Updates from June, 2022 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Walmart sued over money transfer scams 

    By Greg Collier

    Before Zelle and cryptocurrency became all the rage among scammers, money transfer services were in vogue. In many of the scams we’ve detailed over the years, money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram were used to extort money out of scam victims. This was done because once a scammer collects the money from a money transfer location, they can disappear into the wind. This meant that once a scam victim sent their money to a scammer through one of these services, the money was gone and could not be recouped.

    This did not go unnoticed by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC sued both MoneyGram and Western Union for failure to protect their customers from scams and frauds. Both services were ordered to pay restitution to scam victims. As expected, the losses of both companies ended up being in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Now, the FTC has gone after the one company that has a MoneyGram or Western Union in each of its locations. That would be the retail giant Walmart. The FTC is suing Walmart, claiming the retail chain also did not do enough to protect their customers from money transfer scams. Walmart is accused of turning a blind eye to scams while collecting money for the transfer fees. In its complaint, the FTC claims Walmart did not properly train its employees and failed to adequately warn consumers of the dangers of using money transfers. The FTC is looking to have Walmart also pay restitution to scam victims.

    To be fair, when we do post about scams that involve money transfers, the victim is almost always instructed to use one of the services at a Walmart.

    In its defense, Walmart claims that the FTC has overreached its boundaries, considering they’ve already won lawsuits against both MoneyGram and Western Union for their failure to prevent fraud.

    What do you think? Is Walmart responsible for allowing scams to happen, or has the FTC done enough already? Please let us know in the comments.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 29, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Zillow scammers list multi-million dollar homes for just thousands 

    Zillow scammers list multi-million dollar homes for thousands

    By Greg Collier

    In a previous post, we mentioned that even Zillow isn’t immune from rental scammers. In that post, we discussed how a scammer claimed a property on Zillow to run a rental scam. That scammer was charging victims for things like deposits and application fees for a property they didn’t own. So, someone might think that homes for sale on Zillow can’t be scam listings. Well, it depends on the home and the price.

    A scammer, or group of scammers, are claiming multi-million dollar properties on Zillow, and listing them for sale at a fraction of the price. For example, in Jacksonville, Florida, a $2 million home was listed for sale with a price of only $21,000. In Raleigh, North Carolina, a $1.3 million home was listed for sale with a price tag of $17,000. What makes this story so incredible is the reason the scammers claim they’re selling these homes at such a deep discount.

    On both listings, the scammers say, “I’m selling my home inexpensively because, my family own many properties across the country. A few times a year we sell one or a few of our homes to first time buyers for under $50,000. This is done as a tax rite off for us, & to bless a family or individual that needs it, & as being a first time buyer, may not be able to get a home otherwise.”

    Of course, the supposed good Samaritan lists a few caveats before the sale can take place. They insist the buyer be a first-time home buyer who has no representation such as a realtor, bank, investor, or attorney.

    So, we’re sure you’re asking where’s the scam? The listings insisted that any prospective buyer has to put down a $2000 deposit just to take a tour of the home. And how is the deposit supposed to be paid? Through Zelle, of course. As you may know, the peer-to-peer payment app has come under heavy criticism in recent times for being one of the favorite tools of scammers.

    But as they say on TV, that’s not all. Not only are the scammers looking to take $2000 from each victim, but they’re probably looking to steal their identity as well. In addition to the Zelle deposit, the scammers are asking their victims for an electronic signature, an email address, and a photo ID.

    In Zillow’s defense, the false listings were removed once they were brought to Zillow’s attention.

    While stories of wealthy people giving something of great value to a needy family makes for great fiction, they rarely happen in real life. As you may have noticed, the listing, as copied above, is rife with spelling and grammatical errors. This is a sure sign that a real estate listing is a scam.

    And once again, apps like Zelle and the like are only supposed to be used between friends and family. Anyone outside of your circle who is asking for payment through Zelle is almost assuredly a scammer.

    If you are shopping for a new home, the best way to protect yourself from false listings is to check with that county’s tax assessment office. They should have all the information you need to find the true owner and realtor.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Google Voice scam targets owners of lost pets 

    Google Voice scam targets owners of lost pets

    By Greg Collier

    Proving, once again, that there is no bad situation they won’t take advantage of, scammers are targeting people who have recently lost their pets. In the past, when a pet owner takes to social media asking for information about their lost pet, scammers would claim they found the lost pet while trying to extort money from the pet owner. More recently, scammers have changed their tactics to use lost pet owners for a less obvious scam.

    In Seminole County, Florida, police there have reported an upswing in the number of scam attempts on lost pet owners. In this scam, lost cat owners have been receiving text messages after posting to lost pet Facebook groups and lost pet websites. The scammers then ask for an authorization code that was texted to the pet owner that the scammers will say is used to verify the pet owner’s identity.

    This is a scam that has also been used against online sellers. It’s the Google Voice scam, where scammers will try to use someone else’s phone number to obtain a Google Voice number. Google Voice is a service that allows you to have a second phone number. The second number is not only tied to your Google account, but it’s also tied to your primary phone number.

    The authorization code is for when you sign up for Google Voice. If you give that code to a scammer, they’ll get a Google Voice number they can use in future scams that is linked to your phone number. Then the scammers can use the Google Voice number tied to your phone to commit other scams.

    The best way to avoid this scam is to sign up for your own Google Voice number. This way, scammers can’t use your phone number in their scam, since you’ve already signed up for the service. You don’t even need to use Google Voice as it has a do not disturb setting.

    If you ever lose a pet, ask the caller for a picture of the pet. If the caller gives you excuses why they can’t, it’s more than likely a scam. Another good way to help prevent this scam is to get your pets microchipped, even if they’re indoor pets like some cats.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Text scam affects the unemployed 

    Text scam affects the unemployed

    By Greg Collier

    It’s no secret the economy is in disarray. It’s affecting those collecting unemployment harder, since unemployment payments aren’t going as far as they used to. That’s not even considering that unemployment benefits aren’t sustainable for most recipients to begin with. Of course, leave it to scammers to try to take from those who have very little to give.

    We’ve seen reports from two states, West Virginia and South Carolina, who have reported residents who have received text messages that appear to come from each states’ unemployment division. However, the text messages in both states are identical.

    The text message says, “Your Back-to-work payment of $4,200.00 is now available, click on to receive payment.” The URL in the text messages are disguised to look like the message came from a .gov address, but if you look closer, you can see the address actually ends in .com. If someone were to click the link, they would be taken to a website that looks like the state’s unemployment website. That website asks the recipient to enter their personal details. This could lead to identity theft or having their unemployment benefits stolen.

    Since this scam is occurring in at least two states, it could be only a matter of time before it’s in all states. If you’ll recall, the previous unemployment scam that occurred during lockdown swept across the country like wildfire.

    To our knowledge, no state is offering a ‘back-to-work’ payment through their unemployment divisions. The scammers are trying to convince their victims that state governments are issuing additional economic impact payments, like the federal government issued last year.

    If you receive a text like this, it’s advised to delete the message and not click on any links contained in the message. If you’ve already given your information to an unemployment scammer, you should contact your state’s unemployment office right away to let them know.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 23, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Marketplace scam could send angry strangers to your home 

    Marketplace scam could send angry strangers to your home

    By Greg Collier

    Typically, when we discuss scams carried out through Facebook Marketplace, they’re the ones that plague a lot of online marketplace platforms. Of course, there’s the fake check/overpayment scam. Lately, the Google Voice verification scam has been popular on Marketplace. There have also been a number of rental scams, just to name a few. Now, a new scam has been reported that could have unintended consequences for all victims involved.

    According to a report out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, scammers are hijacking the Facebook accounts of their victims through phishing attacks. The report states specifically that the scammers are posing as old friends that you may not have heard from in a while. However, the scammers use the hijacked accounts to place items for sale on Marketplace that didn’t actually exist. While some of the items have been mundane, like furniture, other listings have been advertising purebred puppies.

    As we have seen with previous puppy scams, scammers will often list a fake address to make their scam seem more legitimate. This has led to victims showing up to homes where they think they’re about to get a puppy, only to be turned away in disappointment. While some victims understood the situation, others have become angry at the people living at the address listed, thinking that the residents are part of the scam.

    If scammers are collecting money through apps like Venmo, Cash App, or Zelle, they could be sending their victims to the address of a person with a hijacked Facebook account. This scam could potentially lead to a violent encounter.

    The best way to protect yourself is to keep your Facebook account secure. Consider making your account private to your friends and family only. Use a password that can’t be guessed easily. For that, you can use a password generator service. Even most modern web browsers have a password manager built in. Lastly, you should enable two-factor authentication on your Facebook account. This means there would be a two-step process into signing in to your Facebook account.

    While none of these methods are foolproof, they do go a long way in keeping your digital life secure.

    Video: Stolen Facebook account posts fake ads, sends strangers to woman’s doorstep

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 22, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Scams rise with temperature 

    Scams rise with temperature

    By Greg Collier

    With many areas around the country experiencing lengthy heatwaves, there’s been an increase in utility or shut-off scams. The shut-off scam has been rather popular with scammers the past couple of years, but these scams increase in frequency during the cold of winter and the height of summer. That’s because this scam relies on their victims having the fear of losing their heating or cooling during extreme weather conditions, such as the current heatwaves.

    The way the scam typically works is the scammer will call the victim posing as their local power company. The scammer will say that the victim is delinquent in their payment, and if the victim doesn’t make an immediate payment, the power will be turned off in a matter of minutes. Previously, we have seen reports of scammers demanding payment in gift cards, prepaid debit cards, and cryptocurrency. That’s because these forms of payment are largely untraceable.

    Recently, the state of North Carolina has reported an upswing in the shut-off scam. If you’ve never been to North Carolina, the state experiences brutal summers with oppressive humidity almost every year. Scammers there have been posing as Duke Energy, which is one of the largest power companies in the country. With many fearing they’ll lose their air conditioning, the scam has been able to find a number of victims. While losses to this scam are usually in the hundreds of dollars, that money could be all that victim has to feed their family or pay other bills.

    As with many scams, it only takes a little bit of knowledge to prevent yourself from being taken advantage of. In this case, it’s the fact that utility companies will not call you about a delinquent bill. Instead, you’ll receive a notice in the mail stating your account is in arrears. If the power were to be shut off, you would receive a written warning of that date as well. And as always, no legitimate business is going to ask for payment in non-traditional ways such as gift cards, cryptocurrency, or apps like Venmo and Zelle.

    If you receive one of these calls, hang up and call your power company to make certain your account is in good standing. Then call your local police to let them know this scam is in your area.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 21, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Scammers accuse victim of money laundering 

    Scammers accuse victim of money laundering

    By Greg Collier

    A woman from Rochester, Minnesota, recently lost thousands of dollars to scammers. It started when the woman received a robocall that claimed to be from Amazon. The recording said that she had been charged for several Amazon purchases, and to press 1 if she did not make them. After she pressed 1, someone claiming to be an Amazon representative spoke to her. The caller said that they would speak to her bank about the charges.

    Not too long after that call, the woman received another call from someone claiming to be with the Federal Trade Commission. This caller told her that her identity had been stolen. The caller told the woman to protect her money, she would need to withdraw the money from her bank account. However, she was told not to contact police, or she could be accused of money laundering. She was then instructed to deposit the money into a Bitcoin ATM that was at a gas station. The victim lost $7,000 in total.

    This scam has a lot of moving parts, but each one is a red flag if you know what to look for. For example, Amazon does not call customers about fraudulent charges. Even on Amazon’s own help page, they say that if you received any communication about a charge you didn’t make, it likely didn’t come from Amazon. If you receive any communication like this, first check your Amazon account for any fraudulent charges. If there are any fraudulent charges, you can dispute them with Amazon, but you need to make first contact. Amazon will not call you.

    While the FTC is a branch of the Department of Justice, they typically do not call consumers to let them know they’ve been a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, identity theft is usually only detected by the victim and not law enforcement. Also, no government or law enforcement agency will ever call you and threaten you with arrest while supposedly trying to assist you. If someone tells you to not contact the police, your best bet is to contact the police immediately.

    Lastly, no government entity is going to ask you to move your money to Bitcoin, especially if the Bitcoin ATM is at a gas station. While cryptocurrencies may have gained a modicum of mainstream acceptance, it’s nowhere near the point where the government is using it as a consumer protection platform.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    FBI warns of social media cash scam 

    FBI warns of social media cash scam

    By Greg Collier

    The advent of personal payment apps like Cash App, Venmo, and Zelle has given rise to a new generation of scams. One of the most egregious scams is the cash flipping scam. This is mostly associated with Cash App, although it has appeared on other platforms. Cash flipping is when scammers try to convince their victims that they’ll give the victims a lot of money in exchange for a little money.

    For example, a scammer may promise victims $500 if the victims send the scammers $50 through Cash App. Once the victim sends the money through Cash App, the scammer blocks the victim and keeps their money. The scam is given legitimacy since Cash App itself holds giveaways called #CashAppFridays. Cash App policies give little recourse to victims in scams like this. Payments can often only be refunded if the person who receives the payment cancels the transaction.

    Recently, the Las Vegas office of the FBI has issued a warning about cash flipping scams. They say that scammers are using hijacked social media accounts to approach victims through private messages. Often these hijacked accounts show pictures of people with large amounts of cash to try and make the scam seem on the up and up.

    If the scammers don’t break off contact immediately, they’ll claim Cash app is holding up the transaction. The victim will then be instructed to use a certain email address on their Cash app account to make the transaction go through. This then allows the scammers to hijack the Cash App account itself.

    To avoid this scam, the FBI recommends using two-factor authentication on your payment and social media apps. While this can be an inconvenience to some, it goes a long way in keeping online accounts secure. If the scammers ever request any kind of verification code number, they’re trying to circumvent your two-factor authentication, and that code should never be given out to anyone.

    Lastly, people don’t get rich by giving away money for free. As with most scams, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Apple sued for gift card scam 

    Apple sued for gift card scam

    By Greg Collier

    We’ve said many times in the past that gift cards are the currency of scammers. Scammers frequently try to get their victims to pay in gift cards, since the cards can be drained if their funds almost instantly. Rarely do gift card scam victims ever get their money back. The retailers who issue these gift cards typically say that there’s nothing they can do once the gift card is spent. However, an ongoing lawsuit may have retailers changing their tune.

    Apple is being sued in a class action lawsuit over their gift cards. Apple gift cards are highly sought after by scammers since they can use them to purchase high-end laptops and phones, then sell them for a profit. Although, the lawsuit claims that there is another use for Apple gift cards where Apple profits along with the scammers.

    The lawsuit contends that Apple profits from these scams since scammers will use the gift cards to buy an app from the Apple App Store multiple times. The scammers run these apps and get a large cut from their sale. In turn, Apple gets a 30% cut of those sales. Apple is accused of allegedly being in a position to return the ill-gotten funds to victims, but chooses not to. According to the suit, Apple holds 100% of those funds for 4-6 weeks before paying the app developer/scammer.

    Apple had been trying to have the suit dismissed, claiming that they have a refund policy printed on the gift cards that says no refund is possible once the card has been redeemed. Recently, a judge dismissed this claim, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.

    It will be interesting to see if Apple will be held liable. If so, it may change the gift card scam economy. But don’t think this will slow scammers down any. Many scammers have already stopped asking for money in gift cards and instead are now asking for money in cryptocurrency, most commonly Bitcoin.

    As always, the best way to avoid many of the gift card scams is to keep in mind that no legitimate business or agency will ask for payment in gift cards.

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