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  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Scams,   

    Scam Round Up: Store robbed over the phone and more 

    By Greg Collier

    To end the workweek, we’re bringing you a few scams that either have a new twist to them, or have appeared in a new area.

    ***

    A new utility scam has shown up in the Huntsville, Alabama area. Typically, scammers will attempt the shut-off scam, where they threaten victims with shutting off their power if they don’t pay immediately. Now, scammers are trying a different tack. They’re sending phishing emails to victims that say the victim has paid their power bill twice and the victim now has a credit. For the victim to get the credit back, they just need to click the link in the email. The link then takes the victim to a malicious website that asks for their personal and financial information. Remember, most utility companies only communicate by postal mail. If you think there may be a discrepancy in your bill, call the customer service number on your bill instead of any number on the email.

    ***

    We frequently discuss the online puppy scam. This is where victims think they’re buying a puppy from a breeder’s website, but the website is fake and the puppy never existed. Another victim in those scams are the legitimate breeders, as the pictures from their website are often stolen to be used on the fake website. This recently happened to a breeder of Australian Labradoodles in Texas. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot breeders can do about this. However, there are tips you can use to avoid being taken in a puppy scam provided by the breeder. For many purebred dogs from a legitimate breeder, you should expect a wait period. She says that it could be six to 12 months. Avoid breeders who ask for payment in non-traditional ways, such as payment apps like Venmo and Zelle. But as always, we recommend using a licensed breeder within driving distance or adopting from your local shelter.

    ***

    Lastly, we have a scam that happened in Kingsport, Tennessee that retail employees may be interested in. A convenience store employee received a phone call on a Saturday morning. The caller claimed to be from corporate headquarters and asked the employee to take the cash in the register to a Bitcoin ATM. The caller even sent an Uber to pick up the employee to take them to the Bitcoin ATM. The store ended up losing $4500. Often, employees like this have no management on site to ask whether this is a scam or not. If you’re in a supervisory or management position at a retail vendor, you may want to have a talk with your employees about scams like this, or make yourself more available in case of a call like this. Let your employees know that a corporation would never direct them to send money through Bitcoin.

    ***

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Scams   

    Don’t pay advance fees for loans 

    Don't pay advance fees for loans

    By Greg Collier

    There are certain business you shouldn’t use if they solicit your business through email. One of those businesses is that of the online lender. These supposed lenders claim they’ll lend you thousands of dollars that they’ll get to you in no time flat. They may also claim that no credit check is needed, or that they’re not like the big banks when it comes to lending.

    If someone were to take one of these lenders up on their offer, a number of things could happen, and none of them are good. You could have your personal and financial information stolen, or you could be victim to a predatory lender with exorbitant interest rates. Think along the lines of those payday loan stores. However, the most common scam when it comes to online loans is the advance fee scam.

    Typically, when we talk about the advance fee scam, we’re talking about phony sweepstakes that scammers say their victims have one. Then the scammers ask for payment to cover taxes or processing fees. Scammers will keep asking for payments as long as they can keep the victim on the hook. Meanwhile, there are no sweepstakes that the victim won.

    This recently happened with a loan to a man in Arkansas who was looking to make some improvements to his home. He applied for some loans online before getting an email from a supposed lender. The lender promised that could get the money to his bank account in 15 minutes. All the man needed to do was pay them $200 in gift cards. After the man paid the initial $200, he was asked to pay another $200. He did, and still did not receive his loan. It was at this point the man realized he had been scammed.

    Legitimate lenders will never ask for payment in advance. They make their money through interest once the loan is paid back and not through outlandish fees. That’s not even considering no legitimate bank or financial institution will accept gift cards as payment.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 18, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Scams, ,   

    Is Zelle siding with scammers? 

    Is Zelle siding with scammers?

    By Greg Collier

    As we’re sure you’re well aware of, Zelle is a money transfer app that’s co-owned by several large banks in America. Its primary purpose is to transfer money between friends and family directly from your bank account. The most popular example given about these apps is splitting the check at a restaurant. Rather than several different people pulling cash out of their pocket, they can instead just send their portion of the bill to one person who picks up the tab. However, since it involves sending money online, scammers are using every opportunity to use Zelle, so they can steal from their victims. The banks that own Zelle aren’t helping matters either, since they tend to tell scam victims that their money is lost forever, even if the bank is the one who noticed the scam.

    A woman in New Jersey recently fell for a rental scam. She was sending money to a phony landlord for a rental property the landlord didn’t own. At first, she was asked to send a $160 through Zelle for an application fee to someone with a Wells Fargo bank account. She was then asked to send $1000 through Zelle, to the same person as a deposit. The scammer then asked her to send $1000 as another deposit and an additional $1000 as first month’s rent. This time, the money was sent to two different Zelle users, the first one mentioned and a new one with a Chase bank account. Again, all done through Zelle.

    When sending the last $1000 through Zelle, the woman’s phone locked up, and she wasn’t sure if the payment went through. The fake landlord told her to call her bank to resolve the issue. When she called her bank, Bank of America, they notified her that this was a scam. The bank representative put in a request to have the payments stopped. The woman then did the proper thing and notified both the police and the FBI. Six weeks later, Bank of America denied the request, allegedly claiming that Chase and Wells Fargo did not want to give the money back.

    All three of the banks mentioned in this post are co-owners of Zelle. Since they all share a payment transfer system, you might think that there’s a way to get money back from scammers. Instead, the banks claim that since sending money through Zelle is like sending cash, users should be careful who they send money to. No refund was offered to the victim by any of the three banks.

    While it is true that apps like Zelle should only be used between family and friends, why are the banks so reluctant to help scam victims? The bad press they’ve been receiving over Zelle can’t be helping, so why not put in protections that help the users instead of the scammers? The more these scams get reported on, the less Zelle will end up being used. So, which one would be more costly to the banks, helping scam victims, or shuttering Zelle?

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Parents also targeted in arrest scam 

    Parents also targeted in arrest scam

    By Greg Collier

    There’s a scam we’ve covered many times before known as the grandparent scam. This is when scammers will pose as an elderly victim’s grandchild, while also claiming to be in legal trouble. The goal is to try to swindle money from the victim disguised as bail money or legal fees. Sometimes, the scammers will pose as law enforcement, bail bondsmen, or attorneys instead of a grandchild, but the scam remains mostly the same.

    Grandparent scam can be a misnomer, though. While the scam largely targets the elderly, some scammers will target any relative. Previously, we’ve seen scammers target aunts and uncles, but now, they’re going directly after parents.

    A woman in Alabama recently received a call from someone claiming to be her adult son. The son claimed to have been in a wreck. Then someone claiming to be a lawyer got on the call and said the son was being charged with felony DUI. The lawyer said that bond was being set at $120,000 and 12% of that would need to be paid to get her son out of jail. The lawyer then gave the woman a phone number to a bail bondsman who would collect the almost $15,000.

    The bail bondsman said she would have to give the money to the lawyer she spoke to, and he would forward the money electronically to the bail bondsman.

    It was then the woman realized that neither the son, the lawyer nor the bail bondsman told her where the wreck occurred. Sensing something was wrong, she used her work phone to call her son, who was ok and had not been in a wreck. The caller had hung up at this point.

    I imagine that some people are asking how she couldn’t recognize the voice of her own son. Scammers will often claim to have had their nose or mouth injured in the accident as to why they don’t sound normal.

    If you were to receive a call like this, it’s recommended you politely hang up to verify the story. Scammers will try to keep you on the line at all costs. Then contact the person who’s supposedly been arrested to make sure they’re ok. No one has ever been sentenced to extra time because their emergency contact wanted to verify their story. Once you determine your loved one is ok, it’s recommended that you contact your local police to let them know this scam is going around in your area.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 16, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Buffalo, , , , Scams   

    NY warns of scams after tragedy in Buffalo 

     NY warns of scams after tragedy in Buffalo

    By Greg Collier

    By now, we’re sure you’ve heard of the tragedy that struck the state of New York over this past weekend. An 18-year-old gunman opened fire on a Buffalo supermarket. Before he could be apprehended, 13 people were shot and 10 of them were dead. 13 families are now probably scrambling to pay for either medical or funeral expenses due to the selfish actions of a maniac. Neither of these expenses has reasonable costs, even when it’s something that can be prepared for. When it’s a sudden and wanton attack of violence, the expenses become even more difficult to raise.

    Historically, when a tragedy like this occurs, victims’ families will often turn to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe to try to mitigate some of the cost. Scammers are also well aware of this fact, and will often try to use the tragedy to start phony charities of their own to capitalize on such a catastrophe.

    The Attorney General’s Office in the state of New York, has issued a warning to residents they should be informed about these scams before they take hold. To better educate New York residents, the state has a website at CharitiesNYS.com that can tell New York residents if a charity is legitimate or not.

    Many fake charities will try to solicit you through emails, text, or phone call. They’ll have vague names like ‘the victims fund’, or something along those lines. Anytime you’re solicited by a charity that you haven’t heard of, it’s always best if you research them first before donating any money. You can also research the charity at Give.org which is also maintained by the BBB, or Charity Navigator. GoFundMe even has a page where you can donate to verified accounts of people who have been affected by the tragedy.

    In this time of crisis, we really need our donations going to the people who need them, rather than the pockets of scammers.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 13, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    BBB warns of baby formula scams 

    BBB warns of baby formula scams

    By Greg Collier

    Whenever there is a shortage of something, inevitably, some people will use that shortage to their own financial advantage. This can be seen in such practices as price gouging and scalping. However, in those practices, you can still get a product. Then there’s the scam where you get nothing at all.

    As you may know, there has been a shortage of baby formula happening across the country. Due to supply chain issues and a massive recall of baby formula due to salmonella, store shelves have been barren of baby formula. Even government programs which are designed to assist low-income families have been struggling to supply formula to needy families. Of course, scammers never see a crisis they can’t pass up.

    The Better Business Bureau has issued a nationwide warning about baby formula scams. According to the BBB, scammers are setting up fake websites and social media profiles. The scammers claim that not only do they have baby formula in stock, but they’re offering it at bargain prices. However, payments are only accepted through the usual suspects of Cash App, Venmo, and probably Zelle. Once the payment is made, the scammers block their victims on these apps, leaving the victims out of money and a hungry child to feed. Some of these websites even have pictures of what the scammers claim is their supply, but more often than not, these photos are stolen off the internet.

    If you come across a website selling baby formula, research before you buy. First, do what’s called a WHOIS search on the website’s domain name. This will more than likely let you know when the site was created. You can also do a web search of the site’s name along with the terms ‘review’ or ‘scam’. That should provide you with information to let you know whether the site is legitimate or not. Unfortunately, during the current crisis, these vendors will almost assuredly be scammers.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 12, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Scams   

    Scam Round Up: Homeless victim loses savings in scam and more 

    By Greg Collier

    In this week’s round up, we have an update on a recent scam, a reminder of a grim scam, and a heartbreaking story on how heartless scammers are.

    ***

    You may remember a story from our last Scam Round Up where teachers in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area were being targeted in a jury duty scam. More recently, this scam moved westward and is now targeting teachers from the Cleveland, Ohio area, with at least one teacher falling victim to the scam.

    This is where scammers pose as local police and tell their victims they missed jury duty and a warrant is about to be issued for their arrest. However, a payment over the phone will supposedly resolve the matter.

    Much like in the Pittsburgh scam, scammers are calling schools in the Cleveland area asking for specific teachers and threatening them with arrest. One teacher is said to have lost $2000 to these scammers.

    Again, when it comes to jury duty, all communication is done through postal mail and not over the phone.

    ***

    In Upstate New York, police there are warning residents about a scam affecting the families of the recently deceased. Scammers are calling these families posing as an actuarial company claiming there’s been a data breach of the deceased’s information. The families are then asked for personal identifying information of the deceased.

    In this instance, scammers are likely trying to commit identity theft. They want to do things like open credit cards or take out loans in the deceased’s name before the credit companies update their record.

    If you were ever to receive a phone call like this, the best thing to do is to ask for them to send a request in writing. While not a guarantee, this does go a long way on discouraging these kinds of scammers.

    ***

    If that story wasn’t disturbing enough, a homeless woman from Florida was recently taken for over $1000 in a rental scam. After saving up enough money for her and her newborn baby to rent a home, she responded to an online real estate ad. She was texted by the supposed landlord, who asked her to pay a $75 application fee over Zelle. She was told she couldn’t see the property for a few days since it was currently occupied. Then she was asked by the supposed landlord to send $1049 for the first month’s rent. Fearing she might not get the home, she sent the money.

    Anytime a prospective landlord can’t show the property for whatever reason, there’s a good chance they’re not really the landlord.

    ***

    We hope that our readers never have to deal with scammers like this. But if you do, we hope we’ve prepared you enough to detect them.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 11, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Scams,   

    Zelle now used in puppy scams 

    Zelle now used in puppy scams

    By Greg Collier

    Online puppy scams are probably one of the more heartbreaking scams out there. Victims end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars for a puppy that doesn’t even exist.

    Typically, scammers will set up a website that makes it appear as if they’re breeders of purebred puppies. These websites are filled with pictures of puppies that are stolen from various places on the internet. The puppies on these websites are usually advertised at well below market value prices. After the victim sends money to the scammers, thinking they’ve bought a puppy, the scammers will start asking for more money disguised as expenses. Sometimes the scammer will say they need the money for a special shipping crate for the puppy. Other times it will be for taxes or insurance. But in all cases, the victim never receives a puppy, and they’ve lost a substantial amount of money.

    This recently happened to a couple from San Jose, California. They found a website that specialized in Pomeranians. They thought they were buying the puppy for $600 from a breeder in Texas. After they made their first payment, they were then asked for an additional payment of $1400, so the puppy wouldn’t have to spend two weeks in quarantine. The couple paid that fee as well. The scammers came back for a third time asking for $1300. That’s when they realized they were being scammed.

    One of the alleged scammers has been arrested. What we found most interesting about this scam is that the scammer is accused of opening multiple Zelle accounts through multiple banks. This was said to be the way the scammer collected the money from their victims. As has been previously mentioned, since Zelle offers little protection to its users, it’s become the payment method of choice for scammers. Once scammers get their money from their victims on Zelle, they can block the victim, and close the account. This leaves victims with little to no recourse.

    As we like to remind our readers, Zelle is only supposed to be used between friends and family as an easy method of payment. It shouldn’t be used for major purchases like a puppy.

    And as far as puppy scams go, never buy a puppy sight unseen. Also, try to shop local from a licensed breeder. And as always, we recommend considering adopting a puppy from your local shelter instead. 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.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Homebuyer loses $155K in email scam 

    Homebuyer loses $155K in email scam

    By Greg Collier

    A woman in the state of Georgia was getting ready to close on a new home when she received an email from her lawyer. She was given instructions to wire transfer the $155,000 for the closing costs. However, the money did not go to the attorney. Instead, it went to the bank account of a local scammer who was recently arrested on felony theft charges.

    So, how was the scammer able to fool the victim? This scam is known as the business email compromise scam, or BEC for short. In this scam, the scammers hijack compromised email accounts of real estate attorneys, title companies, or banks. This way, the scammers can monitor the emails for people who are getting ready to close on their homes. Then, the scammers either use the hijacked email address or a spoofed address to give fraudulent instructions to the homebuyer to wire the money to the scammers. Meanwhile, the victims think they just closed on a new home.

    According to the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, this scam is becoming more common. This scam is so profitable, the scammers only need one victim to fall for the scam to make a ton of money.

    While you may not be in the market for a home right now, you may be in the future. So, it’s best to have this knowledge now instead of finding out before it’s too late. When the time comes to buy a home, the best way to protect yourself is to verify everything by phone. If you get an email from someone involved in the process asking you to make a substantial payment, call them to verify the request. It might be even better to visit the sender in person to verify any requests. No one wants to go through the stressful process of buying a new home only to have their dreams of a new home dashed by losing money to a scammer.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on May 9, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Scams   

    Victims burned twice in Bitcoin scam 

    Victims burned twice in Bitcoin scam

    By Greg Collier

    Since it gained mainstream popularity, Bitcoin has had an air of fraud around it. While people have gotten wealthy through the mining, trading, and investing of Bitcoin, it’s also attracted a large number of scammers. While every Bitcoin transaction is recorded on a public ledger, it’s virtually impossible to reclaim if stolen. Also, due to the fact that Bitcoin is decentralized and has no governing authority, victims of Bitcoin scams have little to no recourse.

    One of these scams is targeting users of Instagram and takes advantage of hacked accounts. Once an Instagram account is compromised, the scammers will use this account to message other users on the account’s friends list, telling them how they’ve made money through Bitcoin. One Instagram use from Omaha, Nebraska, was asked to invest $500 through Cash App to purchase Bitcoin. However, before she could get her Bitcoin, she was asked to record a testimonial saying how successful this Bitcoin scheme was. Not only did she lose the $500, but now a video of her touting the success of this Bitcoin scheme is being shared on social media.

    Unless you have a complete understanding of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency and general, it’s advised to avoid any Bitcoin transactions. This includes friends on social media telling you how much money they made. If you receive a message like that, message your friend back through other means to ask them if they meant to send that message.

    Also, please keep in mind that the majority of agencies and companies will never ask for payment for some kind of bill in Bitcoin. You should also be aware of services who claim to be able to get your stolen Bitcoin back for a fee. That is also a scam.

    Lastly, as with any investment, never invest any money you can’t afford to lose.

     
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