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  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , teenagers   

    Scam targets teens on social media 

    Scam targets teens on social media

    By Greg Collier

    If you’re a parent with teenagers, your children may be just a little bit more tech-savvy than you. While they may have a wealth of tech experience, teenagers tend to lack real-world experience. Many teenagers often lack the knowledge to know when something is too good to be true. Scammers are aware of this and use their lack of knowledge and experience to lure them into traps. It’s our job as parents to try to protect our kids from these mistakes, but not only can’t we hover over them 24 hours a day, teenagers are very good at hiding things. You may want to have a talk with them about this scam.

    A sheriff’s department in Ohio has noticed an uptick in a scam that targets teens on Snapchat. It’s been dubbed the sugar daddy or sugar mamma scam. In this scam, the scammers approach teens and promise them money in exchange for them to send good morning and good night messages. The scammers will then send a large check to the teen while either asking a portion to be sent back or to a third party. If you’re a longtime reader, you probably recognize this as the fake check scam. Once the teen deposits the check and sends money from it elsewhere, they’ll be responsible for the full amount of the check once the bank realizes the check is a fake. Not only could this affect their credit before they even really get started in the world, this could also have damaging psychological effects on teens as well.

    The best way to prevent them falling to this scam is to make sure their Snapchat accounts aren’t public accounts where anyone can contact them. Periodically check their friends list on Snapchat to make sure there are no inappropriate contacts on their list. Now, you may think that’s a little invasive and that you trust your kids to make the right decisions. That’s all well and good, but you can’t trust the adults that are approaching them on social media.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , rental assistance,   

    Scammers prey on people fearing eviction 

    By Greg Collier

    In case you weren’t aware, the federal moratorium on housing evictions is set to expire at the end of this month, June 2021. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who are still struggling to pay their rent in the aftermath of the pandemic. This is the exact kind of situation that scammers thrive on, with people who are so desperate for help they’re willing to listen to anyone who claims to be offering help. One such offer saw someone lose what little money they had left.

    A woman from Tulsa, Oklahoma received a phone call from someone claiming to help her get federal assistance money to help pay her rent. All the caller needed was the woman’s bank account information. The woman provided her banking information and within minutes her last $400 was gone. Some people will say that it’s obvious that this was a scam. While hindsight is 20/20, just imagine being in this woman’s shoes. She has four children and desperate not to get evicted. In that kind of panicked state of mind, it’s easy to become a victim to scammers.

    Scammers don’t care if you’re living paycheck to paycheck or if you have no paycheck coming in. You could only have $5 in your bank account and the scammers will try to take it. If you receive one of these phone calls, just hang up. Please keep in mind that the government really doesn’t reach out to people through unsolicited phone calls. In the majority of cases, you have to go to them. However, if you need rental assistance, there is still a federal program that is offering rental assistance. You can also check with local or regional charities to see if any of them are offering assistance as well.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , vaccine lottery, vax for the win   

    Scammers pose as state vaccine lotteries 

    By Greg Collier

    Several states have implemented what are being referred to as vaccine lotteries. Cash prizes are being given out to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Some states have even begun to issue payments to winners. However, with any act that’s designed to help the public there are inevitably those who try to use the system to their own advantage and the vaccine lotteries are no different.

    For example, California has just paid out prize to winners in their ‘Vax for the Win’ lottery. They’re expected to make another drawing this week. The Department of Health has recently said they’ve received dozens of calls about residents being told they’ve won the lottery by scammers. At least one resident received a message through social media. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since sweepstakes and lottery scams have been taking money from victims for decades.

    As with most modern scams, the goals in this scam are after one of two things. Either the scammers want your personal information, or they want you to pay them. In many lottery scams, the scammers will tell the victim they need to pay taxes or a processing fee before they can receive their winnings. Making lottery or sweepstakes winners pay for their prize is illegal in every state, so if someone asks for a payment, they’re a scammer.

    California says that their winners will receive a phone call with an official state caller and text ID, and they’ll also receive an email from the state with a form to fill out for their winnings. Residents are told to make sure the emails come from official state email addresses, in this case CA.gov.

    If your state is holding a vaccine lottery, it’s a good idea to check with your state to know how legitimate winners are being rewarded.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , SWAT, ,   

    Virtual kidnapping scam brings out SWAT team 

    Virtual kidnapping scam brings out SWAT team

    By Greg Collier

    Victims of virtual kidnapping scams often get the police involved since many victims aren’t aware this is a scam. Police are then able to assist the victim by letting them know it’s a scam and are also able to locate the person who’s been supposedly kidnapped. However, an entire SWAT team is not normally called out for a virtual kidnapping scam. But that’s what happened to a father and son recently, in Virginia.

    For new readers, a virtual kidnapping is called that because no one is actually being held hostage. The scammers will call a victim and tell the victim that they’ve kidnapped one of the victim’s loved ones. The scammers will then demand a ransom that can be paid either through gift cards or money transfers. The scammers will try to keep the victim on the phone to prevent them from reaching out to that loved one or the police.

    A virtual kidnapping scammer also started a flashpoint event in Bristol, Virginia when they contacted a father and son truck driving team. The pair were driving through Virginia when the son received a phone call from a phone number in Mexico that his son had been taken hostage. The truck drivers were instructed to stay on the phone and not communicate with anyone else. They were then instructed to go to a Walmart to make a money transfer.

    Since the father and son didn’t contact the trucking company they work for, the trucking company contacted Virginia State Police. The VSP found the pair at the Bristol Walmart but the pair we’re being uncooperative because they thought if they talked to the police the man’s son would be harmed. When it was determined that this may have been a hostage situation, a SWAT team and a K9 officer was called in.

    Eventually, the situation was deescalated, and the truck drivers were relieved to find out that the man’s son was fine. But this situation had the potential to go very wrong, and if lives had been lost not only would the scammers not care, but they would have disappeared into the wind.

    If you ever receive a phone call like this, try to get someone else on another phone to contact the person that the scammers have claimed to kidnap. Ask to speak to the person they’re claiming to hold hostage and ask them a question that only they would know. You may also want to set up a code word with family members that they can give if they’re actually in trouble.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: gifting club, , ,   

    Gifting club is just another name for pyramid scheme 

    Gifting club is just another name for pyramid scheme

    By Greg Collier

    Some of the oldest scams are the most effective ones. For example, the pyramid scheme is one that predates the internet and has been taking money from victims for decades. The only difference between then and today is the internet and social media have made it easy to find victims from all over.

    The way a pyramid scheme works is the person on the top of the pyramid recruits people to invest in the scheme. Those recruits fill the next level of the pyramid than they have to recruit more people to fill the next level of the pyramid and so on. Once the pyramid is full, the person at the top gets all the investments from everyone beneath them on the pyramid. Then people gradually move upwards on the pyramid where they’ll eventually make it to the top and supposedly claim their windfall.

    The problem with pyramid schemes is that only the people that get in first are the only ones who usually make money. The more the pyramid expands the more difficult it becomes to recruit new members leaving most participants at a loss.

    Unfortunately, this has happened to a number of residents of Oregon. Calling itself a ‘gifting club’ a pyramid scheme in Oregon promised its victims a $9,000 payout for a $1,400 investment. Investors are then asked to recruit more people into the club. At least 20 Oregon residents have reported losing money to this alleged pyramid scheme. With everything being online, victims gave their money to the club through various payment apps like PayPal, Venmo, and Cash App.

    If any kind of investment scheme requires you to recruit more people that is not a true investment plan but a pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes are illegal in the US. If someone says that their plan isn’t a pyramid scheme because pyramid schemes are illegal, it’s almost definitely a pyramid scheme.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , hurricanes, , ,   

    How hurricane season scams could affect you 

    How hurricane season scams could affect you

    By Greg Collier

    With the hurricane season just underway, there are expected to be up to 20 named storms in the Atlantic this year. While not all of the named storms will make landfall, there is still potential for storm related damage to affect those in hurricane-prone areas. If the devastation from the storms aren’t bad enough, damaging storms can also bring all sorts of scammers out of the woodwork. Some of these scams can affect you even if you don’t live in the storm-ravaged area.

    If you do live in the storm area, you have to be aware of scam contractors. These are scammers claiming to be contractors who offer help to repair your home. According to the Better Business Bureau, these phony contractors travel from storm to storm, looking for victims. They’ll claim to be licensed, but they may not be licensed in your state. You should only deal with contractors that are licensed in your state. Another good way to avoid this scam is to get estimates from a few contractors. Also, you should never pay in advance as that could be an indication of a scam.

    Another act of fraud that almost inevitably happens with natural disasters is price gouging. This is when businesses will start charging outrageous prices for items or services that are in demand during a crisis. One of the biggest areas of price gouging comes from hotels when people are trying to find emergency lodging. Not only could this price gouging happen in your area, but it could also happen in areas not affected by the storm as shady proprietors could be expecting an influx of people escaping the storm.

    There are also charity scams to look out for. After every major storm, scammers will start posing as charities looking to pressure you into making a donation to them. These phony charities will often have generic sounding names like ‘Storm Relief Fund’ for example. If you want to financially help those affected by the storm it’s always a safe bet to donate to the Red Cross. You can also check the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org to see if the charity you want to donate to is legitimate or not.

    Even if you don’t live in a hurricane-prone area, the area you live in probably has its own share of natural disasters. Whether it’s blizzards, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, or what have you, these scams will move into your area if a natural disaster occurs.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , obituaries,   

    Scammers are combing obituaries for new victims 

    By Greg Collier

    As we have discussed before, if you’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19, you could be eligible to have part or all of the funeral expenses paid for under FEMA’s American Rescue Plan. Under the plan you could be reimbursed up to $9,000 for funeral expenses. As you can probably guess, this has led scammers to try to take advantage of the program. In order to accomplish that, scammers need not only the information of the deceased, but the information from the surviving family members as well.

    The way scammers achieve this is by posing as FEMA agents or the organization itself. Scammers will send out robocalls, emails and text messages posing as FEMA asking victims to contact them. Any contact information the victims are given does not go to FEMA but to the scammers instead. The victims will not only be asked for personal information concerning themselves and the deceased., but they may be asked for an upfront payment disguised as a ‘processing fee’. It’s already been documented that scammers have tried to obtain the death certificates of COVID-19 victims so they can try to claim the program money for themselves.

    According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers are even combing the local obituaries to get as much information about the deceased and their families as possible. However, this scam does have its drawbacks if you know a couple of items of information. Government agencies like FEMA very rarely initiate first contact, and if they do, they will do so through traditional channels like postal mail.

    If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and require financial assistance for funeral expenses, you have our most sincere condolences. If you would like to apply for FEMA’s assistance you can do so at FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance webpage.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: disabilities, , ,   

    Scammers target people with disabilities 

    Scammers target people with disabilities

    By Greg Collier

    We’ve seen no end to the depths that scammers will sink to. We’ve seen them take advantage of disaster victims, the elderly, crime victims, the families of missing persons, and those desperate for housing just to name a few. While we’re sure it’s far from a new thing, we just came across a story where the scammers were purposely targeting people with disabilities. To be more specific, the scammers were targeting those with hearing difficulties.

    An Indiana woman was recently convicted in Federal Court for scamming a Pennsylvania couple out of $500,000. While the report doesn’t say which particular scam was used against the Pennsylvania couple, the woman was said to use a combination of scams. One of the scams was a variation of the sweepstakes scam. The victims were contacted by text, email or social media and were told that they had won a special ‘deaf’ lottery, but they had to pay taxes and processing fees before they could receive the prize.

    The other scam used was said to be the grant scam. Victims were told that they could receive federal grant money. But just like the sweepstakes scam, the victims would need to pay a fee before they receive the grant. The scammers even hijacked social media accounts to make it look like the grant offer was coming from a friend.

    If the victims made an initial payment, the scammers would continue to try to squeeze more money out of their victims for as long as they could.

    The Indiana woman worked as part of an international scam ring that is said to have scammed millions from victims with the woman taking a cool million for herself. We’re pretty confident that these scammers would steal candy from babies if there was any money in it.

    It is actually illegal to charge someone for entering a sweepstakes or charging them to get their prize. That is why sweepstakes always say that no purchase is necessary. As for grants, there are no fees associated with applying for grants. Also keep in mind that the government will not reach out to you to offer grants. You have to approach them. Communication from the government is almost always done through the postal mail.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , settlement   

    MoneyGram scam victims can get money back 

    MoneyGram scam victims can get money back

    By Greg Collier

    It’s not often that we have good news for readers, but today we have some good news.

    Often, we like to remind our readers that gift cards are the currency of scammers due to the ease in which scammers can empty the funds from gift cards. Prior to the rise in popularity of gift cards, money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram were the tool of choice for scammers to take money from their victims. These services are still used by scammers because a scammer can just walk up to a money transfer county, get their money, and disappear. That and the fact money can be transferred just about anywhere in the world.

    Late last year, we discussed how Western Union settled with the Department of Justice for $153 million after Western Union was accused of turning a blind eye to scammers. In that post, we also discussed how victims of Western Union scams could try to claim part of that settlement. Now, it’s MoneyGram’s time to do the same.

    On June 1st, the Federal Trade Commission announced that victims of MoneyGram scams can claim their portion of a $125 million settlement MoneyGram made with the DOJ. However, there are some requirements before you can file for your claim. You have had to have been a victim of a scam that used MoneyGram between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2017. Then you can go to the MoneyGram Remission Website and start your claim. However, you don’t have too long to file a claim as the deadline for filing a claim is Aug. 31, 2021.

    Money transfer services should only be used if you need to send cash to someone you know personally, and you’re 100% sure that they’ll be receiving the money. If not, then there is a good chance you’re sending money to a scammer.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , ,   

    Summer vacation is scam season 

    Summer vacation is scam season

    By Greg Collier

    With the weather getting warmer and more pandemic restrictions being lifted, many families are looking to book vacations for the summer to make up for the time lost last year. However, traveling away from home can open consumers to a number of different scams they need to look out for. We’ve already discussed the rental car scam that is happening due to the rental car shortage. Now, warnings are going out about several scams that are related to vacation travel.

    The Better Business Bureau has put out a warning about various hotel scams. Since lodging is your home away from home during your vacation, it’s imperative to keep an eye out for these scams. According to the BBB, you should be aware of fake food delivery services. Scammers are said to distribute fake menus to hotels. When you call the number listed on the fake menu you’ll be directed to scammers who will take down your credit or debit card information and use it for their own purposes. Check with the front desk or look online to make sure the restaurant actually exists.

    Another popular hotel scam is when scammers will call your room posing as the front desk. The scammers will say that there is an issue with the card that was used at the front desk. Of course, they’ll ask you to verify your card number, which again will be used for theft. A hotel should never do this and will have patrons settle any billing issues at check out.

    Another problem that vacationers are facing is dealing with timeshares. Many people tried to get out of their timeshares over the last year due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, many people fell victims to scammers who promise to help get consumers out of their timeshare agreements. It’s been suggested that if you deal with your timeshare company directly, it will be cheaper to get out of your timeshare than hiring someone to do it who may not do anything after being paid.

    Lastly, the grandparent scam picks up during the summer months. With so many people being away from home, it’s easier to convince someone that a loved one is missing. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a loved one who’s in some kind of dire trouble, and they ask for money, that call could be nothing more than a scam.

    Hopefully, you can now have an even better vacation now that you know some of the scams to look out for.

     
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