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  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , , , ,   

    Dangerous scam spoofs your family’s phone number 

    By Greg Collier

    Virtual kidnapping scams have been in the news more often than usual lately. This leads us to believe there has been an increase in these harrowing incidents. Typically, in a virtual kidnapping scam, the scammers will call you and claim to have a loved one of yours hostage. They’ll then tell you they will release their hostage if you pay a ransom. The ransom is usually asked for in untraceable means like cryptocurrency, money transfer, or gift cards. Since the advent of the virtual kidnapping scam, the scammers have gotten more aggressive when approaching their victims on the phone.

    For example, a woman from the San Francisco Bay Area recently received a virtual kidnapping call that appeared to come from her mother’s phone number. The caller said he was with the woman’s mother and would harm her if a ransom wasn’t paid. The caller demanded $500 to paid through the Zelle app. After she made the first payment, the scammer demanded another payment of $400, which she paid. The scammer ended the call and the woman called her mother, who had been fine the entire time.

    This story shows a couple of disturbing things. While it’s relatively easy to spoof a phone number, this scammer specifically targeted the woman by obtaining her mother’s phone number. That means the scammer had to at least stalked the family’s social media accounts. Secondly, the scammer used the Zelle banking app to collect the ransom. With stories like this, it seems like Zelle is quickly becoming the app of choice for scammers. Zelle has been used by scammers in several other scams as well.

    As we always like to remind our readers, kidnappings for ransom, while not unheard of, are actually rare in the United States. However, when someone receives one of these phone calls, the pressure of the situation may not allow them to think rationally. If you receive one of these phone calls, the first thing you should do is try to contact the person they’ve claimed to have kidnapped. Since the scammer will try to keep you on the phone, try using another method of contacting your loved one such as text or email if another phone line is not available. These scammers will often have an accomplice posing as the hostage. If they let you speak with the person, ask them a question that only they would know. You can also set up a specific code word between you and your loved ones to verify their identity. Lastly, even if your loved one is safe, contact your local police and let them know what happened, especially if you paid money to the scammer through Zelle.

    In the past, people who have been scammed through Zelle did not get their money back. However, experts recommend that filing a police report will help when dealing with your bank.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , , , , VRBO   

    Short-term renters threatened with violence 

    Short-term renters threatened with violence

    By Greg Collier

    If you use a short-term rental service like Airbnb or VRBO, as a renter, there are many pitfalls you have to be aware of. Usually, if a renter had to look out for anyone, it was usually the host they had to be wary of. Previously, we’ve seen instances where the accommodations weren’t exactly what the host had promised, with some resembling something closer to prison conditions than a vacation rental. There have also been instances of hosts renting out properties that they didn’t even own. These scammers would just take the renter’s money and leave them stranded after the renter’s traveled to what they thought was going to be a fun trip. Now, short-term renters have another danger to look out for.

    In Northern California, a group of vacationers from Kansas rented out a home off of VRBO for a trip to wine country. It appears that at least one of the neighbors wanted to let the vacationers know that they weren’t welcome there. One morning, they woke up to find the tires on their van had been slashed, and threatening graffiti was left on the rental home. Part of the message said, “Leave this place or else.”

    The residents of the neighborhood have had a problem with this particular rental for some time now. According to them, the rental has repeatedly been a party house where renters have not only disturbed the neighborhood with noise, but have also repeatedly strewn garbage around the neighborhood. It also turns out that the hosts did not allegedly have the proper permit from the county to use their home as a short-term rental, but we’re renting it out anyway. The permit had been denied after many in the community opposed it.

    The vacationers were just innocent bystanders caught up in a feud between neighbors. With more and more communities pushing back against short-term rentals, this could unfortunately become more common.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , , , vaccine lottery, vax for the win   

    Scammers pose as state vaccine lotteries 

    By Greg Collier

    Several states have implemented what are being referred to as vaccine lotteries. Cash prizes are being given out to encourage more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Some states have even begun to issue payments to winners. However, with any act that’s designed to help the public there are inevitably those who try to use the system to their own advantage and the vaccine lotteries are no different.

    For example, California has just paid out prize to winners in their ‘Vax for the Win’ lottery. They’re expected to make another drawing this week. The Department of Health has recently said they’ve received dozens of calls about residents being told they’ve won the lottery by scammers. At least one resident received a message through social media. This shouldn’t come as a surprise since sweepstakes and lottery scams have been taking money from victims for decades.

    As with most modern scams, the goals in this scam are after one of two things. Either the scammers want your personal information, or they want you to pay them. In many lottery scams, the scammers will tell the victim they need to pay taxes or a processing fee before they can receive their winnings. Making lottery or sweepstakes winners pay for their prize is illegal in every state, so if someone asks for a payment, they’re a scammer.

    California says that their winners will receive a phone call with an official state caller and text ID, and they’ll also receive an email from the state with a form to fill out for their winnings. Residents are told to make sure the emails come from official state email addresses, in this case CA.gov.

    If your state is holding a vaccine lottery, it’s a good idea to check with your state to know how legitimate winners are being rewarded.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 2, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , , , San Jose,   

    Scammers take advantage of another tragedy 

    Scammers take advantage of another tragedy

    By Greg Collier

    Last week there was yet another mass shooting in America. In San Jose, California, a 57-year-old man shot and killed eight people at a rail yard. The gunman was a rail yard employee who is said to have had a grudge against his workplace. Before police could apprehend the gunman, he took his own life. While the loss to the victims’ families can’t be measured in a dollar amount, many of them found themselves in immediate financial need. As has become common in these scenarios, many of the families set up GoFundMe pages as fundraisers for the families’ expenses. As has also become common, it didn’t take long for the scammers to move in.

    According to local news reports, the victims’ names had not even been made public yet before scammers started setting up phony GoFundMe pages. One scammer set up a GoFundMe using the name of someone who was not one of the victims while purporting to be for one of the victims. Another phony GoFundMe claiming to be for funeral services for one of the victims had already collected pledges before being shut down as a fraud.

    We’re not saying that you shouldn’t donate to a charity or fundraiser to help out victims of a tragedy like this. What we are saying is to take a step back before you click that donate button. While it’s commendable that your heart wants you to help those in need as soon as possible, it’s an unfortunate fact that scammers will try to take advantage of that generosity. We’re not even saying don’t use GoFundMe as they’ve worked with the victims families to verify their GoFundMe pages. A list of those pages can be found here. What we are saying is that you should do a little research before giving money to a fundraiser that could be taking money away from those who desperately need it.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 8, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , ,   

    California getting hit the hardest by unemployment scams 

    California getting hit the hardest by unemployment scams

    For months now, we’ve been discussing the historic amount of unemployment benefit scams that have been affecting each and every state. If reports are to be believed, it seems that California has been hit the hardest of all when it comes to unemployment scams.

    As we’ve mentioned before, both domestic and foreign criminal rings have been assailing the states’ unemployment systems with fraudulent claims. Because of the record number of people out of work because of the pandemic, scammers have taken it upon themselves to take advantage of the situation by filing false unemployment claims. Often the scammers use stolen identities they’ve obtained through large data breaches that have been sold on the dark web. Fraudulent benefits have been filed in the names of people who are both employed and unemployed.

    Recently, California district attorneys have announced that over $1 billion in fraudulent benefits have been paid out by the state. However, the bank that handles the unemployment debit cards for California says that total is closer to the $2 billion range. Some reports say that 1 in 3 unemployment claims in California are fraudulent. The problem has gotten so bad that the bank handling unemployment benefits for California have even taken some benefits back from legitimate recipients in the name of fraud investigation. Many of these recipients have had little to no recourse in getting their benefits back.

    If you live in California, you’re probably already aware of the situation. So if you live in any of the other 49 states, why should you care what happens to California? Well, when it comes to the larger states, as goes California so goes the country. It could be only a matter of time before we start seeing other states being ravaged by unemployment scammers like California is. Pennsylvania, Washington, and Massachusetts have already encountered massive unemployment fraud just not on the level of California yet.

    While we’re not sure what the solution is to stop these scammers, if the states don’t get a handle on them soon, the nation could be headed to even larger economic problems.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , , ,   

    Family with leukemia afflicted baby targeted in rental scam 

    Family with leukemia afflicted baby targeted in rental scam

    Further proving that scammers will stoop to any level, a family in Southern California is scrambling to find a new home after falling victim to an online rental scam. If you’ll recall, scammers will copy the online ads of homes for sale then post the ad in online marketplaces as a home for rent. The rent requested will often be well below market value. In most cases, the scammers will try to pressure you to make some kind of large payment without being able to see the property. In other cases, the scammers will also make you fill out a lengthy application they’ll use for identity theft.

    That’s what happened to the family from California. Their 14-month-old son has been diagnosed with leukemia and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. They are looking for a home closer to the hospital where the baby is being treated. In terms of Southern California travel, the hospital is too far away from their current residence. While looking for a new home, they found an online ad for the perfect place. They responded to the ad and filled out an application with all their personal information. It was after a friend looked into the property they found out that it wasn’t actually available for rent. Now, they’re busy trying to find a new home while worrying about not only their son but also having their personal information exposed like that.

    If you’re looking for a new home and you find one that’s too good to be true, it probably is. In order to avoid such scams always do a reverse image search on the photos in the ad to make sure the ad isn’t stolen from someplace else. You should also check with the county assessor’s website or office to verify who the true owner of the property is. And don’t be taken in by convoluted stories about why the property can’t be shown or why the supposed landlords can’t meet you. Lastly. never pay or wire money for any property sight unseen. If you would like to help the family mentioned in today’s story they have a GoFundMe page to help assist with the astronomical cost of childhood leukemia.

     
  • Geebo 8:02 am on July 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bond scam, California, , , , , ,   

    $4,000,000 stolen in romance scam by victim 

    $4,000,000 stolen in romance scam

    A woman in Northern Kentucky is accused of stealing in upwards of $4 million as part of a romance scam and has been arrested for the alleged theft. The thing is that even though she’s accused of stealing this large sum of money, she’s also the victim in this story. She was the one who was reportedly strung along by the scammers. Investigators say that she never kept any of her employer’s money and sent it all to someone she believed to be in a relationship with. This was after she had sent the scammers all of her own money. Now in most instances, you can’t find yourself in a position where you can embezzle large amounts of money like this without having some form of professional background meaning that even educated people can find themselves falling victim to a romance scam.

    In other scam news, residents of Southern California are being warned about a phony bond scam that has been plaguing the area. Some Sheriffs Offices have been receiving complaints about phony government agents calling residents and telling them that their Social Security numbers have been involved in various frauds. To avoid arrest the residents are being told to pay a bond. As can be expected in these type of scams, the residents are told that they can pay the ‘bond’ using gift cards such as Apple, Google Play, or WalMart gift cards. No government agency, whether it is local or federal, will ever ask you to pay any kind of fee using gift cards. If you are to receive one of these phone calls, it is recommended that you hang up immediately and contact your local police.

    Lastly for today, we have a reminder about the phony check scam. If you’re unfamiliar with this scam it’s one of the more prolific scams on the internet. Whether you’re trying to sell something online or applying for a job online, some unscrupulous scammer will send you a check and ask you to deposit the check in your bank account before sending them back the difference. The check is always a fake and once your bank discovers that, you’ll be on the hook for the money while the scammers make off with the funds. One of these phony checks recently targeted an online seller in North Dakota who was quick to notice the discrepancies in the scammer’s story. The texts they were receiving were from a California number while the check was mailed from New York and calls were coming from someone named Larry while the checks came from someone named Donna. If you ever feel like something is off when dealing with online sales and purchases it probably is.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , ,   

    Should teachers have to pay for their own substitutes when sick? 

    Should teachers have to pay for their own substitutes when sick?

    The one profession that is probably the most underpaid but most needed is a school teacher. In a state like California that is possibly the richest state in the country, you might think that teachers are paid a fair wage and have a decent benefits package. As one story has shown us recently that may not be the case. A San Francisco teacher who is currently undergoing cancer treatment has to pay for her substitute out of her own paycheck. Sadly, this is not some rare exception for California teachers as it’s been this way since the ’70s.

    The teacher in question has half of her paycheck deducted each pay period to pay for her temporary replacement while she undergoes treatment. Public school teachers in California don’t pay into the state disability insurance program and can’t draw benefits from it. The teachers only get 10 sick days a year and 100 extended days of sick leave. It’s during these sick leaves when they have to pay for a substitute teacher out of their own pockets.

    In many instances, teachers on extended leave are more concerned with getting better than fighting this drastic cut in pay. However, many teachers return to work too soon in order to try to provide for their families. No family should have to worry about losing their home or worse when trying to recover from a major illness. Is it time that we not only rethought how we treated our teachers but the whole healthcare paradigm as well?

     
  • Geebo 10:05 am on October 29, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: California, , Mozilla,   

    California to hold back on net neutrality, for now 

    California to hold back on net neutrality, for now

    California Gov. Jerry Brown

    Always being the trendsetter, the state of California recently passed the most stringent net neutrality laws in the country, defying the edict handed down by the FCC stating that states could not enforce their own net neutrality laws. When the FCC repealed net neutrality protections for consumers they also issued an edict that the individual states could not make their own laws regarding net neutrality which many see as an abuse of power by the FCC. After California Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s net neutrality into law, not only was the Golden State sued by the Trump Administration and a consortium of broadband providers. But now, a third lawsuit has arisen which has caused California to take pause.

    California’s net neutrality was supposed to go into effect on January 1, 2019, however, this past Friday the state of California announced they would be holding off on enforcing net neutrality until a certain lawsuit is settled. Mozilla, the non-profit behind the Firefox browser, is suing the FCC stating that their repeal of net neutrality protections “violates both federal law as well as harms internet users and innovators.” To put it in simpler terms, Mozilla is claiming that it’s beyond the FCC’s scope of powers to interfere with a state’s rights to pass their own legislation on net neutrality.

    So, this isn’t a defeat for net neutrality in California. The state is merely awaiting the outcome of Mozilla’s lawsuit before determining how to move forward with net neutrality as the Mozilla lawsuit could have national ramifications on the states’ rights to enforce net neutrality. Once again, I find it ironic that an administration that supposedly champions states rights is so quick to try to quash those rights when it goes against financial backers who helped get them to the office, to begin with.

     
  • Geebo 9:15 am on October 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , California, ,   

    Can the FCC really stop states from enacting Net Neutrality? 

    Can the FCC really stop states from enacting Net Neutrality?

    If you’ll recall, when the FCC under the Obama Administration enacted net neutrality legislation, the FCC ruled that internet providers were to be considered as Title II carriers. What that meant was that the internet was to be treated as a utility much like electricity or water. This also meant that internet service could not be throttled in any way. I mean, you don’t see the power companies giving fast service to your microwave while throttling service to your clothes dryer. That was until earlier this year when the Aji Pai led FCC overturned the Title II designation with the ironically named Restoring Internet Freedom Order.

    Since then, the state of California enacted their own net neutrality legislation in defiance of the FCC’s edict that no state could enact their own net neutrality laws. This resulted in lawsuits being filed against the state of California by both the DOJ and a consortium of groups representing the big internet providers like Comcast and Verizon. However, now it’s being argued whether or not the FCC has the authority to forbid states from enacting net neutrality regulations. According to WIRED, since the FCC has said that it doesn’t have the authority to regulate the internet, it may not have the authority to regulate it within the states either. Yet, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai continues to mislead the public about net neutrality.

    In the preceding video, Pai claims that there have been no violations of net neutrality and that when the Obama administration regulated it, that any regulation dealt only in hypotheticals. That flies in the face of reality where companies like Comcast and AT&T would treat internet traffic in such a way that they would favor services they provided. In one example AT&T made a move to block Skype and VOIP calls over their service in order to get more people to use their voice service.

    Now the FCC wants to have their cake and eat it too by not only abandoning net neutrality but trying to make the states not enforce it as well. With movies like this, it seems obvious that the FCC only really cares about big business and not the American public.

     
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