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  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 27, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: extortion, ,   

    Recent news has increased this one scam 

    Recent news has increased this scam

    By Greg Collier

    We have no doubt that you know about the recent story of the four Americans who were mistakenly kidnapped in Mexico, with two of the victims dying in the attack. Since scammers always seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the news, this story has led to a resurgence in the virtual kidnapping scam.

    Virtual kidnapping is a phone scam where scammers pretend to have kidnapped a loved one and demand a ransom. They use high-pressure tactics and psychological manipulation to make the victim believe their loved one is in danger.

    One of the more common versions of the virtual kidnapping scam is when the scammers claim to be from a drug cartel. The scammers will say that the victim’s loved one came across something they weren’t supposed to see, and now they’re being held for ransom.

    Typically, the scammers will demand that the victim wires money or pays via cryptocurrency to secure the safe release of their loved one.

    Kidnapping scammers employ a number of tricks to make their claims seem more legitimate. They often spoof the phone number of the victim’s loved one to make the call look like it’s coming from the loved one’s phone. They may use background noise or even play pre-recorded sounds of someone screaming or crying to make the victim believe that their loved one is in danger. More recently, some scammers have even used AI-generated clones of the loved one’s voice.

    It’s important to note that in most cases, the victim’s loved one is not actually in danger and is not being held captive. However, the scammers can use psychological manipulation to convince the victim otherwise and extort money from them.

    If you receive a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped a loved one, it’s important to remain calm and verify the situation before taking any action. Try to get in touch with the supposed victim directly, or reach out to other family members to confirm their safety. You should also report the incident to the police immediately.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on March 16, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , extortion, , ,   

    AI voice used in kidnapping scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Just over a week ago, we posted about scammers using AI technology to clone a victim’s loved one’s voice for a grandparent scam. It seems that this technique of scammers cloning voices isn’t going away anytime soon. Just recently, AI voice cloning was used in a virtual kidnapping scam in Oklahoma, where the victim lost $3000 to a scammer.

    Virtual kidnapping is a type of scam where a person receives a call or message claiming that their loved one has been kidnapped and demanding a ransom payment for their release. However, in most cases, the supposed victim is actually safe and not in any danger.

    Previously, in most virtual kidnapping scams, the scammers would do almost all of the talking, but they would have someone else in the background crying and screaming, who they claimed was the kidnap victim.

    In this most recent scam, the scam victim thought she was talking to her son and even said that the person on the phone sounded just like her son.

    It started like most virtual kidnapping scams do. The victim received a phone call from an unknown caller who told the woman they had kidnapped her adult son. The caller insinuated that the woman’s son interrupted a drug deal that cost the caller a lot of money. So, if the woman didn’t pay the money that was supposedly lost, they were going to harm her son. Typically, when the victim asks to speak to their loved one, the scammers will make excuses. However, this time, the victim spoke with someone who sounded just like her son.

    Panicked, the woman went to Walmart to wire $3000 to someone in Mexico. The scammer kept her on the phone the entire time. After making the payment, the impostor got back on the phone to say that the kidnappers were letting him go. The scammer’s told her they would drop her son off at that Walmart, but he never appeared. Finally, she was able to get a hold of her son on the phone, who had been at work the entire time.

    The virtual kidnapping scam has been using fear to get victims to pay a phony ransom for years. But now, with the voice cloning technology, the scammers have stepped up the fear to another level. The scammers only need about a minute of your loved one’s voice to be able to clone it. They usually take the voice from recordings that can be found on social media.

    But even if it sounds like a loved one on the phone, the same old precautions should be used. If you receive a call like this, try to have someone contact the person who’s supposedly been kidnapped. When they put your loved one on the phone, ask them a question that only they would know the answer to. Or have a family code word set up in advance that’s only to be used if the loved one is in danger.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 24, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: extortion, , , ,   

    When pets go missing, scammers follow 

    By Greg Collier

    It only takes a moment. Maybe you left the front door open just a second too long. Or maybe the leash gets yanked out of your hand while on a walk. Before you know it, your pet is long gone, run off to who knows where in the neighborhood. You hope your neighbors are kind enough to let you know if they spot your pet, so you put up notices on platforms like Facebook, Craigslist, and Nextdoor. You even post fliers on telephone poles in the area. However, you’re teased with brief glimpses of hope as people claim that they’ve found your pet, only to find out that they’re scammers.

    This is what happened to a woman in Texas when her 17-year-old dog with special needs got out of the family’s home in the blink of an eye. The dog’s owner posted about her lost dog on social media and put out physical fliers that included her phone number. It wasn’t long before people started calling her, claiming to have her dog. One caller asked the woman to enter a verification code to prove she was the dog’s owner. While the report doesn’t state it, this sounds a lot like the Google Voice scam. This is where scammers can get a Google Voice number linked to your phone number and use the Google number to commit future scams.

    Another caller said that they were going to harm the dog and sent the woman a picture of a gun. Again, while the report doesn’t mention it, this scammer was probably trying to extort some kind of payment out of the dog’s owner even though they didn’t have the dog.

    Unfortunately, the woman has yet to find her lost dog.

    So what can you do to prevent this from happening to you and your pet? The first thing you should do before a pet can run off is take them to the vet and get them microchipped. Chipped pets have a much better chance of being returned home. If you need to post fliers or social media posts, use your email address instead of your phone number. Scammers can find a lot of personal information about you if they know your phone number. If someone claims to have your pet, ask them to send a picture of your pet. And if someone claims to have your pet and asks you to wire money or send them gift cards, they do not have your pet and are just trying to scam you.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: extortion, , , ,   

    Florida father falls victim to kidnapping scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Even after all this time, we still get comments from readers who claim that they would never fall for any of the scams we’ve discussed. While that may be true, we still maintain that anyone can fall victim to a scam if the circumstances are right. For every victim that falls for a scam, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of attempts by scammers that fail. While the odds may be in your favor that you won’t fall for a scam, they’re never at zero, as one man from Florida recently found out.

    The man from the Tampa Bay area was busy working as a DJ at a local wedding when he received two phone calls. One was from his 17-year-old daughter and the other was from Mexico. He couldn’t answer the calls at the time since he was working. However, he received a second call from Mexico and answered it since he had family that were vacationing there.

    The caller claimed that he got into a fender bender with the man’s daughter and took her hostage, since the caller claimed to be carrying a substantial amount of drugs. The caller even put what sounded like a young woman crying on the phone. Then the caller demanded the man leave the wedding and wire him $1500 to get his daughter back. The man went to a local supermarket, where he wired money to the scammer. At that point, the call ended. The man called his wife, and she was able to verify that their daughter was safe and had not been kidnapped. The man even stated to local media that this was a perfect storm of circumstances that allowed him to fall victim to the scam.

    This scam is known as the virtual kidnapping scam and according to local police, this scam finds victims around 5-10 times a week in the Tampa area. The FBI has even said that the virtual kidnapping scam is the scam with the third-highest number of victims nationwide.

    As we often tell our readers, actual kidnappings for ransom in the United States are actually quite rare. If you are ever unfortunate enough to receive a one of these calls, try to keep calm. We know that’s easier said than done. Even if the caller is keeping you on the call, find a way to contact the person that the callers are claiming to have kidnapped, or someone who can verify their whereabouts. You should also contact your local police department.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: extortion, , ,   

    Scammers make fake GoFundMe for teen who died from scam 

    Scammers make fake GoFundMe for teen who died from scam

    By Greg Collier

    Tragedy recently struck a town in Upstate New York. A teenage boy fell victim to an extortion scam on social media. He had thought he met a girl who was interested in him on social media. The supposed girl convinced the boy to send compromising photos of himself. Instead, the girl was a blackmailer who threatened to make the pictures public if the boy didn’t pay the scammer $3500. When the teen refused to pay, the scammer kept sending threats. Under the pressure of the photos possibly being made public, the teen tragically took his own life.

    The teen’s parents started a GoFundMe after the teen’s passing. The money from the GoFundMe will be going to fund a scholarship to help kids with practical skills they can use later in life. However, it wasn’t bad enough that scammers essentially talked the teen into taking his own life. On top of that, there were scammers who started another GoFundMe using the teen’s name. Odds are it’s not the same scammer, but a family being victimized twice by scammers in such a matter is infuriating.

    If you have children who are avid social media users, you may want to warn them about this extortion scam. No family should ever have to lose a child to online scammers. You should also be careful what GoFundMe you donate to. While GoFundMe has good intentions, it can be a con artist’s playground. You should only donate to a GoFundMe if it comes from a reliable source like your local news or a trusted friend.

    And while we might sound like a broken record about this, it does show that are no depths that scammers won’t sink to. They only see tragedy as an opportunity to steal money.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: extortion, , students, tutor   

    Online tutors are extorting students 

    Online tutors are extorting students

    By Greg Collier

    If you’ve ever struggled in school or had a child who struggled in school, you may have obtained the services of a tutor. Back in the day, if you wanted to hire a tutor you had to hire an actual person to come to your home. This made it much easier to tell the kind of person you were dealing with. Now with everything being online, it’s more difficult to tell if you’re dealing with a legitimate tutor or not. It seems there are two different types of tutors who advertise online. There are tutors who will actually teach you or your children how to deal with the subjects someone is having difficulties with. Then there are ‘tutors’ who will do the work for you, and you can pass it off as your own. It’s the latter we’re going to talk about today.

    According to reports from the Better Business Bureau, it’s not enough that these tutors are making money from students who are looking to cheat. Some of these tutors are looking to make some extra money by threatening to tell the school that the student cheated. In some accounts, students have paid hundreds of dollars to get their work done only to be met with threatening emails and texts from the tutor saying they’re going to the school with their information if the student doesn’t pay the tutor more money. As cheating could result in expulsion from some schools, this has become a serious scam.

    As the saying goes, cheaters never prosper. So if you’re looking for someone to do the work for you, you should expect this kind of result. However, if you’re going to hire a legitimate tutor to assist you in your work, there are some steps you should take to insure you get a good one. Always do a search online to see if there are reviews for the tutor. This also applies to any service you may be considering hiring. Check with the school to see if they have any recommendations for tutors. Lastly, if you hire a tutor, negotiate fees up front to prevent surprises later.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , extortion, , , , ,   

    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 9:10 am on August 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: blackmail, extortion, ,   

    New Facebook extortion scam hits Texas town 

    New Facebook extortion scam hits Texas town

    Before the advent of Facebook, craigslist was ground zero for most internet scams. While craigslist is still used for a multitude of scams, a lot of con artists have moved to Facebook due to the sheer number of worldwide users Facebook has. A number of these scams involve blackmail or extortion where the con artist lulls the victim into a false sense of security in order to gain some kind of private information from the victim that the scammer can use for financial gain. In the past, these scammers would try to obtain very intimate photos of the victim before threatening to publish them if the victim didn’t pay. Now, a small Texas town is finding out that the blackmailers don’t even need intimate photos of you to try to extort money from you.

    As reported by NewsWest9.com, police in the city of Floydada, Texas, have been receiving a number of reports about someone trying to blackmail local residents on Facebook. How this new scam works is that the scammer befriends the victim on Facebook in order to get the victim to engage in a video chat. The chat doesn’t even have to be risqué as the scammer just wants an image of your face. Then the scammer superimposes your face onto an explicit photo and threatens to send it to everyone on your friends list if you don’t pay the blackmailers.

    I’m sure you’re asking why you should be concerned about what’s going on in a small city probably nowhere near you. The reason you should be concerned is that if it’s happening in small-town America, it can happen anywhere in the country, even where you live. To protect yourself from this scam don’t accept Facebook messages from people you don’t know personally. Sometimes people will try to pose as someone already on your friends list but under a different profile. Always check to make sure your friends are who they say they are. If you’ve been threatened by one of these scammers, it is never advised to pay them as blackmailers will usually keep requesting money after they receive the first payment. With Facebook recently announcing the testing of their new dating app, I can see this particular scam proliferating in the near future.

  • Geebo 9:04 am on May 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: extortion, , mugshots.com   

    Owners of exploitative website arrested 

    Owners of exploitative website arrested

    If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of being arrested, you know how much of a harrowing experience it can be. Between prohibitive bail costs and court fees, worrying about your family, and how the arrest might affect the rest of your life, an arrest can be very devastating. Now imagine you’ve been arrested, but the charges are later dropped. The problem with that is your mugshot is still out there and a matter of public record. Sadly, there are websites out there looking to take advantage of that whether or not you’re innocent or not.

    One of those websites is Mugshots.com. The website would scour public databases looking for mugshots then would post them on their site. If you wanted to have the mugshot removed Mugshots.com would ask you for a nominal fee to have the mugshot remove, allegedly exploiting an already financially charged situation. If this sounds a lot like extortion to you the California Attorney General agrees, as the alleged owners of the site have been arrested and charged with various crimes from extortion to money laundering.

    Not everyone who’s been arrested deserves our scorn. More people are probably arrested for minor incidents such as minor traffic offenses and the like than major crimes. A lot of these people are just trying to get through their lives to put food on their family’s table and having their mugshot online like that could prevent them from doing so. So it’s only fitting that these profiteers of misfortune are about to have their mugshots plastered across the internet.

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