Posts Tagged: ‘scammers’

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 through websites or social media 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

Scam artists rely on their new partners being blinded by love, so they don’t ask many questions. Savvy people fall prey to dating scams all the time, simply because the scammers are often 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. Most people have become wise to phishing and identity theft, so fraudsters don’t often ask for credit card or bank account information – at least not at first. The requests start out small. The money is always sent through gift cards, wire transfers, cash apps or in bitcoins, so it is impossible to trace.

Red Flags

There are many warning signs or “red flags” that can be picked up if you know what to look for in a conversation or dating profile.

The profile picture often looks like someone you recognize, probably a celebrity. There is little personal information on the dating profile. When the person is asked to take the online relationship to the next level, such as a face-t-face meeting, there is always an excuse as to why it can’t happen.

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.

Dating Profiles

Below are some examples of common profiles of scammers and their victims:

The Scammer

Online dating scams often start outside the United States. According to HuffPost, most are based in Nigeria and Ghana and Nigeria, but there has been an increase in dating scams coming from West African immigrants located in Britain, Canada, and Malaysia. Some are career criminals, but there has been a rise in the number of poor college students. The scam can easily turn into a business, with scammers receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from one victim. However, it is most likely that the scammer has multiple “romances” at one time.

The Victim

Romance scams can target anyone. Barb Sluppik, who runs the watchdog site RomanceScams.org, says she’s worked with “men and women of all ages – doctors and lawyers, CEOs of companies, people from the entertainment industry – who you’d never think in a million years would fall for these scams but do.” Those most likely to be targeted include:

  • Middle-aged. Most scam artists 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.
  • Women. Scammers target women, especially those that have been divorced or widowed. These victims tend to be emotionally vulnerable.
  • People in Crisis. A 2013 report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) showed that people  who have suffered a crisis in the past two years are more than two and a half times as likely to be victims of a romance or other scam. Examples include divorce, death of a loved one, medical crisis or loss of a job.
  • Abuse Survivors. A study by University of Leicester psychologist Monica Whitty shows that many victims of romance scams have been previously involved in abusive relationship. They had become accustomed to living in denial about the abusive behavior, which allows them to turn a blind eye to any red flags from the scammer.
  • Previous Victims. Romance scammers like to target previous victims. Scams attract previous victims, even if the outcome of past incidents was harmful.
  • Addictive Personalities. Scammers love people with addictive personalities because they 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. Scammers trick people who trust others immediately.

Profile Pictures

Fake profiles on online dating sites or social media rarely have pictures. A small percentage may have a legitimate reason for not having a picture, such as a high-profile job or some disfigurement, but it’s probably that the poster may be not who he claims to be.

If there is a profile pic that looks over done or professional, chances are it’s not real. Use a reverse image search app to uncover the user’s true identity. Some of the most popular search engines include Google Reverse Image Search (Google Images) or TinEye. Upload the person’s picture into the app and search. Try more than one app to make sure that the picture isn’t located elsewhere on the internet. You may find it linked to other dating websites as well.

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 fraudsters. Many legitimate verification sites exist and are a great tool. Scammers have created sites similar to the real sites to trick people into giving personal information such as social security numbers.

How it Works

The scam artist 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.

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 or “robocalls” 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.

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 must 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 Do Not Call List at 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 must opt out of contact. If a caller violates the law, you should report it immediately. You only need to sign up one time per phone number on the registry. If you are unsure if your number is listed, you can confirm on the website.

A Growing Problem

In 2018, auto dialers made 26.3 billion robocalls and the number continues to increase. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that they received over 375,000 complaints during every month in 2018. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) predicts that the total amount of robocalls in 2019 will total 44% of all phone calls. 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.

Phone Number Spoofing

A trick developed by companies using robocallers is called number spoofing. Number spoofing is the act of making a phone number appear different than the number actually being used to call. This method has a two-fold benefit for spammers and scammers: you may be more likely to pick up a call if the number is based in your area. Additionally, if you call back on the spoofed number, you will not reach the party. You may reach a person at that number, but chances are it’s someone unrelated to the call you just received. The latter is common in neighborhood spoofing.

Neighborhood spoofing is when a spoofer uses a number in your neighborhood. The spoofed number could use the same area code or even the same local exchange. This trick makes the target think the call is coming from someone nearby – perhaps a doctor’s office, neighbor or one of their children. When the person picks up the call, the spam/scam begins.

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. Callers dialing 1,000 calls or more from a particular number are labeled as an unwanted number since the company is probably using a robocaller.

Apps can help you to identify unknown callers and, if the number belongs to a telemarketer or other unwanted caller, you can block the phone numbers. It might not end telemarketer or spam 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.

Tips to Stop Robocalls

It’s difficult to make it stop but there are ways to cut down on the spam calls you receive. There are several ways you can block phone numbers.

  • The first is to use a call blocking app. The app maintains a database of numbers that are known or suspected to be from telemarketers or scammers. Also, if a phone number is reported to make over 1,000 calls, it is labeled the same way since they are most likely robocalls.
  • Call your service provider and ask about their offerings for stopping the calls.
  • Manually block all suspected numbers on your phone.
  • Set your phone to only accept calls from people in your contact list.
  • Set your phone to Do Not Disturb. It won’t affect robocalls but if you use it often, human callers may eventually give up trying to reach you.
  • Shut off your landline or cell phone.
  • Get a second phone number. You can use a Voice over Internet Protocol phone number like those offered by Google Voice, TextNow, or similar companies. It’s a free, largely untraceable.
  • Sign up for a call blocking service. Popular services include Nomorobo Hiya Caller ID and Block, YouMail Voicemail & Spam Block, Truecaller, and RoboKiller. Not only do the services use a call protect feature and block calls, it also dissuades callers by playing pre-recorded conversations designed to keep telemarketers and scammers on the phone. The programs can work on Android and iPhone. Major phone carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint also have versions of call blocking apps.
  • Don’t answer the phone. Companies pay trackers to record times people are likely to answer their phones. If you pick up on an unwanted call, simply hang up.
  • Don’t “opt out” during the call. Robocallers also track if you choose to opt out of receiving calls from their company. As a result, you could receive more robocalls because the caller knows you are a real person that answered. Therefore, the answer is to hang up without speaking to anyone.

Call Blocking

Blocking Numbers on an iPhone

Robocallers automatically cycle through thousands of phone numbers. Some may have your local prefix to trick you into picking up the phone. Blocking numbers on an iPhone is simple. You can block a phone number when it appears om  your iPhone. Open the Phone app and select “Recents.” Tap the “Info” icon beside the number you want to block. Tap on “Block this Caller > Block Contact.” The number is now blocked from your phone.

If you are using iOS 13 or higher, there is a better way to block spam calls. Users enable the “Silence Unknown Callers” feature, which enables calls to be sent directly to voicemail. To enable the setting, go to “Settings > Phone”. Turn on the switch to “Silence Unknown Callers.”

Blocking Numbers on Android

Android phones use various methods to block callers depending on the type and version of phone. In general, you should open the Phone app and tap on “Recents” (usually at the bottom of the screen). Tap on the number you want to block. There is a command that allows you to block or report the number as spam.

Blocking Robocalls

Some Android devices allow you to block unknown callers. Again, there may be variations in phones, but you should be able to open the Phone app and tap on “Settings.” There is an option to block all unknown numbers. You can also manually block any number. To truly avoid receiving unwanted calls, use the “Do Not Disturb” feature.

Make A Report

You should report robocalls and scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The agency keeps records of complaints and can assist you in taking steps against scams. Their website has a lot of good information on spoofing, spam calls on landlines and mobile phones, spam text messages, and how to avoid scams. If you continue to receive robocalls, you can report it to for further investigation.

 

 

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.

What are VoIP Phone Numbers?

October 30, 2018 Posted by Pamela M

VoIP Phone Service

As technology expands, ways to connect are increasing exponentially. Although it has been around for quite a few years, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become more popular than ever. While there are advantages to using VoIP numbers, there are also disadvantages, including usage by scammers. What are VoIP numbers and how do they work?

Voice over Internet Protocol

Traditional phone services link a specific phone to a number. That number will always be used when placing calls from the phone. However, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) numbers are not tied to a specific phone. Rather, they are numbers connected to an Internet service. A user signs up with a website, such as Google Voice. The user registers with the website and receives a phone number. The user can make calls using that number from any supporting device. This means a user can make calls from a cell phone, computer, laptop, or even an analog telephone. The services are often free or charge a monthly fee. The low or no cost feature of using a VoIP number is especially attractive to businesses because it can drastically reduce monthly fees.

Advantages

The benefits of using a VoIP are many. They include:

  • Never have to change phone numbers
  • Not tying up your personal line
  • Not having to purchase a business line
  • Cheap or free service
  • International calling
  • Masking identity
  • Choosing any phone number in any area code
  • Operating multiple phone lines
  • Accessing many features of traditional phone services

Disadvantages

  • Unable to place 911 calls
  • Must have an Internet connection
  • Disabled during a power outage
  • Dependent on bandwidth
  • Internet can cause lag time
  • Lower quality than traditional service
  • Callers can mask their identity
  • Callers can pretend to be representatives of businesses or agencies (Bank, IRS, etc.)
  • Blocked numbers
  • Scammers/telemarketers can use local numbers
  • May be harder to trace
  • Identity may not be available
  • May permit viruses on computer/phone system

Tracing VoIP Numbers

Recently, it has become easier for services to trace unknown callers on your iPhone. The numbers are linked to an IP address rather than to a specific phone, therefore traces can be tricky, but they can be done. The best way to avoid issues with telemarketers or scammers is to block unknown or foreign numbers using an app. If you answer an unknown number, never give out personal information. If you suspect a scam, contact your Attorney General or local authorities on their non-emergency line.

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.