Beware of Coronaviris Scams

Scammers are notorious for capitalizing on fear, and the coronavirus outbreak is no man in a medical maskexception. Showing an appalling lack of the most basic morals, scammers have set up fake websites, bogus funding collections and more in an effort to trick the fearful and unsuspecting out of their money.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published on its website a warning against email scams connected to the coronavirus. The agency claims it has received reports from around the world about phishing attempts mentioning coronavirus on an almost daily basis.

Closer to home, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning against a surge in coronavirus scams, which are being executed with surprising sophistication, so they may be difficult for even the keenest of eyes to spot.

The best weapons against these scams are awareness and education. When people know about circulating scams and how to identify them, they’re already several steps ahead of the scammers. Here’s what you need to know about coronavirus-related scams.

How the scams play out

There are several scams exploiting the fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus. Here are some of the most prevalent:

The fake funding scam

In this scam, victims receive bogus emails, text messages or social media posts asking them to donate money to a research team that is supposedly on the verge of developing a drug to treat COVID-19. Others claim they are nearing a vaccine for immunizing the population against the virus. There have also been ads circulating on the internet with similar requests. Unfortunately, nearly all of these are fakes, and any money donated to these “funds” will help line the scammers’ pockets.

The bogus health agency

There is so much conflicting information on the coronavirus that it’s really a no-brainer that scammers are exploiting the confusion. Scammers are sending out alerts appearing to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the WHO; however, they’re actually created by the scammers. These emails sport the logo of the agencies that allegedly sent them, and the URL is similar to those of the agencies as well. Some scammers will even invent their own “health agency,” such as “The Health Department,” taking care to evoke authenticity with bogus contact information and logos.

Victims who don’t know better will believe these missives are sent by legitimate agencies. While some of these emails and posts may actually provide useful information, they often also spread misinformation to promote fear-mongering, such as nonexistent local diagnoses of the virus. Even worse, they infect the victims’ computers with malware which is then used to scrape personal information off the infected devices.

The phony purchase order

Scammers are hacking the computer systems at medical treatment centers and obtaining information about outstanding orders for face masks and other supplies. The scammers then send the buyer a phony purchase order listing the requested supplies and asking for payment. The employee at the treatment center wires payment directly into the scammer’s account. Unfortunately, they’ll have to pay the bill again when contacted by the legitimate supplier.

Preventing scams

Basic preventative measures can keep scammers from making you their next target.

As always, it’s important to keep the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer up to date, and to strengthen the security settings on all of your devices.

Practice responsible browsing when online. Never download an attachment from an unknown source or click on links embedded in an email or social media post from an unknown individual. Don’t share sensitive information online, either. If you’re unsure about a website’s authenticity, check the URL and look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” indicating the site is secure.

Finally, it’s a good idea to stay updated on the latest news about the coronavirus to avoid falling prey to misinformation. Check the actual CDC and WHO websites for the latest updates. You can donate funds toward research on these sites as well.

Spotting the scams

Scammers give themselves away when they ask for payment via specific means, including a wire transfer or prepaid gift card. Scams are also easily spotted by claims of urgency, such as “Act now!” Another giveaway is poor writing skills, including grammatical errors, awkward syntax and misspelled words. In the coronavirus scams, “Breaking information” alerts appearing to be from health agencies are another sign of a scam.

You can keep yourself safe from the coronavirus by practicing good hygiene habits and avoid coronavirus scams by practicing healthy internet usage. Keep yourself in the know about the latest developments.

At Destinations Credit Union, we will never e-mail or phone you asking for personal information.  If you call us, we will verify that you are who you say you are by asking questions.  If you get an e-mail and you are unsure if it is legitimate or not, don’t click!  Go directly to the website of the legit organization or call them.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a coronavirus scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

Don’t Get Caught In A Crowdfunding Scam

The days of handouts and begging loans off wealthy relatives are fast becoming extinct.Woman sitting on sofa with a laptop Today, if you need boatloads of money-whether it’s to help you cover an expensive emergency or to fund a new business idea-you only need to appeal to the vast audience of the internet and wait for the money to start rolling in.

Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are packed with eager would-be entrepreneurs and desperately needy individuals alike.

But, they’re also packed with scammers.

For instance, an Iowa woman raised thousands of dollars on GoFundMe for her daughter’s terminal cancer-which would be heartwarming were it not for the fact that her daughter is perfectly healthy.

In a second example, an American company called Triton claimed to have created a device enabling people to breathe underwater. The IndieGoGo page they set up to raise funds for production pulled in $850,000 in just a few days. Sounds inspiring until you realize their supposed invention is more like something out of a sci-fi movie. In reality, Triton fooled many people with an invention that only existed in their imagination.

In yet another incident that garnered national attention, a New Jersey couple teamed up with a homeless veteran from Philadelphia to start a bogus GoFundMe page. The couple claimed the veteran had used his last $20 to buy gas for the wife when she was stranded on Interstate 95. It was the perfect feel-good story, with just enough pathos and emotion to get people to part with their money-to the tune of $400,000, in fact.

Later, when the veteran accused the couple of withholding his money, the case went to court. Proceedings are currently ongoing, but authorities believe the campaign was a scam and that the couple allegedly burned through a whopping $350,000 of donated funds in just a few months.

While some crowdfunding platforms will refund your money if a cause turns out to be a scam, most of them will keep a portion of it for themselves, so don’t plan to get back every penny if you get caught up in a scam. There’s also the possibilityof a crowdfunding scam remaining undetected, allowing the scammers to live it up on everyone else’s dimes. Even if your money does land back in your wallet, it’s never a good feeling to know you’ve been conned.

So, don’t let the scammers out there ruin it for everyone else! You should be able to share your money with any cause you believe in. Here are some tips to help ensure you’re chipping in for something genuine.

How to check a campaign for legitimacy

Whether it’s a heartbreaking story or a brilliant business venture you want to support, you’ll first want to research the campaign’s creator. Google their name to see what the internet has to say about them. Also, look up their street address and phone number to verify they’re using their real name, and check whether they’ve started any crowdfunding campaigns in the past.

If you’re looking at a charity campaign, your next step is to take emotion out of the picture. Charity crowdfunding scams succeed by playing with people’s heartstrings. Take the time to study the campaign with pure logic. Does the story really make sense? If you still think it’s legitimate and everything seems to check out, you can choose to donate. Or, you can take your caution one step further by contacting the campaign’s creator and asking for verification of their cause. If they’re genuinely in need, they’ll gladly supply you with names of doctors or references. But if they sound hesitant, or refuse to answer your questions, opt out.

If you’re looking at a crowdfunding campaign for a new business idea, ask yourself if the project is realistic. There are currently several GoFundMe pages set up by individuals with the goal of fighting ISIS. Sounds good until you realize how impossible it is for a single person to achieve such a goal. Lots of inventions or other business ideas also sound incredible until you realize they’re only possible in a fantasy world. Don’t help a business venture get off the ground until you can verify that it’s actually legitimate.

Do your due diligence with crowdfunding campaigns, and you can donate with confidence.

Your Turn: Do you have a crowdfunding horror story? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nj.com/news/2019/01/inspired-by-viral-gofundme-fraud-this-nj-bill-would-mean-harsher-punishment-for-scammers.html%3FoutputType%3Damp

https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/how-to-avoid-crowdfunding-scams
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna936941
http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-incredibly-obvious-crowdfunding-scams-people-fell-for/

7 Naughty Scams To Watch Out For This Holiday Season

‘Tis the season to be jolly! And unfortunately, ’tis also the season for scammers to go afterMan sitting among computers with santa hat on your hard-earned dollars. Keep your money safe by reading up on the most common scams taking place this time of year and practicing caution.

Phishing emails

Always popular, phishing scams get even more prevalent before the holidays. They can take the form of bogus delivery confirmation requests seeking your information or even a personalized letter to your child from “Santa.”

Be extra careful this holiday season when it comes to sharing personal information online or with an unverified requester.

Fake charities

Sadly, many scammers will capitalize on the goodwill that flourishes this time of year by asking you to make a donation to a charity that does not actually exist. Verify the authenticity of any charity you’d like to make a contribution to by checking it out on a website like  CharityNavigator.org. Also, it’s best to contact a charity on your own instead of following a website or email link.

Package theft

It’s holiday time, and those UPS and FedEx trucks are everywhere, dropping off boxes of goodies all over the neighborhood.

Usually, these drop-offs go as planned. Unfortunately, though, some 23 million customers will have their packages stolen from their doorsteps this year.

Don’t be one of them! If possible, and especially when ordering something expensive, arrange for a delivery that requires your signature upon receipt. Otherwise, track your order and know when to look out for it so you can bring it inside as quickly as possible after it’s dropped off.

When sending a gift to someone else via Amazon, consider sending it to an Amazon Locker location instead of to the recipient’s household. There’s no fee for using this service, and this way, your gift is safe.

Bogus sites

You might get lucky and find that perfect gift at a super-low price, but don’t believe any ads or websites that are practically giving away the good stuff for free. These are, quite likely, scams. Once you click an ad link and place an order, you’ll never hear from the site again. Worse yet, they may use the information you shared to empty your accounts.

Only shop on reputable sites. Remember to check the website address/URL before placing an order. It may look strikingly similar to a popular site, but if one letter is off or missing completely, the site is bogus and you need to get out. Also, always look for that important “s” after the “http” in the web address to verify a site’s security.

Fake freebies

Did you really just see a Facebook post offering you a new iPhone, completely free of charge? If you have, run the other way and don’t look back! You’re looking at a scam, designed to lure you into sharing your information with criminals or unwittingly installing malware on your device.

Fake freebies run the gamut from new phones, complementary cruises and various luxury gift items to free holiday-themed downloads, like music, wallpaper and games.

If you’re offered any outrageous free gifts by text message, email or social media posts, ignore them. Downloads, though, may be safe, but need to be carefully vetted for authenticity before you accept them.

Defunct gift cards

Many scammers sell expired or empty gift cards this time of year, hoping to make a profit on a card that isn’t worth more than the plastic used to make it.

Ask to inspect any gift card you purchase before you finalize the sale. Check to see if the activation code is exposed. If it is, the scammer has probably already used the card or has copied the information and will use it soon.

Temporary holiday jobs

Lots of businesses are hiring extra hands to get them through the busy holiday season. Don’t get stuck working for criminals!

Many scammers will pose as employees of recognized businesses and post help-wanted ads on social media platforms and popular websites. When a job seeker follows the links in these ads, they are directed to a bogus site that looks just like the site of the company the scammer claims to represent. They’ll be asked to share personal information to submit an application. The scammer will then make off with this information and the promised job will never materialize.

If you’re looking for a seasonal job, apply in-person or directly on a business’s website. Do not follow any links.

As always, be aware and be cautious when enjoying the holiday season. Don’t get grinched! Stay alert and use caution to keep your money – and your information – safe.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by these or any other seasonal scams? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2017/holiday-season-scams-photo.html

https://www.moneytips.com/9-scams-to-watch-out-for-this-holiday-season
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity#Signs

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union.

Fake Check Scams On The Rise

In early September, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a report warning about aWoman writing a check spike in fake check scams across the country. While these scams are not new, their occurrence rate has doubled over the last three years and is up 12% from 2017.

The BBB further announced that billions of dollars in fake checks circulate each year, and that the number of victims this scam snares annually is close to 500,000.

The amount of money lost from these scams is just as staggering: The FTC reported losses of approximately $40 million from fake check scams in just one year.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this scam is the fact that the largest pool of its victims falls between the ages of 20 and 29 – a segment of the population that is far more familiar with electronic payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo, than with the archaic paper check. This makes them easy victims for the scam.

Aside from ordinary paper checks, this scam can also be pulled off with cashier’s checks and money orders. Regardless of the medium, each of these scams involves a scammer “overpaying” a victim and requesting the check be cashed with the difference being deposited into a designated account belonging to the scammer.

Steve Baker, an investigator with the BBB, cautions: “What they all have in common is that the check is counterfeit, and just because the money is credited to your account does not mean the check is good.”

Here are the most common variations of the fake check scam:

  1. “Buyers” send sellers a check written out for more than the asking price of an object sold on an online marketplace, such as Craigslist.
  2. Lottery “winners” are rewarded with an inflated prize and given instructions to pay back a part of the check to cover taxes or fees.
  3. “Employees” are granted checks for supplies, with instructions to wire back a part of it to the “company.”

In each case, the fake check or money order seems to clear in the bank or credit union. It is only a few days later, when the victim’s payout to the scammer is deposited and the account does not have sufficient funds to cover it, that the scam becomes clear.

The BBB warns that this scam can be hard to spot, especially for millennials who may not be familiar with paper checks. To that end, learning what to look for to determine a check’s authenticity is the public’s best weapon against this scam.

Wondering if a check is a fake? Hold it up to this checklist:

  • Is the check’s paper stock weak and flimsy?
  • Check the company’s name and address. Are they spelled correctly?
  • Every check will have an identification number printed toward its top and again at the bottom. Verify that these numbers match up.
  • If you’re allegedly holding a lottery-winning check in your hands, the check should be written out from a state lottery commission. If it’s made out by a random company, it’s bogus.
  • Look for the special ink required for the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code that’s at the bottom of the check.
  • The check should have a routing number from its bank. You can Google the bank to find out if the routing number is genuine.

Aside from knowing how to recognize a fake check, it’s important to know which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams. If you come across any of the following, run the other way and don’t look back:

  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re not familiar with.
  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.
  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Now that you know how to spot a fake check and which kind of transactions to avoid at all cost, those scammers don’t stand a chance!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a fake check scam? Share your story with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.semissourian.com/story/2549480.html

https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2018/09/05/better-business-bureau-releases-report-fake-check-scams/1202964002/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/fake-check-scams-an-exploding-epidemic-new-report-says-better-business-bureau/

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union.

Jury Duty Scams

Nobody likes being called in for jury duty. But a recently revived scam has painted the group of people sitting in jury boxentire experience in a more sinister hue.

Here’s how it plays out: The scammer calls a victim, claiming to work for the local court. The scammer tells the victim they’ve missed their call to jury duty and that there is a warrant out for the victim’s arrest.

The victim, of course, denies ever having received a summons to jury duty. The scammer then asks the victim for some identifying information to verify if the notification was indeed sent out. The victim, eager to clear up the alleged misunderstanding, willingly shares their Social Security number, date of birth or even credit card information. Obviously, all the scammer wants to do with this information is steal it — and benefit from the victim’s identity.

Once this information changes hands and the caller has “verified” that the victim has received jury duty notification, the scammer may then demand a payment to the tune of $1,000 or more. The scammer stresses that the fine must be paid immediately to help the victim avoid an arrest. This is when the hapless victim starts seeing visions of SWAT teams in full protective gear bursting into their home and dragging them out the door in handcuffs. By now, they’re shaking from fear and will pay any price to buy their freedom.

Unluckily for the victim, the fun is just beginning. Once they’ve agreed to pay the fine, they will be sent on a wild goose chase around town, purchasing reloadable money cards in several different stores as per the scammer’s directive. All this time, the victim is certain the entire police force is already on their tail and they are frantically rushing to do the scammer’s bidding. When the chase is finally over and all the cards have been purchased, the victim is then instructed to send their money to the “courthouse” so they can be free from the threat of arrest.

At this point, the victim may be heaving a sigh of relief, but it’s the crooked scammer who is gleefully rubbing their hands together and laughing maniacally. Not only did they milk this oblivious victim for a cool thousand bucks, they also have the victim’s personal details, making a full identity theft the next scandalous step in this scam.

Jury duty scams like these are popping up all over the U.S. They’ve already been reported in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington state.

Sadly, this scam often works. The victim tends to get flustered and anxious about their alleged pending arrest, so their fear drives them to drop their guard and mindlessly comply with whatever the caller tells them to do.

Don’t be the next victim! Read on to learn how to spot these scams for what they are.

Red flags

If you’re a vigilant citizen who is always up on the latest scams, you will probably know enough to recognize the one major flaw in this scam: It is executed over the phone. Government workers rarely reach out to people by phone; they prefer to use snail mail. When a courthouse worker does call a private juror, they most definitely won’t ask for private information over the phone! Also, there is no reason for a federal court to request your Social Security number at all. And finally, skipping out on jury duty never leads to an arrest!

While this scam is almost always played out over the phone, there have been some instances of jury duty scams being pulled via email. The script is nearly identical, save for the medium of communication between scammer and victim – the victim is pressured into sharing sensitive information and/or paying a fine, or risk being jailed for skipping out on jury duty. The same red flags apply as above: A government worker won’t contact you through email and they won’t demand that you share sensitive information via unsecured means.

Protect yourself

If one of these goofballs tries pulling the wool over your eyes with this scam, make sure you know what to do.

First, don’t engage with the scammer. Often, the scammers are skilled enough to use a fake Caller ID to fool victims. If it looks like the local courthouse is calling you, don’t pick up the phone. Remember, it’s highly unlikely that a courthouse worker is on the other end of the line.

If you already picked up and the caller starts reading you the riot act about missed jury duty, penalties and your pending arrest, hang up as quickly as you can. They may try to scare you or threaten you, but don’t be afraid. If you refuse to cooperate, they will have no power over you.

Finally, if you’ve gotten hooked and find yourself being asked to share sensitive information, remember the golden rule: NEVER share your identifying details over an unsafe medium.

Stop the scam

Jury duty may not be your idea of a fun way to pass the time, but it is an integral part of our court system and deserves our respect. The scammers in this con are impersonating members of the federal court and have therefore committed a serious crime. If you are targeted by a jury duty scam, notify the Clerk of Court’s office of the U.S. District Court in your area. It’s also a good idea to let the FTC know at ftc.gov.

Don’t let these crooks get away with their crime!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a jury duty scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.wmar2news.com/2537797668/the-jury-duty-scam-that-nearly-tricked-a-law-professor.html

https://www.google.com/amp/www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/20180329
/troubleshooter-beware-jury-duty-scam%3Ftemplate%3Dampart
http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/jury-service/juror-scams
https://www.scambusters.org/juryduty.html
https://www.aarp.org/podcasts/the-perfect-scam/info-2018/jury-duty-scam.html