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  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: identity theft, , , , tax return   

    Tax season scams you should look out for 

    Tax season scams you should look out for

    By Greg Collier

    This coming Monday, January 24th, the Internal Revenue Service will begin accepting tax returns for 2021. The deadline to have your return submitted to the IRS is April 18th this year. And with tax season starting, there are a number of tax return related scams that you should be aware of.

    The most devastating scam that affects taxpayers is when an identity theft files a return in your name. Unfortunately, the only way to find out if you’ve been a victim of this scam is receiving a letter from the IRS informing you that a duplicate return has been filed. The best way to protect yourself against this scam is to file your taxes as early as possible. If you’ve had your information leaked in a previous data breach, this is the best option for you to avoid having to straighten things out with the IRS. However, if you do become a victim of this scam, contact the IRS right away. The longer you wait, the more difficult it could be to get your tax return.

    Another area where tax season scammers thrive is the tax preparation industry. If you intend to have a professional file your taxes, research that professional or company first. The Better Business Bureau suggests avoiding tax preparers that only set up shop until the tax deadline. If you end up being audited by the IRS, will that tax preparer be there to assist you? Also, be wary of tax preparers who tie their fee to your tax refund. Fees are supposed to be based on how difficult it is to complete your tax return, not your refund.

    Tax season is also when scammers will attempt IRS impersonation scams. The scammers will call their victims, posing as the IRS and demanding payment for any number of reasons. The one thing all these impersonators have in common is that they will try to pressure you into making a payment over the phone. The IRS does not call taxpayers about tax issues. If the IRS has a concern that they need you to resolve, they will always contact you through the regular mail.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , identity theft, , , , , smart tv,   

    Streaming activation scam lays in wait 

    Streaming activation scam lays in wait

    By Greg Collier

    Welcome back. We hope that our readers had a safe and happy Christmas. Did you happen to get a new streaming device or smart TV for Christmas? Maybe you let your streaming subscriptions expire, but now you want to catch up on all the shows that everyone has been talking about. If that’s the case, please be careful when going online to activate your new device or service. Scammers are quietly lying in wait, hoping to catch you off guard if you’re not paying attention.

    With many streaming devices and services, you need to go to the provider’s website to activate them. Scammers are hoping you just put the name of the platform you need into a web search. You might think that the first search listing is the authentic website you require, but scammers often buy ads on these search engines to manipulate the search results. This way, the scammers can direct you to their phony website either to inject malware into your device or to try to get your personal and financial information.

    When activating a new device or service, make sure you’re on the correct web address. Scammers will often register a web address that is slightly misspelled in hopes that you miss that detail and go to their website instead of the official one. Also be wary of any customer service numbers given out on search engines as once again scammers can manipulate the search results to give their phony number a better search ranking. Lastly, keep in mind that you do not have to pay a subscription fee for your streaming box or smart TV. Those subscription fees are paid to the streaming providers like Netflix and Hulu. You never have to pay a fee to manufacturers like Roku or Samsung. Anybody who is trying to collect a fee like that is scamming you.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , identity theft, , ,   

    USPS warns about ongoing change of address scam 

    USPS warns about ongoing change of address scam

    By Greg Collier

    Have you ever walked into a post office, saw the change of address forms, and wondered what’s stopping someone from changing my address and receiving all my mail? As it turns out, there’s not a lot stopping someone from doing just that.

    The United States Postal Service has issued a warning about such a scam that appears to be ramping up just in time for the holidays. Just about anyone can go to the post office or the USPS website and change anyone’s mailing address. This time of year, the scammers could be receiving money and gifts meant for the holidays. For the rest of the year, the scammers could be gaining access to your personal and financial information to use for identity theft. Keep in mind that the USPS forwards mail to a new address for a year. That means, potentially, scammers and identity thieves could receive your mail for an entire year. Unfortunately, the USPS does not have many safeguards in place to prevent this from happening.

    When someone does fill out a change of address form, the USPS sends a confirmation letter to the old address letting residents know that their mailing address is about to change. While you can check your mailbox every day, a lot of us aren’t home during the day, and scammers have been known to stalk their victims’ mailboxes and take what they need from the mailbox. If you haven’t received mail for an in ordinate amount of time, you should report that to the USPS right away.

    A good way to possibly protect yourself from such fraud is to sign up for the USPS’s Informed Delivery service. It’s free, and every day you receive postal mail, you’ll receive an email with pictures of your scanned mail letting you know what to expect in that day’s mail. That way, you can see if a change of address letter has been sent to you before someone can take it from your mailbox.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: identity theft, , , , ,   

    Pyramid scheme disguised as gift exchange returns 

    Pyramid scheme disguised as gift exchange returns

    By Greg Collier

    With many people already starting their holiday shopping, an annual holiday scam has returned to social media. The Better Business Bureau is warning to consumers to be aware of the Secret Sister Gift Exchange. The scam seems harmless and fun at first. The posts on social media ask you to add your name and address to a list where you send in a small $10 gift. In return, you’re promised to receive up to 36 of the gifts. You’re also asked to recruit at least six more people into the gift exchange. It’s just $10. What could be the harm in that?

    Anytime you’re asked to recruit more people to advance an exchange like this, whether it’s gifts or money, it’s a pyramid scheme. It’s the people at the top of the pyramid who reap the rewards of the scam, while those on the bottom of the pyramid often find themselves empty-handed. That’s not even considering that you sent a stranger your name and address. You basically just paid $10 to have your identity stolen.

    What’s even worse is that by participating in a pyramid scheme, you could potentially face legal action, as pyramid schemes are illegal in the United States. Often, the people who initiate these gift exchanges will swear up and down that the gift exchange is either not a pyramid scheme or is approved by the US Government. They’re either lying or are ignorant of the law. Not only is it illegal to recruit someone into a pyramid scheme like this, since the scheme also uses the US Postal Service, you could also be charged with mail fraud.

    If you have a friend on social media who has engaged in one of these gift exchanges, you might want to warn them about the illegality of it. While your friends may not be the scammers themselves, a short conversation with them may save them from trouble in the long run.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , identity theft, retirees, ,   

    Retirees lose savings to new Venmo scam 

    Retirees lose savings to new Venmo scam

    By Greg Collier

    While Venmo is no stranger to scams on their platform, this may be one of the most heinous Venmo scams we’ve heard of. What makes this one worse than most is that the people being scammed didn’t even use Venmo.

    A retired couple from Florida who are said to be in ill health lost their life savings of close to $20,000 to a Venmo scammer. While it’s not required to use Venmo, some Venmo users connect a bank account to their Venmo account. Somehow, the scammer got a hold of the couple’s banking information and linked it to a Venmo account that the couple was unaware of.

    The scammer started slowly, at first only transferring small amounts under a dollar out of the couple’s account. Before too long, the scammer was transferring $1500 a week until the bank account was drained of $19,500. The couple didn’t notice until their rent check bounced. When they called their bank to try and resolve the matter, the bank reportedly told the couple to call Venmo. Venmo in turn is said to have told the couple to call the bank. The couple didn’t even know what Venmo was prior to this. Now, the couple is facing health and housing issues while the bank, Venmo, and police investigate the situation.

    What really is concerning is how was the scammer able to obtain the couple’s bank account information. One way that has been increasingly popular with scammers recently is stealing outgoing mail from people’s mailboxes. This is done in order to either obtain a check, so the scammers can rewrite the check. The mail and checks can also be used to obtain banking information as well. We’re not saying that this exactly what happened to this unfortunate couple, but it’s a good possibility.

    In this day and age, it’s always a good idea to make regular checks of your bank accounts for fraudulent activity. For most people, this can be done through mobile apps, where you can check your account at any time. However, for seniors who may still use older methods like waiting for their bank statement in the mail, there are other options. They can always call the customer service department of their bank to get a rundown of their account activity over the phone. They can also go to their bank’s local branch to obtain a print out of their account’s activity that they can review at home.

    If you have older relatives or friends who may not be tech-savvy, you may want to suggest that they keep a close eye on their bank accounts.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , identity theft, ,   

    Veteran loses college fund to nationwide bank scam 

    By Greg Collier

    A naval veteran from Southern California recently lost $19,000 to bank scammers. This particular bank account that was targeted by scammers was for his daughter’s college tuition. The man is a customer of Chase Bank and says the scam started with a text message that appeared to come from Chase. This was followed up by a phone call from someone claiming to be a Chase representative. The phone number the call came from was even said to have matched Chase Bank’s customer service number.

    The representative identified the man by name and also reportedly knew the last four digits of the man’s Social Security and debit card number. The man was told that there was fraudulent activity on his account. Before the man knew it, he was locked out of his bank account. When he got a hold of an actual Chase representative, he was told that wire transfers had been made from the account to a recipient in Florida. The entire account had been depleted.

    If you’ve been a reader of our blog for at least the past couple of weeks, this scam may sound familiar to you. This scam has a lot of the same hallmarks of the Zelle scam that’s been affecting bank customers nationwide. The difference here is that this is the first time we’ve heard of the scammers having a victim’s identifying information. With that information, they’d be able to bypass using Zelle, and access the account directly. It’s possible that the information was gained from some form of data breach and the call was made to confirm the information was up-to-date.

    If you receive a text from yours or any bank about fraudulent activity, do not respond to that text. Instead, call the bank from the customer service number that’s on your debit card or on the bank’s website. If you respond to the text, scammers may know that they’ve reached a live number where they can target a vulnerable consumer.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , identity theft, , ,   

    Scammers pose as Powerball winner 

    By Greg Collier

    We all have dreams of what we would do if we won a multi-million dollar lottery like Powerball. We even think of how generous we would be if we won. A lot of us even think about being charitable with the money, even if it’s paying off our parent’s mortgage or buying a friend a new car. Others even think about donating a large chunk of the winnings to charity or even total strangers. It’s that last part that scammers hope you’ll believe in being on the receiving end of the donation to a total stranger.

    The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that scammers are posing as a somewhat famous Powerball winner from Wisconsin. The actual winner was a man who won a $768 million lottery jackpot in 2019. He was a retail employee before hitting the jackpot. After winning, he was known to go back to his previous employer just to hand out gift cards to random customers in the store.

    Scammers are using this man’s name in a phishing scheme. They claim to be the Powerball winner and are sending out text and social media messages telling people nationwide they’ve been chosen to receive a $50,000 gift The victims are then instructed to click on a link which will help them claim their gift. Victims have reported giving scammers their Social Security numbers along with their driver’s license information. Those two pieces of information are essentially the keys needed to steal your identity completely. Other victims have reported losing money when asked for processing fees and taxes.

    We understand there are people out there who are in dire financial need. The pressure and stress of these situations can cause almost anybody to misjudge a situation. However, if you receive an unsolicited message promising you money out of the blue, the odds are almost 100% that it’s a scam. The generous lottery winner that gives out free money is largely only seen in fiction. Even if a lottery winner wanted to give out money to random strangers like this, the legalities and logistics of doing so would make it not worth doing.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: identity theft, , , ,   

    Beware of hospitals bearing refunds 

    Beware of hospitals bearing refunds

    By Greg Collier

    A hospital just outside of Detroit has found itself being used as a tool in a scam. Scammers are spoofing the hospital’s phone number while calling local residents, telling them that they are owed a refund. The hospital itself is stating that they’ve received hundreds of phone calls from people who were approached by the scammers. People who have received these phone calls also said that the scammers asked them for their financial information, so they could issue the phony refund. While no one has reported falling victim to the scam so far, we imagine the scammers would use the information to drain a victim’s bank account.

    One of our staff members comes from a medical administration background, where they handled patient refunds. From what they’ve told us, this is not how hospitals or doctors’ offices handle refunds. First off, we’re told that refunds are a low-priority for many facilities. In most cases, they’re only issued if the patient notices a credit on their account and requests a refund from the facility. While there are exceptions to every rule, largely these refunds were issued by check and sent through the mail. By and large, most medical facilities put the responsibility on the patient to at least initiate the refund process.

    If you are owed a refund by a medical provider, and you receive a phone call like this, ask for the payment by check if you’re unsure if they’re your doctor’s office or not. If they say they can’t issue the refund in that way, there’s a very good chance you’re being scammed. At the very least, the facility can sometimes offer to return the refund to the method of payment they have on file. You can also hang up from the call and call the facility back at their billing number, which can almost always be found on the facility’s website.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , identity theft, , ,   

    Medicare open enrollment brings out scammers 

    Medicare open enrollment brings out scammers

    By Greg Collier

    This Friday, October 15th 2021, starts the period known as Open Enrollment for all Medicare recipients. Until December 7th, Medicare recipients will be able to decide if they want to stay with their current Medicare coverage or switch to a new insurer. With so many options to choose from and so many changes made each year, it can be difficult for seniors to keep up with all the necessary policies and paperwork each year. Unfortunately, Open Enrollment is also open season for Medicare scammers and fraudsters. Not only are there scams to go along with Open Enrollment, but some bad business practices as well.

    While not technically a scam, some less than reputable insurance brokers will try to pressure seniors into switching to their company’s Medicare Advantage plan. While Advantage plans can be beneficial to some, they can also be limiting to others. It all depends on the patient’s personal needs, but some insurance agents are just looking for the sale. If you’re thinking about switching from Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan, please take the time to research the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Don’t let some salesman pressure you into a decision that you may regret having for the following year.

    As far as scams go, identity theft is often the biggest threat seniors face during Open Enrollment. Scammers will call their victims posing as being from the government with an official-sounding title like ‘health care benefits advocate’, or something along those lines. The victim will be promised that they’ll be signed up for the same or better coverage at a lower price. The phony agent will ask for all the victim’s personal information, including their Medicare number. Medicare fraudsters will then use the stolen number to charge Medicare with fraudulent procedures or items which could affect the victim’s benefits down the line. These scammers will also use high-pressure tactics to get the victim’s information, like telling the victim their benefits could expire if they don’t give their information right now. The calls can even appear as they’re coming from Medicare’s official phone number.

    If you’re already enrolled in Medicare, your Medicare plan will only call you if you’re already a member of that plan. If you feel uncomfortable taking the call, you can always call your insurance company’s customer service number on the back of your insurance card.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , identity theft, , , , Twitch   

    Major social media platform experiences historic data breach 

    Data breach exposed most American families

    By Greg Collier

    If we had to hazard a guess, we’d assume that most of our readership do not use livestreaming platform Twitch. If you’re not familiar with Twitch, it’s most famous for its users who stream themselves playing video games, although it does have other content such as musicians and talk shows. Yesterday, Twitch was the victim of a massive data breach of epic proportions, which has left some of its top users vulnerable to potential cyberattacks.

    Yesterday, hackers released a veritable cornucopia of Twitch’s inside information. This was a 128 GB file that contained the platform’s source code. In layman’s terms, hackers released all the code that the platform runs on to the public. Some of this code contained information such as how much some of Twitch’s top earners make, which for some is in the millions of dollars. Twitch streamers make a lot of their money through monthly subscriptions and viewer donations.

    What’s more concerning to the average Twitch user is that it’s been alleged that usernames and passwords have been exposed. If this is true, this could lead to a rash of identity theft if Twitch users use the same password elsewhere online. While this breach may not affect the majority of our readership, it could affect your kids, as Twitch is massively popular among a younger audience.

    This data breach could be used to teach your kids a lesson in online security. Find out if they have a Twitch account and if they use their Twitch password anywhere else online. Recommend that they not only change their password to Twitch, but also to change it if they use the same password anywhere else. You should also recommend to them that they should not use the same password on multiple platforms. It’s never too early to have your children learn the value of internet security.

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