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  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 10, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , social media   

    Gift exchange scam is back for the holidays 

    Gift exchange scam is back for the holidays

    By Greg Collier

    The old joke says Christmas decorations and sales start earlier every year. Just this year, it seemed like stores started getting into the Christmas spirit as soon as Halloween was over. Well, we have our own indicator of the start of the holiday season, and that’s a pyramid scheme disguised as a Christmas gift exchange.

    Recently, the Better Business Bureau sounded the alarm on what’s called the Secret Sister gift exchange. If you’re unfamiliar with the Secret Sister scheme, it’s a scam primarily directed at women, evident from its name. The process initiates with a social media post urging participants to include their name and address in a list, accompanied by sending a modestly priced gift. In exchange, they are assured of receiving as many as 36 gifts. Additionally, participants are encouraged to enlist at least six more individuals into the gift exchange.

    A clear indicator of the pyramid scheme nature emerges when you’re urged to recruit more participants to progress in the exchange, be it gifts or money. In pyramid schemes, the individuals at the pyramid’s summit enjoy the benefits of the scam, leaving those at the bottom with little to gain and often facing unfavorable outcomes.

    Also, by submitting yours and your friends’ addresses, you’re putting yourself and your friends at risk of being the target of identity theft.

    One alarming aspect of social media pyramid schemes like this is the potential legal consequences for victims. Pyramid schemes are prohibited in the United States, and even if participants are unknowingly exploited, involvement in recruiting others for the exchange could lead them to legal trouble. It’s crucial for individuals to be aware of the legality surrounding such schemes to avoid unintentional legal complications.

    If you receive an online invitation to participate in one of these gift exchanges, it’s advisable to politely decline. However, if the invitation comes from someone close to you, it might be worth explaining the potential risks associated with such exchanges. By doing so, you could potentially save them from encountering significant troubles down the line. Educating those close to you about the perils of these schemes can be a valuable preventive measure.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 6, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , social media   

    Don’t pay to get your social media accounts back 

    By Greg Collier

    Losing access to your social media accounts can be frustrating. Sometimes it’s as simple as not remembering your password, or no longer having access to the email for that account. Other times it can be malicious as being tricked out of your login credentials by scammers. Scammers especially like to hijack Facebook accounts. Once an account has been hijacked, any number of scams can be perpetrated on anyone in your friends list. One of the more popular scams after hijacking someone’s profile is to list imaginary items for sale on Marketplace, while collecting ‘deposits’ on the item.

    So, what can you do if you’ve been locked out of one of your accounts? Well, what you shouldn’t do is pay someone to get your account back. Scammers are posing as recovery agents who claim they can get you your account back, for a fee, of course.

    One Instagram user was locked out of their account and was approached online by one of these phony recovery services. They told the user they could get their account back for $100. Then the user was asked for an additional $130 so the recovery service could purchase the software they needed. The scammers then told the user the account couldn’t be recovered, but they could delete it for another $50. The account was never deleted.

    Scammers like this pour over social media, waiting for someone to mention they’ve been locked out of one of their accounts. Once someone does that, the scammers follow. You might even receive comments from people who swear they had their accounts recovered by using some service. Those commenters are also scammers.

    While it’s not the optimal way, and it feels like it takes an eternity. The best way to recover your account is through the official account recovery pages from the platform itself. That’s not even a guarantee you’ll get your account back.

    In order to avoid losing access to one of your accounts, strong passwords are recommended. If you have trouble keeping track of your passwords, think about using a password manager. There are several reliable free and paid options. And lastly, never give out your access information to anyone.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 11, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: free jewelry, , , social media,   

    Beware this TikTok shopping scam 

    By Greg Collier

    There is an old saying that goes, “Don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see”. That saying could not apply more to social media. In a landscape filled with bots, con artists, and shady advertisements, it’s no wonder scammers have taken to the hottest social media platform to spread their newest scam.

    The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about an online shopping scam taking place on TikTok. According to the BBB, scammers are posting videos to TikTok claiming they’re disgruntled employees of a high-end jewelry store. The scammers say they’re quitting from the store and to get back at their employers, they’re going to give viewers a secret code to get free merchandise.

    The trick here is that viewers are directed to a fake website that looks like a retailer’s website. While the ‘secret code’ gives the viewer 100% discounts for the merchandise, shipping fees will rack up. If someone were to complete their order, the scammers would have the victim’s financial information. If the victim receives any product at all, it’s usually a cheap knock-off. The BBB is also warning this scam could be duplicated using any kind of retailer.

    We say this a lot, but it really tends to be true. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Any outrageous offers like this should be thoroughly researched before committing to making a payment. IN actuality, you should really only shop with retailers who have already gained your trust. Lastly, if at all possible, always shop online with a credit card. If you get ripped off while using a credit card, you’re more than likely to get your money back than you would with a debit card, as credit cards provide more protection to consumers.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 21, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , mystery box, , , social media,   

    A TEMU scam that’s not TEMU’s fault 

    A TEMU scam that's not TEMU's fault

    By Greg Collier

    Last week, we gave our opinion on the online shopping platform TEMU. We advised our readers that TEMU is full of third-party vendors who are getting a reputation for selling knockoffs if an item is delivered at all. TEMU itself has been accused of stockpiling customers’ personal information for less than legitimate purposes. This is all made even more suspicious since TEMU is based in China, where laws concerning personal information are looser than those in the US. However, there’s a scam now going around using TEMU’s name where TEMU isn’t responsible.

    Across social media, ads are being placed where a $1 ‘mystery box’ appears to be offered by TEMU. The ad shows boxes full of high-end items like phones, laptops, and other pricey computer equipment. While TEMU does offer mystery boxes for sale, they’re not being sold for $1, and it’s almost a guarantee an iPhone won’t be included.

    If someone clicks on the ad, they’re taken to a third-party website that has no connection to TEMU. Once at the site, users are asked to enter personal and financial information to receive their supposed mystery box. This is an obvious ploy to use the name of the latest shopping sensation in order to steal someone’s identity and money.

    If you see ads like this that sound too good to be true on social media, they probably are. If you do click on an ad that appears to come from a well-known service, make sure the URL of the website is the correct one. If the URL doesn’t reflect the service you were looking to use, close out of that site immediately, even if it looks identical to the real thing. To best protect yourself when shopping online, use a credit card whenever possible, since credit cards offer more protection when it comes to fraudulent products.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on July 24, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , social media   

    One more social media scam to watch out for 

    Two more social media scams to watch out for

    By Greg Collier

    Social media platforms have become an integral part of our daily lives. From connecting with friends and family to discovering new trends and ideas, these online spaces offer seemingly endless possibilities. However, amid the allure of likes and follows lies a dark underbelly of deception and exploitation. Social media has become a breeding ground for an untold number of scams. Here is one, which has garnered headlines recently, which you should be on the lookout for.

    There are a few different lost pet scams on social media. This one appeals to our humanity and our desire to help others. Scammers are posting pictures of what appear to be injured cats or dogs. Don’t worry too much. The pictures used in these posts were stolen elsewhere from the internet. We’re pretty sure scammers aren’t actually injuring animals deliberately, but we wouldn’t put it past them.

    Accompanying the pictures are pleas to help find the pet’s owner. There’s also a request to share the post if you don’t know who the owner is. Someone would have to be heartless not to share the post, right? That’s what the scammers are hoping for. Once the post reaches a certain number of shares, the scammers will edit the post to show something else, typically related to some kind of scam. Recently, reports have shown scammers changing the post to sunglasses they’re supposedly selling. In the past, we’ve seen cryptocurrency ads and bank scams replace the original post.

    So, how do you differentiate between a scam post and a legitimate post about a lost or injured pet? Before sharing the post, check to see if the post allows comments. If it doesn’t, that’s a good indicator it might be a scam, as scammers don’t want people telling others the post is a scam. Also check the profile of the person making the post. If their profile has very few friends or is relatively new, those are also good indicators the post may be a scam. You can also check the person’s profile for where they supposedly live. If they live nowhere near where the pet was supposedly found, they’re probably scammers.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 17, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , social media   

    Cancer patient targeted in scam 

    By Greg Collier

    A Utah woman who is currently undergoing cancer treatment almost fell victim to a scam at probably the most vulnerable time of her life. As you may expect, her treatments are expensive, and she was looking for any kind of financial assistance to help pay her medical bills. She received a message from a Facebook friend who offered to help her apply for a grant that would help pay for her medical expenses. With some of her treatments costing thousands of dollars each, she was open to the idea.

    If you’re a regular reader, you already know this is a common scam that takes place on Facebook. These grants that ‘friends’ keep promising don’t actually exist. In a typical grant scam, the victim will be directed to a phony website where they’ll be asked for all their personal and financial information. Then the victim will be asked for a payment under the guise of a processing fee.

    This is precisely what happened to the Utah woman. She was directed to a website to fill out an application, but in the middle of the process she got a bad feeling and cancelled the application.

    She messaged her Facebook friend saying she was going to think about it. The friend started pressuring her to complete the application. When the woman insisted she wasn’t going to, the Facebook friend disappeared.

    As you can probably surmise, her Facebook friend had their account hacked and taken over by scammers. Who knows for how long, but it was long enough to find someone who was battling an expensive illness.

    Any financial grant giver, whether it’s from the government or a nonprofit, will not approach you. You need to search them out first. Unless your Facebook friend works for the government or non-profit, it’s very unlikely they are going to put in the legwork for you.

    That’s not to say there aren’t any assistance grants out there to help you. We recommend going to the USA.gov website to help you find any legitimate grants you may be eligible for.

  • Geebo 8:00 am on April 13, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , social media, suckers list   

    BBB warns scam victims may be on a “sucker’s list” 

    BBB warns scam victims may be on a "sucker's list"

    By Greg Collier

    It’s tough being a scam victim. Not only have you lost money that you needed for something important, but you lost it to a con artist. Maybe you thought you could see a scam coming from a mile away, yet you fell for it anyway. To make matters worse, it’s embarrassing to admit that you’ve been scammed. You might even be too embarrassed to go to the police to try to get your money back. This keeps people in your community from knowing about the scam, which means they could fall victim to the scam as well. But you came forward, which you should be commended for. However, coming forward may also have an unwelcome side effect.

    The Better Business Bureau is warning scam victims about potentially being scammed a second time. This scam, known as the recovery scam, specifically targets people who have previously fallen prey to other scams. Typically, recovery scammers would search for someone on social media who may have mentioned they fell for a scam. The scammers would then offer their services to recover the victim’s money for an upfront fee, of course. If a victim were to pay the recovery scammer, the scammer would disappear with the victim’s money. We’ve seen this previously a lot on Instagram. We’ve even seen it on our own social media accounts when we post about scams.

    The BBB is now warning that it’s not just social media scam victims have to worry about. According to the BBB, scammers now have what’s called a ‘sucker’s list’. This is a list of scam victims that’s being traded around by scammers. This list makes any scam victim a potential target for future scams.

    Scammers are also setting up fake websites promoting themselves as a scam recovery service.

    Please keep in mind, there is no such thing as a scam recovery service. The best way to recover your losses is to go to the police. But be aware, that in the vast majority of cases, once a victim has lost money to a scammer, it’s gone for good.

    If you’ve been the victim of a scam, you may want to refrain from posting about it on social media, as this could attract recovery scammers. Instead, report it to your local police and allow them to warn your community.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 24, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , social media   

    The fake check scam goes digital 

    By Greg Collier

    In recent years, digital banking has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. Gone are the days of waiting in long lines at the bank or struggling to find time to visit a physical branch. With the rise of digital banking, managing your finances has never been easier. From opening accounts and applying for loans to paying bills and monitoring your transactions, digital banking allows you to take control of your money from the comfort of your own home.

    However, that convenience comes with some security risks. We’ve often discussed the fake check scam, where victims get sent a fraudulent check and are asked to return a portion of it. It used to be most prevalent with online selling, but now we tend to see it more with job scams. In both instances of the scam, physical checks are typically sent to the victims for them to deposit into their bank accounts before sending a portion of the money elsewhere. Once the bank determines the check is fraudulent, the victim becomes responsible for paying the bank back the amount of the check and then some.

    Now, there is a fake check scam where the scammers aren’t even sending physical checks. According to police from a Cleveland suburb, Scammers are approaching victims on social media and asking their victims if they can buy the pictures they’ve posted on social media. The victim is then emailed a picture of a check, which they are told they can deposit by scanning it with their bank’s app. However, like in most check scams, the check is more than the amount the scammer promised. The victim is told to send the difference back through Zelle or Venmo once the check has cleared the victim’s account. The scammers then make off with the money from the victim, while the victim gets charged by their bank.

    If you ever receive a check, whether physical or digital, if it’s for more than the amount you were promised, do not deposit it. It’s almost guaranteed to be a fake. No legitimate professional or business would ask you to pay them the difference through Zelle or Venmo. These apps are meant to be used between friends and families and not random strangers promising you money.

    Banks and financial institutions have implemented several measures to protect their customers from these risks, but users also have a responsibility to protect their account and personal information. By staying informed and taking the necessary precautions, you can enjoy the benefits of digital banking while keeping your finances safe and secure.

  • Geebo 9:01 am on January 23, 2023 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , social media   

    Inactive Facebook account leads to puppy scam 

    By Greg Collier

    A woman from Long Island recently had people showing up at her home looking to pick up the puppies they had bought online. The only problem was, the Long Island woman wasn’t selling any puppies. The people showing up at her door were victims of a puppy scam. In this instance, puppy scammers were advertising puppies for sale that didn’t exist. The scammers would ask for hundreds of dollars in deposits from victims and had them pay through the much maligned payment app Zelle. Undoubtedly, the woman started to be concerned for her safety. In the past, we have seen reports of puppy scam victims becoming belligerent when they’ve been sent to a random address.

    However, the woman’s address wasn’t exactly random. She had a Facebook account, which she hadn’t used in years. Scammers were able to hijack her Facebook account, and used it to advertise the fictitious puppies. Since they were using the woman’s Facebook account, the scammers decided to send their victims to the woman’s address. When the woman discovered her Facebook account was being used, she tried to reclaim the account, but the scammers had changed the email address and password. She even contacted Facebook, who allegedly said they couldn’t take the account down because it didn’t violate their terms of service.

    So, we have two scams at work here, the aforementioned puppy scam and a type of identity theft. If you have an old social media account you haven’t used in years, it’s a good idea to just delete the account. This will prevent the account from being hijacked by scammers and other bad actors. However, if you want to keep the account around just in case, make sure you’re not using the same password for multiple online accounts. This is one of the leading ways social media accounts get stolen. You should also routinely change the passwords on your accounts. And definitely enable two-factor authentication on your accounts. These aren’t guarantees that your accounts will be 100% secure, but they will go a long way in discouraging con artists from hijacking your accounts.

    As far as the puppy scam goes, you should never buy a puppy or any other animal without seeing it in person first. Many puppy scammers just steal pictures of puppies off the internet to use in their advertisements. Even if you’re shown a puppy on Zoom or FaceTime, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be scammed. Shop for a puppy within driving distance and never order from out of state, and never make any payment over apps like Zelle, Venmo, or Cash App, since they’re preferred by scammers. Instead of trying to buy a puppy online, think about adopting one from your local shelter.

  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: American Express, , , Macy's, , , , , social media,   

    Scammers try to scam victim again 

    Scammers try to scam victim again

    By Greg Collier

    In the 1984 sci-fi classic ‘The Terminator’, one of the protagonists describes the Terminator by saying, “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop… ever.” That’s an apt description of scammers as well. They will use any opportunity to scam someone, no matter what the cost may be to the victim. And if that victim has been scammed before, then that just means they can be scammed again, according to scammers. Even if the intended victim didn’t fall for the scam, that doesn’t mean scammers won’t try to scam them again.

    A Rhode Island widow says she was scrolling Facebook on her computer when she started receiving a number of pop-ups that said her computer was infected and to call Microsoft at the number listed. Avid readers of this blog will recognize this as the pop-up scam. The phone number doesn’t actually go to Microsoft and instead goes to a scammer’s call center.

    After calling the number, the widow was told that her American Express card had been compromised, and she was about to be charged $16,000 for a fraudulent purchase. She was then connected to another scammer posing as an American Express agent. That scammer told her she would need to buy $8000 in Macy’s gift cards to override the fraudulent charge. The victim went and bought the gift cards while the scammer stayed on the line with her.

    The scammer told her to scratch the backs of the cards and give him the code numbers. The victim gave him one before realizing this may be a scam. Instead of giving the remaining numbers to the scammer, she went to the police. But the story doesn’t end there.

    The victim didn’t want anyone else to fall victim to the same scam she did. She posted a warning about it on Facebook. It didn’t take long for her to receive a comment from another scammer. This scammer said that the FBI helped them get their money back and the victim would need to text a phone number left by the scammer. The supposed FBI agent kept asking the victim for personal information in exchange for assistance. Thankfully, the victim realized this was a scam and ceased all communications with the scammer. Scammers never stop scamming.

    While the first scam is one that we’ve gone into detail before, the second scam is not so well known. That scam looks for scam victims on social media, and will try to send victims to a phone number or social media account that can supposedly help a victim get their money back. This is just another scam. Once money is lost to a scam, no recovery service can get it back, no matter how much someone promises you they can.

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