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  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 31, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    College students targeted in tax scam 

    College students targeted in tax scam

    By Greg Collier

    With it being tax season, tax scams are on the rise. We’re not talking about the kind of tax scam where federal agents show up at your door because you claimed the squirrels in your yard as dependents. We’re talking about the kind where is either trying to separate you from your refund, or using the promise of a refund to steal your information. The latest targets in this kind of tax scam are college students.

    The IRS is warning people that anyone with an email address ending in .edu is vulnerable to this scam. The scam is essentially a phishing attack. The student receives an email that appears to be from the IRS asking the recipient to click on a link that’s labeled either “Tax Refund Payment” or “Recalculation of your tax refund payment.” If the victim clicks on the link they’re taken to a website that asks for personal information like name, date of birth and Social Security number.

    Theoretically, college students are a prime target for identity thieves. At that age they may have established any serious credit yet which is the holy grail for identity thieves. Identity thieves could use a young victim’s credit for years before the victim ever realizes it.

    There’s been this stereotype that’s been going around forever that young people are better with technology than their parents. While that may be true, they may also be unsure of how filing their income taxes and receiving a refund works. So, they might think that this phishing email is a legitimate way of claiming their income tax refund. We realize that our readers tend to be from a different demographic than college students, but we also realize that you may have a college student in your family. If you do, you may want to warn them about this potential scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Nationwide grandparent scam foiled 

    Nationwide grandparent scam foiled

    By Greg Collier

    Whenever we talk about scams, we usually talk about two things, the scam itself, and how to protect yourself from the scam. However, every so often we talk about the inner workings of a particular scam. For example, we discussed how gift card scammers used runners to drain the cards quickly. Today, we have an insight to another popular scam that’s seen a sharp rise in the past year. That would be the grandparent scam.

    Again, for those who may be new readers, the grandparent scam is when scammers will pose as an elderly victim’s grandchild. They’ll say that they’ve gotten into some kind of legal trouble and need money to rectify the situation. Requests for bail money are usually the more popular versions of the scam, although requests for emergency medical expenses are a close second. The scammers will often ask for payment in some kind of untraceable form like gift cards or money transfers, but one scam ring got very creative in getting their stolen money.

    One scam ring based out of Georgia that consisted of several people were arrested after allegedly trying to collect money they scammed out of some unwitting victim. They’re accused of traveling from city to city finding victims only to have them send cash to unoccupied homes. The scammers would then drive buy the homes and grab the packages off the porches. This particular ring was said to have traveled to Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi and Ohio. They were caught trying to get one of the packages from an Indiana porch where police were waiting for them.

    If the scammers had put this much effort into something beneficial instead of a nationwide scam, they’d probably be just as successful and not have to worry about a potential jail sentence.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , survey scam   

    Vaccine survey could be a scam! 

    Vaccine survey could be a scam!

    By Greg Collier

    People all over the country have been reporting that they’ve been receiving emails and text messages asking them to fill out a survey about the COVID-19 vaccine. The messages even appear to look like they’ve been sent by one of the major manufacturers of the vaccine. So far, close to 50 million people in America have been fully vaccinated. This gives scammers a pretty large target. The messages are almost certainly sent out at random, but the odds are pretty good they’ll reach someone who has been vaccinated.

    The majority of these survey scams promise the recipient a free gift if they fill out the survey. Of course, the free gift comes with a catch. While the gift may be free, the survey takers are asked for their credit or debit card information to pay for shipping. The gift doesn’t actually exist, and the scammers are just out to get as many card number as they can. Officials have also warned people to not click on any links contained in the messages as they could potentially lead to your device being infected with malware.

    The surveys themselves are even said to be asking for sensitive information that could be used for identity theft. It seems like the survey scammers don’t want to leave any digital stone unturned when it comes to gathering as much data about you as possible. If you receive one of these messages, it’s recommended that you delete it immediately and not click on any of the links they contain. If you’ve already lost money to this scam, you’re asked to report it to the FTC.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , utility assistamce, ,   

    Heating assistance scam hits Midwest 

    By Greg Collier

    This past winter, Texas had a record-breaking winter storm that left most of the state unprepared for the damage that followed. However, Texas wasn’t the only state that was affected by the storm. Most of the Midwest was also caught up in the inclement winter weather that resulted in record cold snaps across the Great Plains. While most of the Midwest is more prepared for weather like this than Texas, it still resulted in higher than normal heating bills. Many Midwest residents are just now starting to receive these bills that many found to be astronomical. Leave it to the scammers to then try to take advantage of some already vulnerable residents.

    The State of Kansas has reported that many residents of the Sunflower State have received phone calls from scammers posing as the state government offering utility assistance. While the state does have programs that can help you with unusually high utility bills, the state does not call residents at random to offer the service. While there has not been a report of anyone falling for the scam, the state believes the calls are intended to steal your identity by asking for personal and financial information. People who are desperately trying to keep the gas or electricity on could be increasingly vulnerable to this scam.

    We’d like to remind our readers that just because a scam is happening in one state it could easily happen in your state as well. Government agencies normally don’t call residents out of the blue to offer financial assistance. Anybody who requires assistance would need to contact the state first. If you receive one of these phone calls, you’re asked to report it to the state along with the phone number that appeared on your caller ID and the name used by the phony state agent.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , vaccination card,   

    Fake vaccine cards are showing up online 

    Fake vaccine cards are showing up online

    By Greg Collier

    Previously, the Better Business Bureau warned people who received the COVID-19 vaccine not to post pictures of their vaccine cards on social media. The thought behind this was not only could these pictures potentially lead to identity theft, but scammers could make phony vaccine cards. Now it seems that one of those chickens has come home to roost.

    The Better Business Bureau of Illinois is reporting that blank vaccine card knockoffs have started appearing for sale online. Reports state that the phony cards have shown up on eBay, OfferUp, and of course Craigslist. The cards are being sold for as much as $200.

    The danger behind these cards are the fact there are people who actively avoiding getting the vaccine. Vaccine cards may start being required for things like air travel or public gatherings. If unvaccinated people are start using these cards to get around restrictions, we could potentially start seeing another wave of infections. Considering the number of people who won’t even wear a mask to the supermarket, these cards could constitute a serious health hazard to the population. Not only that, but the cards could allow unvaccinated people who are potentially carrying the disease to return to public places like job sites or schools to spread new strains of the virus to unsuspecting victims.

    If you’re thinking about buying one of these cards you may want to rethink your plan. Using falsified government documents is a crime. Keep in mind that the authentic cards are furnished by the CDC, a branch of the American government. If someone were to use one of these cards to get on a plane, and they get caught, they could be facing a pretty big fine or even jail time.

    Instead, why not just get the vaccine when it becomes available for you in your state. The shot is a lot cheaper than buying one of these phony cards, and it won’t land you in jail.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Victim drives from Las Vegas to LA in puppy scam 

    Victim drives from Las Vegas to LA in puppy scam

    By Greg Collier

    A woman from Las Vegas was recently looking to add a Golden Retriever puppy to her home. Her 12-year-old Golden Retriever had recently passed away. She went to her local shelter but no Golden Retriever puppies were available for adoption. That’s when she decided to go online in search for a new addition to her home.

    She came across the website of someone claiming to be a breeder from Los Angeles. The breeder told the woman that there’s only one puppy left from the litter and the cost was only $500. She paid the breeder in advance and drove to Los Angeles that day to pick up the puppy. Sadly, the LA address she was given was for a house that was up for sale that no one was living in.

    Now, put yourself in this woman’s shoes for a moment. Imagine making the 4-hour+ drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles anxiously thinking you’re about to add a new puppy to your life only to find out you’ve been scammed. Then you’d have to deal with that crushing disappointment all the way through the drive back to Las Vegas. Meanwhile, a scammer is off somewhere with your $500.

    Anybody can put up a website with some pictures of puppies they’ve stolen off the internet and call themselves a dog breeder. This has become a common occurrence among people who have looked to purchase a puppy for their families.

    To better protect yourself when buying a new pet, only deal with local breeders or shelters. Fake breeders who claim to be out of state will often try to milk their victims for as much money as possible for things specialized delivery crates and pet delivery insurance. In most cases, the puppy never existed to begin with. If you can’t see the puppy face to face in real time, there’s a good chance you’re being scammed.

    Even though the victim was not able to find the breed of her choice at her local shelter, we still recommend going to your local shelter anyway. Many shelters have waiting lists for certain breeds in addition to being able to adopt the puppy for no or low cost. Maybe even consider adopting an adult dog instead as they need homes too.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    A record year for romance scams 

    $4,000,000 stolen in romance scam

    By Greg Collier

    The Federal Trade Commission recently released a report that said that Americans lost a total of around $304 million to romance scams in 2020. That’s a 50% increase since 2019. For the third year in a row, romance scams were listed as the number one scam that was reported to the FTC. The actual amount of money lost is probably even higher since many victims are too embarrassed to ever come forward. The pandemic was cited as the main reason why there was such a spike in romance scam activity. Seniors over 70 lost a median amount of close to $10,000 each while people in their 20s saw the biggest increase in d=falling for these scams.

    However, we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves. While most of our readers already know what a romance scam is, it doesn’t hurt to explain it to new readers. A romance scam is when a victim meets someone online who isn’t who they say they are. The scammers will often use the photo of someone they found online, often a member of the military but not always. The scammer will lead the victim to believe that they are in some kind of romantic relationship, but the scammer will keep making excuses as to why they can’t meet in public. Usually, the scammer will say they’re either deployed overseas or they’re working out of the country. Before too long, the scammer will start asking the victim for money. In some cases the money will be or gifts, or the scammer will claim they need the money for some kind of emergency. The scammers will keep asking for money until the victim realizes they’re being scammed. The scam has been known to find victims in both men and women.

    In a lot of romance scams, it’s often hard for the victim to believe they’re being scammed. There have been cases where the victim got into legal trouble after stealing money to send to their fictitious romantic partner. As a friend or family member, it may be up to you to do the detective work for them. Do a reverse image search of the photo being used by the scammer. You’ll often find that the picture was stolen from someone with a completely different identity. Also do a search for the job the scammer is claiming to have and include the word ‘scammer’ in the search.

    If you feel like someone you know might be the victim of a romance scam, please let them know before it’s too late.

  • Geebo 8:01 am on March 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Victim loses stimulus in bank scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Many taxpayers received their $1400 stimulus payments in the last week or so through direct deposit. Almost as soon as the economic impact payments hit people’s bank accounts, scammers have tried to weasel their way into people’s lives to steal those payments. Unfortunately, one woman from Texas found out the hard way that these scams are going on.

    The woman received a phone call that appeared to be coming from her bank. The number on her caller ID matched that of her bank’s customer service number. The caller claimed that there appeared to be fraudulent activity on the woman’s account and that they needed her help in clearing up the situation. While the report doesn’t specifically state it, it implies that the caller asked the woman for her banking information. Before she knew it, her account had been cleaned out. This included not only her stimulus payment but a paycheck as well.

    With scam phone calls being so prevalent many of us have stopped answering calls if we don’t recognize the number. How many cars can one person possibly own to have so many car warranties expire. But that’s a post for another day. What we’re getting at is, if the number is not on your list of contacts, you’re better off not answering the call even if it appears to be your bank.

    While many banks and other financial services do actually call their customers when there’s possible fraudulent activity on the account, you’re still better off letting the call go to voicemail. If the call is actually from your bank, you can call them back at the customer service number on the back of your debit or credit card or the number that’s on your bank statement. Don’t just Google a customer service number for your bank either as some scammers take out ads on Google posing as customer service departments for various well-known businesses.

    If you do answer the call, be on the lookout for telltale signs of a scam. Your bank shouldn’t ask for your account number as they should already have it. They won’t need your password to your online banking account either.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , under oath   

    Grandparent scam claims victim is ‘under oath’ 

    Grandparent scam claims victim is 'under oath'

    By Greg Collier

    Scammers love to victimize the elderly. Even though reports say that more young people are increasingly vulnerable to scams, seniors seem to remain to be the scammers’ favorite target. One theory is that scammers target the elderly because their generation still answers the phone no matter who may be calling. That’s how their generation lived after all. Unfortunately, this has made them vulnerable to scams, especially the grandparent scam.

    As many of you know, the grandparent scam is where the scammers will pose as an elderly victim’s grandchild. They’ll say that they’ve gotten into some kind of legal trouble and need money to rectify the situation. Requests for bail money are usually the more popular versions of the scam. Scammers are constantly fine-tuning the grandparent scam in order to maximize the number of victims they can prey on.

    For example, a woman in Illinois was told by someone posing as her grandson that the grandson needed $5,000 to get out jail. The phony grandson said that he had gotten into an accident with a diplomat in St. Louis. When the woman said that the caller didn’t sound like her grandson they said that he hurt his neck and couldn’t talk right. Then another person got on the call claiming to be a lawyer. He told the woman that she was ‘under oath’ and not to tell anyone.

    Thankfully, employees at her bank inquired why she was withdrawing such a large amount of money and were able to stop her from becoming another victims. They called the real grandson who was actually in no danger.

    While it may sound official, no one can put you ‘under oath’ over the phone. Being under oath only applies to court proceedings and even then you have to agree to it.

    And as we always recommend, if you know an elderly person or couple who live alone and do not have access to the internet, please let them know about this scam. Also, consider setting up a family password for just such emergencies, so you can verify the person calling is who they say they are.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    New phishing scam sells your identity on the dark web 

    New phishing scam sells your identity on the dark web

    By Greg Collier

    An insidious phishing scam has turned up in the nation’s largest metropolitan area.

    For those who may not be familiar with what phishing is, it’s when you get sent a phony email or text that has you click on a link. These links either take you to a phony website where identity thieves will try to steal your personal information or the links will inject malware into your device. If malware were to get into your device, it could transmit your data to scammers and identity thieves and scammers, or it could lock your device in a ransomware attack. However, this new phishing attack has victims voluntarily giving up their information in a more comprehensive way than before.

    Reports out of New York are saying that victims of the attack are receiving authentic looking emails and text messages that appear to be from the State Government. The messages largely target those who are currently unemployed in the Empire State. Once the victim clicks the link in the message, they’re taking to a website that is a mirror image of the official New York unemployment website.

    After the victims use their login information on the phony website they’re then asked to take high-quality pictures of their driver’s license and other sensitive documents. Once the identity thieves have your information, they turn around and sell your identity on the dark web. According to security experts, Social Security cards are going for around $1.50 while driver’s licenses are going for around $100. Just imagine, a $1.50 transaction on the dark web that happens instantly can have expensive repercussions on your life for years to come.

    Always be suspicious of any text message, email, or social media message that wants you to click on any kind of link, especially if it’s for such a crucial matter like your unemployment benefits. Most government agencies like unemployment offices will not email or text you but instead will almost always contact you through the postal mail. And keep in mind that all official government websites end in .gov.

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