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  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    New email scam tries to get your stimulus money 

    New email scam tries to get your stimulus money

    With the second round of economic impacts in the process of being paid and a third round possibly on the horizon, you might think that taxpayers should now be pretty immune to stimulus scams. However, that hasn’t stopped scammers from trying to get their hands on yours. It also appears that the scams are becoming even more elaborate to try to steal from you.

    The Federal Trade Commission is warning taxpayers about emails that claim to be from their agency discussing the stimulus payments. The emails even claim to be sent directly from the outgoing chairman of the FTC. According to reports, the email demands that you pay money to receive your stimulus payment. It even includes an official looking ‘certificate of approval’.

    If you make any motions towards actually making a payment to the scammers, you’ll be told that the payment is for a State Department certificate that proves the funds are not related to any terrorist activity. That may sound made up, but the FTC is assuring us it isn’t.

    If you receive one of these emails it is recommended that you just delete it or mark it as spam.

    The indicators that this email is a scam are numerous. The first is that the FTC has nothing to do with economic impact payments. That is all handled by the IRS, and they’re not emailing anyone asking for money either. One of the other indicators is that you don’t have to pay for your stimulus payment. The majority of taxpayers just have to keep an eye on their bank account if they have direct deposit, or their mailbox if they don’t. Even if you’re a non-filer and received the initial stimulus payment, you should receive this one the same way.

    If you have any further questions about how the economic impact payments are being made, we recommend going to the IRS’s Get My Payment website.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Tacoma, U.S. Customs and Border Protection,   

    New scam poses as Border Protection 

    New scam poses as Border Protection

    A new police impersonation scam has emerged in the Tacoma area of Washington state. This time, the scammers aren’t just posing as any local law enforcement, though. The scammers are posing as U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents, so they can target a specific segment of the population.

    This scam works like most police impersonation scams. The scammers call their victims posing as law enforcement and tell the victim that they’ve been connected with some crime. The scammers will then ask for payment over the phone to magically clear up the situation. As with most scams, the scammers will ask for payment in untraceable means like gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or through wire services like MoneyGram or Western Union.

    In this particular scam, the scammers are posing as Border Protection agents and are specifically targeting Latino residents of Tacoma. The scammers are telling their victims that a box full of drugs and money has been intercepted at the border that has the victim’s name on it. Then the scammers ask for payment to rectify the situation.

    This scam is particularly disturbing as it further victimizes a group of people who may already feel marginalized. This is especially true for someone who may be undocumented. When faced with the threat of the current state of detention or being deported, a victim may pay the scammers out of fear. Then the scammers could capitalize on that fear by continually requesting payments from the victim. That essentially results in extortion.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection has stated that they do not call anyone to solicit money for any reason. No legitimate government agency will ever ask for payment through things like gift cards. If you receive one of these phone calls it is recommended that you hang up and not engage with the scammers.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Dream home becomes nightmare for one family 

    Dream home becomes nightmare for one family

    Recently, we mentioned how rent prices in the San Francisco Bay Area were dropping due to the pandemic and how rental scammers were using this to their advantage. The opposite can be said as well in markets where rent prices are climbing. A family in Tennessee unfortunately found this out the hard way.

    It started out like many rental scams do. They found a great listing for a property on Craigslist for an amount they could afford. The red flags that this listing was a fake appeared almost immediately. However, the family ignored them in their eagerness to find what they called a ‘forever home’.

    First, the person supposedly renting the home would only communicate with the family through text messaging. This makes it harder for victims to identify their scammers.

    Next, the scammers came up with a story about why the rent was so affordable. They told the family that they had just moved out of town and didn’t want the home to be empty in the winter.

    The family was then told they couldn’t tour the home or meet with the renters because of COVID-19. As you can imagine, social distancing has been a boon for scammers because they now have a reasonable explanation to avoid meeting their victims.

    There was even a for sale sign outside the property, but the scammers are said to have explained that away too.

    The last red flag came in the form of Cash App. The family paid the scammers $2400 through the mobile payment app. The family was then asked for an additional $1200, or they would lose the listing.

    The family contacted who they thought they were dealing with on Facebook who were actually previous victims of these particular scammers.

    It’s almost like this scammer wrote the book on rental scams as they had an answer for just about every red flag. Still, these red flags should not be ignored even if the deal seems to be sent from above.

    If a supposed landlord says they can’t meet you or show the home, walk away from the deal. That’s been a rental scammer staple even before the pandemic happened. Back then, they would give stories like they were doing missionary work overseas or were deployed in the military.

    With any big life choice like moving into a new home we always recommend doing as much research on the property as possible before making any financial commitment. Do a reverse image search to make sure the pictures on the listing aren’t stolen from a realtor; and always check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who the true property owner or realtor is.

    Don’t let scammers pressure you into giving them your money with threats of losing the listing. Having all the information at hand will protect you against their tactics.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Romance scammers can have local accomplices 

    Romance scammers can have local accomplices

    When we think of romance scams, we tend to associate the scam with overseas scammers. That’s understandable considering the vast majority of romance scam are perpetrated by overseas scam rings. However, these scam rings can have operatives that could possibly be in your neighborhood. That’s what one community in Virginia recently found out.

    A 63-year-old man from Ashburn, Virginia was recently arrested for allegedly taking part in a romance scam. The victim was a 60-year-old woman from Nebraska who had met someone through a dating site. As with all romance scams, the person the victim thought she was having a romantic relationship with started asking her for money. The claim made by the scammer was that he was working outside of the country and needed money to help with a new business they were starting. The scam was so elaborate, the scammers had a website set up for the phony startup.

    The victim eventually determined that she was being scammed and contacted her local police. Investigators were able to determine that the money being sent was being sent to the suspect in Virginia. When police in Virginia began to investigate the suspect, they determined that the man was working as a money launderer for an overseas scamming ring. Essentially, money launderers take the money sent from the victims by gift card or what have you, and converts it into real money before sending it overseas.

    As we keep saying, this scam could happen to anyone regardless of age, education, or economic status. If you or someone you know is involved with someone online that they haven’t met face to face yet, you should be very suspicious if they start asking for money. If you think someone you know may be the target of a romance scam, please show them the FTC’s website about romance scams and/or our posts about romance scams.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    New brushing scam sends you white powder 

    New brushing scam sends you white powder

    Brushing scams are unfortunately, nothing new. This is when you get sent packages to your home of things you didn’t order. Usually, they come from Amazon or some other large online retailer. This is done so third-party vendors with these retailers can give themselves good online reviews in your name. This makes it look like their product was favorably reviewed by verified purchasers. The most infamous brushing scam took place over this past summer when thousands of consumers received unsolicited packages of seeds in the mail.

    We may be facing yet another one of these massive brushing scam incidents. Police in the Indianapolis metro are reporting that residents there have been receiving quite an ominous delivery that they didn’t order. These packages have been said to contain a blue and white powdery substance. Local police say the substance isn’t harmful, but residents should still avoid contact with it. They are also recommending that if you receive one of these packages to contact your local police. The US Postal Inspection Service says that they’ve received reports of consumers from across the country receiving these packages.

    While police in Indiana are stating that the scammers are getting consumers’ personal information from public sources like social media, often these brushing scams can mean one of your online accounts has been compromised. For example, if you received one of these brushing packages from Amazon, your Amazon account may have been compromised. It’s recommended that you change your password if this happens to you. If you were to leave your password the way it is, that could lead to items being purchased with your money. There is also the potential that it could lead to identity theft.

    While the brushing scam may seem relatively harmless at first, it could lead to a world of trouble if the consumer isn’t careful.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Car wrapping disguises old scam 

    Car wrapping disguises old scam
    What a car wrap may look like

    Wrapping your car in advertisements is similar to the secret shopper scam. While there are legitimate opportunities to make some money by having your car wrapped in advertising, the scammers seem to vastly outnumber the legitimate vendors. The car wrap scammers are actually just using this ploy to find people to use in one of the most common scams of our time.

    The car wrap scam is just an extension of the fake check scam. Scammers will either post an online ad looking for people to have their car wrapped, or they’ll solicit people in the mail. Either way, victims are sent a check and are told to deposit the check in their banking account, so they can pay to have their car wrapped and take some money as payment. Then the victims will be instructed to send any money leftover to the scammers.

    The checks are fake, and if you deposit the check and then spend it, you’ll be responsible for the check’s amount to your bank plus any additional fees. When a bank receives a check as a deposit they’re operating under the assumption that the check is legitimate and the funds should be immediately available. This is especially true if the phony check resembles a legitimate cashier’s check.

    Recently, this scam has started to appear again in different parts of the country. We’ve seen reports from such diverse places as Pittsburgh to rural Alabama. This is a good indicator that the scam could show up in your area sometime soon.

    No legitimate employer will ever ask you to donate a check into your personal bank account that’s not your paycheck. If one does, it’s almost certain to be a scam. A scam that could very well leave you worse off than you might have already been.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    COVID-related rental scams continue 

    COVID-related rental scams continue

    The ongoing pandemic has had at least one positive effect. Rental fees in the San Francisco Bay Area have gone down. Since the Bay Area is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, this is a needed relief for those looking for housing there. However, the new lower rents make this a veritable field day for rental scammers.

    Rental scammers normally use lower than market value rents in the fraudulent listings. With the current market in the Bay Area already at new lows, it makes it harder to spot a scammer. Also thanks to the pandemic, rental scammers have been using social distancing as an excuse not to meet with their victims.

    A San Francisco couple found a listing for an apartment on Craigslist that was bigger than the one they had, but the new apartment had a cheaper rent. They contacted the supposed rental agent from the contact listing. He told the couple to download an app that would allow them access to tour the apartment by themselves. While they toured the apartment the rental agent was talking to them through FaceTime the entire time.

    The couple agreed to move in and the agent requested first months rent and a deposit which amounted to $6000. Later, the agent asked them how much rent they could pay in advance. Begrudgingly, the couple agreed to pay another $6000 up front. Then the agent requested another $1500 which the couple agreed to $750.

    As you’ve probably guessed by now, the couple went to move in on January 1st only to find that the apartment had been rented to someone else. The Craigslist listing was a fake. That left the couple out close to $13,000. Even for a successful Bay Area couple, that isn’t exactly small potatoes.

    No matter how legitimate someone may seem, there’s always the potential that you’re being scammed when trying to rent a property. As always, we recommend doing as much research as possible before entering to any agreement on a property. Do a reverse image search to make sure the pictures on the listing aren’t stolen from a realtor. Plus, you should always check with the county’s tax assessor’s office or website to find out who the true property owner or realtor is. While research may be time-consuming, it could save you thousands of dollars in the end.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 12, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Michigan,   

    Grandparent scam still sending strangers to your door 

    Grandparent scam still sending strangers to your door

    The grandparent scam is terrifying enough as it is. It preys on the elderly and convinces them that a family member is in grave danger. Then if the scam is successful, it can take thousands of dollars that an elderly person needs to survive. That’s not even taking into account the embarrassment victims often feel after being scammed. In recent times, scammers have even sent strangers to victims’ homes to pick up the money that the victims think is getting their loved one out of trouble. Such a thing just happened to an elderly couple in Michigan.

    The couple received a call from someone claiming to be their granddaughter. She said that she had been arrested after a vehicular accident. The impersonator then instructed the couple to call a friend’s father who happened to be a lawyer. When the couple called the supposed lawyer, they were told their granddaughter was in serious trouble and would $12,000 for bail. The phony attorney then sent a ‘courier’ to collect the money. The next day the lawyer called back saying he needed an additional $14,000. Thankfully, the actual granddaughter showed up before they lost any more money.

    These couriers that the scammers send could literally be anybody. They could just be an unwitting participant, or they could be the scammer themselves. At best, you’re ‘just’ losing money to the scammer. At worst, they could be someone who is scouting out the home for a possible burglary or worse. If you’ve already given the scammer money, they could always come back and try to get more, or your valuables.

    As always, it is recommended that if you receive a call like this to contact the person first who is supposedly in trouble. If you can’t contact them, you can always call the police department where they’re supposedly being held, and they should be able to tell you if this is a scam or not.

    And as we always recommend, if you know an elderly person or couple who live alone and do not have access to the internet, please let them know about this scam. Also, consider setting up a family password for just such emergencies, so you can verify the person calling is who they say they are.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: New Mexico, ransom, ,   

    Virtual kidnapping scam has a new twist 

    Virtual kidnapping scam has a new twist

    The virtual kidnapping scam is one of the more disturbing scams going today. The scam works with a scammer calling someone and telling them that they’re holding one of their loved ones hostage. They often have someone who is supposed to be your loved one screaming in the background. The victim will be threatened with harm coming to their loved one if the victim hangs up the phone. The scammers will often claim to be with a criminal cartel. They’ll then demand payment in some untraceable way. Meanwhile, your loved one is actually safe and has no idea they’re being used in a scam.

    Scammers are always looking to improve on scams like this to put more pressure on the victim to pay up. One such scammer recently did that to a family in New Mexico. The family received a phone call that their daughter had been in a car accident. Now, this sounds like the start of a grandparent scam where the scammer will ask for money to bail the daughter out of jail or something similar. Instead, this scammer told the family they were holding their daughter hostage. This scammer also put a woman on the phone posing as the daughter. $1000 was demanded for her safe return. As with most scams, the scammer demanded payment in gift cards.

    Even with this new variation of the virtual kidnapping scam, your reaction should always be the same. Call the person that’s been supposedly kidnapped and make sure that they’re ok. In an instance like this, you can also call police wherever the accident is supposed to have taken place, and they can tell you if a crash happened or not. What you shouldn’t do is panic. Please keep in mind that according to law enforcement kidnappings for ransom are quite rare in the US. Once the scammer knows they have you reeled in, they can use this emotional extortion to take a large sum of money from you.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
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    Scams around the vaccine start to emerge 

    Scams around the vaccine start to emerge

    Previously, when the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine was announced, we discussed potential scams that could emerge during the rollout. Some of these scams are no longer theoretical as scammers have begun to try to find new victims.

    While each state has their own distribution schedule, one thing remains constant across the country. The COVID-19 vaccine will be afforded to most people at no cost outside a small administration fee charged by some providers. Historically, these administration fees have been largely negligible. This fact hasn’t stopped scammers from using a promise of the vaccine from stealing your money or information.

    In Missouri, scammers are posing as contact tracers and called at least one victim to tell them that the victim had been exposed at a local business. The scammer than read off the victim’d credit card number to them and asked for the three-digit security code. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your financial information.

    Upstate New York is said to be experiencing a similar scam. Scammers are not only posing as contact tracers, they are also asking for information such as your driver’s license number along with other identifying information. According to officials, contact tracers will only ask for your name, address, date of birth and phone number. They will never ask for your Social Security number.

    In Florida, one particular scam is disturbing. At least one scammer has been driving around in a van claiming to be from the county health department. He’s been going to people’s houses and asking residents for copies of their insurance cards in preparation for receiving the vaccine. Again, the vaccine is free and health insurance is not required to receive it.

    If you have concerns about when you’ll be able to receive the vaccine you can usually check with your state or county’s health department website.

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