Category: ‘Phishing Scams’

Charity Scams: Scammers Create Fake Charities

September 30, 2019 Posted by Pamela M

First responders help in rescue efforts

The world seems to be plagued with natural disasters, often leaving people homeless, injured, or worse. From the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris to earthquakes to hurricanes, the world tries to make sense of the destruction. People often feel helpless and want to offer support in any way they can. In this case, that usually involves sending money for supplies and shelter for the victims and their families.  Therefore, with each tragedy, charities – real and false – ask for donations.

A True Natural Disaster

There is no denying that the number of natural disasters worldwide is greater than ever. The news reports on disasters around the world, including the latest epic disaster taking place in the Amazon. While global organizations and government agencies leap into action, so do people intent on stealing money from well-wishers worldwide. Charity scams appear the minute disaster strikes, and scammers begin telemarketing efforts and email campaigns. Their goal is to tap into the good will of the public eager to help ease the burden of those devastated by tragedy. For most people, the thought of stealing from victims is unthinkable. The scammers count on this to rake in the profits.

Stealing from Survivors

Con artists use the emotions of people during and after a disaster for personal gain. For every accident, natural disaster, or act of terrorism, con artists develop schemes to cash in from the public’s good intentions. They ask for money through websites, fundraisers, social media, email, and phone calls. These con artists are convincing, and the pleas are endless.

Unknown Charities

If you are contacted be sure to check out the organization before giving any money, credit card or bank account information. Some fraudsters will even claim to work for a major aid organization or agency such as the American Red Cross or FEMA. If you suspect that an agency may not be real or the representative is trying to involve you in a charity scam, ask for the organization’s information, including their legal address, website, and contact information. You may also request a copy of the agency’s officers and annual report to verify that it is a valid charity. These requests will often cause the scammer to end the call.

Legitimate Charity Organizations

There are many charitable organizations worldwide. Unlike the American Red Cross or FEMA, some organizations may not be well known. However, that does not make them scams. Special charities may be organized to help with a specific tragedy. Many charities were organized in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and helped survivors get through the devastation in New Orleans via crowd-funding and donations.

Researching Charities

If you are uncertain about a particular charity, you can research it at the Better Business Bureau or through the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. The Wise Giving Alliance verifies legitimate charities and also shows how monies are spent. The agency publishes an annual Wise Donor Handbook and Wise Giving Guide three times a year, offering the latest information on charities and common charity scams. Another resource is the Federal Trade Commission’s list of organizations. The list verifies real charities. You can also read news on charitable organizations, scams, and what to do if you have been scammed. The blog post “Before Giving to a Charity” shows how you can donate through various social media sites.

Making Donations

Most organizations say donations to their cause are tax deductible as charitable contributions. Donors are often encouraged to give more money if there is a possible tax deduction from the Internal Revenue Service. However, donations under a certain dollar amount aren’t tax deductible. Secondly, money given to individuals, crowdfunding sites or unofficial charities are not tax deductible. The IRS lists which organizations are eligible for tax deductions. The IRS also features a Tax Exempt Organization Search can help you to check an organization’s eligibility status.

Local Charities

Fraudsters may use caller ID spoofing to make you think that the charity is local. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enables callers to use any available phone number. This allows con artists to choose a phone number in any state or region, usually with the intent to defraud others.

Donors are more comfortable giving money if they believe that the charity is in their state or town. Charities located out of the country automatically raise suspicion and should be vetted before any monies are given. If an unknown local charity contacts you and you suspect it may not be real, contact your local police department.

Telemarketers

Telemarketers, including those that use robocalls, must adhere to a specific set of rules from the FCC regarding caller ID spoofing:

  • The company is required to display its phone number. If it’s a call center or telemarketing company, they must display the phone number of the company they represent. It is also suggested that the company display its name along with the phone number, if possible.
  • The company is also required to display a phone number that consumers can call during regular business hours. Callers must have the ability to remove themselves from the call list. This rule applies to all organizations, even if you have an established business relationship.
  • Companies must obey the rules of the National Do Not Call Registry. Violators should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Avoid Scams

Callers can be pushy or rude when asking for money. Robocalls to make it hard to avoid the demands for funds. If you receive a call from someone asking for money, ask questions. Does the organization use the money for admin costs or marketing expenses? How is the money being spent? If you think the call is suspicious, hang up and research the charity online. If the calls continue, use a phone number lookup app to block the number from your phone.

Report the Crime

If you think you have been scammed by a fake charity, report it  online through the FTC’s Complaint Assistant. Give as much information as possible. Secondly, if you have used a bank or credit card to donate, contact the financial institution to block the payment. Lastly, report the scam to your state’s Attorney General.

The Latest Romance Scam: How To Protect Yourself

June 16, 2019 Posted by Pamela M

Online Dating Scams

Dating is difficult, especially if you’re no longer in your twenties. Online dating is the way most relationships start these days, but it’s also a way in which daters can be scammed. People that have lost money through online dating schemes are often reluctant to report the fraud for several reasons: they are embarrassed, heartbroken, and think there is no chance of getting the money back.

Big Money

Scammers rely on their new partners being blinded by love, so they don’t ask many questions. Savvy people fall pretty to dating scams all the time, simply because the scammers are often very smart. That’s why online romance scams are the biggest form of fraud online. Marketwatch reports that online dating fraud has quadrupled over the past four years, going from $33 million to $143 million. The money is always sent through gift cards, wire transfers, cash apps or in bitcoins, so it is impossible to trace the scammer.

Getting Verified

The latest romance scam involves verification of your identity so that the other person feels safe. Some dating sites offer verification services, which can be a great help in weeding out the scammers. Many legitimate verification sites exist and are a great tool. Scammers have created sites similar to the real sites to trick people into giving information such as social security numbers.

How it Works

The scammer asks the other person to click on a link to a real verification site, such as BeenVerified. However, the link is really to a third party site that steals information and uses it or sells it to other scammers.

Detecting a Money Scam

People looking for love online often have common factors that make them good targets. Scammers can pick up on those traits and move in for the kill. They include:

An Addictive personality. People with addictive personalities tend to get attached to other people quickly. If you have this type of behavior, be extra careful with strangers who profess their love right away.

Impulse-driven. If you act on impulse without thinking things through, you could be a big target for a romance scam.

Trusting. Trusting people isn’t a bad thing. But people who trust others immediately can be tricked into giving up money before they know the real story.

Middle-aged. Most scammers target people who are middle-aged. It may be that the daters have come out of a long term relationship and are lonely. Females are also the most targeted, although men can also be victims.

Protect Yourself

You can protect yourself from scams by meeting the person before giving them any information. If you exchange phone numbers, use a reverse phone search to find out if the number is real. If the other person makes an excuse about his or her identity, don’t believe it. You should also be suspicious if s/he is out of the country for any reason, even if it’s for work. Lastly, never send money for any reason. Scammers can be persuasive, even threatening. If that happens, end communication immediately.

How to Reduce Robocalls

April 28, 2019 Posted by Pamela M

Ways to stop robocalls

 

Businesses use automatic dialing systems as a way to market products to their clients. The introduction of these systems was revolutionary as it eliminated the need for people to make thousands of calls on their behalf. It was created to save time and money.

Automatic dialing systems were the precursor to conversational robots. The systems are designed to answer questions and direct users to the right department. A recent report shows that these bots can answer up to 29% of a person’s questions and save 44% of the time people would spend on the phone with a live support person.

Sadly, these systems are also used by telemarketing companies and scammers trying to get you to buy products or give up your hard earned money. Because the systems are automated, refusing to answer the phone or trying to talk sense to the robot on the other end is frustrating and futile.

Telemarketers

Telemarketers have to follow laws regarding the number of times they can call people and when they can be called. For example, it is illegal to make telemarketing calls before 7 AM and after 9 PM. People try to protect themselves from telemarketers by signing up on the National Do Not Call Registry. However, there are companies that can continue to call if you’re registered. If you have an account with the company or have signed up for a service that permits calls by third parties, you can receive calls. You have to opt out of contact. If a caller violates the law, you should report it immediately.

A Growing Problem

In 2018, robocallers made 26.3 billion calls and the number continues to increase. The Federal Communications Commission predicts that, in 2019, over 44% of all phone calls will be robocalls. Although the FCC fines companies for violations of the law, the companies don’t seem to care. Consumers search out ways to make the calls stop, and organizations like Consumer Reports gives out information and tips on how to end robocalls.

Helpful Phone Apps

You can download apps that allow you to trace unknown callers on your iPhone. These apps use an algorithm to determine which phone numbers are likely to be linked to telemarketers or scammers; then they maintain a database with those numbers. If a phone number makes over 1,000 calls, it’s going to be labeled as an unwanted number since the company is probably using a robocaller.

Apps can help you to identify callers and, if the number belongs to a telemarketer or other unwanted caller, you can block the phone numbers. It might not end the calls, but it will certainly cut back on them. You can only stop robocalls completely by turning off your phone. Apps will help, but to date, there is no foolproof solution.

Make A Report

If you continue to receive robocalls, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission for further investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

Veterans’ Charity Scams

March 20, 2019 Posted by Pamela M

Scammers play on patriotism

Scammers have no shame when it comes to stealing your hard-earned money. They will tell you anything you want to hear. If they think you may be partial to a specific cause, they will exploit that to get cash or valuable credit card or bank information.

Veterans’ charities are especially fruitful since the average person wants to support the men and women that gave them freedom. However, scammers take your well-meaning donations and use them for their own gain. People often donate money, property, cars, boats and other items to support veterans. The Federal Trade Commission recently enacted a total of 100 law enforcement actions against fake veterans’ charities. They enlisted the help of state officials and released a public service announcement to warn people about the scams.

How to Protect Yourself

The FTC publishes a list of things you can do to protect yourself from the scammers. They may use multiple methods to gain your information from phishing to using social media profiles. Experts recommend that you do the following:

Use a Scam Call Blocker

Many telemarketers and fake charities use automatic dialing systems to reach potential targets. The “robocalls” cycle through lists of donors and are relentless. Apps like RoboKiller track phone numbers most used by scammers as well as numbers used by legitimate charities. The apps will blacklist numbers that are commonly used. If you receive a suspicious call, you can also do a reverse phone search to look up the number. You can compare the number to the one listed on the charities website to make sure they match.

Follow the FTC

The FTC offers valuable tools to the public via press releases and up-to-date information on their website, such as FTC and States Combat Fraudulent Charities That Falsely Claim to Help Veterans and Servicemembers.

Research the Charity

People may become confused by the number of requests they receive from various charities. You can easily use a search engine to learn more about the charity, including reviews, official address and phone and their 501(c)(3) nonprofit number. If the charity is unable to supply their 501(c)(3) number, it may be a scam.

You can also look up a charity’s rating and reports on websites such as give.org, charitynavigator.org, charitywatch.org, guidestar.org.

Track Your Payment

You should make donations to charities using a check or credit card. A legitimate charity will not ask you to pay by wire transfer or gift card. You should also request proof of the donation for tax purposes.

Ask Questions

Scammers don’t like to answer questions. If the caller cannot answer the following questions, be cautious:

What’s the charity’s website, address, and mission?

How are donations allocated?

How much of the donation will be used for administrative fees?

Red Flags

Finally, look out for charities that refuse to provide receipts, information about their mission and costs, and how the donation will be used. Scammers may also thank you for making a pledge you didn’t make. They may try to force you into donating immediately. If these things happen, contact the FTC and local authorities.

 

Internet Auction Fraud: What You Need to Know

December 16, 2018 Posted by Pamela M

Auction Scams 

Auctions are exciting. They are a good source to find items at deeply discounted prices. You don’t have to go to the mall or fight traffic. Auctions are also rife with scams. The excitement of getting a good deal makes some people less cautious. That’s exactly what the scammers want.

Types of Auction Fraud

Fraud can occur on almost any auction site. This is especially true if the website is not responsible for delivering the item.

Examples of Auction Fraud:

  • Seller never sends the item
  • Item is not as advertised.
  • Item is damaged.
  • Seller sends an empty box or substitute item.
  • You are overcharged or double charged.
  • Wire transfer schemes mislead buyers by asking them to send money through a wire service. The wire service is fraudulent. Once the money is sent, the seller and the wire transfer are gone.
  • Second-chance schemes involve sellers contacting losing bidders to offer a second chance on an item. If the seller calls, use an app for unknown number look ups to get the caller’s information. Call them back on that number.
  • The buyer pays, but nothing is ever delivered.
  • Overpayment fraud. A seller posts a high price item. The buyer insists on buying the item immediately, often before the auction has begun. The buyer sends a check, money order or wire transfer in excess of the cost of the item. Seller is asked to deduct the amount owed and return the overpayment. The seller soon learns that the form of payment is counterfeit.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

Many auction sites are reputable and provide good service. Follow their rules and policies to prevent being scammed.

  • If a seller contacts you by phone, use an iPhone caller ID app to verify identity.
  • Understand how auctions work
  • Know your obligations as a buyer before you bid
  • Learn what can be done in case of fraud.
  • Ensure all items purchased are received.
  • Read feedback and reviews from the seller’s previous customers.
  • Search to find any possible information about the seller, including a review from the Better Business Bureau.
  • Use a form of safe payment such as a credit card or online account that protects buyers.
  • Know the seller’s exchange and return policies.
  • Beware of international sellers.
  • Ensure that all costs are included in the price.
  • Never give a driver’s license number, bank account number, or social security number.

If you should receive an item that isn’t as advertised, contact the seller. If the seller will not refund your money, notify the website immediately. File a dispute with your credit card company to avoid being charged. All online fraud should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

Cancer Scams on the Rise

November 28, 2018 Posted by Pamela M

Watch out for cancer charity scams

 

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018, there will be 1,735,350 people diagnosed with cancer; at the same time, 609,640 cancer-related deaths in the United States. The statistics suggest the most people know someone affected by cancer. Sadly, scammers take advantage of this fact and try to bilk unsuspecting people out of money in the name of cancer research or a related charity.

There are many reputable and honorable charities. However, scammers aren’t in that prestigious group. Rather, the scammers take the money you have given in good faith to use for their own purposes.

The “Good Guys?”

Regardless of popular belief, scams aren’t only perpetrated by individuals hiding in dark basements or Nigerian prisons. So-called legitimate companies often take part in aggressive telemarketing campaigns to collects funds. On the surface, these charities seem to be honest. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that it’s a front. In 2015, the Federal Trade Commission filed charges against four charities claiming to collect money to combat cancer. The representatives lied to potential donors to gain sympathy, and then they walked away with almost $200 million in donations. As a matter of fact, the CEOs use the money to buy luxury vacations and pay salaries to family members.

Detecting a Charity Phone Scam

It may be difficult to identify a false charity asking for money or an organization, although it is not impossible. Scammers often use fake identities and use a spoofed caller ID to hide their real phone numbers. There are five steps to  avoid becoming a victim of a charity phone scam:

  1. Ask for more information

Question the caller about the charity. Ask the representative for information about the organization. The caller should supply his full name, the charity’s legal name and address, and how donations are allocated. Scammers may be unable to give an appropriate answer, get defensive or hang up. Use an app for unknown number look ups to identify the phone number.

  1. Ensure the charity is legitimate

Do not donate at the time of the call. Research the organization online to verify its existence and credentials. Legitimate charities are registered with the state, and national organizations can be verified through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. If you have determined that the charity is legitimate you can call back or donate via their website. If you donate, be sure to get a receipt.

  1. Keep your information private

Never give out personal or financial information. Be suspicious if the caller asks you to issue a wire transfer, purchase a pre-loaded debit card or a similar means of payment.

  1. Don’t get emotional

Scammers will often play on your emotions. They may use guilt to get you to donate. Whenever a caller asks for a certain dollar amount, hang up.

  1. Refuse unsolicited requests

The best protection is to avoid answering unknown calls. If you think a call is a scam, call the FTC immediately.

Are You Being Spoofed?

August 30, 2018 Posted by Pamela M

As diligent as phone service carriers can be, scammers and telemarketing firms are even more so. They seem to stay ahead of the technology and the carriers just can’t keep up.  You may have noticed an increase in local calls to your phone, many of which are local numbers – or even numbers of neighbors, family and friends. Sadly, there isn’t much we can do about these calls except to ignore or block them. Registering on the National Do Not Call Registry or reporting calls may help, but I’ve read numerous accounts that the reports only generate more calls. Why is this happening?

find out who's calling you

Local Numbers

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) software allows any user to create an account and choose a local phone number. The caller uses that number for whatever business or scam he is perpetrating, knowing that people are more likely to answer local numbers. The unwanted caller bets that you will answer, wondering if it’s a call from a neighbor, doctor’s office, or your child’s school. The caller may also tap into the number of a friend or family member, ensuring that you will pick up. Once you answer, the caller goes into his prepared spiel, hoping to lure you into purchasing a product or sending money for some invented reason.

How To Recognize Scammers

Most people are familiar with email scams wherein someone reports an overseas crisis, an unexpected windfall, or other event that requires the recipient to send money. Fake lotteries and business opportunities make big promises that will never deliver. Even the savviest people fall for these scams because the scammers are trained to be convincing and persistent. One of the most recent scams is being called by a utility company or the IRS, demanding immediate payment or face jail time. This is especially scary to senior citizens who may be easily confused or not up to date on the latest scamming trends.

How to block a phone number

How To Make It Stop

There is no surefire way to make the calls stop. However, you can block calls on your iPhone using a caller ID app. If a call comes from a number you do not recognize, let the call go to voicemail. Most scammers or telemarketers will not leave a message. If you receive a message that sounds legit and important, you may call the number, but beware. Any calls received from the utility company or the IRS demanding payment are most likely fraud. The IRS never calls people on the phone; they send letters. If a utility company calls, get the name and extension of the person calling as well as a call back number that you can use to verify the information. Also check the claim against any outstanding bills. If you do suspect fraud, report the call immediately to the police.

Lastly, limit the number of things you sign up for online. The more you use your phone number, the more likely you are to receive calls. You may also consider getting a masked number from Google voice or another company to separate your personal calls from potential fraudsters.

 

Kidnapping Phone Scams: What You Need To Know

October 25, 2017 Posted by communicator

There’s a scary phone scam out there that tries to convince you that a loved one has been kidnapped by criminals. All across the United States there have been reports of scammers calling people and telling them that their family members are in grave danger. Find out how to spot this scam, how to avoid and report it, and how you can trace unknown calls.

How The Kidnapping Phone Scam Works

You’ll receive a call from someone claiming to have your family member and demanding that you send them money as ransom. You may even hear screams or crying in the background of the call. This is all designed to make you panic.

The calls often come from Mexico and they find family names and phone numbers on social media. Using this information they will demand that you wire them large amounts of money.

How To Avoid This Scam

This scam is scary and requires quick thinking. If you get a call from someone saying they have your loved one ask something personal. Make sure it’s something only the person they say they have would know. Additionally, while on the phone with the caller send a text out to the person they say they have, or find someone to call the person they say is in danger.

If you verify that the caller is a scammer immediately hang up and call your local police. It’s important that you report this type of call as soon as possible. Scammers are likely targeting other people in your community.

Another thing which you can do to protect yourself and your family is to set your social media to private. Only share information with people you know and trust online. Most of the time these callers get their information from online social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Trace Unknown Calls

You should always try to avoid answering unknown phone calls. To help you with this look into using a white pages iPhone caller id app on your smart phone. Not only will apps like these help you cut down on the amount of unwanted calls you receive, they could also save you from being a scam victim.