatesfoundation.org/media-center/press-releases/2012/11/reporting-email-scams

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Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/16/2018 4:16 PM PST

In recent days, I have been contacted by numerous Scamicide.com readers who have received communications in regard to mystery shopping scams. Fortunately, as Scamicide readers they were sufficiently knowledgeable to avoid these scams, but it is very important to remind everyone again about these scams which all too often are perpetrated successfully. Mystery shoppers are people hired to shop at a particular store and report on the shopping experience for purposes of quality control. Unlike many scams, there actually are legitimate mystery shopper companies, but they never advertise or recruit through emails, text messages or letters.

The manner in which the scam generally works is that when you answer an advertisement, or respond to a letter, email or a text message to become a mystery shopper, you are sent a bank check. You spend some of the money on the goods that you purchase which you are allowed to keep and also are directed to keep some of the balance of the check as payment for your services. You are generally instructed to return the remaining funds by a wire transfer. In a recent Walmart themed mystery shopper scam that targeted a Scamicide reader, the targeted victim was told to wire $1,225 of a $1,595 check back to the scammer. The problem is that the check or money order sent to you is counterfeit, but the money you send by wire from your bank account is real and is lost forever.

TIPS One reason why this scam fools so many people is that there really are mystery shopping jobs although the actual number is quite few and they do not go looking for you. An indication that you are involved with a scam is when you receive a check for more than what is owed you and you are asked to wire the difference back to the sender. This is the basis of many scams. Whenever you receive a check, wait for your bank to tell you that the check has fully cleared before you consider the funds as actually being in your account. Don't rely on provisional credit which is given after a few days, but which will be rescinded once a check bounces and never accept a check for more than what is owed with the intention to send back the rest. That is always a scam. Also be wary whenever you are asked to wire funds or send gift cards because this is a common theme in many scams because it is difficult to trace and impossible to stop. Legitimate companies do not use gift cards as payments.

If you receive a mystery shopper scam solicitation or check through the mail you can report it to the United States Postal Service at http://about.usps.com/publications/pub300a/pub300a_tech_024.htm

You also can report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which investigates these scams at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1

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Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/15/2018 5:04 PM PST

Income tax identity theft continues to be a major problem costing taxpayers in general billions of dollars each year and delaying refunds of victims of income tax identity theft by many months. However, due to the joint efforts of private sector tax preparers along with state and federal tax officials, instances of income tax identity theft have been dramatically reduced. Income tax identity theft occurs when an identity thief steals someone's Social Security number and uses it to electronically file a phony income tax return and claim a refund based on a counterfeit W-2 filed by the identity thief.

Earlier this week, the IRS warned taxpayers and tax preparers about an ingenious new evolution in income tax identity theft that has recently been observed. In this new scam, the identity thieves use phishing emails to tax preparers to gain information about the tax returns of their clients. The identity thieves then file income tax returns on behalf of those clients using much of the same information contained in previous tax returns including information about dependents. In addition, they request the IRS to send the refund to the actual bank account of the victim so everything appears quite normal. But then is when the fun starts. The next step in the scam is that after the refund has been received, the victim receives a telephone call from the scammer posing as a collector for the IRS who tells the targeted victim that there was an error in the refund and that it must be wired back to the collector. The call may seem legitimate because the caller knows the victim's Social Security number and the exact amount of the refund.

TIPS

The IRS does not call taxpayers demanding repayment of refunds issued in error and they never demand that payments be wired so if you receive such a call, it is a scam. But what do you do if you become a victim of this scam and do end up having a bogus refund sent to your bank account? You should contact the Automated Clearing House (CH) department of your bank where the bogus refund was sent and instruct them to return the funds to the IRS and then call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and inform them what happened and that you are returning the direct deposit. This scam is also perpetrated by scammers with the refund being paid through a paper check, as well. If you receive such a check, you should send it back to the IRS without cashing it along with an explanation. If you have cashed the check you should call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and explain the situation. They will give you instructions for returning the payment.

Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/14/2018 4:04 PM PST

Pyramid schemes are a type of scam that has been around for many years, but keeps popping up and scamming unsuspecting victims taken in both by their lack of skepticism and an abundance of greed, which is a profitable combination for scam artists. The latest version of this scam is now using Snapchat as a way of luring people into the scam and because Snapchat is primarily used by high school students, college students and other millenials, many of them have never heard of pyramid schemes.

Pyramid schemes are disguised as purported businesses, however, if you carefully evaluate the business you will see that the primary source of profit for the business is in enrolling new members who pay fees to join the business.  The only profit for investors comes from bringing more people into the scheme.  In other words, the only way you can make a profit is by becoming a scammer yourself.  Like the chain letter, pyramid schemes are doomed to failure because eventually you run out of people to sustain the growth of the pyramid. The new pyramid scheme appearing on Snapchat uses the catchphrase "crowd funding" to make it appear legitimate, but the essence of the scam is that you are pay an entrance fee using the Snapchat payment system, Snapcash to join the company and then are told that you will be paid a fee from everyone else joining as you are encouraged to spread the scam.

As with many scams, it does have some resemblance to how multi-level marketing companies such as Mary Kay Cosmetics and Amway operate; however, a key difference is that these companies actually sell products.  Pyramid schemes do not. In a pyramid scheme the source of profits is based primarily on the recruiting of new members or salespeople. 

TIPS

A little common sense can go a long way in avoiding pyramid schemes.  The simple question to ask yourself is whether or not the company actually sells products and makes substantial profits through product sales or through the recruiting of new members.  If it is through recruitment, it is most likely a pyramid scheme. Anyone who is considering investing in what is represented to be a multilevel marketing business should always investigate the company and the terms of investment carefully before investing any money.  In addition, you should also check out the company with the FTC and your state's attorney general to make sure that the company is legitimate before investing any money.  Here is a link to information from the FTC that you should consider before investing in a multilevel marketing business.  http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0065-multilevel-marketing

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states "Sign up for this blog."

Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/13/2018 3:43 PM PST

A new Bitcoin related scam has recently starting appearing on Twitter. Legitimate tweets of prominent business leaders such as Elon Musk, John McAfee or Vitalik Buterin, the founder of the cybercurrency Ethereum are responded to by cybercriminals with Twitter accounts that create the appearance that they are part of the thread started by the famous person.

In one of these scams presently circulating a thread started by Elon Musk using his Twitter handle of @elonmusk is responded to by someone using the handle of @ElonMsk, which also carries a photo of Elon Musk. Someone looking at it quickly may not recognize that it is not the Twitter handle of Elon Musk. The Tweet states, "I'm donating 20 Bitcoin to everyone who sends .02 to the address below. First 40 transactions with 0.02 BTC sent to the address below will each receive 0.5 BTC to the address the 0.02 BTC came from."

People are falling for this scam and sending in the few Bitcoins in an attempt to receive more in return. Although Twitter is shutting down these scammers when they become aware of the scams, it takes little time for the scammers to start the scam again using the name of another celebrity.

TIPS

If it looks too good to be true, it usually is. This scam is really just another incarnation of the Nigerian email scam. No one is giving anyone 20 Bitcoins in return for .02 Bitcoins. Elon Musk, John McAffee, Vitalik Buterin and other well known people are not giving away Bitcoins in return for paying them fewer Bitcoins. Always look carefully at Twitter threads when responding.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states "Sign up for this blog."

Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/12/2018 4:19 PM PST

Tomorrow is Valentine's day which is a very important day to many people including scammers and identity thieves who always manage to find an opportunity in whatever is going on to scam you out of your money.  There are many Valentine's day scams, but the most prevalent are phony florists, online dating scams, phony Valentine's day electronic greeting cards and delivery scams.

Scammers set up phony florist websites or send you an email purporting to be from a local florist with a great deal you merely have to click on in order to save a great deal of money on flowers.

Online dating scams are plentiful with most revolving around scammers quickly professing true love for you and then asking for money.

Electronic greeting cards are a great way to send a Valentine's day card at the last minute when you forget to get one ahead of time, but phony electronic greeting cards can be filled with malware and if you click on the link to open the card, you will infect your computer or other electronic device with malware that will steal your personal information and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

A common delivery scam operating on Valentine's day involves a delivery of a gift basket of wine and flowers to you, however the person delivering the gift basket requests a small payment, generally five dollars or less, as a delivery fee because alcohol is being delivered.  The person delivering the basket will only accept a credit card as payment.  When you turn over your credit card, the scammer then takes down the information and runs up charges on your credit card.

TIPS

Never trust an online florist or other retailer until you have checked them out to make sure that they are legitimate.  Otherwise, you might be turning over your credit card information to a scammer.  It is also important to remember, as I constantly warn you, that you can never be confident when you receive an email, particularly one with a link in it or an attachment to download, if the person sending you the email is who they claim to be.  Clicking on links sent by scammers can download keystroke logging malware on to your computer or other electronic device that will, in turn, enable the identity thief to steal personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.  Always confirm the legitimacy of an email or text message before clicking on links contained in the message.

As for online dating scams, of course you should be wary of anyone who immediately indicates he or she is in love with you and then asks for money.  Some other telltale signs of an online romance scam include wanting to communicate with you right away on an email account outside of the dating site, claiming to be working abroad, asking for your address and poor grammar which is often a sign of a foreign romance scammer.  Many romance scams originate in Eastern Europe.

Never trust an online greeting card, particularly if it does not indicate from whom it is being sent.  Be very wary of a card sent by "an admirer."  Even if you recognize the name, confirm that it was really sent from that person before you click on the link and open the card. It could be filled with malware.

In regard to the delivery scam, there is no special delivery charge for alcohol so if someone requires a payment for such a delivery and on top of that won't accept cash, merely decline the gift.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states "Sign up for this blog."

Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | Post a Comment

Date: 2/11/2018 4:54 PM PST

In documents provided to the Senate Banking Committee recently, Equifax, for the first time disclosed that among the personal information stolen in its massive data breach was not only names Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses, but also email addresses. While Equifax officials indicated that these email addresses were insignificant, they are far from insignificant in the hands of a scammer when coupled with the other information lost through Equifax's negligence in failing to protect the personal data of 145.5 million Americans. The email addresses put the victims of the data breach in increased danger of "spear phishing" which is phishing emails specifically tailored to the victims of the data breach in a manner that they will appear trustworthy. People providing personal information in response to these emails put themselves in serious jeopardy of identity theft and people clicking on links in these apparently trustworthy emails run the risk of downloading serious malware such as ransomware.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from many forms of identity theft is to put a credit freeze on your credit report at each of the three major credit reporting agencies.  However, the credit reporting agencies are recommending that you use a new invention of theirs which they call a "credit lock" instead of a credit freeze to protect your data.  They tout them as being more convenient and tie them into other services.  However, the truth is that you are better off with a credit freeze than with a credit lock.  Credit freezes are governed by laws that protect you, while credit locks are creations of the credit reporting agencies pursuant to contracts which they can change at will.  In addition, you may not desire the extra services you end up paying for at Experian which includes credit locks in security packages that can cost you more than a credit freeze while providing services you may not need.  Quite frankly, I don't trust any of the credit reporting agencies to have our best interest as their primary motivation so I believe you are better off choosing to put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies rather than a credit lock.

TIPS

To get started, it’s best to first understand the laws and fees governing credit freezes in your state. This link describes the credit freeze laws for each state. http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/consumer-report-security-freeze-state-statutes.aspx

To get the maximum protection from identity theft, it is important to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Here are links to each of them with instructions about how to get a credit freeze: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Once you have frozen your credit, be sure to keep the PIN and information on how to unfreeze your credit report in a safe place.

If you wish to use the free credit monitoring offered by Equifax, you can do so at https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/

You also may wish to use the free credit monitoring services offered by Credit Karma. In return for the free credit monitoring services, you agree to receive credit card recommendations. For more information go to https://www.creditkarma.com/

As for protecting yourself from spear phishing, remember my motto, "trust me, you can't trust anyone" and never click on any link in an email or text message regardless of how trustworthy it may appear unless you have absolutely confirmed that it is legitimate.

If you are not a subscriber to Scamicide.com and would like to receive daily emails with the Scam of the day, all you need to do is to go to the bottom of the initial page of www.scamicide.com and click on the tab that states "Sign up for this blog."

Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq. | 2 Comments

   

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