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  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gift cards, , ,   

    Scammers offer ‘bonuses’ to victims 

    Scammers offer 'bonuses' to victims

    By Greg Collier

    San Antonio, Texas, is most famous for being the site of The Alamo. However, what many people outside of Texas don’t realize is San Antonio is not only the second-largest city in Texas, but it’s also the 7th largest city in the United States. We bring this up to show that when a scam show up in San Antonio, there’s a good chance that the scam will be showing up in other areas of the country.

    In this case, the Better Business Bureau of San Antonio is reporting a dramatic increase in job scams in the area. The main difference between this and previous job scams is that scammers are using honey instead of vinegar to get their victims to react quicker.

    For example, a woman in San Antonio thought she had been hired as a secret shopper. She was instructed to buy numerous gift cards from a store and evaluate the store. To get the victim to complete her task more quickly, the scammers told the victim that if she completed her task within 12 hours, she’d get a $200 bonus. Scammers may also be doing this to try to occupy the victim’s time, so they have no time to figure out that the whole procedure is a scam. The BBB has said that the scammers are even texting the victims continuously to make sure they’re completing the task, keeping them even more occupied. Unfortunately, the victim completed her task per the scammer’s orders. She was paid with a phony check that later bounced, leaving her thousands of dollars in debt to the bank, while the scammers made off with the gift card money.

    Any time a potential employer asks you to use your own funds or deposit a check for business purposes into your account, that should serve as a red flag that the job is probably a scam. The same goes for being hired without being interviewed.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on December 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gift cards, , ,   

    Will Zelle replace gift cards in online scams? 

    By Greg Collier

    Just yesterday, we were talking about gift cards and how they’ve been the payment avenue of choice for most scammers. Well, if current trends continue, the mobile payment app Zelle may start catching up to gift cards. By now, you’re probably familiar with the bank impersonation scam that uses Zelle. This is when a victim receives phony texts and phone calls that say the victim has fraudulent activity in their bank account. The scammers direct the victim to use Zelle to protect their account when, in reality, the scammers are directing victims to send all their money to the scammers through Zelle.

    Now, it seems that scammers are starting to use Zelle as they used to use gift cards. For example, a woman from Baltimore was trying to buy a puppy online. Unfortunately, she fell for the puppy scam. The puppy didn’t actually exist, and the scammers kept asking for more money for such things as special delivery crates and customs fees. You can read more on how to avoid puppy scams here. Anyway, the point being that the victim made all the payments through Zelle to her scammers. Historically, scammers like this would ask for payment in gift cards by making the victim read the numbers from the back of the gift card. As we’ve mentioned before, Zelle has a reputation for not offering many protections when it comes to getting scammed.

    Previously, it seems that banks only issue refunds to scam victims after the victims get their local media involved. However, there is another way where you can possibly get your money back if you’ve been scammed over Zelle. According to a consumer protection news report out of New York City, you’ll have the best chance of getting a refund from your bank if you file a police report, and report the scam to the bank within 60 days. Now, this is no guarantee you’ll receive a refund since many banks tell their customers that when using Zellee, the customer is responsible for all transactions including scams.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gift cards, ,   

    Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays? 

    Is it safe to buy gift cards for the holidays?

    By Greg Collier

    On this blog, we talk about gift cards a lot. That’s because they’re used by a multitude of scammers as an untraceable form of payment. As a matter of fact, the Federal Trade Commission recently released a report that stated at least 40,000 people lost a total of $148 million to scams that involved gift cards. Typically, these are scams that are demanding some kind of payment that supposed to prevent some kind of distress to the victim. Keep in mind that no company or agency accepts gift cards as payment unless it’s the retailer they’re intended for. You can’t pay bail with gift cards. You can’t pay your bills with gift cards. You can’t pay your taxes with gift cards. If someone is demanding that you pay them with gift cards, they are more than likely a scammer. As we are fond of saying, gift cards are the currency of scammers. But what if you wanted to buy gift cards for their intended purpose. Do you still have to worry about scams? Unfortunately, you do.

    For example, if you’re in the store looking at gift cards, make sure that the number on the back of the card isn’t already exposed. That could mean that the gift card was already purchased and out back on the shelf. Scammers will do this and wait for someone to re-purchase the card. When someone does buy the card, the scammers will quickly drain the card of the money that was added to it. Another version of this scam is when the scammers will scratch off the back to reveal the card number, then place a sticker over it waiting for someone to buy the card. In that case, compare the card with other cards on the rack to make sure the card hasn’t been tampered with.

    You may also want to avoid so-called gift card exchanges. This is where scammers will post on social media that they have a gift card for one retailer but want to trade it with someone who has a gift card for another retailer. However, after the trade is made, the victim finds out that the git card they received has little to no funds available on it.

    While gift cards are incredibly convenient for gift giving and receiving, there are many pitfalls you need to look out for, so you don’t have a complicated Christmas.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , gift cards, , , , , ,   

    Can you be tricked into being a money mule? 

    By Greg Collier

    The Federal Government has recently issued multiple warnings about the dangers of becoming a money mule. The phrase is reminiscent of someone who is a drug mule. However, it’s much easier to be a money mule since money mules don’t have to leave the country or there on home for that matter since money can be moved around in several virtual ways. The main problem with money mules is that many of them don’t even know they’re being used to move dirty money around the globe.

    Both the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings about unwittingly becoming a money mule. Most of the ways people become unwitting money mules is through many of the scams that we should already be familiar with. The major ones are the fake check scam and the romance scam. The fake check scam is when the scammer sends you a fake check for any number of reasons. They then ask you to deposit the check into your bank account, keep a little bit of the money for yourself before sending the remainder to a third party. By the time the victim’s bank finds out the check is fake, the scammers have made off with the money, while the victim is responsible for the amount of the check to their bank.

    Meanwhile, the FBI is warning citizens about romance scams and how even victims of a romance scam can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. They’ve released a video about an 81-year-old woman who fell for a romance scam and allegedly helped her ‘boyfriend’ defraud other people.

    The reshipping scam is another avenue where scammers use unwitting participants as money mules. This is when people think they have a legitimate job as a package inspector. The victims receive packages, inspect them, then send them to a third part. The items they inspect are usually bought with stolen credit card information. By the time the credit card company catches on, the merchandise is in another country. If a reshipper does anything to skirt US Custom laws, even if instructed by the scammer, they could face arrest.

    This also includes any scam that involves gift cards or money transfers.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , gift cards, , , ,   

    Secret shopper scam seeks more targets 

    Secret shopper scam seeks more targets

    By Greg Collier

    In yesterday’s post, we discussed a job scam that seemed to be picking up in activity during the holiday season, that was the reshipping scam. Now, it’s being reported that in some parts of the country that another old job scam is ramping up during the holidays, and that is the secret shopper scam.

    Secret shopper is actually a real position with many major brick and mortar retailers. They’re employed by the retailers to go to the various store locations and rate the performance of the store and its employees. However, it’s not as common a position that the scammers would have you believe. Scammers post ads for secret shopper positions year round, but like most scammers, they’re really looking to target those looking to add to their holiday income.

    The Charlotte, North Carolina area has reported an uptick in secret shopper scams. Residents there have been responding to the ads for secret shoppers, only to realize it’s a scam. Victims are being sent checks for thousands of dollars and are told to deposit the check into their bank accounts. They are then instructed to keep $300 for themselves and $50 for gas. The rest of the money is supposed to be used to buy Walmart gift cards to supposedly rate Walmart’s service. The victim is supposed to give the numbers from the gift card to their supposed employer.

    The problem with this scam is that the checks are fake. By the time the victim’s bank realizes the check is fraudulent, the scammers have already made off with the money that was put on the gift cards. This leaves the victim holding the bag when it comes to reimbursing the bank for the amount of the phony check.

    No legitimate employer will ever ask you to deposit funds that are supposed to be used for business into your account. If they do, that’s a good indication that the check is fraudulent. Another red flag is almost anything to do with gift cards. Unless they’re being used as an actual gift, gift card numbers should never be given to anyone over the phone.

    If you really want to find a legitimate secret shopper position, your best bet is to check with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association at their website.

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

    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 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , gift cards, , , ,   

    Avoid Black Friday again this year 

    Avoid Black Friday again this year

    By Greg Collier

    As you’re probably well aware of, this Friday is the infamous shopping holiday Black Friday. Every year, we urge our readers to avoid going to brick and mortar stores due to deceptive practices by the stores. Last year, we urged our readers not to go for health reasons due to the ongoing pandemic. This year, we’d like to remind our readers that COVID-19 infections are still happening and being in such close quarters with other shoppers may increase the risk of infection. But again, there are other reasons why you should be wary of many different things on Black Friday.

    The first thing to be aware of is the so-called doorbuster deals. These items are usually very limited in stock. These items are generally designed to get you in the door and try to get you to buy something more expensive once the limited stock is exhausted. Some have even said that the doorbuster products are manufactured with cheaper components to keep profit margins high for the store. That’s not even taking the current supply line crisis into account, as this year’s stock could be even more limited than before. Many of the doorbuster deals can be found on sale later on in the holiday season at an even better price if they’ll be available.

    Shopping online is a much better alternative, but there are pitfalls online that need to be avoided as well. While shopping with the major online retailers is relatively safe, scammers will try to trick you into believing you’re using one of those retailers. Scammers will send out phishing emails using the actual logos of famous shopping sites but will leave a link in the email that will take you to a phony site that resembles the real thing. They’ll then try to gain your financial information for possible identity theft and other potential abuses. In the same vein, scammers will pose as retailers and email you asking you to download something to get a deal. This will instead infect your device with malware, which could allow bad actors to access your device remotely and steal as much information as they want from it. Always go directly to a retailer’s website rather than clicking on anything in an email.

    If at all possible, use a credit card when shopping online. While debit cards may offer some protection against fraudulent purchases, credit cards have better protections and won’t take any money directly from your bank balance. Also, keep an eye on both your debit and credit card accounts to make sure that no unauthorized purchases have been made on them. Many of these services can be set up to send you a notification every time the account is used. While the notifications may be a bit annoying, they can go a long way in preventing fraud on your accounts.

    Even if you’re just buying gift cards for the family this year, there are still hazards to look out for. If you get a gift card where the PIN has already been exposed, it may have already been bought by a scammer. Sometimes scammers will put the card back on the shelf, hoping that someone will add additional funds to the card. Then the scammer could use the funds on the card without your knowledge. Another variation of this scam is when a scammer will scratch the protective coating off the card’s PIN, then replace it with a sticker after writing down the number.

    We hope these tips help you shop smarter and safer this holiday season.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on November 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , gift cards, , , security card   

    Gift cards are not ‘security cards’ 

    By Greg Collier

    We have long said that if someone is asked to use a gift card for anything besides a gift, it is almost assuredly a scam. Once a scam victim buys a gift card and gives the scammer the card number, that money is immediately lost to the scammer. We can’t stress this enough that no legitimate company or agency will ever ask for payment of a debt or service in gift cards. As more consumers become aware of gift card scams, scammers have to adapt their tactics in order to fool their victims.

    Lately, there has been a rise in the Amazon impersonation scam. This is where scammers send out emails or text messages that look like they’ve come from Amazon. The messages say that an expensive item was fraudulently purchased through the victim’s Amazon account. The messages include a fake customer service number to call. Once the victim calls the fake customer service number, they leave themselves open for a number of scams.

    For example, a woman in Colorado recently fell victim to this scam. She says she received a call from someone posing as an Amazon agent. The victim was told that in order to prevent her account from being hacked that she needed to buy a ‘security card’ from a local retailer. She was informed that both Apple and Google have these kinds of cards. However, security cards aren’t really a thing, and these were just gift cards. After she gave the card numbers to the scammer, the scammer continued to hound the victim for more money, promising that the next payment would definitely secure the victim’s Amazon account.

    If you receive a message or call from someone claiming to be from Amazon and there’s fraudulent activity on your account, don’t just take their word for it. Before taking any action given by the message, check your Amazon account for any fraudulent activity. If there isn’t any, then you can disregard any instructions you received as being part of a scam. And just because a scammer calls something a ‘security card’ doesn’t make it so.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , gift cards, ,   

    Gift card scam targets Cash App users 

    By Greg Collier

    To be blunt, Cash App has a scam problem. Out of all the payment and wallet apps, Cash App seems to have an inordinate number of scammers on its platform. The scam they’re most famous for is known as cash flipping. This is where scammers post on social media that they’ll give a large amount of money to someone’s Cash App account if the person pays a small amount first. For example, scammers will promise $1500 if someone pays them $150. Cash App hasn’t helped itself in discouraging this scam, since they have a giveaway every Friday on social media. However, the difference between a legitimate Cash App giveaway and a scam is that Cash App doesn’t ask for any money in advance.

    Now, another Cash App flipping scam is circulating on social media, and it bypasses Cash App altogether while targeting its users. Scammers are offering large amounts of money on Cash App, but first the user has to buy a gift card to give to the scammer. The higher amount the gift card is, the larger amount of money the Cash App user is supposed to get back. It starts at $1500 for a $100 gift card and goes all the way up to $10,600 for a $1000 git card. Anyone who falls victim to this scam isn’t going to see any money enter their Cash App account. Instead, they’ll be out the money they paid for the gift card.

    The age-old adage of ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’ really applies here. If someone is offering you something that seems too good to be true, they either want something from you or it’s an outright scam. Keep in mind that Cash App’s legitimate giveaways are considered sweepstakes and no purchase is necessary. Anyone who asks for money in advance for a giveaway is a scammer. Gift cards are also a huge signifier that this is a scam. Gift cards might even be used more in scams than as actual gifts. No legitimate agency or business will ever ask for payment in gift cards. If you’ve been a victim to any one of the Cash App scams, you can contact Cash App customer service through their app.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: gift cards, , , , social security lock card, SSA   

    New trick added to Social Security scam 

    By Greg Collier

    When it comes to impersonation scams. The Social Security Administration is probably the most impersonated government agency. Con artists often do this because Social Security benefits are largely used by seniors, and in many cases it may be their only source of income. So, when a Social Security recipient is threatened with their benefits being cut off, they might not react in the most logical manner to a scammer. Scammers are constantly adapting their tactics to intimidate seniors into giving them what they want, whether it’s money or information. Recently, scammers have come up with a new angle to try to get seniors to hand over their money.

    From New York to Hawaii, authorities are warning Social Security recipients about the latest rash of Social Security scam calls. As usual, scammers are posing as the SSA and calling people to tell them that their Social Security status is in jeopardy. Seniors are being told that they’re under investigation by the SSA and that their Social Security numbers could be locked. The scammers add that this could affect their bank accounts and employment. The scammers are now telling seniors they can prevent this by buying a Social Security lock card, which doesn’t actually exist. This usually leads into scammers telling their victims they can purchase the lock card by buying gift cards and providing the fake SSA with the card numbers.

    As always, when it comes to gift cards, they should only be used for gifts. No legitimate company or agency will ever ask for them as a form of payment to settle any kind of charge or debt. Also, as we said, the SSA is probably the most impersonated agency when it comes to scams. Scammers can easily spoof phone numbers and make it appear as they’re calling from the SSA’s office. Unless you’ve contacted the SSA first due to an ongoing issue, they will rarely call you. Instead, the SSA does the bulk of its communication through mail. The SSA will also never threaten you with termination of benefits or any kind of prosecution. If you receive a call like that, hang up without even talking to the person on the other line.

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