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  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: covid-19, , ,   

    State warns of increase in puppy scams 

    State warns of increase in puppy scams

    By Greg Collier

    When the emotional overrides the rational, we leave ourselves open to scams. And nothing much elicits a more emotional response than when someone sees a puppy. It’s even more so when someone has recently lost their long-time canine companion. This is why one state has recently issued a warning about an increase in puppy scams.

    The Michigan Attorney General’s Office has issued a warning to residents of The Great Lakes State that they’ve seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of puppy scams being reported. Typically, puppy scams occur when someone is shopping online for a puppy. Too often, the puppies found for sale online don’t even exist. Scammers will set up a website that makes it look like they’re a legitimate dog breeder. The photos of puppies used on the scammer’s website are often stolen from the websites of legitimate breeders.

    Scammers will offer the puppy at a price below what most breeders are asking for. If someone attempts to buy a puppy from a scammer, they’ll then be asked to pay more money for more services that were not part of the original asking price. These can include payments for shipping insurance or specialized shipping crates for the puppy. Like in most scams, the scammers will continue to ask the victim for money until the victim realizes they’ve been scammed.

    The AG’s Office says that, specifically, scammers have been using COVID-19 as part of their scams. The scammers will say a buyer can’t see the puppy in person because of COVID-19. The scammers have also been asking for additional money for protective crates, COVID-19 vaccines for the puppy, and pandemic insurance.

    If you find yourself in the market for a puppy, research is the best way to protect yourself from these scams. Prospective pet owners should first research the breed they’re interested in to make sure they can properly care for the puppy’s needs. Not all breeds are the same. Buyers should try to stick to their local area as much as possible. You increase your chances of becoming a scam victim if you order a puppy from too far away. Research the breeder as much as possible. You can do a web search with the breeder’s name along with the words ‘complaint’ and ‘scam’ to see if anyone’s been a victim of a fake breeder. The Michigan AG even recommends making any puppy purchase with a credit card, as credit cards have a higher level of protection than most forms of payment. Speaking of payment, never pay for a puppy using apps like Cash App, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, as these are all indicators of a potential scam.

    As always, we highly recommend adopting a puppy from your local animal shelter. This can often be done with minimal or no cost. Some shelters even have waiting lists you can sign up for if you’re looking for a certain breed. Don’t let the shelter stigma convince you that all shelter dogs are problems. Many of them are there through no fault of their own and would make a great addition to any household.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 18, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , covid-19, , ,   

    Masks subject to price gouging and counterfeiting again 

    Masks subject to price gouging and counterfeiting again

    By Greg Collier

    With the new variants that COVID-19 seems to keep producing, many states have reinstituted mask mandates. According to the FDA and the Mayo Clinic, masks can not only help you from catching COVID-19, but helps prevent the transmission of COVID-19 as well. Along with preventative handwashing and getting vaccinated, masks are an essential part of trying to curb the tide of COVID-19 infections. But with the rise of demand for masks, scammers and bad actors are looking to prey on those who want to have a part in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

    According to the Better Business Bureau, 60% of KN95 masks sold in America are counterfeits. KN95 masks are one step below the N95 surgical masks that are used by medical professionals, but are still effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Many of these counterfeit masks are sold on websites that may not be the most reputable. A good way to tell if the retailer is questionable is the quality of pictures they use. If pictures of the masks are blurry or of a low resolution, there’s a good chance that the masks will be fakes, if you even receive the masks at all.

    Other retailer may decide to raise the prices of masks to an astronomical amount due to the demand. This is known as price-gouging and may be illegal in the retailer’s state if the retailer is in the US.

    When buying from an unknown retailer, it’s always good advice to do a web search of the retailer’s name along with the words ‘complaint’ or ‘scam’. Legitimate masks should also have the manufacturer’s name, logo, and model number printed on the mask.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , covid testing, covid-19, , , , omicron variant,   

    New variant brings same old scams 

    By Greg Collier

    With the advent of the Omicron variant, the demand for COVID testing has increased to the point of scarcity. Unfortunately, scammers and other con artists are well aware of this crisis and are looking to take advantage of it, so they can line their pockets. It’s gotten so bad in the state of Georgia that the state Attorney General’s office has issued a warning about scams related to COVID testing. While a testing shortage might not be happening in your state currently, Georgia’s current situation can be used as a reminder to look out for these scams.

    The Peach State is warning its residents to be aware of anyone going door to door offering COVID testing. Residents have also been told to be wary of anyone wanting to charge a fee for in-person testing. If you live in Georgia, you can go to the Department of Public Health’s website that has a listing of legitimate testing centers. While not mentioned by the Georgia Attorney General, some COVID scammers are after the medical insurance information of the heir victims, especially if they have Medicare. You should only give your healthcare information to a trusted medical provider.

    These phony testing scams aren’t just dangerous to the victim, but they’re dangerous to the public as well. If a victim is told they had a negative test result by a scammer, but actually have COVID, they could go on to spread it to their family, friends, and community with disastrous results. If you’ve spotted a COVID testing scam or have been a victim of one, it’s recommended that you contact your state’s Division of Consumer Protection.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , covid-19, , , ,   

    Text message scams using big name companies 

    Text message scams using big name companies

    By Greg Collier

    We think it’s safe to assume that many mobile phone users would prefer to receive a text message than a phone call. Text message are just so much more convenient than stopping whatever you’re doing to take a call. Except, not every type of communication can be done through text messaging. For example, if you needed any kind of customer service, it would be painstakingly long to do that through text. That’s not even taking into account that text messages have become yet another domain where scammers thrive. Scammers love the anonymity that text messaging allows. This lets them pose as just about anyone, and lately, they’ve been posing as some of the best known companies in the country. We’ve recently read reports that say there a two text message-based scams that happening all over the country.

    The first text message scam we heard about recently is offering COVID-19-based discounts to customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest phone providers. Here is an example of what the text message says…

    “COVID-19 REFUND. VERIZON COMPANY is giving out $950 to all users of our Verizon service, If yes kindly text your Verizon.”

    As you can see, the text message isn’t very well written, which is a great indicator that the text message is a scam. The messages also contain a link that you shouldn’t click on as it could do untold damage to your device, or ask you for personal information you shouldn’t be sharing. Not only are scammers posing as Verizon, but they’ve also been posing as Netflix and Hulu, among other companies. As much as we’d like them to be, these companies aren’t in business by giving away money to their millions of customers.

    The other texting scam involves large national banks Chase and Bank of America. In this scam, victims have been receiving texts that say something along the lines of…

    Chase Bank Fraud. Did you attempt $5,000 Zelle-transfer? Reply yes/no/help.

    Or…

    “Bank of America fraud alert. Did you just attempt a Zelle transaction of $3,500? Please reply yes or no.”

    Most people would probably text no back to the sender. However, the senders are just scammers who are fishing for your banking information. Once someone replies to the text, it’s followed up with a phone call from a scammer posing as bank customer service. The scammers will then walk you through a process on Zelle that allows them access to your bank account. Before you know it, it’s been cleared out. What makes this scam so problematic is that banks do sometimes text their customers to let them know if there has been fraudulent activity on their account. In this case, it’s always best to call the customer service number on your debit card than responding to the text.

    A good way to protect yourself from such scams is to verify any text you receive about money with a phone call. Even if it’s from people you know because any phone number can be spoofed.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: covid-19, , , ,   

    Pharmacy data breach exposes millions of customers’ data 

    Pharmacy data breach exposes millions of customers' data

    By Greg Collier

    When someone entrusts a billion-dollar company with their medical information, you might assume that they take security seriously. After all, HIPAA violations are no joke. The largest HIPAA fine so far was $18 million paid by a major health insurance company after they feel for a phishing attack, exposing client data in the process. So, say you’re the largest pharmacy chain in the nation. You’ve also tested countless customers for COVID-19. You must have some kind of impenetrable security in place to keep all that information private, right? Maybe not according to security experts.

    A security consultant had his family tested for COVID-19 back in March at a local Walgreens. While getting his family’s test results, he discovered a flaw in Walgreens’ website that exposed customer information related to the COVID-19 tests. This information is said to have contained name, date of birth, phone number, address, and email along with other sensitive information. The consultant tried to get in touch with Walgreens to warn them about the flaw, but they allegedly ignored him. Tech news site, Recode, also investigated the flaw and notified Walgreens about it. Recode even gave Walgreens time to fix the vulnerability before they published their report, but according to Recode, the vulnerability still hasn’t been fixed.

    As of the time of this post, there has been no confirmation that any bad actor has come into possession of any customer information. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t. If you used Walgreens for COVID-19 testing since July 2020, you may want to keep an eye on your credit report. This breach could be a potential treasure trove for identity thieves. The information could also be used by scammers to sound more legitimate since they have some personal details of your life.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 21, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: covid-19, , ,   

    Was a death certificate stolen for a FEMA scam? 

    Was a death certificate stolen for a FEMA scam?

    By Greg Collier

    Back in February, we discussed how scammers stopped a federal assistance program from being rolled out. As of the time of our previous post, FEMA had not started their funeral assistance program for people who passed away from COVID-19 in 2020. Due to the amount of fraud that was affecting state unemployment systems during the pandemic, FEMA decided to hold back while they came up with a potential solution. Earlier this month, FEMA announced that they would begin processing applications for funeral assistance, and it looks like the scammers may have already started to try to take advantage of the system.

    A woman in Tennessee lost her husband late last year to COVID-19. He was working the frontline as a nurse when he contracted the virus. Even though it’s been a number of months, his widow is still dealing with the loss of her husband. She recently received a call asking if she had sent her husband’s death certificate to Texas. She had not and believes that someone was using her husband’s death certificate to try to apply for FEMA benefits in his name. When this potential scam was first announced we wondered if all it would take to scam FEMA would be a forged or stolen death certificate.

    Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that you can do to protect yourself from this scam. If you ever had the unfortunate experience of arranging a funeral for a loved one and handling their estate, you know that you have to provide a copy of the deceased’s death certificate to a number of different people. The only thing that FEMA seems to be recommending at this point is that if you’ve been scammed you can call FEMA at 800-621-3362.

    Sadly, this again shows that scammers will try to take advantage of any situation no matter how devastating it may be to the victim. When scammers reach a new low like this, we’re both surprised and yet not surprised. Scammers know no bounds of human decency and will try to take advantage of anyone as long as it can make them some money.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , covid-19, , , survey scam   

    Vaccine survey could be a scam! 

    Vaccine survey could be a scam!

    By Greg Collier

    People all over the country have been reporting that they’ve been receiving emails and text messages asking them to fill out a survey about the COVID-19 vaccine. The messages even appear to look like they’ve been sent by one of the major manufacturers of the vaccine. So far, close to 50 million people in America have been fully vaccinated. This gives scammers a pretty large target. The messages are almost certainly sent out at random, but the odds are pretty good they’ll reach someone who has been vaccinated.

    The majority of these survey scams promise the recipient a free gift if they fill out the survey. Of course, the free gift comes with a catch. While the gift may be free, the survey takers are asked for their credit or debit card information to pay for shipping. The gift doesn’t actually exist, and the scammers are just out to get as many card number as they can. Officials have also warned people to not click on any links contained in the messages as they could potentially lead to your device being infected with malware.

    The surveys themselves are even said to be asking for sensitive information that could be used for identity theft. It seems like the survey scammers don’t want to leave any digital stone unturned when it comes to gathering as much data about you as possible. If you receive one of these messages, it’s recommended that you delete it immediately and not click on any of the links they contain. If you’ve already lost money to this scam, you’re asked to report it to the FTC.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , covid-19, , , , , , vaccination card,   

    Fake vaccine cards are showing up online 

    Fake vaccine cards are showing up online

    By Greg Collier

    Previously, the Better Business Bureau warned people who received the COVID-19 vaccine not to post pictures of their vaccine cards on social media. The thought behind this was not only could these pictures potentially lead to identity theft, but scammers could make phony vaccine cards. Now it seems that one of those chickens has come home to roost.

    The Better Business Bureau of Illinois is reporting that blank vaccine card knockoffs have started appearing for sale online. Reports state that the phony cards have shown up on eBay, OfferUp, and of course Craigslist. The cards are being sold for as much as $200.

    The danger behind these cards are the fact there are people who actively avoiding getting the vaccine. Vaccine cards may start being required for things like air travel or public gatherings. If unvaccinated people are start using these cards to get around restrictions, we could potentially start seeing another wave of infections. Considering the number of people who won’t even wear a mask to the supermarket, these cards could constitute a serious health hazard to the population. Not only that, but the cards could allow unvaccinated people who are potentially carrying the disease to return to public places like job sites or schools to spread new strains of the virus to unsuspecting victims.

    If you’re thinking about buying one of these cards you may want to rethink your plan. Using falsified government documents is a crime. Keep in mind that the authentic cards are furnished by the CDC, a branch of the American government. If someone were to use one of these cards to get on a plane, and they get caught, they could be facing a pretty big fine or even jail time.

    Instead, why not just get the vaccine when it becomes available for you in your state. The shot is a lot cheaper than buying one of these phony cards, and it won’t land you in jail.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: covid-19, , , ,   

    Scams can bring federal programs to their knees 

    Scams can bring federal programs to their knees

    By Greg Collier

    Prior to the start of the pandemic, many of us looked at scammers as minor annoyances. “They might fool a few people, but they’d never be able to fool me.” many of us said. Then when the pandemic happened in full force, scammers were everywhere. Not only did every old scam have a new COVID-19 twist to it, but the scammers were now attacking federal and state governments to the tune of billions of dollars. You may not be fooled by a scammer, but as the unemployment scam showed us, you may not have a choice. Now, a federal relief program has yet to roll out due to the scams that may surround it.

    FEMA has a fund to help pay for funerals for people who were lost in certain disasters. This includes deaths related to COVID-19 for 2020. However, here we are near March 2021 and FEMA has yet to issue any assistant payments for these funeral expenses. With half a million people having passed from COVID-19, FEMA realizes that this could open them to the same amount of fraud that has affected the unemployment system. FEMA is working with the CDC to try to find a way to make sure that these assistant payments get to the people who actually need them.

    All it could take is a forged death certificate for scammers to start trying to collect money from FEMA. And with states reporting deaths in different ways, this could lead to a lot of confusion. The other aspect this scam shares with the unemployment scam is that FEMA will be dealing with a record amount of funeral reimbursement requests since the country has never dealt with this many deaths before due to one single disaster.

    If you’ve ever had to suddenly plan for a loved one’s funeral, you’ll know how expensive funerals can be. Thanks to scammers, more people will be out of more money until more safeguards are put in place to prevent such widespread fraud.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on February 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , covid-19, , , ,   

    Don’t let strangers take Grandma to her vaccination 

    Don't let strangers take Grandma to her vaccination

    In most states, seniors age 75 or older are currently eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. One of the problems these seniors face is that they may not have reliable transportation to get to one of their state’s vaccination centers. In order to combat this problem, the state of Massachusetts has adopted a program where those who transport the senior citizen to the vaccination center can also receive the vaccine.

    The program was intended to give caregivers such as a spouse or adult child to take their loved one to get the vaccine. However, like most things that have good intentions at heart, there are those who look to take advantage of the program. Almost as soon as the program was announced, there were those who took to Craigslist offering money to seniors who would let them accompany them to the vaccination center. At least one person has offered over $1000 to allow them to accompany a senior to their vaccination.

    While it’s natural for people to be desperate to receive the vaccine, some of these offers could potentially be from scammers. Since seniors tend to be the largest target for scammers, this program has opened a golden opportunity for con artists. These scams could range from identity theft to a Medicare scam and anything in between. That’s not even taking the senior’s safety into account. Craigslist has been known to have a less than stellar reputation when it comes to user safety.

    When most of us were children, we always heard the warning of not getting into cars with strangers. If this is what we tell our children, then it should apply to our older family members as well. Do you really want a parent or grandparent getting into a vehicle with a stranger so they can get their vaccine?

     
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