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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Are banks too zealous for Zelle? 

    By Greg Collier

    If you haven’t heard of Zelle by now, it’s a mobile payment app designed to compete with the likes of Venmo and Cash App. The company behind Zelle is owned by a number of the major banks in America including Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo just to name a few. Many, if not all, of these banks include Zelle with their mobile payment apps whether the customer wants Zelle or not. Since many mobile banking customers are even aware of Zelle on their banking accounts, scammers have been able to use Zelle to empty the bank accounts of their victims.

    For the past few months, scammers have been sending text messages to their victims posing as the victim’s bank. The text message asks the victim if they recently made a large purchase and asks the victim to text back yes or no. When the victim texts back, they’re immediately called by a scammer posing as a bank employee. The scammer tells the victim that the victim’s bank account has been compromised and that the victim needs to move money through Zelle in order to ‘protect’ their account. In actuality, the scammers are moving the money from the victim’s account to the scammer’s account. This scenario most recently happened to a new mother and teacher in Atlanta where her Wells Fargo account was drained of $3500. Since Zelle doesn’t offer many customer protections, victim’s have been hit or miss when it comes to getting their money back from their bank.

    A huge problem with the recent Zelle scams is the fact that the banks are attaching Zelle to their mobile payment apps without a lot of customer education on how Zelle works. It also doesn’t help that if a customer wanted to opt out of Zelle, they can’t just check a box that deactivates their Zelle account. Instead, you have to call your bank’s customer service department to deactivate your Zelle account.

    Should banks be doing more to warn their customers about these scams? Is a small warning on the Zelle app about scams enough? What can the banks do to better educate their customers? Please let us know in the comments below.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Look out for romance scams during the holidays 

    Look out for romance scams during the holidays

    By Greg Collier

    Most people don’t like being alone during the holiday season. When someone finds themselves in just such a situation, they can often let their heart override their mind when it comes to being scammed. Many people who are looking for a little companionship, especially during the holiday season, can frequently ignore red flags which would normally be obvious indications of a scam. This is why we see romance scams affect people from those just getting by to those in the upper echelons of business.

    The online romance scam can target not just those who are on dating apps, but those who may not have even been searching for a new partner. It starts when the victim is messaged by a scammer posing as someone else. Often the scammers will pose as a military member who is stationed overseas, but will sometimes pose as an oil rig worker or an international businessman. This is done to make it so the scammers have an easy out when it comes to why they can’t meet their supposed romantic partner in person or talk on the phone. The scammers will even use stolen pictures of actual service members and others to make the scam seem more convincing.

    What all the romance scams have in common is that the scammer will eventually ask their victims for money. Sometimes it’s for a supposed emergency, while other times it’s to help with a big international business deal. We’ve even seen instances where victims were asked for money to help get jewels and gold bars out of a foreign country. Once a victim gives money to a romance scammer, the scammer will continue to ask for even more money. Recently, a Colorado woman was scammed out of $8000 by someone claiming to have been stationed in Afghanistan. However, we’ve also seen reports where victims ran afoul of the law after embezzling money from their employers just to pay their romantic partners, who are actually scammers.

    If you’re on a dating app or platform and someone wants to message you outside the platform, this could be an indicator that they’re a scammer. The best way to protect yourself from romance scammers is to do a reverse image search of any picture they send you of themselves. If the results some back to someone who isn’t who they say they are, then your best bet is to cut off any communication with them. It goes doubly so if they start asking you for money if you haven’t even met yet.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    When pets go missing, scammers follow 

    By Greg Collier

    It only takes a moment. Maybe you left the front door open just a second too long. Or maybe the leash gets yanked out of your hand while on a walk. Before you know it, your pet is long gone, run off to who knows where in the neighborhood. You hope your neighbors are kind enough to let you know if they spot your pet, so you put up notices on platforms like Facebook, Craigslist, and Nextdoor. You even post fliers on telephone poles in the area. However, you’re teased with brief glimpses of hope as people claim that they’ve found your pet, only to find out that they’re scammers.

    This is what happened to a woman in Texas when her 17-year-old dog with special needs got out of the family’s home in the blink of an eye. The dog’s owner posted about her lost dog on social media and put out physical fliers that included her phone number. It wasn’t long before people started calling her, claiming to have her dog. One caller asked the woman to enter a verification code to prove she was the dog’s owner. While the report doesn’t state it, this sounds a lot like the Google Voice scam. This is where scammers can get a Google Voice number linked to your phone number and use the Google number to commit future scams.

    Another caller said that they were going to harm the dog and sent the woman a picture of a gun. Again, while the report doesn’t mention it, this scammer was probably trying to extort some kind of payment out of the dog’s owner even though they didn’t have the dog.

    Unfortunately, the woman has yet to find her lost dog.

    So what can you do to prevent this from happening to you and your pet? The first thing you should do before a pet can run off is take them to the vet and get them microchipped. Chipped pets have a much better chance of being returned home. If you need to post fliers or social media posts, use your email address instead of your phone number. Scammers can find a lot of personal information about you if they know your phone number. If someone claims to have your pet, ask them to send a picture of your pet. And if someone claims to have your pet and asks you to wire money or send them gift cards, they do not have your pet and are just trying to scam you.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Avoid Black Friday again this year 

    Avoid Black Friday again this year

    By Greg Collier

    As you’re probably well aware of, this Friday is the infamous shopping holiday Black Friday. Every year, we urge our readers to avoid going to brick and mortar stores due to deceptive practices by the stores. Last year, we urged our readers not to go for health reasons due to the ongoing pandemic. This year, we’d like to remind our readers that COVID-19 infections are still happening and being in such close quarters with other shoppers may increase the risk of infection. But again, there are other reasons why you should be wary of many different things on Black Friday.

    The first thing to be aware of is the so-called doorbuster deals. These items are usually very limited in stock. These items are generally designed to get you in the door and try to get you to buy something more expensive once the limited stock is exhausted. Some have even said that the doorbuster products are manufactured with cheaper components to keep profit margins high for the store. That’s not even taking the current supply line crisis into account, as this year’s stock could be even more limited than before. Many of the doorbuster deals can be found on sale later on in the holiday season at an even better price if they’ll be available.

    Shopping online is a much better alternative, but there are pitfalls online that need to be avoided as well. While shopping with the major online retailers is relatively safe, scammers will try to trick you into believing you’re using one of those retailers. Scammers will send out phishing emails using the actual logos of famous shopping sites but will leave a link in the email that will take you to a phony site that resembles the real thing. They’ll then try to gain your financial information for possible identity theft and other potential abuses. In the same vein, scammers will pose as retailers and email you asking you to download something to get a deal. This will instead infect your device with malware, which could allow bad actors to access your device remotely and steal as much information as they want from it. Always go directly to a retailer’s website rather than clicking on anything in an email.

    If at all possible, use a credit card when shopping online. While debit cards may offer some protection against fraudulent purchases, credit cards have better protections and won’t take any money directly from your bank balance. Also, keep an eye on both your debit and credit card accounts to make sure that no unauthorized purchases have been made on them. Many of these services can be set up to send you a notification every time the account is used. While the notifications may be a bit annoying, they can go a long way in preventing fraud on your accounts.

    Even if you’re just buying gift cards for the family this year, there are still hazards to look out for. If you get a gift card where the PIN has already been exposed, it may have already been bought by a scammer. Sometimes scammers will put the card back on the shelf, hoping that someone will add additional funds to the card. Then the scammer could use the funds on the card without your knowledge. Another variation of this scam is when a scammer will scratch the protective coating off the card’s PIN, then replace it with a sticker after writing down the number.

    We hope these tips help you shop smarter and safer this holiday season.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 22, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Are scammers knocking on your grandparent’s door? 

    By Greg Collier

    We’re about to discuss a twist on the grandparent scam we’ve discussed before, but we think it bears repeating.

    For those who may not know, the grandparent scam is when a scammer targets an elderly victim with the purpose of defrauding them by calling the victim on the phone and claiming that one of their grandchildren is in jail and needs money for bail and legal fees. Historically, the scammers have posed as the grandchildren themselves, but as people became wise to the scam, the scammers started posing as lawyers and police. The scammers also tell their victims not to tell anyone about what’s going on, either as the grandchild not wanting the rest of the family to know or under threat of a bogus gag order by police.

    In the past, these grandparent scammers would have their victims send the phony bail money through a money transfer service like MoneyGram or through gift cards. More recently, the scammers have been sending people to the victims’ homes to collect the money personally. We have seen reports where scammers have sent unwitting Uber drivers to pick up the money, or the scammers have gone to the home themselves disguised as couriers. Recently, in Massachusetts, police have reported that the scammers are showing up at victim’s homes claiming to be bail bondsmen. After the fake bondsmen was given close to $13,000 by a victim, the scammer made the motions of making a phone call to a judge and said that the victim’s family member was on their way to being released. The family member used by these scammers was never really in any legal trouble.

    If you ever receive one of these calls, the first thing to remember is to not give out any family names to the caller. However, that may not be enough if the scammer has been tracking you through social media. What you can do is hang up and verify the relative’s whereabouts. No one has ever gotten extra jail time for a family member who wanted to check the veracity of the story. Also, bondsmen never come out to a house to collect bond money. You have to go to them, and they won’t call a judge in front of you.

    If you have any elderly family or friends who may not be aware of this scam, please share this post with them or any one of the news articles out there about it.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    This mortgage scam is more common that you think 

    This mortgage scam is more common that you think

    By Greg Collier

    The mortgage scam we’re about to discuss we’ve posted about before. While it’s not a new scam, what surprised us is how often this scam supposedly happens.

    The scam is known as the business email compromise scam, but that phrase encompasses a number of scams where scammers cam imitate business emails that they’ve hijacked. Often these hijacked accounts are used to target someone else that’s in that business, such as someone in payroll or accounting who can issue checks. However, the BEC scam can also target outside customers as well. In this case, people who are getting ready to close on a home.

    In the mortgage version of this scam, scammers are monitoring the email accounts of title companies. The scammers have gained access to these email accounts through malware attacks. When the process is almost complete, the scammers will send an email to the home buyer that appears to have come from the title company asking for the final closing cost to be wired. In one recent case in North Carolina, that amount came to almost $50,000 that the home buyer lost to scammers. By the time the home buyer realized he’d been scammed, the money he wired had already been wired again to multiple locations.

    What really surprised us about this recent scam was that the FBI has said that this mortgage scam is more common than ransomware attacks. Since we hear about ransomware attacks against companies and hospitals on an almost weekly basis, this scam must happen quite often.

    The best way to protect yourself against this scam is to confirm any transactions with your title company over the phone before sending any money. Other tips include if the money wiring instructions are different from before or if there are grammatical errors in the email.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Florida father falls victim to kidnapping scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Even after all this time, we still get comments from readers who claim that they would never fall for any of the scams we’ve discussed. While that may be true, we still maintain that anyone can fall victim to a scam if the circumstances are right. For every victim that falls for a scam, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of attempts by scammers that fail. While the odds may be in your favor that you won’t fall for a scam, they’re never at zero, as one man from Florida recently found out.

    The man from the Tampa Bay area was busy working as a DJ at a local wedding when he received two phone calls. One was from his 17-year-old daughter and the other was from Mexico. He couldn’t answer the calls at the time since he was working. However, he received a second call from Mexico and answered it since he had family that were vacationing there.

    The caller claimed that he got into a fender bender with the man’s daughter and took her hostage, since the caller claimed to be carrying a substantial amount of drugs. The caller even put what sounded like a young woman crying on the phone. Then the caller demanded the man leave the wedding and wire him $1500 to get his daughter back. The man went to a local supermarket, where he wired money to the scammer. At that point, the call ended. The man called his wife, and she was able to verify that their daughter was safe and had not been kidnapped. The man even stated to local media that this was a perfect storm of circumstances that allowed him to fall victim to the scam.

    This scam is known as the virtual kidnapping scam and according to local police, this scam finds victims around 5-10 times a week in the Tampa area. The FBI has even said that the virtual kidnapping scam is the scam with the third-highest number of victims nationwide.

    As we often tell our readers, actual kidnappings for ransom in the United States are actually quite rare. If you are ever unfortunate enough to receive a one of these calls, try to keep calm. We know that’s easier said than done. Even if the caller is keeping you on the call, find a way to contact the person that the callers are claiming to have kidnapped, or someone who can verify their whereabouts. You should also contact your local police department.

  • Geebo 8:59 am on November 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    New bank scam plaguing customers 

    New bank scam plaguing customers

    By Greg Collier

    As if bank customers didn’t have enough to worry about as it is, another scam with a familiar hook has started appearing. Much like the recent spate of Zelle scams, more scammers are calling their victims, posing as the victim’s bank. This particular scam is a little more disheartening because the scammers already have a lot of the victim’s information.

    Again, like many bank scams that have happened recently, the scam starts with a call to the victim from a scammer pretending to be from the customer service department of the victim’s bank. The victim is asked if their debit card has been used out of state. When the victim responds that they haven’t been out of state, they’re then urged to cancel their card due to fraudulent activity. The scammers already have the last 4 digits of the victim’s debit card. As the bank, the scammers then ask for the victim’s PIN, so they can ‘confirm’ the card’s cancellation.

    Once the victim gives the scammers their PIN, the scammers are off to the races, as they’ve already gleaned the victim’s debit card number from any number of data breaches. The only thing the scammers needed was the PIN, and from there they can drain the bank account the debit card is attached to. This scam has already been reported in Kentucky and could be on the way to spreading nationwide.

    If you ever receive a call from your bank about fraudulent activity, politely hang up and call them back at the customer service number on the back of your debit card or on the bank’s website. You can also visit your bank’s local branch to resolve any issues. Most importantly, never give your PIN to anyone over the phone unless you’re absolutely certain you’re speaking with your bank.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Shipping crisis could lead to holiday scams 

    Shipping crisis could lead to holiday scams

    By Greg Collier

    Many factors have led to the current global shipping crisis. However, whether it’s more people ordering items online or the lack of truck drivers to deliver the goods, it can all be tracked back to the pandemic. An untold number of cargo ships are forced to wait days and sometimes weeks at sea before they can unload their cargo. This has resulted in product shortages for items that are manufactured overseas, especially items from Asia, where the bulk of electronics and toys are produced. As with any global crisis, scammers are more than happy to use the product shortages to their advantage.

    The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about seeking out highly demanded products this holiday season. Due to the shortages, many of the in-demand items consumers are hoping to get for the holidays will probably be even harder to find than in years past. It’s predicted that scammers will increase their activity this holiday season by setting up fake vendor websites that are selling the most sought out items. These websites are designed for one thing, and that’s to steal your information, both personal and financial. People who fall victim to these websites could end up being charged for a hard to find item only to never receive the product.

    The BBB has some tips for avoiding these websites, such as avoiding ads for hard to find items on social media. When making purchases online, try to use a credit card as much as possible, since credit cards offer more fraud protection than debit cards and payment apps. And as always, beware of below-market prices because if the deal seems too good to be true it probably is. This holiday season, if you’re set on doing all your shopping online, your best bet is to stick with known retailers rather than taking a risk with a scammer.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Payment app fraud may not be covered by your bank 

    Payment app fraud may not be covered by your bank

    By Greg Collier

    As we have seen with the recent incidents of the Zelle scam, banks aren’t exactly rushing forward to reimburse customers who have lost money due to payment app fraud. Many mobile payment apps require their users to connect either a bank account or a debit or credit card to their accounts. This has allowed scammers to drain bank accounts from many of their targets using multiple apps. These apps offer little to no fraud protection, with many of them just pointing to a page on their website that says how to look out for fraud. In a multitude of cases, many banks have refused to reimburse their customers since the fraud was committed on a third-party platform.

    For example, a couple in San Antonio, Texas, got a call from their credit union asking them about suspicious activity on their account. According to the credit union, there were 11 transactions that took place in the United Kingdom which amounted to $4000. Somehow, scammers got a hold of their Cash App information and were stealing money from the couple’s bank account through Cash App. The couple was angry since the credit union is said to normally call them for transactions over $500 but didn’t warn them about these transactions until it was too late. As with many of these stories, the credit union denied the couple a refund until the couple got the local media involved. All of a sudden, the fraudulent transaction was covered under the couple’s fraud protection on their account.

    If you’re a frequent user of payment apps like Cash App, you may want to link a credit card to your account instead of a debit card or bank account. Credit cards offer many more protections than the payment apps do on their own, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting your money back. If you don’t have a credit card, on some payment apps, you can limit the amount of payment that can be made. Payment app users should also do a daily check on their balance, as the sooner you can catch the fraud, the sooner you can do something about it.

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