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  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 28, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Just how bad are rental scams today? 

    By Greg Collier

    Ever since real estate listings have been online, there have been rental scammers. The rental scam in real estate is where scammers pose as landlords or property managers to trick prospective tenants into paying money upfront for a rental property that they do not own or have no authority to rent out.

    The scam usually begins with an advertisement for a property that is below market value, making it attractive to prospective renters. Once a victim expresses interest in the property, the scammer may request payment of a security deposit or the first month’s rent before the victim has seen the property. After the payment is made, the scammer may become difficult to reach or disappear entirely, leaving the victim without a rental property and out of money.

    The rental scam is also one of the more common scams we’ve discussed on this blog. Much like the jury duty scam, hardly a day goes by where we don’t see a rental scam story in the news. However, the scam may be much worse than we originally thought.

    For example, a homeless family in Atlanta thought they had found a home that they could afford. They paid $3000 to someone they thought was the property owner. The family was even given two sets of keys to the property. They weren’t staying in the home long before the real property manager showed up and allowed them 24 hours to vacate the premises.

    When a local news station spoke with the property management company, the company said it’s part of their job to visit their vacant properties that have been illegally occupied. The company also commented that this happens around 15 times a week. And that’s just one property management company in one city. Now just imagine how often situations like this happen not only across the country, but in your area as well.

    Thankfully, the property management company tries to help the victims they’ve encountered, but when someone has just lost all the money they had to scammers, it’s hard to imagine how much help can really be offered.

    To avoid falling victim to a rental scam, it is important to do your research and verify the legitimacy of the property and the person claiming to be the landlord or property manager. Always insist on viewing the property before making any payments, and be wary of any requests for personal or financial information that seem unnecessary or suspicious.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 27, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Man loses $38K to voice spoofing scam 

    Man loses $38K to voice spoofing scam

    By Greg Collier

    We haven’t seen a scam proliferate as fast as the voice spoofing scam in a while. Even scams like the Zelle scam, which took off like wildfire, didn’t spread this fast. For those who may just be learning about voice spoofing, or voice cloning as it’s sometimes called, scammers can spoof just about anyone’s voice. Using a voice recording taken from social media or spam phone calls, scammers can then use artificial intelligence (AI) programs to make that voice say just about anything they want.

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, voice spoofing is typically used in two different scams, so far. One is the virtual kidnapping scam, and the other is the grandparent scam. Both scams rely on phone calls that need to sound as legitimate as possible, and using the voice of a victim’s loved one makes these scam calls sound more convincing than ever.

    The grandparent scam is a type of phone scam where a fraudster poses as a grandchild or another family member in distress and asks the targeted grandparent to send money immediately, often using wire transfers or gift cards, for a supposed urgent situation, such as bail or medical bills. The scam relies on the emotional manipulation and trust of the victim and often preys on their desire to help their loved ones.

    Before AI programs became so pervasive, scammers would always use some excuse as to why they didn’t sound like the victim’s grandchild. They would usually claim they had a broken nose or some other injury that made their voice sound different. Now, with voice spoofing, they don’t have to worry about that.

    Recently, an elderly man in Maryland fell victim to this scam. He received a call that sounded like it was coming from his granddaughter. The caller claimed they had been in an accident that sent several victims to the hospital. The fake granddaughter then turned the call over to a ‘lawyer’ who told the man that he needed to send $38,000 for bail, which he did. It was a few days later when he texted his granddaughter, he found out he had been scammed.

    Now you may think, this was an elderly person who is more vulnerable to scams like this. However, when a recording of the call was played for the granddaughter’s parents, they also said it sounded exactly like their daughter.

    There’s a saying that’s often attributed to Edgar Allan Poe that says, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see.” That adage couldn’t be truer when it comes to the grandparent scam. Even if you hear the voice of a loved one saying they’re in trouble and need money, try to contact that loved one immediately. Don’t believe any claims that you can’t hang up the phone or requests not to talk to anyone else in the family, even if the caller claims there is a gag order.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 26, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bulldog, , , , ,   

    Puppies don’t need a COVID vaccine 

    Puppies don't need a COVID vaccine

    By Greg Collier

    The puppy scam is a type of online scam where scammers pose as legitimate breeders or sellers of puppies, and offer to sell or adopt out puppies to unsuspecting victims. They often use online platforms such as classified ads or social media to advertise their puppies and attract potential buyers.

    Once a victim expresses interest in a puppy, the scammer will ask for payment for the puppy and related expenses such as shipping or insurance. However, after the payment is made, the scammer will disappear without providing the puppy.

    A woman from Georgia recently fell victim to this scam, and the scammers made an unusual request. The woman thought she found a breeder of bulldogs on Puppies.com. The scammers claimed to sell bulldogs at thousands of dollars below typical market value. After the woman paid the initial $650 for a puppy, the scammers kept asking for more money. She then paid a $200, shipping fee, close to $1000 for a shipping crate, and $1800 for COVID vaccinations.

    The COVID vaccinations should have been a dead giveaway that this was a scam. For one, puppies don’t need COVID vaccinations. If the vaccines were supposedly for any workers, $1800 would be enough for 450 to 900 employees.

    The victim realized that she was being scammed after being asked to pay an additional $2600 for an airport fee. In total, she lost close to $4000 to the scammers, which is the current going price for purebred bulldog puppies.

    To avoid falling victim to the puppy scam, it is important to research the breeder or seller thoroughly, ask for references or recommendations from others who have purchased puppies from them, and never send money without receiving proof of the puppy’s existence and health.

    As always, we recommend adopting a puppy or even an adult dog from your local shelter. When you adopt a puppy from a shelter, you are providing a second chance for a dog that may have otherwise been euthanized. Shelters are often overcrowded and underfunded, and adopting a puppy from a shelter can help free up space and resources for other dogs in need.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 25, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , resume reformatting,   

    New job scams targets your resume 

    New job scams targets your resume

    By Greg Collier

    There are an untold number of scams that target those looking for employment. Just off the top of our heads, we can think of the fake check scam where scammers will give you a stolen check to buy supplies with and return the balance to them, but eventually, you’ll be the one losing money. Then there is the reshipping scam, which uses unwitting participants to send stolen goods to a third party to avoid prosecution. Some jobseekers have gone to jail for this scam. Then there are many scams that are just trying to steal your identity. Now, there is a scam that tries to take your money as soon as you post your resume online.

    As anyone who’s submitted their resume in the past 15 years knows, your resume is hardly ever reviewed by a human being. Most resumes are scanned by computer software that looks for certain keywords related to the position being applied for. This has led to some applicants thinking they can fool the software by putting keywords in white text on their resume. Now, scammers want you to pay them to ‘improve’ your resume.

    After you post your resume online, scammers will reach out while posing as prospective employers. You’ll be told y our resume looks good, but you’ll have a better chance of getting the job if you have your resume ‘reformatted’. The applicant will be directed to a website that offers a resume reformatting service. These so-called services can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

    When applying for a job, you should never have to pay money for anything, whether it’s a background check fee, a drug test, or resume reformatting. As long as your resume is clear and concise, there shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re unsure how to write a resume, some tips can be found here.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 24, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    AI kidnapping scam flourishes 

    AI kidnapping scam flourishes

    It’s almost been two months since we first noticed AI-generated voice cloning, or voice spoofing, scams starting to proliferate. Voice cloning technology is being used in scams where the reproduction of someone’s voice is imperative in making the scam seem more realistic. Typically, they’re being used in grandparent scams and virtual kidnapping scams, where scammers have always tried to imitate a victim’s loved one. Today, we’ll be focusing on the virtual kidnapping scam.

    Before consumer level AI programs became so accessible, kidnapping scammers would try to make it sound like a victim’s loved one had been kidnapped by having someone in the background screaming as if they were being assaulted. Now, a scammer only needs to obtain a few seconds of someone’s voice online to make a program where they can simulate that person saying just about anything. Scammers can obtain someone’s voice either through social media, or by recording a spam call made to that person.

    In Western Pennsylvania, a family received such a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped their teenage daughter. The call appeared to come from the daughter’s phone number, with the daughter’s voice saying she had been kidnapped, and her parents needed to send money. The scammer then got on the phone, threatening to harm the girl.

    In many instances, this would have sent parents into a panic while potentially following the scammers instructions for a ransom payment.

    Thankfully, in this instance, the daughter was standing right next to her parents when they got the call.

    Even though new technology is being used by scammers, the old methods of precaution should still be used.

    If you receive such a call, try to have someone contact the person who’s supposedly been kidnapped. When they put your loved one on the phone, ask them a question that only they would know the answer to. Or, set up a family code word to use only if your loved one is in danger.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 21, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , us marhals   

    Never move your money for law enforcement 

    By Greg Collier

    Police impersonation scams are far from new, but they seem to be picking up steam lately if the reporting is to be believed. Even we made a post recently about three different police impersonation scams. Although, the phrase ‘police impersonation’ can be a misnomer. Scammers also impersonate federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, the DEA, and Borders and Customs. Or, in the case of today’s scam, the U.S. Marshals Service.

    An elderly woman from Massachusetts recently received a phone call from someone claiming to be a U.S. Marshal. The caller told the woman she had been a victim of identity theft and that her money was at risk. The victim was then instructed to empty her bank account, so the money could be ‘protected’ by the U.S. Marshals. She was told she’ll deposit into a Bitcoin ATM, where she would have a digital wallet that would be hers alone.

    The victim was then instructed to go to four different branches of her bank and withdrawal $30,000, all the while being kept on the phone with the phony Marshal. Unfortunately, none of the bank branches ever inquired about the withdrawals.

    She made two deposits into two separate Bitcoin ATMs before driving to her attorney’s office, who immediately informed her it was a scam.

    Seniors can be particularly vulnerable to police impersonation scams, since many of their generation were raised to have a health respect for the police. It also didn’t help that this scammer sounded calm and helpful on the call, while most scammers threaten their victims with arrest.

    Moving your money to protect it from hackers and identity thieves isn’t a thing. If a bank account becomes compromised, the money is gone instantly. There’s no ‘grace period’ where police can intervene. Additionally, law enforcement doesn’t tend to warn consumers if they’be been a victim of identity theft. That would be something the victim would need to report to police. Lastly, anytime someone you don’t know personally brings up Bitcoin as a form of payment, the odds are you’re being scammed since the cryptocurrency is largely unrecoverable.

    If you receive a call like this, ask for the officer’s or agent’s name and badge number before calling the actual police department or agency they claim to be from.

    If you know someone who you think may be vulnerable to this scam, please let them know.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 20, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , water test   

    How scammers exploit headlines for profit 

    By Greg Collier

    It doesn’t matter if a newsworthy occurrence is global, national, or hyper-local. If scammers believe they can make money from it, they will pounce on the opportunity. We saw the global and national repercussions of this during the pandemic, but what’s an example of a hyper-local headline?

    In West Springfield, Massachusetts, a water main broke, causing the town to be under a boil water order. Boil water orders can be a major inconvenience. Some residents might start getting impatient, and this is where the scammers come in.

    According to West Springfield police, scammers are going door to door around town claiming to offer water testing for $150. The scammers also claim that if the home passes the test, it can be removed from the boil water order. So, not only are scammers looking to get inside their victims’ homes, but they’re also putting their victims’ lives in danger if the water is tainted. The order wasn’t even more than a day old before the scammers started coming out of the woodwork.

    It almost seems like no one is more tuned into the news like scammers. There’s not a story small enough that they can’t find some way to try to take advantage of someone.

    If you find yourself in a similar situation with something like a water boil order, be careful of anyone appearing out of the blue charging for a service you didn’t ask for. Under no circumstance should you let any solicitors into your home. Let your neighbors know if a scammer is going around your neighborhood. Lastly, call your local police at their non-emergency number, so they can be aware of scammers in the area.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 19, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Funeral home impersonation scam victimizes widow 

    Funeral home impersonation scam victimizes widow

    By Greg Collier

    We’ve posted some absolutely heart-wrenching scams lately. One that stands out is the scam where con artists tried to collect imaginary tax debts from the families of the recently deceased. The one we’re about to discuss is much worse. This scam tries to take advantage of the grieving before a proper funeral has even occurred.

    A woman from the San Diego Metro Area recently lost her husband at a much too young age. The husband also left behind their two-year-old son. Before her husband could even be buried, she received a call from someone saying they were with the funeral home.

    The caller asked the woman for a $50 payment, claiming it was for some type of insurance in case a funeral home worker were to get injured. The phone number was spoofed, so it appeared the call was actually coming from the funeral home.

    The caller the started pressuring the woman to make a payment then and there over the phone. She was told that she couldn’t come down to the funeral home, she couldn’t pay in cash, and had to pay by credit card over the phone.

    After not giving the caller any money, they called back again to tell the grieving widow that they were refusing her service because she was so ‘rude’ to them. The panic she experienced must have been unimaginable while trying to figure out what to do after a funeral home has refused service.

    To her credit, she made some phone calls and determined the whole thing was a scam.

    When someone is grieving, they’re at their most vulnerable time of their life. As we know, scammers prefer to target the vulnerable, hoping that their victims are in such an emotional state they’re not thinking straight.

    Any time you receive a call from someone asking for any kind of surprise payment, verify their story. Don’t believe the call is legitimate just because the caller ID shows the correct number. Call the business or agency directly, and they’ll be able to advise you on the veracity of the caller’s request.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 18, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Scam Round Up: Police Impersonation Scams 

    Scam Round Up: Police Impersonation Scams

    By Greg Collier

    We often say the jury duty scam is probably the most common scam going if news reports are any indication. As we do research for this blog, we’ll find news stories about the jury duty scam on an almost daily basis. The jury duty scam is a form of another scam called the police impersonation scam, since the jury duty scam always involves the scammer posing as police. However, that is only one version of the police impersonation scam. Today, we’re bringing you three police impersonation scams that are happening around the country.

    You might have guesses that our first story is the arrest warrant scam. This is where scammers will call a victim while posing as police and telling the victim they have a warrant out for their arrest. Recently, the Pittsburgh office of the FBI has issued a warning that scammers are posing as the FBI. The phone calls to victims even show up as the FBI on caller IDs. Along with the threat of arrest, victims are being asked to purchase pre-paid debit cards and give the numbers to the scammers. The scammers claim these are to prove the victim’s identity.

    As with most police impersonation scams, real police do not call people who have warrants out for their arrest. Police would never give a real suspect a chance like that to flee.

    In Lawrence, Kansas, at least one victim has received phone calls that appeared to have come from the Lawrence Police Department. The caller accused the victim of harassment, while the caller ID carried a non-emergency number used by the LPD. The victim hung up on the caller and called the actual LPD. While the victim was on the phone with the LPD, the scammer called three more times.

    The LPD recommends if you receive a call like that, ask the caller for a name and badge number, then call the department the caller claims to be from.

    In Columbus, Ohio, the parents of a college-aged athlete got the scare of their life from a scammer. They received a call from someone claiming to be with the campus police from Ohio State University. The scammer claimed the couple’s daughter was arrested while leaving a nightclub, and if the parents didn’t pay $2000 their daughter would be turned over to the Columbus Police Department. Again, the caller ID had the number of the OSUPD.

    The parents didn’t fall for the scam, as their daughter had a game the next day, and she wouldn’t typically go out the night before a game. It turns out, the scammer targeted the parents of a number of athletes from the same team.

    If you think this sounds a lot like the grandparent scam, you’d be correct, as the grandparent scam is also another version of a police impersonation scam.

    If someone claims to be a police officer, ask for their name, badge number, and the name of the department they work for. You can then call the police department directly to verify their identity. Try to avoid volunteering any personal information, as that can be used against you while the scam is taking place. Lastly, never give the scammers any money. No legitimate law enforcement officer or agency will ever ask for money over the phone.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 17, 2023 Permalink | Reply
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    Cancer patient targeted in scam 

    By Greg Collier

    A Utah woman who is currently undergoing cancer treatment almost fell victim to a scam at probably the most vulnerable time of her life. As you may expect, her treatments are expensive, and she was looking for any kind of financial assistance to help pay her medical bills. She received a message from a Facebook friend who offered to help her apply for a grant that would help pay for her medical expenses. With some of her treatments costing thousands of dollars each, she was open to the idea.

    If you’re a regular reader, you already know this is a common scam that takes place on Facebook. These grants that ‘friends’ keep promising don’t actually exist. In a typical grant scam, the victim will be directed to a phony website where they’ll be asked for all their personal and financial information. Then the victim will be asked for a payment under the guise of a processing fee.

    This is precisely what happened to the Utah woman. She was directed to a website to fill out an application, but in the middle of the process she got a bad feeling and cancelled the application.

    She messaged her Facebook friend saying she was going to think about it. The friend started pressuring her to complete the application. When the woman insisted she wasn’t going to, the Facebook friend disappeared.

    As you can probably surmise, her Facebook friend had their account hacked and taken over by scammers. Who knows for how long, but it was long enough to find someone who was battling an expensive illness.

    Any financial grant giver, whether it’s from the government or a nonprofit, will not approach you. You need to search them out first. Unless your Facebook friend works for the government or non-profit, it’s very unlikely they are going to put in the legwork for you.

    That’s not to say there aren’t any assistance grants out there to help you. We recommend going to the USA.gov website to help you find any legitimate grants you may be eligible for.

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