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  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Scammers offer ‘bonuses’ to victims 

    Scammers offer 'bonuses' to victims

    By Greg Collier

    San Antonio, Texas, is most famous for being the site of The Alamo. However, what many people outside of Texas don’t realize is San Antonio is not only the second-largest city in Texas, but it’s also the 7th largest city in the United States. We bring this up to show that when a scam show up in San Antonio, there’s a good chance that the scam will be showing up in other areas of the country.

    In this case, the Better Business Bureau of San Antonio is reporting a dramatic increase in job scams in the area. The main difference between this and previous job scams is that scammers are using honey instead of vinegar to get their victims to react quicker.

    For example, a woman in San Antonio thought she had been hired as a secret shopper. She was instructed to buy numerous gift cards from a store and evaluate the store. To get the victim to complete her task more quickly, the scammers told the victim that if she completed her task within 12 hours, she’d get a $200 bonus. Scammers may also be doing this to try to occupy the victim’s time, so they have no time to figure out that the whole procedure is a scam. The BBB has said that the scammers are even texting the victims continuously to make sure they’re completing the task, keeping them even more occupied. Unfortunately, the victim completed her task per the scammer’s orders. She was paid with a phony check that later bounced, leaving her thousands of dollars in debt to the bank, while the scammers made off with the gift card money.

    Any time a potential employer asks you to use your own funds or deposit a check for business purposes into your account, that should serve as a red flag that the job is probably a scam. The same goes for being hired without being interviewed.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on December 16, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    New debt collection rules could lead to scams 

    New debt collection rules could lead to scams

    By Greg Collier

    If you’ve ever had to deal with a debt collector, whether rightly or wrongly, you know just how persistent they can be. Even some legitimate debt collection agencies have used some pretty underhanded tactics to try to collect on a debt that can border on harassment. Some agencies will try to pressure someone into making a payment right then and there over the phone, without telling the person where the debt came from. The collection agency might not have this information, since they may have bought the debt from someone else. They might also try to threaten you with arrest or wage garnishment. Both of these tactics are illegal, but that hasn’t stopped some collection agencies. Now, there is one less place where you can avoid debt collectors.

    Debt collectors are now allowed to approach you on social media. However, that comes with a few cautions. The communication from the debt collector has to be private. For example, they’re not allowed to post anything on your Facebook page that your friends and family could see. Debt collectors also have to properly identify themselves along with the amount of the debt, and where the debt is originally from. They’re also required to give you the option to opt-out of receiving any social media messages from them.

    However, with these new regulations, authorities are worried about scammers approaching people on social media while posing as debt collectors. According to the Better Business Bureau, if you think you’re talking to a scammer, end all communication immediately. Instead, you can go to the BBB website to make sure the agency is legitimate. You can also use the same tricks against scammers that you can use to protect your rights against debt collectors. Ask them for a debt verification letter that will detail where the debt supposedly came from. You should also check your state’s law to see when the statute of limitations on debt expires.

    However, we should warn, that if you choose to ignore messages from debt collectors this could negatively affect your credit whether the debt is correct or not.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Tornado victims could also be victims of scams 

    Tornado victims could also be victims of scams

    By Greg Collier

    The other day, we discussed how charity scams could follow in the wake of the recent tornadoes that struck the South and Midwest. We’d be remiss if we didn’t also discuss the scams that could be targeting the tornado victims. As is almost always the case, whenever disaster strikes, scammers are sure to follow. It doesn’t matter how extensive the damage or loss of life is, scammers have no qualms about preying on those who’ve already lost everything. Once again, the State of Kentucky has issued a warning to its residents about these potential scams. While you may not currently live in a disaster area, having these tips will leave you better prepared in case you are.

    Disasters like this, and others, will always bring in the shady contractors. They usually come from out of state and approach the property unsolicited. Scammers will ask you to pay in full upfront. Legitimate contractors will have licenses that you can ask to see along with their proof of insurance. Scammers will take your money and do little if any work repairing your home. The State of Kentucky has also warned its residents to be wary of any contractor who claims to be FEMA certified or FEMA referred them to you. FEMA offers no such certification or service.

    Speaking of FEMA, another popular disaster scam is when scammers pose as FEMA but claim they need a payment in order to offer you any kind of disaster relief. This is known as the advance fee scam. FEMA impersonators may also try to steal your identity by asking for personal information.

    The same goes for phone scammers who may try to impersonate your home insurance company. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your insurance company, don’t give them any personal information. Instead, you should hang up and either call your local agent or the customer service phone number listed on your policy.

    You can find more tips on how to avoid these scams at this link.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Scammers are selling tiny homes 

    By Greg Collier

    For the past few years, there’s been a trend on social media of people building or buying tiny homes. Most of the people who do so cite financial reasons for why they became enamored with tiny home living. While tiny home living isn’t for everyone, it can’t be denied that rising housing costs have created this relatively new market. But just because you may be thinking about taking the leap into a tiny home lifestyle, that doesn’t mean you should take the decision lightly.

    In South Carolina, The Manufactured Housing Institute of South Carolina is warning residents of the Palmetto State about scammers who are claiming to sell tiny homes. According to the MHISC, scammers are trying to pass off modified storage sheds as tiny homes. The scammers are said to be selling these structures from the roadside. These structures are said to have the barest of amenities added to them and are still considered illegal structures by the state if they were to be used as a home. They are said to lack proper ventilation and other safety standards required in most homes.

    In many ways, moving into a tiny home is more work than buying a ‘standard’ size home. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into a tiny home, there is a ton of research that needs to be done before you even start building. We think it’s pretty obvious to say that you shouldn’t buy a home from a side of the road vendor with a spray-painted and misspelled sign. Unless you stop at a vegetable stand, there’s not a lot you should be buying off the side of the road. Most importantly, you need to check your state and local regulations regarding tiny homes. Some jurisdictions have banned them outright. You also have to worry about financing, as most traditional housing lenders won’t give loans for tiny homes. Then you have to worry about your new home being up to code as well.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    How to donate safely to tornado victims 

    How to donate safely to tornado victims

    By Greg Collier

    We’re sure you’ve heard the news that over the weekend, at least 50 tornadoes touched down in eight states in the South and the Midwest. The state of Kentucky was said to have received the brunt of the storms and the most damage. While we have to yet see any reports of it yet, it’s almost guaranteed that charity scams will follow in the wake of the tornadoes’ devastation. Scammers have long used tragedies, both natural and man made, to try and take money that could be better used providing relief to the victims.

    The State of Kentucky is trying to get ahead of these scams by letting donators know that the state has set up an official relief fund website where anyone can donate money to assist the victims in Kentucky. Fundraising platform GoFundMe has also set up a portal to help guide contributors to legitimate fundraising channels to help the victims in not only Kentucky, but the other state’s as well. And you can always donate money or blood to the Red Cross.

    People looking to donate to a relief fund should be wary of phone or email solicitors that come from generic sounding entities like ‘Disaster Relief Fund’. If a charity appears to be trying to pressure you into making a donation either over the phone or online, there’s a good chance that they’re scammers.

    If you’d prefer not to donate to any of the charities listed above, you can always check the legitimacy of a charity by going to websites like Charity Navigator and Give.org that can let you know which charities are legitimate and which ones aren’t. You can also check with the IRS to see if a charity is registered with them, which goes a long way in showing the charity’s legitimacy.

    The following video is from the 2011 Joplin, Missouri, tornado disaster, but the tips remain just as relevant.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on December 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Will Zelle replace gift cards in online scams? 

    By Greg Collier

    Just yesterday, we were talking about gift cards and how they’ve been the payment avenue of choice for most scammers. Well, if current trends continue, the mobile payment app Zelle may start catching up to gift cards. By now, you’re probably familiar with the bank impersonation scam that uses Zelle. This is when a victim receives phony texts and phone calls that say the victim has fraudulent activity in their bank account. The scammers direct the victim to use Zelle to protect their account when, in reality, the scammers are directing victims to send all their money to the scammers through Zelle.

    Now, it seems that scammers are starting to use Zelle as they used to use gift cards. For example, a woman from Baltimore was trying to buy a puppy online. Unfortunately, she fell for the puppy scam. The puppy didn’t actually exist, and the scammers kept asking for more money for such things as special delivery crates and customs fees. You can read more on how to avoid puppy scams here. Anyway, the point being that the victim made all the payments through Zelle to her scammers. Historically, scammers like this would ask for payment in gift cards by making the victim read the numbers from the back of the gift card. As we’ve mentioned before, Zelle has a reputation for not offering many protections when it comes to getting scammed.

    Previously, it seems that banks only issue refunds to scam victims after the victims get their local media involved. However, there is another way where you can possibly get your money back if you’ve been scammed over Zelle. According to a consumer protection news report out of New York City, you’ll have the best chance of getting a refund from your bank if you file a police report, and report the scam to the bank within 60 days. Now, this is no guarantee you’ll receive a refund since many banks tell their customers that when using Zellee, the customer is responsible for all transactions including scams.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays? 

    Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays?

    By Greg Collier

    On this blog, we talk about gift cards a lot. That’s because they’re used by a multitude of scammers as an untraceable form of payment. As a matter of fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently released a report that stated at least 40,000 people lost a total of $148 million to scams that involved gift cards. Typically, these are scams that are demanding some kind of payment that supposed to prevent some kind of distress to the victim. Keep in mind that no company or agency accepts gift cards as payment unless it’s the retailer they’re intended for. You can’t pay bail with gift cards. You can’t pay your bills with gift cards. You can’t pay your taxes with gift cards. If someone is demanding that you pay them with gift cards, they are more than likely a scammer. As we are fond of saying, gift cards are the currency of scammers. But what if you wanted to buy gift cards for their intended purpose. Do you still have to worry about scams? Unfortunately, you do.

    For example, if you’re in the store looking at gift cards, make sure that the number on the back of the card isn’t already exposed. That could mean that the gift card was already purchased and out back on the shelf. Scammers will do this and wait for someone to re-purchase the card. When someone does buy the card, the scammers will quickly drain the card of the money that was added to it. Another version of this scam is when the scammers will scratch off the back to reveal the card number, then place a sticker over it waiting for someone to buy the card. In that case, compare the card with other cards on the rack to make sure the card hasn’t been tampered with.

    You may also want to avoid so-called gift card exchanges. This is where scammers will post on social media that they have a gift card for one retailer but want to trade it with someone who has a gift card for another retailer. However, after the trade is made, the victim finds out that the git card they received has little to no funds available on it.

    While gift cards are incredibly convenient for gift giving and receiving, there are many pitfalls you need to look out for, so you don’t have a complicated Christmas.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    BBB warns holiday shoppers about PayPal scam 

    By Greg Collier

    PayPal is a great payment option when doing your holiday shopping online. You can put just the right amount of money into your PayPal account for the item you’re looking to buy and not worry about being overdrawn on your account. However, that’s not the only worry you should have when using PayPal. The Better Business Bureau has recently issued a warning about a scam that may not be new, but has picked up in activity during the holiday season.

    This particular scam happens when you go to a retailer’s website that you may not be familiar with. You may have seen an ad on social media for the perfect Christmas gift. You may have seen an ad for a hard to get item at an unbelievable price. Even better, the retailer accepts PayPal for payment. The retailer sends you your delivery, but when you open the package, it’s not what you ordered. In fact, it’s some cheap trinket that may not even cost a dollar. The problem with this scam is that PayPal allows the scam to continue in many instances. The scammers have figured out that as long as something is delivered, in most cases, PayPal will side with the seller in a dispute, essentially giving the scammer your cash.

    If you’re using a new retailer for the first time, look for reviews online. Also, do a web search using the retailer’s name and the words ‘scam’ or ‘complaint’. This should be a good indicator to see if the retailer is legitimate or not. You can also do what’s called a ‘whois’ search on the retailer’s web address. This kind of search often gives you an indicator of where the retailer is located. While it’s not a guarantee you’ll avoid a scam, it will let you know if a retailer is from overseas, which is best to avoid.

    If you do end up being scammed through PayPal by an illegitimate retailer and PayPal sides with the seller, you can always file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau themselves. Again, while not a guarantee of getting your money back, PayPal has responded favorably to BBB complaints in the past.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Can you be tricked into being a money mule? 

    By Greg Collier

    The Federal Government has recently issued multiple warnings about the dangers of becoming a money mule. The phrase is reminiscent of someone who is a drug mule. However, it’s much easier to be a money mule since money mules don’t have to leave the country or there on home for that matter since money can be moved around in several virtual ways. The main problem with money mules is that many of them don’t even know they’re being used to move dirty money around the globe.

    Both the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings about unwittingly becoming a money mule. Most of the ways people become unwitting money mules is through many of the scams that we should already be familiar with. The major ones are the fake check scam and the romance scam. The fake check scam is when the scammer sends you a fake check for any number of reasons. They then ask you to deposit the check into your bank account, keep a little bit of the money for yourself before sending the remainder to a third party. By the time the victim’s bank finds out the check is fake, the scammers have made off with the money, while the victim is responsible for the amount of the check to their bank.

    Meanwhile, the FBI is warning citizens about romance scams and how even victims of a romance scam can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. They’ve released a video about an 81-year-old woman who fell for a romance scam and allegedly helped her ‘boyfriend’ defraud other people.

    The reshipping scam is another avenue where scammers use unwitting participants as money mules. This is when people think they have a legitimate job as a package inspector. The victims receive packages, inspect them, then send them to a third part. The items they inspect are usually bought with stolen credit card information. By the time the credit card company catches on, the merchandise is in another country. If a reshipper does anything to skirt US Custom laws, even if instructed by the scammer, they could face arrest.

    This also includes any scam that involves gift cards or money transfers.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , DVD in the mail, , , , ,   

    Scam Round Up: Don’t put that disc in your computer 

    Scam Round Up: Don't put that disc in your computer

    By Greg Collier

    Once again, it’s time top bring our readers another trio of scams that deserve their attention.


    Our first scam is kind of a bizarre one. Residents of a town in Maine have reported receiving something strange in the mail. They’ve been receiving handwritten envelopes, addressed only to ‘A friend’. The envelope contains a DVD that has “Please watch, copy, and share with friends” written on it, with no indication of what may actually be on the DVD. More than likely, the DVD contains malware or ransomware. What’s strange about this story is most modern computers don’t even have optical drives installed in them anymore. This scam may have been targeting elderly residents who may have older computers that still have their optical drives. A more modern take on this scam is when scammers will leave USB drives lying around out in public, just hoping that someone will actually plug the drive into their computer.


    Our next scam is one that you’re probably more familiar with. Residents of New York have reported that they’ve received letters in the mail telling them that they’ve won an $880,000 sweepstakes. The letter even includes a check for $8000. However, you have to pay a $7000 fee to ‘release’ your winnings. This is illegal and known as the advance fee scam. Some victims may think they’ll just deposit the check and use the money to claim their supposed winnings. As you’ve probably surmised, the checks are fake, which would leave the victim paying back the amount of the check to their bank while the scammers make off with $7000. Not that we like to compliment scammers, but this is a pretty clever way of combining two known scams into one to further lure their victims into their trap.


    Lastly, this is just a warning to people who use mobile banking apps that Zelle scams are still finding victims and draining their bank accounts of thousands of dollars. A woman in Portland recently fell for the scam and lost $23,000. If you receive a text message that is supposedly from your bank asking if you’ve made a large purchase or transaction, do not reply. If you do, you’ll get a call from a scammer posing as your bank and will use the Zelle app to drain your account under the guise of protecting your money. Zelle should only be used when giving or paying money to someone you know personally. If you get a text like the one mentioned, call your bank directly instead, or stop by your local branch.


    Again, these scams may not be in your area right now, but they could be soon. Hopefully, you now have the knowledge to combat them.

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