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  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Mich. residents taken for $150,000 in sweepstakes scam 

    A new twist on the sweepstakes scam

    By Greg Collier

    By now, most of us are familiar with Publisher’s Clearing House. They’re the magazine marketing company that also runs its eponymous sweepstakes. We’ve all seen the commercials where their prize van pulls up to someone’s home and surprises them with a novelty-sized check that represents a substantial pay out. Since PCH is so well known, their name is often used by scammers so they can dupe their victims. Unfortunately, two residents of Michigan found that out the hard way.

    Two married residents of Troy, Michigan were contacted by someone claiming to be a representative of PCH. The residents were told that they had won $5,000 a month for life, or they could take the lump sum payment of $2.6 million. If they took the lump sum, however, they would need to pay $129,000 in state and local taxes before they could be paid. The supposed PCH agent even told the residents that they shouldn’t tell anyone about their winnings because of cyberattacks. Before the scam was discovered by the post office after they intercepted one of the cash payments being sent to the scammers, the two residents found themselves in the hole for close to $144k.

    There’s a reason that the disclaimer on every sweepstakes in America says ‘no purchase necessary’. If you’ve entered a sweepstakes, you don’t have to pay to receive your winnings. It’s illegal for any sweepstakes to make you do so. Also, you can’t win a sweepstakes that you never entered. Cash prizes are not handed out to random citizens for no reason. Publisher’s Clearing House has quite an extensive web page showing all the ways that scammers may try to fool you while using the PCH name.

    This post is not an endorsement of Publisher’s Clearing House. But since their name is synonymous with American sweepstakes, it’s also become synonymous with sweepstakes scammers.

  • Geebo 8:17 am on May 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Kidnapping scam becomes even scarier 

    Kidnapping scam becomes even scarier

    By Greg Collier

    The reason the virtual kidnapping scam is named that way is because the kidnapping victim is virtual. In essence, there is no kidnapping victim. However, that hasn’t stopped scammers from scaring families into making ransom payments for someone who was never in any danger. For new readers, in this scam, the scammers will call someone and claim to have kidnapped one of their loved ones. The scammers will even have someone screaming or crying in the background to make the call seem real. The victim of the scam will then be instructed to make a payment through untraceable means like gift cards, money transfer, prepaid debit card, or cryptocurrency. By the time the victim figures out that there was no kidnapping, the scammers are long gone with the victim’s money.

    Unfortunately, not everyone has been educated about this scam. Recently, a couple in South Florida received such a call telling them that their daughter had been kidnapped. The callers made threatened to murder their daughter if they didn’t pay $1500 in ransom. What made this call particularly terrifying was that the call appeared to be coming from the daughter’s phone. It wasn’t, though. The scammers had spoofed the daughter’s phone number which is concerning in itself. Luckily, the couple reached out to a friend they have in law enforcement who informed them this was a scam. It’s unknown how the scammers were able to obtain the daughter’s phone number.

    Scammers use tactics like this to catch you off guard to say the least. They want you to think emotionally rather than logically. The more emotionally charged the scenario is, the more likely the scammers are able to convince a victim into making a payment. If you ever receive a call like this don’t give the scammers any personal information. If they say they have your daughter, for example, don’t say your daughter’s name. Then have someone else contact the person the callers claim to have kidnapped. More often than not, that person will be just fine and will have no idea that people are claiming that they’re holding them hostage.

    Remember, kidnapping for ransom in the United States is extremely rare, but is kept in the public’s consciousness thanks to popular media.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Law enforcement scam claims to give you money 

    Law enforcement scam claims to give you money

    By Greg Collier

    Police impersonation scams are probably one of the most common scams out there. We’ve seen scammers imitate everyone from your local sheriff’or police department to federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency. The scams are generally the same, however. The impersonators will threaten you with arrest if you don’t pay them to resolve some imaginary indiscretion. Usually, this involves some nontraditional form of payment like gift cards, money transfers, or cryptocurrency. Now, we’re seeing a law enforcement agency being used in a typical scam along with a not so typical scam.

    Some scammers are now said to be posing as agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In a familiar sounding scam, the phony Border Agents will call their victims and tell them that they’ve intercepted a package that was addressed to the victim. It will then be claimed that the package contained drugs or some other illicit substance. In some cases, the scammers are asking for personal information to ‘verify’ who you are. This is done to steal your identity. In other cases, you’ll be asked to pay the phony agents to avoid arrest. In both cases, you’ll be threatened with arrest if you don’t comply.

    In a twist on the police impersonation scam, some scammers are posing as CBP Agents to tell you that they’ve intercepted a package that contains a large sweepstakes prize for you. Rather than being threatened with arrest, you’re asked to pay a large fee to pay for special shipping labels. This is a new variation of the sweepstakes scam where scammers will typically ask you to pay a processing fee to receive winnings from sweepstakes that you probably didn’t even enter. These scammers usually claim to be from Publisher’s Clearing House instead of a federal law enforcement agency.

    In either instance, a wary consumer needs to keep two things in mind. The first is that no real law enforcement agency will threaten you with arrest for not making a payment over the phone. The second thing is that you can’t win sweepstakes that you never entered. There’s really no such thing where someone is called out of the blue and told they’ve been chosen at random to win a big prize. That only happens in TV and movies.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Scammers imitate defunct boat business 

    Scammers imitate defunct boat business

    By Greg Collier

    The weather is getting warmer and pandemic restrictions continue to be lifted. This has led to many consumers being in the market for buying a boat. (While we’re thinking about it, please check out Geebo.com’s boat listings.) However, like any other major purchase, you don’t want to buy a boat sight unseen through an online ad. Scammers are hoping you do, though, and they’re going to great lengths to try to fool you.

    An overseas scam ring is allegedly taking tens of thousands of dollars from each victim who thinks they’re buying a boat. The way the scammers did it would even be considered clever if it wasn’t for the fact they may be stealing people’s life savings. The scammers assumed the name of a Florida boat dealer that actually closed its doors in 2010. The scammers set up a website using the defunct business’ name and listed pictures of boats that they claimed to be selling. The boats don’t actually exist, and the pictures were stolen from various places on the internet.

    People were buying these fictitious boats, then they would show up to the vacant business looking for the boat they just bought. One victim was even set to have a boat shipped to Australia.

    You wouldn’t buy a house or car without seeing it in person, so you shouldn’t purchase a boat this way either. Boats especially need to be inspected before being purchased since a buyer would need to know if the boat is actually seaworthy or not. If you’re in the market to purchase a boat, try to stay as local as possible when conducting your search. This way you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be able to inspect it in person. Lastly, if an ad says that your purchase is guaranteed by a platform like eBay or PayPal, that is definitely a scam as these platforms don’t provide such guarantees.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Scammers are still using stimulus checks as bait 

    Scammers are still using stimulus checks as bait

    By Greg Collier

    Even after a year and three stimulus payments from the government, scammers are still using the promise of stimulus checks as bait in their ongoing scams. When the stimulus payments were issued, most taxpayers received their payments by direct deposit in their bank accounts. However, for various reasons, a large section of the population had great difficulty in receiving their payments. Scammers are now said to be trying to take advantage of those people in this latest scam.

    According to reports, scammers are sending out emails promising to help its recipients obtain unclaimed stimulus money. The email has a link which takes victims to a website which asks for your personal information, so they can send you information on how to apply for unclaimed stimulus checks. This could lead to a number of scams. First and foremost it could be a front for identity theft, especially if the scammers ask for financial information. This also reminds us of the unclaimed property scam where scammers could be charging money to help you obtain stimulus money that they have no intentions of delivering.

    Please keep in mind that the only people who can help you with a stimulus related issue is the IRS. The IRS will never send out unsolicited text messages or emails, and they only tend to communicate by mail. Anybody else who is promising to get you stimulus money is more than likely a con artist. If you have had issues with getting your stimulus payments, the best place to go to resolve the issue is the IRS’s Economic Impact Payments website. If you think you may have unclaimed money that’s not related to the stimulus payments, you can go to the USA.gov website.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , school shooting   

    There’s no tragedy scammers won’t take advantage of 

    There's no tragedy scammers won't take advantage of

    By Greg Collier

    A few weeks ago, there was a school shooting at a middle school in Idaho. The shooter was a sixth grade student who allegedly took a gun out of her backpack and began firing. Before she was subdued by a teacher, the shooter had struck three other students. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, but the victims of the shooting might have to deal with medical bills for years to come. Due to the enormous cost of healthcare in this country, fundraisers are often started to lessen the financial impact victims have to endure. For example, more people are said to use the fundraising platform GoFundMe for medical expenses than any other reason to raise funds. Unfortunately, this also allows any scammer to set up a fundraiser in a victim’s name even though the victim won’t see any of the money.

    The Attorney General of Idaho has issued a warning about scam fundraisers that have popped up in the wake of the shooting. While the Attorney General has stated that there have been scams, he has not identified which particular scams are being used. However, it stands that there are scammers out there who have no qualms about diverting money that could go to help a shooting victim into their own pockets. Even if children had died at this shooting, we have no doubt that scammers would still have tried to take money from the victims’ families.

    If you are looking to donate money on a situation like this, there are steps you can take to not only protect yourself but to also make sure the money goes to those who truly need it. If a GoFundMe has been set up, the best place to find the legitimate GoFundMe campaign is through local news websites. Local news stations do a good job of making sure the GoFundMe link used in their articles is the correct one. Don’t respond to any unsolicited requests for donations over the phone or through emails. And if you plan on giving to an already existing charity, you can use the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org to aid you in your research on the legitimacy of charities.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CVS, , ,   

    New scam targets pharmacy customers 

    By Greg Collier

    Previously, we’ve seen scammers posing as some kind of debt collector. In most cases, the scammers pose as some type of government or law enforcement agent trying to collect a phony fine. They do this so they can put emotional pressure on the victim and scare them into making a payment. Scammers will also pose as utility companies who are threatening to shut off your service if you don’t make a payment then and there. Now, it seems that scammers are branching out into another area of the commercial space that a number of people depend on.

    In Southern California, a number of consumers have reported getting a call from their local pharmacy, specifically CVS. The call states that the victim has a substantial balance with the pharmacy. As with most scams, this scam seems to be targeting the elderly., traditionally a group of people who are dependent on their prescriptions. Imagine being dependent on a drug like insulin only to be told you owe the pharmacy hundreds of dollars.

    The call itself is a robocall where an automated voice message tells the victim that they owe CVS money. The recording tells the victims to call a ‘helpline’ to resolve the matter. The helpline is not a phone number that belongs to CVS. One victim called the helpline and couldn’t tell the victim which CVS had filled the prescription in question.

    While the report we’ve read doesn’t give a specific motive behind the scam, we imagine it’s to get money from its victims. It’s safe to assume that the scammers probably would have asked for payment in gift cards, money transfer, or prepaid debit cards. They could also be after medical coverage information to potentially commit Medicare fraud.

    If you receive one of these calls, the best thing to do is hang up. Then call your local pharmacy to make sure there isn’t a real issue with your pharmacy account.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , orlando, ,   

    Oil rig romance scams hit Florida 

    By Greg Collier

    According to local news reports, a number of romance scam victims have come forward recently in the Orlando-area of Florida. If you’re not familiar with the romance scam, the scam targets older people who may be widows or widowers, or who don’t have a partner for whatever reason. The scammers will approach the victim on social media or through dating websites and apps. The supposed romantic interest will claim to either work in a remote location, possibly overseas, or they’re stationed overseas with the military. A romance scammer will never meet face to face with a victim including the avoidance of video chat apps like Skype and Zoom. The scammers will then continually ask the victims for money under the false pretense of some kind of emergency.

    A 60-year-old woman from Florida, recently found herself out of $11,000 after falling for one of these scams. The scammer claimed to be working on an oil rig and used the profile picture of a somewhat famous actor but not someone as obvious as Brad Pitt or George Clooney. The woman allowed the scammer to deposit three supposed paychecks into her bank account so he could pay his daughter’s nanny back in Houston. After sending the payments to the supposed nanny, the woman’s bank discovered the checks were fake and since she used her own account she owed the bank that $11,000.

    As we have said in the past, the romance scam is one of those scams that could victimize just about anyone. We have seen the scam hurt people from those who have refused to admit they were scammed, to CEOs who have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the scam. It can affect anyone from any economic or educational status. So, when you ask how could anybody be this dumb to fall for a romance scam, these people are not dumb in the least. They’re just in a vulnerable place in their life.

    As always, if you think you or someone you know is the victim of an ongoing romance scam, please show them our posts on romance scams, or direct them to the FTC’s website about romance scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Social Security scammers try to get man to sell his own car 

    By Greg Collier

    The following story is yet another example showing not only how low scammers are willing to stoop, but also the extremes they’re willing to go to steal money from their victims.

    The story starts out like many other Social Security scams. A man from North Carolina receives a call from someone posing as someone from the Social Security Administration. The caller says that the man’s Social Security number has been connected to a drug crime in Texas. Typically, the scammers will say that they’ve found a rental car near the Mexican border that had drugs that was rented using the victim’s Social Security number. The man was then told he needed to pay a fine to avoid arrest.

    The man was skeptical, but the caller said that they were going to have someone from his local police department call him. A short time later, the man received a call that appeared to be coming from his local police department. The Caller ID even said it was the police department calling. That caller reiterated what the first caller said. The phony police detective told the man that there was a federal warrant out for his arrest and that he needed to pay the fine.

    Unfortunately, it was at this point that the man believed the story he was being told. The original caller called the man back and instructed the man to buy $7000 in gift cards. This happened to be all the money the man had. That wasn’t enough for the scammers, though. They told the man that he needed to sell his car to pay for the rest of the imaginary fine. They even gave him a list of local car dealerships where he could sell the car. It was at this point that a neighbor intervened and told the man that this was a scam.

    It’s not unheard for scammers to try and squeeze as much money as possible from a victim. In many cases, scammers have repeatedly harassed the same victim for multiple payments. However, this is the first time we’ve heard of scammers trying to get a victim to sell their car after bleeding their victim dry of all their cash.

    As we mentioned, this is a common scam that usually targets retirees who are unaware of how the Social Security Administration actually does business. They will rarely ever call you. The majority of communication from the SSA will be sent to recipients through the mail. No government agency or law enforcement agency will ever threaten to arrest you over the phone if you don’t make a payment then and there. No legitimate company, agency, or organization will accept gift cards as payment except the companies the gift cards are intended for.

    If you know someone who might be vulnerable to this scam, please share our post with them or direct them to the SSA’s Scam Warning page.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Counterfeit scam targets businesses 

    Counterfeit scam targets businesses

    By Greg Collier

    No businesses were more hard hit by the pandemic than restaurants. Many restaurants struggled to stay open during the pandemic. However, due to the nature of how COVID-19 was spread along with government lockdowns, many restaurants closed their doors for good. Even without COVID-19, the restaurant business is a very precarious one. There’s an old joke that says the best way to make a million in the restaurant business is to start out with two million. Those that have survived the pandemic should be commended instead, some are being targeted by scammers posing as police.

    Scammers who pose as police is nothing new. The most common variation of the police impersonation scam is when scammers will call a victim and tell them that the victim has a warrant out for their arrest. In most cases, the scammer will say that the victim missed jury duty. The scammer will threaten the victim with arrest if they don’t pay a fine over the phone either through gift cards or prepaid debit cards.

    In Panama City, Florida at least one restaurant has fallen to a new twist on the police impersonation scam. The scammer called the restaurant claiming to be from the Panama City police. The restaurant was told that they had deposited counterfeit money into their bank account. Considering how much cash restaurants can end up dealing with, this could be a real possibility. To replace the supposed counterfeit money the restaurant was told to replace the counterfeit money with a prepaid debit card. In this instance, it was in the amount of $1000. Panama City police have said that this scam has been targeting other local small businesses as well.

    There are a few keys to this scam besides the obvious one of paying with a prepaid debit card. The first is that most business that deal in cash should already have safeguards in place to detect counterfeit bills, such as the marker that can detect counterfeit bills. Also, if you were to accidentally deposit counterfeit cash into your business’ bank account you would be charged by your bank and not the local police. You may get a visit from the Secret Service instead.

    If you run a small business, you may want to warn your employees of any calls from someone claiming to be the police demanding payment and let them know that those calls are probably scams.

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