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  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    Virtual kidnapping scam back on the rise 

    Virtual kidnapping scam back on the rise

    With some aspects of life returning to normal, it seems that scammers are returning to their same old tricks. While COVID-19 related scams are still being perpetrated, we’ve seen a trend where scammers appear to be going back to scams they’ve run prior to the pandemic.

    One of those scams is the virtual kidnapping scam. This is when a scammer will call a victim and tell them that they’ve kidnapped a loved one. The scammers will then demand a ransom either through wire transfer, gift cards, or other hard to trace payment options. The reality of this scam is that nobody has been actually kidnapped and the scammers are hoping the fear generated in the situation will cause the victim to pay the phony ransom.

    Recently, in New Mexico, the state police there have reported an uptick in these virtual kidnappings. The scammers here are instructing their victims to send money through transfer services like MoneyGram or Western Union. The scammers use these services since they can usually collect the money almost anonymously before disappearing or collect it overseas where US law enforcement can’t reach them. The kidnapping calls in New Mexico are said to be originating in Mexico. A sheriff’s office in Oklahoma is also reporting that this scam is taking hold there as well.

    If you ever receive one of these phone calls, try to use another phone to try to contact the person the scammers they’ve claimed to have kidnapped. The scammers will try to pressure you into paying the phony ransom while trying to keep you on the phone. Failing that, ask to speak to the purported kidnapping victim and ask them a question only that person would know.

    While it may seem like high pressure situation, keep in mind that kidnappings for ransom in the United States are rare. Take a moment to collect yourself so you can think rationally. However, you should take down as much information as possible in case it turns out to be an actual kidnapping. If not, you can use the information to forward to the police.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    More states are dealing with unemployment scams 

    More states are dealing with unemployment scams

    The unemployment scams that are happening from Washington to Maine continue to take hold in more states. Both Mississippi and Minnesota are reporting that their unemployment assistance programs are being targeted by scammers looking to steal benefits.

    As we have discussed before, scammers are using stolen identities to apply for unemployment benefits in various states across the country. It doesn’t matter if you’re currently receiving unemployment benefits or you’re currently working. If your identity has been compromised scammers will use your information to try to scam benefits from the already overworked state unemployment systems. In most cases, the scammers will have the stolen benefits redirected to another address but in some cases, the scammers are said to be actually stalking the mailboxes of people whose identity they’ve used to apply for benefits.

    Besides using stolen identities that were compromised in various data breaches, scammers are also using details that they’ve harvested from social media to apply for benefits. It’s being recommended that you keep things like your birthday and your hometown private on social media.

    Many victims of the scam have voiced their concerns over their inability to reach their state’s unemployment offices. The unemployment offices have urged victims to keep trying to reach them as they are currently trying to assist as many people as they can during these trying times.

    If you’ve been a victim of this scam it’s recommended that you first contact your state’s unemployment office or your HR department if you’re currently working. On top of that, you should change your passwords for all your sensitive accounts. You should also initiate a credit freeze with the major credit bureaus so the scammers can not apply for things like credit cards or bank accounts in your name.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    A new series of scams to look out for 

    A new series of scams to look out for

    Here are some new scams that we’ve found out about that are going on around the country. Please keep in mind that just because they are not currently happening in your area doesn’t mean that they can’t.

    Another victim has been scammed through the freelancer platform Upwork. In Pennsylvania, a woman had accepted an editing position that she had found on Upwork. She was sent a check for $2000 by her ’employer’ in order to buy equipment for her position. She was then instructed to send what wasn’t spent back to her employer through Venmo and gift cards. The $2000 check later turned out to be fraudulent. Upwork has said that you should not communicate with a client outside of the Upwork platform. If you receive a check in the mail and are asked to send a balance back through untraceable means like Venmo or gift cards, it’s almost a guarantee that the job is a scam.

    In Northern California, at least one resident has reported a new scam that had happened to them. They say they received a text message where a cybercriminal claimed that they had total control of the victim’s cell phone including the microphone and camera. The scammer then tried to extort $1500 in cryptocurrency out of the person they texted. The odds are very slim that your phone will be hijacked in this way. That’s also not taking into account that when you pay a purported blackmailer like this, they will continue to try and squeeze as much money out of you as possible. If you receive a text like this you are asked to report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

    Lastly, in Tulsa, Oklahoma man fell for a customer service scam that left him out of $1500. The man was having issues with his Cash App account. He called what he thought was Cash App’s customer service department but was actually a scammer. Before it was all over, the man’s Cash App account had been drained by the scammers. In this day and age of everything being online, not every company has a customer service number you can call. Often scammers take advantage of this by advertising phony customer service numbers. If you need to contact a company for customer service, go directly to that company’s website and look for a link that either says ‘contact us’ or ‘support’. Don’t just do a web search for ‘company x’s customer service number’ as there’s a good chance that number could be fake.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    Contact tracing scams are finding more victims 

    Contact tracing scams are finding more victims

    Even though most states have lifted many of their restrictions that were put in place during the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 is still infecting people. One of the tools that are being used to stop the spread is contact tracing. This is when your state or local health department contacts you to let you know if you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. In some states, you would receive a text message letting you know that a call was coming from your health department. In other states, you would just receive a phone call warning you that you may have been in contact with an infected person.

    Since contact tracing was initiated, scammers have been posing as contact tracers to try to commit identity theft. The scams have gotten so bad that the Attorney General of California has issued a consumer warning to his constituents.

    If a contact tracer were to call you, they would ask to confirm your name, address, and date of birth. That means that they should ask for you by name and not ask you who you are. Scammers will sometimes claim to be with some vague organization like ‘contact and tracing efforts’ while legitimate contact tracers will identify who they are and which health organization they are with. Also, a real contact tracer will never reveal the name of the infected person you may have come in contact with. On the other hand, scammers will try to obtain personal information from you like your social security number or financial information. There is no need for any health department to request that information.

    Lastly, if you receive a text that says you’ve been in contact with an infected person and it contains a link to click, delete the text message as that is almost undoubtedly a scam.

    Being told that you’ve been in contact with someone who has contracted the coronavirus can be scary. Scammers prey on that fear to try to get you to give them information that you normally wouldn’t give.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Black Lives Matter, ,   

    Be careful of which charities you support 

    Be careful of which charities you support

    With so many Americans supporting the recent Black Lives Matter protests a number of them who could not be on the front lines have decided to donate money to related charities. While we have not seen any reports yet, if history is any indicator, scammers will be looking to take advantage of Americans’ generosity.

    In the past, scammers have used major events in the news to commit charity scams. The most common time is after a natural disaster like a hurricane, however, the recent COVID-19 outbreaks have been also been a gold mine for charity scammers. So it should come as no surprise if we start hearing reports about scammers using the current racial justice movement to fleece their victims.

    Most charity scams start with unsolicited phone calls. They’ll claim to be collecting money for an official-sounding charity or a charity that uses a similar name to an official charity. They may also use a generic phrase like they’re collecting for bond relief without giving a specific charity name. They’ll then try to pressure you into making a payment right then and there before you can hang up. Often they’ll try to get you to make a donation using an untraceable method like cash, gift cards, or wiring the money.

    If you’re thinking about donating to a charity that collects online you may want to think about doing a proper web search about the charity first. Put the name of the charity into the search engine along with phrases like ‘complaints’, ‘review’, or even ‘scam. Also, make sure that you’re not signing up for a series of monthly donations.

    If you’re looking to donate in order to support the cause, you can use the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org to aid you in your research of charities. New York Magazine has also compiled a list of charities that they say they have vetted.

    Please do not let your charitable donation fall into the hands of scammers that are looking to take advantage of the sacrifices that have been made.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 5, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    More details about unemployment scams 

    More details about unemployment scams

    Previously, when we discussed the recent unemployment scams plaguing the nation we mostly talked about how scammers were using stolen identities to apply for unemployment benefits. Now, the Federal Trade Commission has released more details not only about how the scam works but what to do in case you’re a victim.

    Overseas scammers have been overwhelming the online unemployment application systems in many states. They’re using stolen identities to apply for benefits while most states are under a mountain of applications due to the global pandemic. This makes it a perfect time for scammers to try to sneak into the system. People who are currently employed are finding out that unemployment benefits are being sought in their name.

    While the ill-gotten benefits are usually sent to one of the scammers, in some cases they’re sent to the person whose name the benefits are in. In many of these cases, the scammers are posing as the state’s unemployment office and asking for the money back. However, instead of asking for the payment to be returned through legitimate channels, they’re asking for the payment to be sent through gift cards or wire services. These are hallmarks of many scams and payment should never be sent this way to anyone claiming to be a governmental organization.

    If you receive an unemployment payment that you did not apply for, the FTC urges you to report it to your employer and your state’s unemployment office. You can also report it to the FTC themselves at IdentityTheft.Gov.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
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    Police impersonation scams on the rise 

    Police impersonation scams on the rise

    Within the past few weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of news articles about police impersonation scams. This is where scammers will pose as your local or state police and try to pressure their victims into making a large payment under the threat of arrest. The scammers will often call their victims and make the phone number look like they’re calling from the police department.

    These scams can take a number of forms. One of the most infamous ones is the jury duty scam. This is where the scammers will call you up and tell you that you missed jury duty and that a warrant is out for your arrest. Then they’ll tell you that the warrant can be withdrawn if you just pay them a fine over the phone. Sometimes the scammers will just say that you have a warrant out for your arrest and will forgo the jury duty angle. Other times, the scammers will just say that you owe a fine.

    What all of these scams have in common is that the scammers will try to pressure you into making a payment right away and over the phone. Police departments do not call people to tell them that they have warrants or owe fines. You will almost always receive that information by mail if it is legitimate. Scammers, on the other hand, will try to get you to make a payment either through gift cards or wire transfer. If you weren’t sure if a call you received from someone claiming to be the police was a scam or not, the gift cards should be a dead giveaway as no government agency accepts them as payment. As we have said in the past, gift cards are the currency of scammers due to the fact the cards can be emptied remotely and anonymously.

    If you receive one of these calls, just hang up. Don’t even engage with the scammers. However, you are asked that you report the calls to your local police.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 3, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , freelancing, , ,   

    Freelance gig platform targeted in check scam 

    Freelance gig platform targeted in check scam

    Upwork is one of many platforms that allow companies to connect with freelancers to fulfill temporary but crucial assignments. Many professionals have turned to services like Upwork to make money during the current unemployment crisis. This has not gone unnoticed by scammers and they are said to be using platforms like Upwork to commit one of their oldest scams.

    According to a report from NBC News, scammers are posing as real companies on these services to commit the phony check scam. Phony or fraudulent checks are used in a variety of scams from everything to selling an item online to intricate employment scams. The goal of the fake check scam is always the same. The scammer wants you to deposit the check into your bank account, then send them most or all of the money before your bank realizes the check is a fake. By that time, the scammer is long gone with your money and the bank is holding you responsible for the amount of the fake check.

    A California man went to Upwork and applied for an opportunity that he assumed was legitimate. He was interviewed over Skype and even received an offer letter on what appeared to be legitimate company letterhead from a legitimate global corporation. The man also received a check for $3000 that he was told was for his home office supplies. He deposited the check and bought equipment from suppliers that his new ’employer’ recommended. These supposed suppliers were more than likely in league with the phony job scammer. Before it was all over, the man found himself without a job and out $3000 on top of it.

    Upwork themselves have said that users should not use any communication with prospective employers outside of Upwork itself. That is a great tip as scammers and other cyber-criminals often try to communicate with their victims outside of usual channels.

    While many people realize that the checks they receive are fake, there are enough people who fall for this scam that they keep the scammers in business. Billions of dollars in fraudulent checks are deposited into bank accounts each year. You can protect yourself by avoiding these situations. If a deal feels like it’s wrong, it probably is.

     
  • Geebo 8:01 am on June 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , wic   

    New scam targets mothers on food assistance 

    New scam targets mothers on food assistance

    As if it wasn’t bad enough that scammers were targeting Pennsylvania’s unemployment system, now it seems the scammers are also targeting those in the Keystone State that are also in need of food assistance. According to state officials, scammers are now targeting recipients of the Women, Infants, and Children program otherwise known as WIC. WIC is a government assistance program that helps provide healthcare and nutrition to low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children under the age of five.

    According to reports, scammers are posing as WIC representatives and calling recipients promising them additional funds. The scammers will then ask the WIC recipient for personal information such as their Social Security information or banking information. Some scammers have promised to deposit the phony funds directly into the recipient’s bank account.

    The information stolen by the scammers can be used for any number of additional crimes such as identity theft or money laundering. Just because someone may be in a low-income situation it doesn’t mean that their personal information isn’t valuable to online criminals. Anyone with a Social Security number is potentially at risk.

    Pennsylvania WIC’s office says that if you’re unsure if a call from WIC is legitimate or not to hang up and call the WIC office directly.

    We’d also like to remind our readers that just because this scam isn’t currently happening in their state, that doesn’t mean it may not be in their state soon. The current unemployment scam problems started in one state and quickly spread to several others.

    We find this scam particularly reprehensible since it could potentially take food and healthcare away from those who need it most. We wonder when the scammers will start taking candy from babies.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: debt forgiveness, , ,   

    New scam promises student loan forgiveness 

    New scam promises student loan forgiveness

    With the cost of college tuition always rising and salaries largely remaining stagnant, we have a generation of college graduates who may work their whole lives just to pay back their student loans. People of that generation have also been found to be just as vulnerable to scams as their grandparents’ generation. Far be it for scammers to not try to take advantage of those two facts.

    According to Wikipedia, Navient is a U.S. corporation whose operations include servicing and collecting student loans. They recently settled a lawsuit over student debt forgiveness, however, the settlement doesn’t provide relief for those who owe money to Navient. But the scammers are hoping to cash in on the confusion over the lawsuit settlement.

    Scammers are posing as Navient employees and calling people telling them that due to the settlement the debtors are eligible to have their student debt partially or fully forgiven. There’s only one thing the debtors need to do. You just need to give your Social Security number and pay a fee to transfer the debt to the Department of Education.

    Not just any fee mind you, the scammers are asking for monthly payments from your debit or credit card to maintain the loan forgiveness. So, while the scammers are taking monthly payments from you, nothing is happening with your student debt. So not only are you paying these scammers monthly payments but you’ll probably be ignoring your student loan payments leading to a series of financial nightmares that no one should have to go through.

    However, there is hope. The settlement made it that if your loan payments are being collected by Navient, you can contact them to see if you are, in fact, eligible for loan forgiveness.

    Companies like Navient aren’t going to just call you out of the blue to possibly lose the profits they’ve already gained. Unsolicited phone calls that promise you a way out of debt are almost always too good to be true.

     
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