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  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply
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    Dangerous scam spoofs your family’s phone number 

    By Greg Collier

    Virtual kidnapping scams have been in the news more often than usual lately. This leads us to believe there has been an increase in these harrowing incidents. Typically, in a virtual kidnapping scam, the scammers will call you and claim to have a loved one of yours hostage. They’ll then tell you they will release their hostage if you pay a ransom. The ransom is usually asked for in untraceable means like cryptocurrency, money transfer, or gift cards. Since the advent of the virtual kidnapping scam, the scammers have gotten more aggressive when approaching their victims on the phone.

    For example, a woman from the San Francisco Bay Area recently received a virtual kidnapping call that appeared to come from her mother’s phone number. The caller said he was with the woman’s mother and would harm her if a ransom wasn’t paid. The caller demanded $500 to paid through the Zelle app. After she made the first payment, the scammer demanded another payment of $400, which she paid. The scammer ended the call and the woman called her mother, who had been fine the entire time.

    This story shows a couple of disturbing things. While it’s relatively easy to spoof a phone number, this scammer specifically targeted the woman by obtaining her mother’s phone number. That means the scammer had to at least stalked the family’s social media accounts. Secondly, the scammer used the Zelle banking app to collect the ransom. With stories like this, it seems like Zelle is quickly becoming the app of choice for scammers. Zelle has been used by scammers in several other scams as well.

    As we always like to remind our readers, kidnappings for ransom, while not unheard of, are actually rare in the United States. However, when someone receives one of these phone calls, the pressure of the situation may not allow them to think rationally. If you receive one of these phone calls, the first thing you should do is try to contact the person they’ve claimed to have kidnapped. Since the scammer will try to keep you on the phone, try using another method of contacting your loved one such as text or email if another phone line is not available. These scammers will often have an accomplice posing as the hostage. If they let you speak with the person, ask them a question that only they would know. You can also set up a specific code word between you and your loved ones to verify their identity. Lastly, even if your loved one is safe, contact your local police and let them know what happened, especially if you paid money to the scammer through Zelle.

    In the past, people who have been scammed through Zelle did not get their money back. However, experts recommend that filing a police report will help when dealing with your bank.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on October 19, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , spoofed calls   

    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 8:17 am on May 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , spoofed calls,   

    Kidnapping scam becomes even scarier 

    Kidnapping scam becomes even scarier

    By Greg Collier

    The reason the virtual kidnapping scam is named that way is because the kidnapping victim is virtual. In essence, there is no kidnapping victim. However, that hasn’t stopped scammers from scaring families into making ransom payments for someone who was never in any danger. For new readers, in this scam, the scammers will call someone and claim to have kidnapped one of their loved ones. The scammers will even have someone screaming or crying in the background to make the call seem real. The victim of the scam will then be instructed to make a payment through untraceable means like gift cards, money transfer, prepaid debit card, or cryptocurrency. By the time the victim figures out that there was no kidnapping, the scammers are long gone with the victim’s money.

    Unfortunately, not everyone has been educated about this scam. Recently, a couple in South Florida received such a call telling them that their daughter had been kidnapped. The callers made threatened to murder their daughter if they didn’t pay $1500 in ransom. What made this call particularly terrifying was that the call appeared to be coming from the daughter’s phone. It wasn’t, though. The scammers had spoofed the daughter’s phone number which is concerning in itself. Luckily, the couple reached out to a friend they have in law enforcement who informed them this was a scam. It’s unknown how the scammers were able to obtain the daughter’s phone number.

    Scammers use tactics like this to catch you off guard to say the least. They want you to think emotionally rather than logically. The more emotionally charged the scenario is, the more likely the scammers are able to convince a victim into making a payment. If you ever receive a call like this don’t give the scammers any personal information. If they say they have your daughter, for example, don’t say your daughter’s name. Then have someone else contact the person the callers claim to have kidnapped. More often than not, that person will be just fine and will have no idea that people are claiming that they’re holding them hostage.

    Remember, kidnapping for ransom in the United States is extremely rare, but is kept in the public’s consciousness thanks to popular media.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , spoofed calls   

    Alarming new twist on grandparent scam emerges 

    Alarming new twist on grandparent scam emerges

    We’ve discussed the grandparent scam before. It’s when a scammer will call an elderly person claiming to be one of their grandchildren who has been arrested and needs bail money. The victim then will wire the money before realizing that their grandchild is safe and had not been arrested. Scammers often target the elderly in this scam because they count on their victims being more trusting, more willing to answer a call from an unfamiliar number, and not being as tech-savvy as younger segments of the population. Now, there’s been a new twist on the grandparent scam that makes the phony calls seem even more legitimate than before.

    People across the state of Missouri have been reporting that they’ve been receiving calls that appear like they’re coming from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri. The calls appear on the victim’s phone as either ‘US Government’ or ‘US District Court’. The caller then poses as a grandchild asking for money to help get them out of jail. Phone numbers purporting to be from agencies like this can be easily spoofed, however, these spoofed numbers add a degree of pressure and urgency in order to try to get the victim to send money as quickly as possible.

    Advocacy groups like the AARP recommend asking the caller something that only they would know. While this can go a long way in preventing fraud it’s not infallible as scammers can gather these details from social media. Instead, if you receive one of these calls you should above all else remain calm. If you can’t discern if this is actually one of your grandchildren calling, call someone in your family who would know the whereabouts of the relative in question and ask where this person currently is. This way if it does turn out to be an actual emergency you can respond in an appropriate manner.

     
  • Geebo 9:15 am on November 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Be careful of the Social Security spoofing scam 

    Be careful of the Social Security spoofing scam

    With just about everyone owning a smartphone today we’ve all experienced a spoofed call. Normally these calls disguise themselves as being from a local number. Fearing it may be a neighbor or loved one in distress we answer the call only to find out it’s either a robocall or a telemarketer that’s not even from your local area. A scam that uses the spoofing method of disguising a phone number is targeting the elderly.

    According to the Social Security Administration, scammers are not just posing as Social Security employees but they’re also disguising their phone number to make it look like their calling from the national Social Security office. The number that appears on a phone’s caller ID is 1-800-772-1213 which is the national customer service number for Social Security. If someone were to answer the call the scammer would more than likely promise to increase the victim’s Social Security benefit if they could just get more information from the victim. The caller may even start to get belligerent if you don’t provide them with the information they’re looking for. Of course, this is all designed to gather your personal information to either sell your personal information to the highest bidder or use it to steal your identity.

    In the rare instances that Social Security will call one of its recipients, they will never promise to increase your benefits nor will they threaten you. Even if you think the call is legitimate, hang up, and call the SSA back by manually dialing the customer service number listed above. The SSA also recommends that if you receive one of these calls to report it to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or on their website.

     
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