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  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Protect yourself against deepfake fraud 

    Protect yourself against deepfake fraud

    Last week, it was revealed that a German energy company doing business in the UK was conned out of more than $240,000. The scammers were using a form of deepfake technology that mimicked the voice of the company’s CEO. A director of the company was instructed by the phony CEO over both phone and email to wire payment to an account in Hungary to avoid a late payment fine. Reports say that the director could not distinguish between the AI-assisted deepfake and the CEO’s actual voice so the money was wired without question. The plot may not have been uncovered if it wasn’t for the scammers’ greed.

    The scammers tried getting the director to wire more funds to another account. At this point, the director felt like something was up and called the CEO himself. It was at this point that the scammers posing as the CEO called the director while the director was on the phone with the CEO himself. Unfortunately, by this time it was too late to do anything about the original payment. The funds had been scattered across the globe after being wired to the initial account and no suspects have been named as of yet.

    The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has some good news and bad news about deepfake audio though. The bad news is that the technology is advancing at such a rapid pace it could only be a matter of time before scammers would only need to keep you on the phone for a minute before getting enough of your voice to make a deepfake out of you. However, the good news is that companies can fight deepfakes by instilling a culture of security. They suggest that companies should confirm transactions like this by calling the person who supposedly requested the transaction directly.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , eavesdropping, , ,   

    Is your phone really eavesdropping on you? 

    Is your phone really eavesdropping on you?

    Has this ever happened to you? You’re just innocently talking with your friends or family about something you normally don’t talk about. Then you see an ad on your phone for the very thing you were talking about. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence out there to suggest that companies like Facebook and Google are eavesdropping on your private conversations so they can serve you more targeted ads. It’s compounded by the fact that companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have admitted that human contractors listen in on conversations heard by digital assistants. However, at least one study says that the eavesdropping phone is largely a myth.

    A mobile security company called Wandera has said that they’ve conducted research which they say shows that tech companies are not listening to your conversations. They placed an iPhone and an Android phone in a chamber where pet food advertisements continuously played. Both phones were running Facebook, Instagram, Chrome, SnapChat, YouTube, and Amazon in the background. However, the researchers did not witness any related ads on the devices in question. The researchers also say that the data used by both devices indicate that conversations are not being sent to the major tech companies. That’s not to say that tech companies aren’t tracking us in other ways.

    Other things like location data and browsing histories are said to be more effective in serving us targeted ads. Also, if you use a loyalty card at any store, advertising companies buy that information from the store and can match it with your social media accounts. Supposedly, there are sett9ngs on your phone where you can limit such targeting, however, we’ve either not been able to find these settings or they’re buried so deep in the app’s settings that it makes it difficult to escape targeting.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Rubbin Sarpong,   

    Gold bar romance scam cost victims millions 

    Gold bar romance scam cost victims millions

    A 30-year-old man from New Jersey was recently arrested for allegedly swindling over $2 million from victims in a romance scam. Romance scams are designed to prey upon the lonely and take advantage of their vulnerable state. It’s not unheard of for victims to have given anywhere from hundreds to millions of dollars to romance scammers. The scammers typically tend to pose as military personnel who are stationed overseas as was the case of Rubbin Sarpong of Millville, New Jersey. Sarpong is accused of scamming millions of dollars from a total of 30 victims.

    Sarpong reportedly posed as a member of the military stationed in Syria on multiple dating and social media sites. After he had his victims believing in the fictitious romance, Sarpong would ask for money to ship gold bars from Syria to the United States. In reality, there were no gold bars and Sarpong kept the money for himself. At least one victim wired $28,000 to Sarpong. While Sarpong was able to maintain this scam for three years it didn’t stop him from bragging on social media about how much money he made. He would often post pictures online of himself with large stacks of cash. At his court appearance after his arrest, Sarpong even tried telling the judge that he couldn’t afford an attorney. The judge denied his request for a public defender. If convicted, Sarpong is looking at 20 years in federal prison.

    When it comes to romance scams, if money becomes involved before you ever meet someone face to face then the odds are likely that they’re trying to con you. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a website with tips on how to avoid romance scams. If you know someone who may be the target of a romance scam, please show them the FTC’s website and/or our posts about romance scams.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    States warn of hurricane charity scams 

    States warn of hurricane charity scams

    Hurricane Dorian has already devastated the Bahamas. It’s now threatening the East Coast with damaging wind and rains. Even though it’s been downgraded to a category 2 hurricane it’s still expected to cause major damage to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Victims of the hurricane, whether in the US or the Caribbean, will be looking to charitable donations to help rebuild what they’ve lost from the storm. While it’s always a good idea to donate to those in need you should always be careful about who you’re donating to. As we’ve been saying, natural disasters tend to bring out any number of con artists and scammers and they often tend to pose as charities.

    Both the Florida Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau are warning those willing to donate to not fall for phony charities. Robocallers will soon be hitting up unsuspecting people asking for donations for storm relief. They’re hoping that people are willing to pay the first person who comes along asking for money. Too often people are willing to do this. While the donators’ hearts are in the right place it doesn’t help those in need.

    Florida has set up the Fresh From Florida website to help you pick a legitimate charity. Meanwhile, the BBB has Give.org to guide you to the best charity suited for you and the victims of the storm.

    Some more tips to avoid charity scams include not paying a supposed charity with gift cards or wire transfers as these are the most common tools scammers use to take your money. Also, beware of crowdfunding sites that give vague statements about who the money is going to. If they something along the lines of the money is going to the ‘victims of Hurricane Dorian’ without citing a specific charity the odds are likely it is a scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: flood cars, ,   

    This hurricane scam could hit anywhere in the US 

    This hurricane scam could hit anywhere in the US

    While Hurricane Dorian may not make landfall in the Southeastern United States, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be damage to those areas. With hurricanes also comes the possibility of massive flooding. More people perish in hurricanes from water than they do from wind damage. And as we’ve mentioned before, whenever there is a natural disaster there will be scammers to take advantage of it. Previously we’ve discussed price gouging when it comes to hurricanes but that usually only affects people being directly impacted by the hurricane. There is another scam that can affect anyone in the United States.

    Whenever a hurricane causes widespread flooding a great number of cars and other vehicles will be totaled in the flood. Technically a flood car is not supposed to be sold intact unless it is marked so on the title. This has not stopped scammers from trying to sell these cars to unwitting victims. These vehicles are not just sold in hurricane-prone areas either as they can end up being sold anywhere in the country and years after the hurricane happened. In order to avoid buying one of these vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends avoiding cars being sold that claim to have ‘lost’ titles. You should also check for any kind of flood damage such as excessive rust, must odors, or mold.

    The NHTSA also recommends avoiding any robocalls about your vehicle if it was totaled in a flood. Instead, you should immediately call your insurance company to start the process of your insurance claim. If you suspect someone of trying to sell you a damaged flood vehicle you can report it to the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline toll-free at 866-720-5721 or at the FTC’s website.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Protect yourself against fake tickets 

    Protect yourself against fake tickets

    With Labor Day weekend coming up and the start of the NFL season following, it’s important to keep your guard up when buying tickets for a big event. Whether it’s a concert or tickets for opening day, there will be a number of scalpers out there that will be looking to take advantage of the demand for these events. Often the larger events sell out very quickly leaving many to search for tickets among the secondary market. Unfortunately, the secondary market is rife with traps and pitfalls that you should be aware of.

    When doing a web search for the event you’re wishing to attend, don’t assume the first listing is a legitimate one as search engines can be rigged by scammers to show them as a top listing. Try to stick to authorized resellers as there are many sellers out there armed with counterfeit tickets that will leave you turned away at the door the day of the event. However, if you insist on buying tickets from an unauthorized seller, ask them to meet you at a local police station to make the exchange. While not a perfect solution, it can go a long way in weeding out potential scammers.

    We’d also like to remind you to not post pictures of your tickets on social media once you get them. This makes it very easy for counterfeiters to copy the bar code from your tickets and produce copies they can sell. Once again, this could leave you outside the event looking in if someone with a copy of your tickets gets to the event before you.

    While prices for these events may be exorbitant these days, we recommend buying tickets from either the event box office, licensed retailers, or authorized resellers only. This way you can assure yourself that you and your family won’t be turned away from the gate on the day of the event.

  • Geebo 7:10 am on August 29, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    State launches price gouging app ahead of hurricane 

    State launches price gouging app ahead of hurricane

    Hurricane Dorian is expected to make landfall in Florida as a Category 3 hurricane within the next few days. Governor Ron DeSantis has already declared a state of emergency in preparation for the potentially devastating storm. Whenever a hurricane is expected residents in the affected area will always be in a mad scramble for supplies and lodging that they might need during the emergency. Unfortunately, this can lead to price gouging with some vendors and hotels as they may look to take advantage of the situation. However, the Sunshine State has taken steps to try to combat price gouging.

    The Florida Attorney General’s Office has released a smartphone app called ‘No Scam’ that is designed to help Florida residents to report price gouging. The app is available on both Apple and Android phones. The app will allow residents to add pictures and copies of receipts from their phone speeding up the reporting process. Florida takes price gouging very seriously as those caught artificially inflating prices can be fined $1,000 per infraction and can be fined up to $25,000 in a 24 hour period.

    For whatever reason, if the app were to give you any kind of trouble you can still report price gouging to Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226, or their website at myfloridalegal.com. It is recommended that you either keep your receipt or take a picture of the inflated charge before submitting a report.

  • Geebo 8:10 am on August 28, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , realtors,   

    Gift card scam targets new victims 

    Gift card scam targets new victims

    Gift card scams are nothing new. They’ve almost become as prevalent as the fake check scams. With the gift card scam, scammers will normally pose as various authorities with threatening situations in order to get their victims to pay them with gift cards. For example, in one scam the scammers will pose as local police and tell their victims that they have a warrant out for their arrest but they can avoid the arrest if they pay a fine with any number of gift cards. The point of this scam is for the scammers to get the serial numbers of the gift cards which are virtually untraceable once the numbers are given to the scammers. Now, scammers are targeting a new demographic with this scam.

    According to a report out of Idaho, scammers are targeting real estate agents with the hopes of getting the gift card numbers. The scammers have been texting or emailing agents posing as the agents’ bosses asking the agents to pick up gift cards that are supposedly meant for clients. The messages come in on email addresses and phone numbers that are close to the head realtor’s but are obvious fakes. One realtor has stated that he thinks that they’re being targeted since due to their profession they’re very visible on social media.

    Once again, if someone contacts you trying to get you to pay some kind of fee or fine with gift cards it’s more than likely a scam. The only places that tend to accept gift cards as payments are the services they were intended for. No legitimate government agency or bill collector will ask for gift cards as payment. If you receive one of these threatening calls or emails first contact the service the scammers are posing as directly to make sure it is a scam, then contact your local police. While the scammers may not be caught, at least the public could be warned about the scam.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Even realtors don’t know this scam 

    Even realtors don't know this scam

    One of the most prolific online scams is that of home rentals. A realtor will list a property for sale but scammers will copy the ad and claim the home is for rent. Then, the scammers will make up some kind of story as to why they can’t show you the property but are still willing to rent the home as long as they get a deposit and first month’s rent. It’s then the scammers will make off with the victim’s money while leaving them without a place to live. What’s even more surprising is that not all realtors are aware of this scam.

    In Racine, Wisconsin, a woman was looking for a rental property and found one with rent payments that were more than reasonable. The person who placed the ad claimed that they were hard of hearing and couldn’t respond by phone and that they were away on work so they couldn’t show the inside of the property. Thankfully, the woman decided to run by the property where she found a realtor’s sign posted outside. She called the realtor who told her the home had actually been sold and the ad that she had seen was a fake. What is most surprising about this story is that the realtor wasn’t aware of such scams considering how often it happens across America.

    As always, if a deal seems too good to be true it probably is. Always be suspicious of rents that are lower than the usual market value. Another red flag to look out for is if the supposed landlord can’t show the property and gives you some kind of convoluted story as to why. Some good ways to try to avoid this scam is to take the pictures in the ad and perform a reverse image search on Google or by checking your county’s assessor’s website or office to verify the true owner of the property.

  • Geebo 8:15 am on August 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , fallen officer, police scam,   

    Scam takes advantage of fallen police officer 

    Scam takes advantage of fallen police officer

    We’ve posted about some pretty reprehensible scams in the past. Some of the ones that come to mind are the scam that threatens your family with violence, the scam that targeted victims of a devastating forest fire, and the grandparent scam. All of the scams mentioned are designed to take advantage of people’s emotions when they’re at their most vulnerable moments. Now, a scam has popped up that tries to prey on people’s generosity while they’re trying to heal from a great loss in their community.

    In Illinois, a State Trooper was killed in the line of duty this past Friday. 33-year-old father of three and 10 year veteran of the force, Nick Hopkins was shot and killed while trying to serve a warrant in East St. Louis. Within a day of his passing, scammers were already trying to solicit funds from people in Trooper Hopkins name. While it wasn’t mentioned in the report we’ve read, we can only imagine that this was done through social media in order to maximize the number of people who could see the posts in such a short amount of time. The only official channel where donations can be made for Tropper Hopkins is through the Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation.

    Police and fire departments have unfortunately long been the unwilling pawns in a number of scams. Most involve the scammers calling victims claiming to collect donations for any number of first responder foundations. Often, these scammers will try to pressure you into making a donation. Legitimate charities will be happy to get a donation at any time and will let you take your time to think about it. If you want to donate to any first responder charity, the best way to find out where to donate is to call that department specifically at their non-emergency business number.

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