IRS Reveals List of “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2020

Each year, the IRS publishes the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of tax scams most prevalent during Hands on computer in shadowsthat year’s tax season. This year, with COVID-19 pushing off the federal tax deadline to July 15, the IRS held off publishing the list until early July, and of course it’s loaded with COVID-19-related scams.

Whether you’ve filed for an extension, you’ve had your taxes filed for months or you’ve gotten them in just in time at the mid-July deadline, be on the lookout for the Dirty Dozen of 2020, which continues spreading for months after Tax Day.

1. Phishing: Fake emails or websites impersonate the IRS in an attempt to steal information about refunds or Economic Impact Payments (EIPs).

Protect yourself: The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email. Be extra wary of any websites and emails making heavy use of COVID-19 terms like stimulus, coronavirus and Economic Impact Payment.

2. Fake charities: Criminals exploit the fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic to set up bogus charities that rob innocent victims who believe they’re helping the unfortunate. The “charity” may even claim to be working on behalf of the IRS to help victims of the virus get their tax refunds.

Protect yourself: Charities with familiar-sounding names that aggressively market themselves are often bogus charities trying to make donors believe they represent the actual well-known organization. They will also refuse to provide an Employer Identification Number (EIN) when asked, and will not have a positive review on sites like Charity.org. Taxpayers can also search for legitimate charities using the IRS charity search tool.

3. Threatening impersonator phone calls: An alleged IRS agent threatens the victim with arrest, deportation or license revocation if taxes are not paid immediately by prepaid gift card or wire transfer.

Protect yourself: The IRS will never threaten a taxpayer or demand immediate payment over the phone. It also will not insist on being paid via gift card or wire transfer.

4. Social media scams: Scammers use information that can be found on social media platforms for a variety of scams, including the impersonation of the victim’s friend to get at the victims’ more private information. This ruse often ends in tax-related identity theft.

Protect yourself: The victim’s “friend” will claim to be in a compromised position and to urgently need the victim’s personal information. When contacted privately, though, the “friend” will have no knowledge of the interaction.

5. EIP or refund theft: Scammers steal taxpayers’ identities, file false tax returns in their names and pocket their refunds and their EIPs.

Protect yourself: Personal information should never be shared online with an unverified contact, even if the contact promises to assist in tax filing or receiving the EIP.

6. Senior fraud: Scammers, or long-term caregivers of the elderly, file tax returns on their behalf and then pocket the refunds and EIPs.

Protect yourself: Seniors should be wary of bogus emails, text messages and fake websites asking them to share their personal information.

7. Scams targeting non-English speakers: Scammers impersonate IRS agents and target non-English speakers, threatening jail time, deportation or revocation of the victim’s driver’s license if an immediate tax payment is not made. The victims have limited access to information and often fall for these scams.

Protect yourself: The IRS will not threaten taxpayers over the phone or insist upon immediate payment.

8. Unscrupulous return preparers: Alleged tax preparers will reach out to the victim and offer their services. Unfortunately, though, they will steal the victim’s personal information, file a tax return on their behalf and pocket the refund, or promise inflated refunds for a bigger fee.

Protect yourself: If a tax preparer is not willing to share their preparer Tax Identification Number (TIN), they are likely to be a scammer. Also, if the alleged preparer promises credits and deductions that sound too good to be true, they probably are.

9. Offer in Compromise scams: Bogus tax debt resolution companies make false claims about settling tax debts for “pennies on the dollar” through an Offer in Compromise (OIC) in exchange for a steep fee.

Protect yourself: An OIC that sounds outrageously attractive is likely bogus. Taxpayers can use the IRS’s OIC tool to see if they qualify for an authentic offer.

10. Fake payments with repayment demands: A scammer steals a taxpayer’s personal information, files a fake tax return on their behalf and has the refund deposited into the taxpayer’s checking account. The scammer then calls the victim impersonating the IRS and claiming the refund was mistakenly inflated, so the victim must return the extra funds via gift card or wire transfer. Of course, this money will go directly into the scammer’s pockets.

Protect yourself: Refund checks will never be deposited in a taxpayer’s account if they have not filed taxes. Also, the IRS does not demand payment by a specific method.

11. Payroll and HR scams: Scams target tax professionals, employers and taxpayers to steal W-2s and other tax information. They will then impersonate the employee and request to change their direct deposit information for their paychecks.

Protect yourself: If an employer or HR representative receives a request for a direct deposit change, it’s best to check with the employee directly to see if the request is legitimate.

12. Ransomware: Malware infects a victim’s computer, network or server, and tracks keystrokes and/or other computer activity. Sensitive data is then encrypted and locked. When the victim tries to access their data, they’ll receive a pop-up message demanding a ransom payment for the return of their information.

Protect yourself: Links embedded in emails from unverified sources should never be opened. Tax software should not be downloaded unless it features multi-factor authentication.

Don’t be a victim of the dirty dozen! Stay alert and stay safe.

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

Sources:
https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-unveils-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-2020-americans-urged-to-be-vigilant-to-these-threats-during-the-pandemic-and-its-aftermath
https://abcnews4.com/news/local/irs-reveals-dirty-dozen-list-of-tax-scams-for-2020

Beware Back To School Tuition Scams

Back-to-school season means a flurry of shopping — and a flurry of scams. Scammers young man studyingknow that students and their parents are caught up in a frenzy of preparations and errands and are, therefore, more likely to fall victim to schemes. As you get ready for school (whether online or in-person), look out for these scams targeting college students and parents of private school students that tend to peak before the start of the school year.

The tuition fee scam

How it plays out: A college student, or the parent of a private school student, receives a phone call from a caller introducing themself as a secretary or administrator at their school, or their child’s school. The caller claims the student or parent owes tuition fees and will not be allowed to return to school for the coming semester unless the fees are paid. They may explain that a tuition check has bounced or that a credit card payment didn’t clear. Alternatively, the caller claims the student’s grant or scholarship was abruptly canceled and the student is now being billed for the full tuition fee.

The caller insists on being paid the outstanding sum immediately or the student will lose their spot in the school. The “secretary” or “administrator” provides the victim with detailed information for wiring money or dropping off the cash at a private address. Of course, once the money is sent, it will never be seen again.

Protect yourself: This scam is easy to spot because most schools will not insist on immediate payment, or payment through a wire transfer. If you receive a call like the one described above, ask the caller detailed questions about the school, their position and the money owed. If it’s a scam, the caller will not be able to answer well. You can also explain that you need to see the actual bill before making any payments, and that you’d like to pick up the bill yourself from the school. Finally, you can insist on calling the school directly to make the payment.

The student tax scam

How it plays out: In this scam, someone allegedly representing the IRS calls a college student at a public university and claims they neglected to pay their student tax. The caller explains that the student tax helps fund the university and that failure to pay this tax can result in disqualification from class and possible imprisonment. They will insist on immediate payment via prepaid gift card or wire transfer.

Protect yourself: You can spot this scam by remembering that the IRS will always first contact people by mail. Also, the IRS won’t insist on being paid through gift card or wire transfer.

The scholarship scam

How it plays out: A scammer reaches out to a college student telling them they’ve been guaranteed approval for a scholarship or grant. The only catch is that the student must pay a hefty fee to receive it. Unfortunately, the scholarship is bogus and, if the victim falls for the scam, they will never see that money again.

In a similar scam, a victim is instructed to pay a fee to a company that will allegedly file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form in their name. Of course, no FAFSA form will be filed, and the money paid for this “service” will go directly into the scammer’s pockets.

Protect yourself: Student scholarships and grants are designed to help students and their parents pay for education; they don’t charge for eligibility. If an alleged scholarship claims to charge a fee before granting approval, it is most certainly a scam. Also, no company will guarantee approval for a scholarship or grant; there is always a vetting process of some kind before eligibility is determined. Finally, there is no reason to pay to have a FAFSA form filed; it can be completed easily online here.  For additional help, college students can contact the financial aid office at their university.

Scammers are out in full force before the start of the school year. Don’t let them make the grade! Stay alert and stay safe.  Visit the Fraud Page on Destinations Credit Union‘s website for resources to stay informed.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a back-to-school scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

Watch Out for These Scams as the Country Moves Toward Reopening

Woman in Mask Using Laptop.

As the coronavirus continues spreading across the country in waves and peaks, every state is making bold moves toward reopening under a strange new set of circumstances dubbed the “New Normal.” Face coverings are de rigueur. Floor markings have been slapped down exactly 6 feet apart near checkout counters in retail stores. Shoppers are weary, cautious and careful. And, as the country moves forward and adapts to the new realities, scammers aren’t far behind.

Watch out for these trending scams as the country reopens:

Account Takeovers

Even as retailers work toward reopening, shorter hours and percentage-capacity rules mean many consumers are still shopping remotely. Retailers are also busier than ever now as they comply with new rules and work to meet customers’ changing demands. This leads to an increase in online retail scams, like account takeovers, in which scammers hack a company’s database and break into a customer’s account. Using the customer’s remembered payment information, the scammer goes on to place large orders to their own address — all on the client’s dime.

Protect yourself:

Account takeovers are most commonly pulled off on dormant accounts. The scammer assumes these accountholders won’t notice this activity, but you can outsmart them by checking your retail accounts for sudden orders or deleting the remembered information from accounts you rarely use.

Business owners can spot these scams by looking out for sudden large orders from customers who haven’t purchased anything in months, or even years.

Job Scams

“Help Wanted” signs and ads are a welcome sight for the more than 40 million workers who have filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit American shores. Unfortunately, though, the flood of unemployed people looking for work has led to a rise in job scams. The FBI is warning against a surge in scams where cybercriminals pose as employers by spoofing websites and posting bogus job openings on online job boards. They may even go as far as conducting interviews with applicants. The scammers ask for personal information, and sometimes demand payment, before the “application” can be processed. Of course, there is no job waiting for the applicant, their information is now in danger of being abused and they’ll never see that money again.

In a variation of this scam, “employees” are given work to do remotely, and then paid with an inflated paycheck. They’re told they had been overpaid and instructed to cash the check and reimburse the employer for the surplus funds via money order or prepaid debit card. The check will appear to clear, but in a few days, it will bounce and the victim will never be able to reclaim the lost funds.

Protect yourself:

Beware of outrageous job claims that promise big money for little work; they’re likely bogus. As always, never share sensitive information online with an unverified source. Don’t accept a job that overpays and asks you to refund the extra money; it’s likely a scam. Finally, before agreeing to an interview, research an alleged employer and company on the BBB website.

The Contact Tracer Scam

Many states have hired armies of contact tracers to track the movements of individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The FTC is warning of a new ruse in which scammers impersonate a contact tracer and reach out to people via phone call or text message. They’ll ask for the victim’s personal information, including their Social Security number, claiming they need this information for their work as a contact tracer. Of course, they’ll use this information to pull off identity theft or hack the victim’s accounts. The scammer will sometimes ask the victim to click on an embedded link, which will grant them access to the victim’s phone.

Protect yourself:

Contact tracers will always identify themselves and the department where they work. If a contact tracer reaches out to you, you can easily determine their authenticity by researching this information. The tracer will also have a basic understanding of COVID-19 and how it spreads. Most importantly, they have no need for your Social Security number nor will they ask you to share it.

As the country moves into a new period of healing and recovery, scammers are doing all they can to continue disrupting daily life. Stay aware and stay safe!

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

Sources:
https://www.news5cleveland.com/news/continuing-coverage/coronavirus/scammers-aim-to-target-small-businesses-during-reopening-efforts

https://www.idtheftcenter.org/consumers-should-watch-out-for-covid-19-reopening-job-scams/

https://camdencountypros.org/paying-attention-to-potential-scams-as-new-jersey-moves-toward-reopening

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/05/covid-19-contact-tracing-text-message-scams

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.

Coronavirus vs. The Flu And Scam Alerts

The coronavirus has slowed its spread in China, but is now picking up speed in Europe Pregnant woman having blood test in doctor's officeand the U.S. As of March 3, 2020, the virus has spread to more than 89,700 people in at least 67 countries around the world, 3,000 of whom have died.

Those numbers may sound alarming, but when held up against influenza, or the flu, they don’t seem so frightening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the U.S. alone, the flu has caused an estimated 32 million illnesses and 18,000 deaths this season.

Does that mean the flu is actually worse than the coronavirus?

While it may seem that way at first glance, it’s not so simple. Scientists have been studying seasonal flu, its symptoms and possible cures for decades. In contrast, there is very little known about the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Scientists and medical professionals are doing all they can to learn about this virus, but they are still months away from developing effective medication and vaccines.

Unfortunately, the first coronavirus death in the U.S. was recorded on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. Many Americans are beginning to wonder if there is any truth to the claim that the coronavirus is milder than the flu.

Let’s take a closer look at the known differences between influenza and COVID-19.

Fatality rate

It’s difficult to give an accurate fatality rate to a virus that is still spreading, but the coronavirus seems to be more deadly than the flu. On average, seasonal flu kills approximately 0.10 percent of infected individuals. Researchers initially found the death rate for the COVID-19 virus to be 2.30 percent in mainland China, but a later study of hospitalized patients, published Feb. 28 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the overall death rate was lower, at roughly 1.40 percent.

Researchers have also found that the death rate for the coronavirus seems to vary by location, the infected individual’s age and the general state of their health. Many also claim the death rate is actually lower than it is believed to be, thanks to many unreported or symptom-free cases of the virus. There have also been no known coronavirus deaths of children under the age of 9.

Symptoms

According to the CDC, common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and, occasionally, vomiting and diarrhea as well. Flu is characterized by the sudden onset of symptoms. Recovery generally happens within two weeks of contracting the virus. Sometimes, the flu causes medical complications and necessitates hospitalization.

Symptoms of the coronavirus are still being studied. According to the CDC, reported symptoms have ranged from mild to severe, and typically include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Fatigue and muscle aches have been present in 11 to 44 percent of patients as well. Other, less-common symptoms include headache, sore throat, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Rate of contagion

To date, the coronavirus seems to be more contagious than most strains of the flu, and about as contagious as strains that appear in pandemic flu seasons.

Each person with the coronavirus appears to infect 2.2 other people, on average. Many experts claim this data is skewed since the epidemic was mismanaged at its outset and the rate of infection consequently soared.

By comparison, each person with the seasonal flu infects approximately 1.3 other people.

As with most viral diseases, infected individuals can be contagious before the onset of any symptoms. Both viruses also spread easily through the air and contaminated surfaces, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces.

At-risk populations

Both COVID-19 and influenza are most dangerous to people who are older than 65, or have chronic illnesses or a compromised immune system.

The flu appears to be more dangerous to children, especially very young ones, while the coronavirus only triggers very mild symptoms in children or none at all. The flu is also a known danger to pregnant women. The coronavirus may pose a similar threat to expectant women, though it is still too early to know this with any certainty.

The coronavirus seems to be more deadly for older men. Death rates among men over 40 who have contracted the virus have exceeded those among women in the same age group. The higher rate of smokers among men, and by extension compromised lung function, may be the reason for this discrepancy.

Severity of the virus

As of Feb. 22, there were a minimum of 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 flu deaths among the 32 million cases of flu in the United States, according to the CDC.

By contrast, as of March 3, approximately 100 people in the United States have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and there have been six deaths, all in Washington State.

Most cases of coronavirus infection are not severe, but some people do become quite sick. Data from the largest study of patients in China to date found that of coronavirus patients receiving medical attention, 80 percent had mild infections, approximately 15 percent had severe illnesses and 5 percent were in critical condition.

Available treatment

Antibiotics are ineffective against the coronavirus and the flu. However, there are four antiviral prescription drugs available to help mitigate the severity of flu symptoms and shorten its duration. Unfortunately, there are no approved antiviral medications available for the coronavirus just yet, though several are in the testing stages. Doctors recommend that infected individuals follow the general remedies for viral illnesses, including rest, increased fluid intake and painkillers.

Prevention

Flu vaccines are widely available, and are 40-60 percent effective in protecting against the virus.

In contrast, there is no vaccine available for the coronavirus. An experimental vaccine is currently being developed, but it will likely be a year or two before it is ready for widespread use.

In the wake of the arrival of COVID-19 on American shores, experts are urging all people who are not vaccinated against the flu to get their shot now. The flu vaccine will not protect against the coronavirus, but it will free up more hospital personnel, beds and equipment for treatment in case of a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.

As always, proper hygiene is vital to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The following guidelines can help keep you healthy:

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap for at least 20 seconds after being out in public and before touching food.
  • Keep unwashed hands away from your eyes and face.
  • If you’re feeling unwell, stay home.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbows and not into your hands.

In addition, scammers are trying to take advantage of public fears.  See what the FTC has to say in this article.  As always, protect your personal information – don’t click on unrecognized links or fall prey to information phishing by phone call or in person.  Beware of promised miracle cures or false prevention products.

Your Turn: How are you keeping yourself safe from the coronavirus? Share your tips with us in the comments.

Sources:
https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/ncov.shtml
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/health/coronavirus-flu.html
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coronavirus/
https://www.livescience.com/new-coronavirus-compare-with-flu.html
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/10/can-face-mask-stop-coronavirus-covid-19-facts-checked

How To Recognize And Protect Yourself From Scams   

Scammers are always trying to con victims out of their information and money. They are,woman looking at tablet sweepstakes scam unfortunately, often successful. Scammers are expert impersonators, using sophisticated technology and their best acting skills to convince you they represent a business, institution or government agency you may trust. They also tend to prey on the most susceptible victims, including those who are down on their luck or are exceptionally naïve and trusting.

Here at Destinations Credit Union, our biggest priority is your financial wellness, and that includes keeping you and your money safe. To help you achieve it, we’ve put together this guide about recognizing the signs of fraud and protecting yourself from scams.

Five red flags of scams

While the details surrounding the way a scam plays out can vary greatly, most follow a similar theme. They try to get victims to share personal information or to pay for a service or product that doesn’t exist. Here are five ways to spot a scammer:

  1. They demand detailed information before agreeing to process an application. A favorite ploy among scammers is asking for sensitive, non-public information like your date of birth, Social Security number and login information for online accounts. They will typically do this before processing any application for an alleged product, service or job.
  2. They insist on a specific method of payment. If an online seller or service provider will only accept payment through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, you’re likely looking at a scam.
  3. They send you a check for an inflated amount. Another favorite trick among scammers is to overpay a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to return the extra money. In a few days’ time, when the original, inflated check doesn’t clear, the victim realizes they’ve been conned but it’s too late to get back the “extra” money they returned.
  4. You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents. A scammer representing a bogus business can easily be uncovered by doing a quick online search about the “company.”
  5. You’re pressured to act now. Scammers are always in a rush to complete their ruse before you catch onto their act.

Who are the targets?

Scammers usually cast a wide net to ensnare as many victims as possible. However, lots of scams focus on a subset of highly vulnerable targets. Here are some of the most common targets of scams:

  • The unemployed. The internet makes it easy for scammers to learn that you’re looking for a job. If you’re job hunting, be careful not to respond to any emails offering you a “dream position” you never applied for or even knew about.
  • The aging. Older people are another favorite target for scammers. Retired individuals often spend lots of time online, making them more vulnerable to scams. Also, as relative newcomers to the online world, they may be less aware of the dangers lurking on the internet.
  • Children. Sadly, the youngest members of society are another huge target pool for scammers. Children are naturally trusting and will more readily share information with strangers, which can then be used to steal their identity. Small children will likely not be checking their credit for years, which means a stolen identity can go unchecked until the child grows into a young adult. By that time their credit can be wrecked, almost beyond repair.

What do scams look like?

Here are some of the most common scams:

  • Cyberhacking. In this scam, hackers gain remote access to your computer and proceed to help themselves to your personal information.
  • Phishing scams. Scammers bait you into sharing personal information via a bogus job form, an application for a service they allegedly provide or by impersonating a well-known company or government agency.
  • Mystery shopper. A bogus company will “hire” you to purchase a specific item in a store and then report back about the service experience. Before you get started, though, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, which you’ll never see again.
  • Job offers. Scammers “hire” you for a position and then scam you by sending you an inflated check, as detailed above.
  • Sweetheart scams. A scammer pretending to be an online lover will con you into sharing your personal information and/or sending them money and gifts.
  • Fraudulent investments. Scammers reach out to potential investors with information about lucrative investments that don’t exist.

10 ways to protect yourself from scams

Keep yourself safe by following these rules:

  1. Never share personal information online.
  2. Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you already have, don’t click on any embedded links.
  3. Never send money by insecure means to an unknown party.
  4. Protect your devices by using the most up-to-date operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account.
  5. Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
  6. Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams and learn how to protect yourself.
  7. Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy.
  8. If you have elderly parents who spend time online, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.
  9. Don’t take the identity of callers at face value, even if your Caller ID verifies their story. If a government agency, utility company or financial institution reaches out to you and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own and then end the call.
  10. Never accept a job or agree to pay for a purchase or service without thoroughly researching the company involved.

Above all, remember the golden rule of scams: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.

Once an individual falls prey to a scam, there is very little that can be done to mitigate the loss. Full financial recovery can take years. It’s best to protect yourself from scams before they happen by educating yourself and asking [credit_union] for help.

Your Turn: How do you keep yourself safe from scams? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/investment-fraud

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/02/romance-scams-will-cost-you
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0053-mystery-shopper-scams
https://www.wisebread.com/the-comprehensive-guide-to-identity-theft-everything-you-need-to-know

4 Parking Lot Scams To Watch For This Spring

The buds are sprouting-and so are the scams. Watch out for these common parking lotWords "Scam Alert" on asphalt next to double yellow line scams as you attend baseball games, outdoor concerts and other events this spring and summer.

1.) The bogus parking attendant

In this scam, you arrive at an event where an attendant points you to a nearby lot. You pull in, pay for your parking spot and get a payment stub as proof of purchase. But, when the event is over, you look for the attendant who took your payment and they’re gone. And, unfortunately, so is your car.

How it went down: The attendant was no attendant. A clever scammer, who might look like the genuine article thanks to a bogus uniform, simply collected your money and then ran off. Your car was parked illegally in the lot, and the lot’s real owner had it towed.

The fix: Only entrust your car to a parking lot attendant with an official logo, a real sign and a contact number. If you’re suspicious, do a quick search on the company.

Also, be sure to examine the “payment stub” before leaving the lot to attend the event. It should appear authentic, and at the very least contain some information about the parking service as well as actual proof that you paid.

2.) The trick-it ticket

This scam starts much like the other. You’ll attend an event, pay for parking and return to your car when the event is over. Only this time, instead of finding that your car has been removed, you’ll find a ticket stuck on your windshield for illegal parking. You’ll also find a helpful note informing you about a lawyer who can help you lower the ticket, or about an online site through which you can pay the fee.

How it went down: Sometimes, the ticket you find on your windshield may be authentic. However, it’s sometimes just a slip of paper that was stuck on by scammers. In both scenarios, though, the helpful note about a lawyer or an online platform for paying the ticket is bogus. The “lawyer” is usually a scammer hoping to milk you for some cash and the online site is riddled with malware, which can infect your computer.

The fix: Avoid tickets by only using official parking lots. Look for real signs instead of just a “Park Here” notice slapped onto a pole.

If you’re ticketed, look for an official police department logo along with contact information. If you’re still in doubt, you can check the authenticity with your local police department.

If you need the assistance of a lawyer, contact one on your own. Skilled lawyers won’t need to beg you for their business, and those sticking notes on your cars are either scammers or incompetent.

Finally, never share your personal information on a random site. Only pay a ticket online if you’re absolutely sure it’s a police site.

3.) The phony mechanic

In this scam, you’ll return to your car after an event only to find that the car won’t start. A “helpful” bystander will offer their assistance-for a price. They may even claim to be a mechanic or an expert in cars. After extorting you for an enormous amount of cash, they’ll gladly pop open your hood and “fix” your car.

How it went down: The “mechanic” knows enough about cars to disable your vehicle without popping the hood while you were gone. They’ve immobilized your vehicle in an easy-to-fix way, like disconnecting the distributor or an electrical cable. This way, they can appear to “fix” it in seconds.

The fix: If your car suddenly won’t start and some super-helpful mechanics just happen to be passing by, refuse their offer for “help.” Call AAA or another auto service instead.

4) False accidents

You’re backing out of a parking space, careful to check your rearview mirror and backup camera to make sure the coast is clear before you hit the gas, when there’s a sudden, sickening bump. You’ve hit someone. You rush out of your car and find that you’ve hit a pedestrian who promises to make an insurance claim against you unless you pay them off.

How it went down: The accident “victim” was hiding out of your line of vision and then leaped behind your car as soon as you started driving.

The fix: If this happens to you, look for a closed-circuit video camera and ask the lot’s security guard if you can review the tape. With any luck, you’ll see the con artist pulling their ruse and then you can turn the tables and threaten to press charges if the scammer doesn’t scram.

If you’re in a deserted area without no surveillance nearby, don’t pay any fees until a doctor examines the “victim’s” injuries.

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a parking lot scam? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://scambusters.org/parkinglotscam.html

https://www.tmj4.com/call4action/stay-alert-for-springtime-scams
https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-02-2011/spring-scams.html

Beware Tech Support Scams

The FTC is warning of a surge in tech support scams, many of which can be difficult toclose up of cell phone in hands spot.

In a recent widespread scam, a company calling itself Elite IT Partners, Inc., purchased keywords so it showed in searches for password recovery assistance. Victims contacted the “company,” which asked them to fill out an online form with their contact information.

Scammers then called the victims, asking for remote access to their computers. Once inside, they used phony evidence to convince victims that their computers were in need of repairs requiring pricey software. The scammers accepted payment for this software, but did not provide it.

Tech support scams don’t always follow the above script. Here are two other common scenarios:

  1. Phone calls

In this variation, scammers spoof the numbers of well-known companies claiming they’ve found a problem with the victim’s computer. They’ll ask for remote access to it, run a “diagnostic test,” and plant bogus problems. They’ll then ask the victim to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get the issue fixed.

Red flag: Legitimate tech-support companies will never initiate contact by phone.

  1. Pop-up warnings

Sometimes, a tech-support scammer will target victims with an alarming pop-up warning. The pop-up might look like a legitimate error from the victim’s system or antivirus software. The message will warn about a computer security issue and instruct the victim to call a listed number. Once the victim calls, they’ll be asked to grant the scammer remote access to their computer. The scam will then proceed much like what’s described above.

Red flag: Legitimate security warnings from tech companies will never ask you to call a phone number.

If you’ve been scammed

Are you a victim of a tech-support scam? It may not be too late to reclaim your money.

If you paid via credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit card company or [credit union] about contesting the charge.

You’ll also want to update your computer’s security software and run a scan. Delete anything your computer identifies as a security issue. Be sure to change your usernames and passwords as well.

Finally, don’t forget to report your scam to the FTC.

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

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2019/03/keep-tech-support-strangers-out-your-computer

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4013405/windows-protect-from-tech-support-scams
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-and-report-tech-support-scams

8 Ways To Spot A Job Scam

If you’re in the market for a new job, or you’re looking for extra part-time work, be woman holding phone looking at clipboardcareful. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a surge in employment scams of every kind. Victims might have their accounts emptied, their identities stolen, or they may even find themselves facing jail time for money laundering charges.

Protect yourself from employment scams by holding up any job you’re considering against this list of red flags:

1.) The job pays very well for easy work

If a job description offers a high hourly rate for non-skilled work with no experience necessary, you can assume it’s a scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay for work that anyone can do. Carefully read the wording of the job pitch. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2.) The job description is poorly written

Scrutinize every word of the job description. If it’s riddled with typos and spelling mistakes, you’re looking at a scam.

3.) They need to hire you NOW!

If a “business” claims the position needs to be immediately filled and they’re ready for you to start working today, assume it’s a scam. Most legitimate businesses will need time to process your application, properly interview you and determine if you are indeed a good fit.

4.) The business has no traceable street address or real online presence

If you’ve spotted a position on an online job board, your first step should be researching the company. Google the company name to see what the internet has to say about them. If you suspect a scam, search the name with words like “scam” and “fraud” in the search string. Look for a brick-and-mortar address, a phone number and a real online presence. If all you find are help-wanted ads and a P.O. Box, move on to better job leads.

5.) You need to share sensitive information just to apply

Does the “job application” you’re looking at seek sensitive details, like your Social Security number and/or a checking account number? Such information should not be necessary just to submit an application. You might even be innocently asked to share details you think are minor, like your date of birth, name of your hometown, first pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name. Of course, these are all keys to open up access to your passwords and/or PINs.

There’s no surer sign you’re dealing with crooks than being asked to share information that practically guarantees you’ll be scammed.

6.) You need to pay a steep fee to apply

Some legitimate companies charge a nominal application fee for hopeful employees. However, if the fee is absurdly high, or the company asks you to cash a check for them and then refund it, you’re being scammed.

7.) There’s no business email

Some job scammers will impersonate well-known companies to look authentic. For example, you might think you’re applying to an off-site job at Microsoft. You’ll be told to email your resume to JohnSmithMicrosoftHR@gmail.com. Your red flag here is the email address: The domain is generic. If the “recruiter” genuinely represented Microsoft, the email address would be something like JohnSmith@HR.Microsoft.com.

8.) The “recruiter” found your resume on a job board you never use

If the “recruiter” claims they’ve picked up your resume on a job board you don’t remember visiting, it’s not your memory failing you. Job-scammers often scrape victims’ personal details off the internet and then pretend to have received a resume. They’ll know you’re looking for a job, and they’ll know enough about you to convince you they’ve got your resume, but it’s all a scam. If someone contacts you about a position you’ve never applied for, or claims to have found your resume on a job board you’ve never visited, run the other way!

As always, practice caution when online. Keep your browser updated and strengthen the privacy settings on your social media accounts. When engaged in a public forum, don’t share information that can make you vulnerable, like your exact birthdate or employment history. Never wire money to people you don’t know well or agree to cash a stranger’s check in exchange for a commission. Above all, keep your guard up when online and use common sense: When in doubt, opt out!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a job scam? Tell us about it in the comments, below!

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts

https://www.job-hunt.org/onlinejobsearchguide/job-search-scams.shtml
https://www.whatismybrowser.com/guides/how-to-be-safe-online/why-should-i-update-my-web-browser

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.