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  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Child Tax Credit, , , ,   

    New scam targets families with children 

    New scam targets families with children

    By Greg Collier

    Recently, the IRS started issuing payments for the Child Tax Credit to eligible families. Unsurprisingly, this has brought out the scammers who are looking to get their hands on your money. The FBI has issued a warning letting people know that the scammers are out there and looking to steal the payments from families who desperately need it. Here are some tips on how to try to avoid these scams.

    Many of these scams are recycled scams from when the stimulus payments were being issued. If your bank account information is already on file with the IRS, you don’t have to do anything to receive your payment. The payment will be sent to you through direct deposit. Anyone who says that you have to sign up for some service to receive your payment is trying to scam you. No one can help you get your payment earlier, either.

    Scammers will also pose as the IRS on the phone and try to pressure you into giving up your financial information. They may even threaten you with arrest if you don’t comply with them. Keep in ind that the IRS rarely calls anyone out of the blue, nor do they threaten anyone with arrest. These are the high-pressure tactics of a scammer who is trying to scare you into giving them your information.

    The IRS won’t email or text you, either. So if you receive a message asking you to click on a link to receive your payment, it is a scam. More than likely, you’ll be taken to a scam website that looks official that will ask you for your personal and financial information. If you give that information up, it’s almost guaranteed that your money will end up in the hands of a scammer.

    If you feel like you have been scammed out of your Child Tax Credit, notify your bank and contact the IRS.

     
  • Geebo 8:06 am on July 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Secret Shopper scam tries to streamline 

    By Greg Collier

    Secret Shopper scams are back again. To be honest, they never really go away, but if the scammers were to be believed there would be more secret shoppers than actual shoppers.

    Being a secret shopper is an actual job. Many retailers hire secret shoppers to go to their various stores and review the shopping and customer service experience. It’s a job that’s been around for decades, too. When I was in my late teens, I was working a retail job and was admonished by my manager because a secret shopper caught me not wearing my name tag. You better believe I wore my name tag from then on.

    The secret shopper position has long been a favorite tool of scammers. In this latest case reported by the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa, scammers are emailing victims telling them that they’ve already been approved to be a secret shopper. If a victim responds to the email, they’re then told that they need to review a money wire transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union. The victims are then sent a phony check. They’re instructed to deposit the check in their bank account. Then the victim is told to use the wire transfer service to transfer most of the money back to their boss and are told to keep part of the check as payment. Since the check is fraudulent, the victim who deposited it in their bank account is responsible for the check’s amount and any fees to their bank. Yet, the scammers have made off with the majority of the value of the check.

    This is the most streamlined version of this scam we’ve seen in quite some time. Typically, scammers will send you the fake check, have you deposit it, have you buy some items at whatever store they’re imitating, then have you send back the difference. This version of the scam goes right to the heart of the matter and has victims just essentially send the scammers money.

    As we have stated, secret shopper is an actual paying job. However, no company is going to email you out of the blue to tell you that you’ve been chosen. The position is actually a lot more rare than the scammers make it out to be. That’s not even taking into consideration that no real employer will ask you to deposit a check in your own bank account before spending it. And any time money transfer services or gift cards are involved, you can assume that everything about the job is a scam.

    If you want to actually become a secret shopper, you can check with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at their website.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , red light camera, , traffic tickets, , TSA PreCheck,   

    Scam Round Up: Red Lights, the TSA, and Google Voice 

    Scam Round Up: Red Lights, the TSA, and Google Voice

    By Greg Collier

    Every so often, we come across scams that may not warrant an entire blog post. So here are three scams that caught our attention this week that be briefly summed up.

    In Renton, Washington, scammers are sending emails to victims claiming that the victim ran a red light and was caught on one of the city’s red light cameras. The email contains a link where you’re supposed to pay your fine but, of course, goes to the scammer instead. What makes this scam effective is that many jurisdictions use a third party online platform to collect some traffic fines. However, you can tell that this is a scam since most, if not all, cities send their red light tickets through the postal mail and not by email. Most states don’t even have your email address connected to your license plate number.

    ***

    If you travel a lot for business or leisure, you may have thought of signing up for TSA PreCheck. This program allows low-risk individuals to pay for a service where they can have an expedited security check when flying. As with a lot of government services, scammers are trying to trick PreCheck seekers into giving up their personal info by creating phony websites that claim they can register you with PreCheck. Again, there is a simple solution to this scam, but not everyone is aware of it. Only websites that have a .gov address can register you for PreCheck. Some of these scam websites may even have a .us address. Anybody can purchase a .us domain name, and it is not under the authority of the US Government. You can apply for TSA PreCheck at the TSA website.

    ***

    Our last scam for today is one we’ve previously discussed and also affects Geebo’s industry. If you’re selling something online, whether it’s with Geebo or someone else, be wary if someone says they want to prove ‘you’re real’. An authorization code will be sent to you and the buyer will ask for that code number. Do not give it to them. They’re trying to set up a Google Voice number that would be tied to your phone number. This way, they could continue scamming people using the Google Voice number, but would be traced back to you. This recently happened to a woman from New Hampshire who was selling her items on Facebook Marketplace.

    ***

    Please keep in mind that even though these scams may not be happening in your area, that doesn’t mean that it soon won’t be.

     
  • Geebo 8:15 am on July 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cuttoff scam, , , ,   

    Smart meter scam threatens shut-off 

    Smart meter scam threatens shut-off

    By Greg Collier

    Duke Energy is one of the most prolific energy companies in the South. Recently, they warned their customers about a scam that has hit the Carolinas. Like most utility scams, the scammers threaten their victims over the phone with having their service turned off. The scammers are also asking for payment so that service won’t be shut off, but it’s not for delinquent payments. This time around, scammers are threatening people with having their power turned off if they don’t pay for a smart meter.

    A smart meter is an upgraded version of the old-fashioned electricity meter that’s on the side of most houses. The old version is the one that has dials, while the smart meter is digital. Smart meters can also relay your electricity usage to your power company without the need for meter readers coming to your home. Some power companies even have apps that connect to your smart reader so you can monitor electricity usage in your home. In some states, you can even opt out of having a smart meter if you have privacy concerns about them.

    The problem with this scam is that consumers typically don’t have to pay for smart meters if their power company is installing them for everybody. Unfortunately, not everybody knows that. However, like most utility scams, the power company is not going to call you and threaten you with terminating your service. In the vast majority of cases, the power company will send you a written notice if your service is to be terminated, and they’ll send it to you with plenty of advance warning. The same goes for smart meter installation. If your power company is installing them, they’ll be installing them for most if not all of your neighborhood. At the least, you’ll receive a door-hanger on your front door letting you know when the installations will start. But again, you don’t have to pay for it, and anybody who says you do is probably trying to scam you.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Bank scam targets gig economy workers 

    Bank scam targets gig economy workers

    By Greg Collier

    For better or worse, millions of people have turned to work in the gig economy either as their primary income or as a secondary source of revenue. The gig economy is where people work for non-traditional companies as independent contractors. For example, if you drive for Uber or Lyft, or deliver for Grubhub or DoorDash, you’re part of the gig economy. Working as an independent contractor for any one of these types of companies already comes with its own pitfalls. Many say that the companies are already taking advantage of their workers by removing protections that many traditional jobs have. If that wasn’t bad enough, scammers are now targeting gig workers’ bank accounts.

    A DoorDash driver from North Carolina was recently a victim of this scam, where he ended up losing $1,000. While making his rounds, he received a phone call from someone claiming to be from DoorDash. They told him to pull over somewhere safe and then said that the driver’s DoorDash account had been compromised. The scammers were even able to give him details from his own account. The scammers then instructed the man that they were going to send him an authorization code to save his account. All he had to do was tell them the code, which the driver did. When he went to get his payment from his DoorDash account, he discovered that the scammers had directed his payment away from his bank account and into theirs.

    Authorization codes are usually sent to customers of whatever service if they need to make a change to their account. This is part of what’s known as two-factor authentication. If someone is claiming to be a representative of that company, they won’t need an authorization code to make changes or protect your account, as they already have your information. This affects everyone too, not just gig workers, as many of the services we rely on every day require authorization codes to access them.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Scam victim led on terrifying goose chase 

    Victim led on terrifying goose chase

    By Greg Collier

    The jury duty scam is one of the more prevalent scams being perpetrated today. Usually, the victim receives a phone call from a scammer posing as local law enforcement. They then tell the victim that the victim has missed jury duty and that they need to pay a fine, or they’ll be arrested. The victim is then instructed to go out and buy gift cards so they can pay the fictitious fine over the phone. Longtime readers will know that the only thing gift cards should be used for are gifts. While we know this to be true, not everyone has gotten the message yet.

    A woman from North Carolina recently found this out the hard way. She received a phone call from scammers posing as the federal government and told her that she missed jury duty on a federal jury. The scammers told her that she received a certified letter informing her of being selected for jury duty and that she signed for it. They kept the victim on the phone while she drove to several different convenience stores in the area to purchase prepaid debit cards. When she questioned the method of payment, the scammers told her that this is how everyone pays in court now. She was also told that she was being kept under surveillance, and she couldn’t tell anyone because she was under a ‘federal gag order’.

    Before it was all over, she had spent $6000 on prepaid debit cards, before giving the numbers to the scammers. They then informed her to go to the county sheriff’s office to sign some affidavits before letting her off the phone. The scammers may have even had her go to the sheriff’s office as part of a cruel joke because when she had gotten there, their office was closed for the day.

    While we can look back at this scam with hindsight, it can be terrifying for people who are caught in the middle of it. However, we can also use hindsight to warn people how not to fall for such a scam. If there was a warrant out for your arrest for skipping jury duty, you would receive a notice in the mail. Law enforcement agencies do not call citizens to threaten them with arrest. Gift cards and prepaid debit cards are the number one sign that something is a scam. This is not how everyone in court pays fines today. Court costs and fines are still paid by traditional means such as cash or credit cards. Lastly, legal gag orders are only issued to people who are involved in a current and ongoing court case. Gag orders are not just issued on random citizens.

    If you were to receive a phone call like this, you should hang up and call your local police department at their non-emergency number.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , multilevel marketing, ,   

    Potential pyramid scheme targets young people on Instagram 

    Potential pyramid scheme targets young people on Instagram

    By Greg Collier

    There’s a fine line between pyramid schemes and multilevel marketing. In pyramid schemes, the top level of the pyramid asks you for money with a promise of getting multiples of your money back. All you have to do is recruit more people who are willing to pay you, so you can in turn pay the top of the pyramid. With MLMs, not only do you have to pay to get in, you have to sell a product, and recruit more people to join.

    Pyramid schemes are illegal in the US, but MLMs are not. If an MLM makes more money from recruiting new people rather than selling a product, it’s then considered a pyramid scheme and is violating US law. This hasn’t stopped some MLM’s from continuing to operate.

    One thing that pyramid schemes and MLMs have in common is that the lower someone is on the hierarchy, the less money they make. Both also tend to target people in lower-income areas who may not have had the best educations. They both also tend to target younger people who may not have the life experience to recognize a potential scam.

    Recently, The Office of the Attorney General in Georgia, has issued a warning to young people about a potential pyramid scheme/MLM that has been trying to recruit them on Instagram. The ‘company’ clams to give money to college students so they can establish credit. They say they’re looking for recruiters and that someone can earn $350 for each person the recruit. However, to become a recruiter, you need to pay $100 to join.

    If you have to pay money to join some network marketing plan, you’re not running your own business, as they may claim. What you really are is a paying customer who has quotas on how much you have to buy and how many people you need to recruit each month. Social media, with Facebook and Instagram being the most egregious, is where most MLMs will try to recruit you. Think about that person from high school you haven’t seen in years all of a sudden has a ‘business opportunity’ for you. They’re just looking for suckers of their own so their ‘business’ isn’t suffering. Before you know it, everyone involved except the top of the food chain are further in debt. This isn’t a business, it’s a predatory practice.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , California Gaming Commission, , ,   

    Never send money in magazines 

    Never send money in magazines

    By Greg Collier

    If you discuss scams on a regular basis like we do, you’re occasionally going to get a comment that says something along the lines of, “I would never be scammed.” or the more callous, “They get what they deserve.” That’s a dangerous way of thinking because, as we like to think we’ve shown, anybody can get scammed. If you dangle a big enough carrot in front of someone, so to speak, it’s not difficult to convince your target to dismiss any and all red flags. That’s exactly what happened to a retired couple in North Dakota when they were promised a $1.7 million cash prize.

    They received a call from a scammer claiming to be from the California Gaming Commission, which isn’t a real thing. In California, it’s called the California Gambling Control Commission. One of the first things the scammers told the couple was to not tell anyone about the prize. Of course, the prize came with a string attached. They couldn’t get the prize until they paid fees and taxes on it. Initially, the couple was sending payments through money orders before they were told to send cash through UPS by placing the bills in between the pages of magazines and labeling the package ‘legal documents’. Before it was all over, the couple had paid $89,000 to the scammers and had even taken out a loan on their house to pay the phony fees.

    This is what’s known as the sweepstakes scam or the advance fee scam. There is no such thing as a prize for a contest you did not enter. Even if you did enter a cash prize contest, it’s illegal in the United States to charge money for a contest like that. That’s why most sweepstakes contests tell you in the disclaimer that there is no purchase necessary.

    But getting back to the victims of this scam, no one deserves to have this happen to them. Any one of us could potentially fall victim to a scam that could cost us a lot of money. Maybe not this one, but it’s almost a guarantee that there’s a scam out there that could have your name on it.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: back taxes, , property tax, ,   

    This tax scam tries to claim ownership of your home 

    By Greg Collier

    A tax scam has recently surfaced in Pasco County, Florida. And as we like to say, if a scam can happen in one place, it can happen near you. At least one elderly resident was terrified by this scam, but thankfully she was told it was a scam before lost anything to the scam. A scammer called the woman and told her that they had paid the back taxes on her home, and they now owned it. She did the smart thing by calling the county tax collector’s office, and they informed her that this was all part of a scam. But the question remains, what is the end goal of this scam?

    With most scams today, the end goal is usually to get money out of the victim, but under what guise? One scam that uses a threat like this is one where scammers offer a service where they claim to assist in helping pay your back property taxes, especially if there is a lien on your home. Of course, this service will cost the victim money, but once payment is made, there is no tax assistance given and the scammers have made off with the victim’s payment. It could be that this particular scammer in Florida hasn’t quite grasped how the scam is supposed to work.

    That’s not to say that a home can’t switch ownership due to delinquent taxes. However, the process isn’t as simple as walking into the tax collector’s office and paying off someone’s back taxes. In Florida, the process can take years and requires an auction to take place. It’s probably safe to assume that other states have an equally lengthy process before a home can change hands due to delinquent taxes. So if you receive a call from someone either telling you that they now on your home or can help you pay your back taxes, it’s more than likely a scam.

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

    Victim loses $170K in IRS scam 

    Victim loses $170K in IRS scam

    By Greg Collier

    With 2020 tax returns being so confusing to file due to the pandemic and a change in tax law this year, it seems like scammers are taking advantage of that confusion. Sadly, IRS scams are nothing new. If your identity has been stolen, scammers may try to file for a refund in your name before you do. They may even try to intercept your refund check or change your direct deposit to another bank account. Then there is the old classic of IRS scams, threatening to arrest you if you don’t pay.

    A woman from Dallas, Texas recently fell victim to this scam. A pair of men called her, posing as the IRS. These men told the woman that she had a warrant out for her arrest due to unpaid taxes. Once the woman paid the scammers $10,000, the scammers became even more greedy. More calls followed with more demands for money. The scammers overplayed their hand when one of the money deliveries did not reach the scammers. One of the scammers told the woman to file a police report to recover the undelivered payment. When she went to file the report, police told her that she had been scammed. Before it was all over, the woman paid the scammers $170,000. Police were only able to recover 10% of the $170,000.

    While it may seem intimidating to receive a phone call like this, no law enforcement or federal agency is going to threaten you with arrest over the phone. The vast majority of communication that comes from the IRS is done through postal mail. The IRS does accept payments in a myriad of ways, but they recommend doing so electronically through the IRS website. For other IRS scams, you can refer to the IRS’s Consumer Alerts page.

     
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