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  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 6, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gift card draining, , ,   

    Police warn of gift card draining scam 

    Police warn of gift card draining scam

    By Greg Collier

    Gift cards are a great idea when shopping during the holiday season. If you have someone on your Christmas list who is difficult to shop for or lives far away, a gift card can be the ideal present. However, it should be known that gift cards are also prone to fraud. The fraud doesn’t come from the companies who issue the cards, nor does it come from the stores who carry them. Instead, it comes from scammers who are looking to make a quick buck at the shoppers’ expense.

    While most scams are perpetrated online these days, this gift card scam requires the scammer to have physical access to the card. This requires the scammers to shoplift the gift cards. After leaving the store, the scammers engage in a scheme where they extract the security strip from the card and capture its number. Subsequently, they affix adhesive strips to replace the security strips before strategically returning the cards to the store rack. Upon a customer loading money onto the compromised gift card, the scammers receive notifications and promptly deplete the card of its funds. Typically, customers remain oblivious to the fraud until an attempt to use the gift card is made, often weeks or even months after the initial purchase. Recovering the funds is exceedingly uncommon once the card has been emptied.

    Police in the Philadelphia suburbs recently issued a warning about this scam, as they have recently received reports of hundreds of prepaid debit cards and Apple gift cards being tampered with at a local supermarket chain.

    To safeguard yourself from falling victim to this gift card scam, consider taking the following precautions. When purchasing gift cards, opt for one from the middle of the pack, as they are less likely to have been tampered with. Thoroughly inspect the card for any signs of alteration, particularly if the security strip appears wrinkled or crooked, as these may indicate tampering. Retain the receipt when acquiring a gift card, as it can prove valuable in assisting you later if the card is found to be emptied.

    In the unfortunate event that you discover a tampered card, promptly contact the issuing company using the customer service number provided on the back of the card. While there is no guarantee of recovering your funds, taking this step can significantly expedite the resolution process.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 5, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Elderly victim loses $100K in PayPal scam 

    By Greg Collier

    An elderly man, from the Boston area, recently lost close to $100,000 to scammers who were posing as PayPal. PayPal is the oldest and possibly the most reliable online payment service. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not without its scammers.

    The scammers called the man and told him that $100 had accidentally been deposited into his bank account. The man was walked through directions on his computer by the scammers, which granted them remote access.

    Then, the man was shown what appeared to be a $100,000 deposit into this bank account. The scammers claimed that it was actually $100K accidentally deposited into his account and not just $100. Typically, at this point in the scam, the scammer will claim that they’ll lose their job if the victim doesn’t help them out by sending the accidental payment back.

    It’s unknown if that’s what happened in this instance, but the scammers convinced the man to send two cashier’s checks for $49,800 each. They even ordered the man to tell the bank the money was for a new car if they asked. Unfortunately, the bank did not question the large amount being withdrawn by an elderly customer.

    Even if a PayPal employee, or any similar company’s worker, were to make a mistake this large, it is never the customer’s responsibility to pay that money back themselves. If an error was made on PayPal’s part, it would be their responsibility to fix it. If the employee claims they’ll lose their job over the error, that’s not your problem. Also, please keep in mind, if the payment was made electronically, it can be reversed electronically by the company itself. If you’re ever instructed to ‘move’ your money for any reason by someone you don’t know, it’s more than likely a scam.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 4, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    New delivery scam in time for the holidays 

    By Greg Collier

    By now, many of us should be familiar with the text message delivery scam. In that scam, scammers send out text messages posing as popular delivery services such as UPS, FedEx, and even the United States Postal Service. The text message claims a delivery can’t be made to the recipient’s address, and asks the recipient to click on a link provided in the message for further instructions. Once the link is clicked, the recipient is taken to a malicious website that asks for personal and financial information, so the delivery could be made. In reality, the scammers are looking for this information to commit identity and financial theft.

    This is a popular scam throughout the year, but incredibly popular during the holiday season, when most people are expecting deliveries to their homes. Now, scammers are taking a more straightforward approach by calling their potential victims directly. The callers are identifying themselves as drivers for the various delivery services. The phony drivers claim they have a delivery for you, but can’t find your home. Then, like the text message scam, the scammers start asking for personal and financial information so they can supposedly make their delivery. If you tell them you’re not expecting a delivery, the scammers will try to tell you that you’re being sent a gift from a friend or family.

    The best way to protect yourself from this scam is to keep track of your deliveries and who they’re being delivered by. Most vendors will provide you with a tracking number from that delivery service. If you receive one of these scam calls, but still have concerns, hang up and call the delivery service customer service number from their website. They’ll be able to let you know if you’re receiving a legitimate delivery and its status. Never give out your personal or payment information, even if someone is claiming to be from a company you trust.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 1, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , tow truck, towing scam   

    Watch out for tow truck scams this holiday season 

    By Greg Collier

    Like most holiday seasons, many people will be travelling by car to visit friends and relatives. Unfortunately, many people also have cars that may not be in the best condition, attempting to make a trip where their car might break down. Or winter weather may make for hazardous road conditions where a holiday traveler may have a small accident. All of this could happen in an area that the driver is unfamiliar with. They still need to call a tow truck, but which one should they call?

    Police in Western Massachusetts are saying don’t call the first tow truck company you find on Google as it may be a scam. According to local police, scammers have set up fake tow truck companies in their area. When someone breaks down, they’ll call one of these scam services and make a deposit with their credit card, but the truck never comes. The phony tow truck companies are just looking to get the deposit. Police in Greenfield, Mass., found four supposedly local tow truck companies that were using abandoned buildings as their business addresses.

    So, how can you prevent yourself from being victimized in a scam like this? The best way is to sign up for a road assistance plan like the ones offered by AAA. While some consumers may think the expense of a road assistance plan isn’t worth it, you’ll be glad to have one if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Plans like this contract with legitimate shops and tow truck companies.

    But what if you’re stuck on the side of the road, and you don’t have a plan like that. What do you do then? You’re not going to like the answer, but you’ll need to do some research. Scammers like this often buy sponsored positions on search engines to make their listing appear in the top search results. If you call them, and they answer with a generic name like ‘Towing’, there’s a good chance they could be scammers. Check for towing companies with good reviews that have been around for a couple of years at least. Lastly, you may want to call the local police at their non-emergency number to see if there’s a garage or company they recommend.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 30, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Celebrity romance scam had deadly consequences 

    By Greg Collier

    A pair of alleged romance scammers from New Jersey have been arrested after investigators discovered their involvement in scamming an elderly Tennessee man. The pair convinced the man that he was having an online relationship with a well-known female celebrity. Then the scammers convinced the man that they were with the FBI, and the celebrity was suing the man for harassment. That’s when the scammers started demanding money from their victim.

    The man was told he would need to pay fines to resolve the lawsuit. He sent the scammers a $5500 check. However, the check was made out to the FBI, meaning the scammers couldn’t cash the check. Apparently, the scammers were incensed by this because they told the man he would now have to pay $40,000 for failing to follow instructions. Before it was all over, the man paid close to $90,000 to the scammers, with him even taking out a loan on his car.

    It’s unknown if the man realized he was being scammed as he took his own life last month. After his passing, the man’s family found emails related to the scam and contacted police.

    We hope that our readers’ first thoughts when seeing this story aren’t “I would have never fallen for this scam.” If they were, we’d like to remind you that a man has been lost from his family due to the actions of greedy and reckless scammers. While you may not have fallen victim to this scam, there’s probably someone in your family who would. Now, imagine the heartbreak of losing them to a pointless scam like this.

    While most romance scams don’t veer off into police impersonation territory, always be wary of online relationships where your supposed partner can’t meet you in person. Also, please keep in mind that no law enforcement agency will ever ask you to make payments over the phone or through email.

    If you know someone who you suspect may be the target of a romance scam, please try to talk to them about such scams before they become victims.

    (If you or someone you know is contemplating the unthinkable, please know that there is no shame in reaching out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is accessible 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255, and you can also visit their website for support. You can also reach the lifeline by dialing 988. This new three-digit number is designed to provide easier access to mental health support services.)

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 29, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Anyone can fall prey to the SIM-swapping scam 

    Anyone can fall prey to the SIM-swapping scam

    By Greg Collier

    You may have head of the term SIM-swapping before. You may even know SIM-swapping is part of a larger identity theft scheme. What you may not know is that the term SIM-swapping is a type of misnomer. SIM-swapping makes it sound like someone needs physical access to your phone so they can steal your SIM card. A more appropriate term would be SIM-hijacking, since the scam itself is committed remotely.

    A SIM-swapping attack is a type of cyberattack where a malicious actor fraudulently convinces a mobile carrier to transfer a victim’s phone number to a SIM card under the attacker’s control. This is typically done by impersonating the victim or exploiting vulnerabilities in the carrier’s verification processes.

    The attacker contacts the victim’s mobile carrier, posing as the legitimate account holder. They may use gathered information to convince the carrier’s customer support representatives that they are the actual owner of the phone number.

    Once the attacker successfully convinces the carrier to transfer the phone number to a new SIM card, the victim’s phone loses network connectivity. The victim may not be aware of this until they try to make a call or use data services.

    With control of the victim’s phone number, the attacker can receive the victim’s text messages and phone calls, which may be used to bypass two-factor authentication (2FA) on various accounts linked to the phone number. This can lead to unauthorized access to email, social media, financial, or other online accounts.

    In the past, when we’ve discussed SIM-swapping attacks, we’ve heard from readers who said their phones are immune from these attacks since their phone doesn’t have a SIM card. Unless you’re still carrying a flip phone you bought from Sprint in the mid-2000s, chances are your mobile phone has a SIM card in it. You may not have placed the card in the phone yourself, but without a SIM card, your phone wouldn’t be able to communicate with your phone carrier and provide you service. There’s also what’s known as an eSIM. This is a SIM card that can be embedded in your phone, meaning it can’t be removed. In essence, if you have a reasonably modern mobile phone, it has a SIM card. And if it has a SIM card, it’s vulnerable to these attacks.

    A woman from California, recently fell victim to one of these attacks. After scammers successfully had her phone company transfer her service to the scammers’ SIM card, they were able to get access to at least one of her bank accounts. They drained her account of $49,000 before it was all said and done. The victim tried to work with both her bank and phone provider, but they denied any of her requests. As with many bank-related scams, it wasn’t until the victim contacted her local news station before she received a refund from her bank.

    There are several effective strategies to safeguard yourself from SIM-swapping. One approach is to opt for an authenticator app instead of relying on text messages for two-factor authentication. Authenticator apps are tied to a specific device rather than a phone number, enhancing their security. Additionally, it’s crucial to refrain from using easily discoverable information, such as high school mascots or pet names, for security questions on online accounts, as such details are often accessible on social media. Finally, you can enhance security by reaching out to your carrier and requesting the restriction of any device switches on your account. It’s important to note that to lift this restriction, you might need to visit a carrier store and provide identification.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    AI finds its way into Medicare scams 

    AI finds its way into Medicare scams

    By Greg Collier

    We are currently nearing the end of Medicare’s Open Enrollment period. This is the time of year when Medicare recipients can change their plan from the traditional Medicare coverage to a Medicare Advantage plan, or change back if they so desire. This is also the time of year when scammers specifically target Medicare eligible seniors with their scams.

    When it comes to scams, identity theft poses a significant risk to seniors, especially during Open Enrollment. Scammers often employ tactics such as impersonating government officials, adopting titles like ‘health care benefits advocate,’ to deceive victims. These fraudsters make enticing promises, assuring the victim of enrollment in equivalent or superior coverage at a reduced cost. To accomplish their scheme, the fraudulent agent requests the victim’s personal information, including their Medicare number.

    The stolen Medicare number becomes a tool for these scammers to commit Medicare fraud, involving unauthorized charges for procedures or items. This fraudulent activity has the potential to impact the victim’s benefits in the future. Additionally, scammers resort to high-pressure tactics, such as claiming that the victim’s benefits may expire if immediate information is not provided. In some cases, these deceptive calls may even display Medicare’s official phone number, adding an extra layer of trickery. It is crucial for seniors to be vigilant and cautious to protect themselves from falling victim to such identity theft scams during the Open Enrollment period.

    Though not strictly a scam, certain unscrupulous insurance brokers may exert undue pressure on seniors to switch to their company’s Medicare Advantage plan. While Medicare Advantage plans can offer advantages for some individuals, they may also have limitations that may not suit everyone’s needs. The decision to switch should be based on the individual’s personal healthcare requirements, yet some insurance agents may prioritize making a sale over the well-being of the patient.

    If contemplating a transition from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, it is essential to conduct thorough research on the potential benefits and drawbacks. Avoid succumbing to the tactics of salespersons, who may push for a decision that could lead to regret in the following year. Taking the time to make an informed decision ensures that the chosen healthcare plan aligns with individual needs and preferences.

    There is also another potential threat with this year’s Open Enrollment, and not surprisingly, it’s related to AI. Experts are warning that scammers could be using AI-generated voice programs to make scam phone calls sound more authentic. These calls could even be used to try to record a victim’s voice, which could then be used in other voice spoofing scams.

    It’s important to be cautious when receiving calls related to your Medicare plan. Legitimate Medicare plans typically contact their members if necessary, but if you ever feel uneasy during such calls, consider calling your insurance company’s official customer service number to verify the legitimacy of the communication.

    As a general rule, exercise caution about sharing your Medicare or Social Security number over the phone. Medicare and your insurance company already have your information on file and typically don’t need you to provide it again during unsolicited calls. This precaution helps protect you from potential scams or identity theft. Always prioritize your security and verify the authenticity of any calls before sharing sensitive information.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 27, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    The FTC puts a bounty on AI voice cloning 

    The FTC puts a bounty on AI voice cloning

    By Greg Collier

    AI-generated voice cloning, or voice spoofing, scams have become such a nuisance, the federal government is turning to the people to help solve the problem. If you’re unfamiliar with AI-voice generation technology, there are apps and programs that can take a short sample of anyone’s voice and make that voice say whatever you want it to. The benefit of it is it can give people who lost their speaking ability a voice. However, every tool that’s made for the good of mankind can also be used to its detriment.

    Scammers use cloned voices in what are known as emergency scams. Emergency scams can be broken down into two categories, for the most part, the grandparent scam, and the virtual kidnapping scam. In both sets of scams, the scammers need to convince their victim one of the victim’s loved ones is in some sort of peril. In the case of the grandparent scam, the scammer will try to convince the victim their loved one is in jail and needs bail money. While in the virtual kidnapping scam, the scammers try to convince the victim their loved one has been kidnapped for ransom.

    Scammers will take a sample of someone’s voice, typically from a video that’s been posted to social media. Then, they’ll use the voice cloning technology to make it sound like that person is in a situation that requires the victim to send money.

    Voice cloning has become such a problem, the Federal Trade Commission has issued a challenge to anyone who thinks they can develop some kind of voice cloning detector. The top prize winner can receive $25,000, the runner-up can get $4000, while three honorable mentions can get $2000.

    In their own words, the FTC has issued this challenge to help push forward ideas to mitigate risks upstream—shielding consumers, creative professionals, and small businesses against the harms of voice cloning before the harm reaches a consumer.

    The online submission portal can be found at this link, and submissions will be accepted from January 2 to 12, 2024.

    Hopefully, someone can come up with the right idea to better help consumers from losing their money to these scammers.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 22, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , grave scam,   

    Scammers are selling funeral plots they don’t own 

    By Greg Collier

    A sudden death in any family is impossible to prepare for, especially when the person died too young. Tragically, that’s what a family from the Atlanta area recently found out when their 15-year-old son fell to a gunman’s bullet. If it wasn’t painful enough that they lost a son to gun violence, now their son may have to be moved from what they thought was his final resting place.

    The boy’s family paid for a plot and a marker, and had receipts from the sale. When the family went to visit the boy’s grave, no marker had been placed. When they asked the cemetery why the grave marker wasn’t there, the family was told there was no record of the family purchasing the marker or the plot. The plot where the boy was interred belonged to someone else. All the paperwork the family had was fraudulent.

    This family weren’t the only victims. Investigators discovered that 20 other families had been scammed as well. Police believe an employee, or employees, of the cemetery may have been behind the scam.

    Unfortunately, this is not the first funeral-related scam that’s come to our attention. We’ve seen stories of scammers who go into random funerals and start collecting money they claim is for the family before taking off. Then there are the funeral home scammers that have been plaguing the country recently. They pose as funeral home employees and try to extort money from grieving families. Funeral scams are some of the lowest scams anyone can perpetrate on unsuspecting victims, but this funeral scam is the lowest of the low.

    Unfortunately, since this is the first we’ve heard of this scam, we don’t have any solid advice on how to protect yourself and your family from it. Grief is one of the hardest emotions to experience, so it’s understandable how people may not be in their right mind when making sudden funeral arrangements. The best advice we can give is to reach out to a friend or family member for support. And if you’re dealing with a cemetery, you may want to make contact first with the cemetery’s director before making any payment.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 21, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    IRS warns of romance scams 

    IRS warns of romance scams

    By Greg Collier

    When many people think of the Internal Revenue Service, they only think of having to pay their income tax to the government. However, the IRS also has a Criminal Investigation Office. These are the federal agents tasked with going after scammers and scam rings. Recently, the IRS sounded the alarm on romance scams after a Federal Trade Commission report said that over 70,000 people lost a combined total of $1.3 billion in 2022. And those are only the ones the government knows about. Many romance scam victims never come forward out of embarrassment.

    If you’re unfamiliar with romance scams, they mostly target women, but it’s not unheard of for men to be victims as well. Romance scammers also tend to target the elderly as well, but anyone of any age can be a victim.

    These scammers largely find their victims on social media, dating platforms, and sometimes online games. Romance scammers are very patient and will trick their victims into believing that they’re in a real relationship. More often than not, the scammers will pose as someone living or working overseas. The victims will experience a process known as ‘love bombing’ where the scammer will dote on their victims with little romantic touches.

    These relationships will be cultivated by the scammers for months before they finally approach their victims for money. The scammer will usually have a story about how some kind of emergency has come up, and since they’re overseas, they can’t access their own money. Or they’ll claim they need the money as part of an investment in their business. All the while, the scammers will promise their victims they’ll repay the money when they finally meet in person.

    Except, romance scammers will never meet their victims in person. Often these scammers use someone else’s identity that they found online. They’ll use pictures of other people they stole from social media, and even use that person’s name in their scam. But, they’ll continue to ask for money until the victim is either broke or finally catches on to the scam.

    Here are some recommendations from the IRS to help you steer clear of falling prey to romance scams. Refrain from sending money to individuals you’ve only interacted with online or via phone. Exercise caution when sharing information publicly on the internet. Approach new relationships with a deliberate pace and ask probing questions. Stay vigilant if someone appears too flawless or hastily urges you to transition from a dating service or social media platform to alternative means of communication. Be wary of individuals attempting to isolate you from your circle of friends and family. Avoid sharing inappropriate images or financial details that could potentially be exploited for extortion. And lastly, exercise suspicion if promises of an in-person meeting are made but never materialize.

     
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