The FBI recently reported that Americans lost more than $10 billion to online scammers last year, the highest level since the FBI began tracking losses in 2000. They recorded more than 800,000 complaints in 2022, or more than 2,000 complaints a day. Americans age 60 and older reported losing $3.1 billion to scammers, about 30% of the total. Don't be part of that statistic. Use our tips below to keep yourself safe online!
The problem with gift cards
Unused gift cards earned retailers billions of dollars in 2020. Retailers are expecting more than $1 trillion to be loaded onto gift cards this year. Almost half of US adults have at least one unused gift card. In the meantime, the retailer has the money you were gifted--essentially an interest-free loan. Also, it seems the lower the gift-card amount, the more likely we are to spend more than the amount gifted. In a recent survey, more than 41% of gift-card recipients planned to spend at least $50 more than the face value of the cards they received.
To fight back, stop buying gift cards. Use up the cards you already have and ask loved ones to stop giving you gift cards.
Americans lead messy digital lives.
About half of U.S. adults delete emails regularly and we only open a bit more than half of the messages we receive. Email is only part of the digital clutter taking up space on our devices. The mess accumulates as families enlarge and amass medical records and digital photos.
It all adds to stress. Digital clutter can also slow your internet performance. Some people hang on to digital files because they fear they might need them someday, others let them accumulate because they just don't want to deal. Here's what to do next.
Figure out a system for organizing your emails, photos and documents. Whether you choose to upload photos to Dropbox or save documents to Google Drive, pick one system for storing each category of digital life and stick to it. Begin by going through the unread emails or old documents from the past month (in Gmail, you can pick a date range). If you get through those and feel you can keep going, continue working backward. Then block out time. Set aside 30 minutes a day to clear out the clutter. (You can do this while watching TV.) Reward that behavior. Choose a task you enjoy, such as playing a game on your phone or scrolling social media. Spend 10 minutes deleting old files then reward yourself with the same amount of time on that activity. Once you have a plan for getting organized, experts suggest focusing on one category of digital management at a time.
How many email accounts do you have? One for personal emails and one for spam is enough. Delete any other accounts. On the other accounts, set an away message saying you are no longer checking it. Emails should be sorted and saved to folders outside your inbox. Your inbox should contain only emails needing a response. Emails can also be marked as unread so you can remember to come back to them later.
Search your inbox for online subscriptions you no longer want, such as newsletters or magazines. and unsubscribe from them.
For photos, first make sure the photos on your phone or computer don't reside only on that device, because if something happens to it your photos could be lost. Experts recommend Apple Photos backed up to iCloud. They also like Google Photos, which is available on IOS and Android.
PLEASE HELP – CHARITY SCAMS
The end of the year is a prime time for charitable donations, and scammers try to take advantage. The Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force would like you to know that fake charities are among the most popular holiday scams; scammers either misuse the name of a genuine organization or make up their own.
The following are some tools that you can use to determine if you are donating to a reputable organization:
The Art of Deceit
Scammers use these 7 tactics to get between you and your sense of reason.
1. They establish camaradie. “So sorry to hear about the loss of your husband. You know, my own wife passed away last year as well…” This gets the target to feel “he’s just like me.”
2. “You’ve won the sweepstakes and are now rich! But if you don’t act fast…” Criminals encourage FOMO (fear of missing out on good opportunities.)
3. They flatter you. “I can tell you know a lot about finance, so you know how much money you can make in cryptocurrency if you manage the risks.” They frequently praise the victim. That lends itself to connection and trust. “If this person likes me, then I can trust this person.”
4. They make you feel anxious. “This malware means your bank account has been compromised. Someone could steal from it very easily now.” We live in an age of anxiety. It’s easy to get people to say, "All right, what do I have to do to make this one go away?"
5. They create instant terror. "Grandpa, help! I've been arrested and need money for bail right away!" When you're afraid, the emotional part of your brain takes over the cognitive part of your brain. That's whet they want. When your emotions kick in, it swaps out the logic. In such moments of powerful emotion, you are far more likely to think you hear a loved one's voice and to fall for a scam.
6. They seduce you. "I love talking to you. I have not felt so close to someone in so long." In a romance scam, as in a real love relationship, you'll have reciprocating self-disclosures. "I'll tell you a little bit about me. In return, you tell me a little bit about you. and as we go further down the path, we say more intimate things, and that creates a sense of closeness, even love.
7. They intimidate you. "I'm with the police; you've missed jury duty again. Either pay a $900 fine now or go to jail." They present themselves as a feared authority, say a cop, IRS officer or Medicare rep. "Technology makes it so easy now to pretend to be someone you're not. Criminals can program their caller ID so it says "Warminster Sheriff's Office."
How to stay rational when scammers rattle you.
Monitor your reactions to phone calls from strangers. Do you feel heated and your pulse rising? Are you getting angry or anxious? If the answer is "yes," get out of the situation immediately. Simply say, "I won't do this by phone. Send a letter. Goodbye." Then hang up. Never make an immediate impulse-buying decision. Wait until 24 hours to allow emotions to subside before making a purchase. Get advice from a person you trust and respect. Just discussing the situation out loud helps bring rationality back.
It's unlikely that any Russian cyberattack will go directly after an individual's personal data or computer systems. But there is a hidden risk--criminals will use the "fog of war" to take advantage of anxious and distracted computer users. Expect to see even more "phishing" e-mails warning you of urgent threats to your security or finances unless you click on the attached links. These links typically allow cybercriminals to download malware onto your computer so they can steal passwords and personal data and gain unrestricted access to your devices. One of the most common forms of malware is ransomware, which locks up your computer until you pay a hefty ransom to the cybercriminals. Even if you consider yourself computer-savvy and understand phishing scams, you still are susceptible. Fight the urge to click e-mail links. Wait five minutes before clicking on a link in any e-mail, even if you are confident that it is safe. That time can allow you to make rational decisions and investigate whether the e-mail is legitimate.
Android users--no need to close apps! There is a common but mistaken belief that apps on Android phones should be closed once you've finished using them--rather than letting them run in the background--to help improve battery life, reduce data usage or just generally speed up the phone. But the Android operating system is designed to have lots of apps running in the background...and apps will close automatically if the system needs more operating power. Closing apps manually can hurt your phone's performance. It takes more power to start up an app that has been closed than it does to switch open one that was in the background.
Hear These Words? HANG UP!
AARP recently posted six actual scam phone pitches. Remember: Impostor fraud--in which criminals pretend to be law enforcement, government officials or other authorities--is now the number 1 type of consumer scam in America.
Scenario No. 1: "Hello, is this Mrs. Perl? This is Bill from Genetic Testing Services. Your doctor reached out to us because he is concerned with the cancer that runs in your family and would like you to take a DNA swab test. This test is covered by Medicare, and we just need your Medicare number to process and ship out the order."
Scenario No. 2: "Good morning,this is Apple Inc. We are calling to tell you there is a problem with your phone, and someone has placed malware on it. We will need you to download AnyDesk onto your phone so we can help you."
Scenario No. 3: This is agent Murphy from the IRS, and I am calling to inform you that you have a federal arrest warrant for not paying your taxes. Please
press 1 on your keypad to be connected to my desk so we can clear up this matter."
Scenario No. 4: "Nana, it's me, Henry. I was away for spring break and got arrested because my friend that was driving was drunk, and we hit a pregnant woman! Please don't tell Mom and Dad. I need your help."
Scenario No. 5: Hello, sir. This is Amazon Security calling to inform you that there's been an attempt to order items on your account. But don't worry, we can help with the refund. I just need a few pieces of information from you to get this started."
Scenario No. 6: "This is the Social Security Administration, and your Social Security check has been frozen due to fraudulent activity. Press 1 to take care of this matter."
How to Spot Fake Reviews on Amazon
Anywhere reviews exist--for apps, restaurants, products--manipulation exists, too. Amazon, as the nation's largest online retailer, is the likeliest place
you'll find it. The majority of its products come from its Marketplace program, where millions of third-party sellers compete to peddle everything from USB cables to lawn furniture. Fake reviews can
help sellers get an edge, hence those cheap "five-star" no-name products that you buy but then wish you hadn't.
It is against Amazon's rules for third-party sellers to pay or motivate people with free products or cash compensation. Many do, however, and evade detection by coordinating on platforms such as Facebook. Facebook, when questioned, said that they were working with Amazon on this matter and will ontinue to address fake reviews. An Amazon spokeswoman said that the company received more than 30 million reviews a week, and that more than 12,000 Amazon employees work to prevent fraud and abuse, including fake reviews.
How to spot manipulated ratings: When you're on an Amazon listing, look for a small link with the number of ratings, right underneath the product's title. This link is a shortcut to the bottom of the page showing a summary of customer reviews. Scroll down to the bottom of this section and click on "See all reviews." This will take you to a dashboard where you can sort reviews by positive or critical ratings, search through review text or filter by verified purchases. Avoid products with only five-star reviews. Any product with hundreds or thousands of reviews should show a healthy mix of star ratings. Inspect the one-star reviews first. Take note of any repeated mentions of glaring defects. In the "All stars" dropdown in the review dashboard, select "1 star only." If the negative reviews are about something out of the seller's control, such as a late delivery by the shipping partner, give it a pass. Sort by most recent. Under Sort By, change the dropdown from "Top reviews" to "Most recent." This often offers a better mix of reviews and can surface recent shipping or quality-control issues. Actually read the reviews. Did the reviewers mention they haven't actually tried the product yet? I once came across a case for a new device that wasn't out yet, with dozens of positive reviews! Check the dates too. If many of the comments were posted around the same time, that could be an indication of manipulation. Be suspicious of positive photo and video reviews. Paid-review operations often require reviewers to include media. That is why a simple bath mat can end up with minutes-long video reviews, praising its plushness or color. Look for reviews that mention a gift card or free product in exchange, which might indicate that the seller is boosting ratings through financial incentives. Check for merged reviews. Skim the text for reviews of entirely different products. You can also see if there are other versions of the listing. Click the "All formats" drop down to see other variations of the product. Some sellers merge two different listings to increase the number of reviews. If you see a book review on a page for a garden hose, steer clear.
An AARP survey found that older adults boosted technology purchases during the pandemic, but more than half said they needed a better grasp of the devices they had acquired. Nearly 4 in 10 people said they weren't confident about using their computers.
There is an online curriculum for smartphones and tablets. (www.generationsonline.org/apps) and new tutorials on Zoom and telehealth as well as a "family coaching kit" to help older adults with technology. All are free. Demand for Generations on Line's services rose tenfold during the pandemic as many older adults became isolated.
Other organizations specializing in digital literacy for older adults are seeing a surge of interest. Cyber-Seniors, which pairs older adults with high school or college students who serve as technology mentors, has trained more than 10,000 seniors since April 2020. Services are free.
Older adults using digital devices for the first time can call 844-217-3057and be coached over the phone until they're comfortable pursuing online training.
OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) is set to expand the reach of its digital literacy programs after a recent affiliation with AARP. It runs a national hotline for people seeking technical support, 920-666-1959.
Senior Planet is free. A weekly schedule is available at senior-planet.org/get-involved/online.
To scam you, crooks have figured out how to bypass your thinking brain!
An 80-year-old-woman lost her life savings in a scam. She had received a credible-looking letter saying she had won $2.8 million in a Spanish lottery. The scammer convinced her to transfer more than $1 million to win a big prize that, of course, didn't exist.
When the case went to court, a surprising number of potential jurors made it clear that they thought the victim in these type of fraud cases bears some of the responsibility for falling for the crime. With all the warnings in the news about fraud, a target should be "smart enough" to know better. The truth is, scams are 90 percent about emotion and 20 percent about intellect. Which is why "smart" people get defrauded all the time, even lawyers, college professors and retired judges.
Swindlers are winning the day because they know exactly how to turn off your intellect and put you in an emotional, irrational state of mind (and keep you there). Yet many of us still believe we can “think” our way out of the clutches of an expert scammer.
One of the most commonly used tactics to get victims under their spell is known as phantom riches. A phantom is something you desperately want, though almost never get, like a sudden gift of $2.8 million or the arrival of your dream partner on a dating website. Scammers dangle that phantom in front of victims and make them believe that their dream has finally come true.
Never make a financial decision at the time you hear the pitch. Always wait 24 to 48 hours. Once your emotions subside, the brain's thinking power kicks in again and you have more than a fighting chance of making the right decision.
Fake Amazon phishing scams:
You receive an e-mail that looks like it comes from Amazon saying that your account has been locked and asking you to click on a link to verify your account. Or: You receive an e-mail purportedly from Amazon that offers a "$50 bonus voucher" or other free bonus if you "quickly review your product." When you get an e-mail that says it comes from Amazon--or any retailer--don't click on any links in the message. Instead, check on the retailer's website using a separate browser.
An AARP survey found that older adults boosted technology purchases during the pandemic, but more than half said they needed a better grasp of the devices they had acquired. Nearly 4 in 10 people said they weren't confident about using their computers.
Help is here: There is an online curriculum for smartphones and tablets (www.generationsonline.org/apps) and new tutorials on Zoom and telehealth as well as a "family coaching kit" to help older adults with technology. All are free.
Demand for Generations on Line's services rose tenfold during the pandemic as many older adults became dangerously isolated. Those who had digital devices and knew how to use them could do all kinds of activities online: connect with family and friends, shop for groceries, order prescriptions, take classes and participate in telehealth sessions. Other organizations specializing in digital literacy for older adults are similarly seeing a surge of interest. Cyber-Seniors, which pairs older adults with high school or college students who serve as technology mentors, has trained more than 10,000 sebuirs subce Aoruk 2020 --three times the average of the last several years. Services are free.
Older adults using digital devices for the first time can call 844-217-3057 and be coached over the phone until they're comfortable pursuing online training. OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) is set to expand the reach of its digital literacy programs significantly after a recent affiliation with AARP. It runs a national hotline for people seeking technical support, 920-666-1959, and operates Senior Planet technology training. Older adults anywhere in the country can access Senior Planet virtual classes for free. (A weekly schedule is available at senior-planet.org/get-involved/online.)
Through its AARP partnership, OATS is offering another set of popular classes at AARP's Virtual Community Center. Tens of thiousands of older adults now participate.
Beware These New Scams
Last year, the FTC received far more reports about money lost to online shopping fraud than any other type of fraud. Losses topped $250 million. Reports often describe bogus websites that look polished but never deliver the goods.
Launching a fake website is easier that you might think. Anyone with a computer can purchase a domain name, buy sophisticated website templates for cheap, cut images from real websites and pay for ads engineered to be at the top of web searches. One tactic is developing fake retail websites that look legitimate. One consumer saw an electric scooter advertised for hundreds of dollars cheaper than anywhere else. That should be a red flag that it is likely to be a scam. When she clicked on the link, it took her to a website that looked legitimate to her. She bought the item and never received it--but, of course, they charged her credit card. When she called to try to complain to the company their customer service number was disconnected.
Many Facebook or Instagram users purchase items advertised on their feed through PayPal and then a worthless knickknack arrives The scammers send this item to create a paper trail showing something was shipped. The vendor then disappears or tells them to return the package to China.
One customer told the fraud helpline that she ordered a pair of shoes from a fraudulent website. She was told the only form of payment she could use was Zelle, a peer-to-peer money-transfer app offered by many banks. So she used the app but never received the shoes--and the money was withdrawn from her account.
According to BottomLine Personal that prints expert advice, scammers are sending fake invoices through the real PayPal system. These look like they are from well-known companies or charities and often are for modest amounts--$50 or less. All that scammers need to send a fake invoice is the e-mail address associated with the victim's PayPal account. If you receive a PayPal invoice for a purchase or donation that you didn't make, DELETE IT! The scammer can't take your money if you don't click pay.
Hackers use similar characters in URL's so that victims think an e-mail is legit. Thieves might replace one or two letters of a URL with letters from the Cyrillic alphabet that look simuilar to letters in the Roman alphabet. The difference is subtle enough that the deception might not be spotted. Instead of clicking on URL's: Type addresses directly into search boxes. Hover over links before clicking so you can see the true destinations.
Fake Amazon phishing scams
When holiday shoppers are already getting loads of e-mails from retailers about legitimate shopping deals and items they've ordered, scammers are quick to take advantage. Typical scams: You receive an e-mail that looks like it comes from Amazon saying that your account has been locked and asking you to click on a link to verify your account. Or: You receive an e-mail purportedly from Amazon that offers a $50 bonus voucher" or other free bonus if you "quickly review your product." The scammers count on the fact that people who have purchased something on Amazon will click on the link expecting to review something they purchased and get a "reward." Be vigilant: When you get an e-mail that says it comes from Amazon--or any retailer--don't click on any links in the message. Instead, check on the retailer's website using a separate browser. (tip: I always keep two browsers--Edge and Chrome-- on my desktop at all times.)
Financial fraud against seniors rose 186% from 2014 to 2020--more than the overall 125% increase in fraud affecting people of all ages. Scam artists often are close relatives or caregivers. When the fraudsters are strangers, they frequently come after seniors by telephone, since seniors tend to be dependent on phone calls for communication. Financial fraud against seniors also is common on the Internet. If you or a loved one are a victim of fraud: call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311.
Online tech-support scam
Crooks are buying ads that appear as results when consumers Google-search a company's technical-support number. The ads show a fake number, and if you call it, a scammer tries to get access to your money. This happens with online retailers such as Amazon, as well as e-mail providers, airlines and hotels. Be smart: Don't use Google--go directly to the company's site to look for customer service or technical support. Don't use Alexa or Siri--they can inadvertentlly give you a scam number. Look closely at the URL--if it has misspellings or other strange things, it may be a scam. Don't pay for what should be free--routine customer-service inquiries don't cost money. Don't give remote access to your computer--scammers could do real damage to your finances and identity if you let them in.
Hackers take usernames and passwords pilfered from data breaches (such as the Equifax data breach) and use them to try to access other accounts. These hackers are hoping that you've reused a password on multiple accounts. Hackers chances of success are decent: Fifty-two percent of nearly 30 million Internet users have reused or modified passwords, according to a Virginia Tech analysis.
And in a nationally representative Consumer Reports survey on data privacy conducted in 2019, 13 percent of respondents with online accounts said they used the same password on all accounts. That makes it a cinch for hackers to gain access.
Cell Phone Health Risks
According to the Environmental Health Trust, a leading expert on environmental health issues, your cell phone emits radiation that is concerning. To protect yourself from radiation associated with 5G--as well as from 4G and 3G--follow these guidelines:
Don't carry your cell phone in your pocket or against your body unless it is turned off. When you are not using the phone, power it off or set it to Airplane/Flight mode. Also turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. When talking on the phone, use speaker mode to keep your phone away from you. Don't sleep with your cell phone nearby.
Good advice from RD.com:
We know about clearing "cookies" from our computers (they clog storage and bog down performance) but you should also clear them from your phone.
On an iPhone--go to "settings," then "Safari," then "Clear History and Website Data." Tap the pop-up icon that reads "Clear History and Data." On an Android--open Google Chrome, and click the three vertical dots at the top right of the screen. From that menu, select "History," then "Clear Browsing Data." Next, select "Cookies and Site Data," and tap the upside-down triangle next to "All Time." Please note that clearing cookies also clears your saved passwords--be sure to keep a list of passwords elsewhere--but doesn't affect any apps you have installed.
How to spot and avoid six types of dark patterns
1. Trick questions. Shopping websites may use double negatives or other convoluted wording to confuse you. If a question is hard to understand, read it through several times. Sometimes it's just an innocent case of bad wording. But often it is deliberately confusing. "If you read a question twice and don't understand it, that's your cue to exit.
2. I have personally seen this on the internet. It's called Fool-the-eye fakery. Visual tricks can nudge you to click a bright red "yes" button instead of a muted gray "no" button, miss important info tucked in the fine print or force you to click through several screens to avoid an unwanted purchase. Outsmart them. Always read all of the fine print. Enlarge the type size on your computer if needed. Bring a healthy skepticism. Any signs of deceptive or coercive language should have you moving on.
3. Bullying buttons. A fraud expert found 164 websites that made shoppers click a button that said something like "No thanks, I'd rather pay full price" or "I don't want one-day delivery" to decline a purchase. Called "confirm-shaming," this tactic aims to guilt you into an unwanted purchase. Outsmart them. Remember, you are in control. Shrug off the psychological tricks and only say yes to what you want.
4. "End at midnight" and "just 1 left" blurbs. In a recent study 40% of discount countdown times were fakes--the deal was still available when the timer ended. Don't let the fear of missing out force you to make a hasty purchase. Take your time comparing prices and options. For most consumer products or services, sales come and go all the time.
5. Sneaky extras. There were 62 websites that preselected expensive products or pressured shoppers to choose them. Seven snuck extra items into their shopping carts. Check your cart very carefully before you confirm a purchase.The experts have seen subscriptions and donations added!
6. Data grabs. Websites and apps make frequent attempts to acquire info like your cellphone number, address and email. Personal information is valuable. Companies sell it and use it to target ads at you. To outsmart them, give away as little as possible online. Don't provide your phone number for optional discounts or to place an order.
Never unsubscribe from spam emails.
We're talking about a random illicit message sending you malware links or fake insurance rates. Clicking the "unsubscribe" link might seem like a good idea, but it actually could make your situation worse. Spammers blast out millions of such messages, and a click from you is like a ping back to them from out of the void--it marks you as a live one, and now you'll be more specifically targeted. Instead, simply mark the message as spam and delete it.
Scams targeting older adults take many forms, ranging from callers posing as grandchildren in need of financial assistance to emails directing people to fake bank websites where cons collect login credentials. The techniques evolve every year but the outcome is always the same. Many seniors end up losing money.
Technology helps seniors stay connected with loved ones but it also opens new doors to scammers. Online puppy scams and romance scams are on the rise as bad actors seek to take advantage of people's loneliness, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association.
Scammers initiated contact with older adults online more often than they did by phone for the first time ever in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Older adults were nearly six times as likely as younger ones to report losing money on tech-support scams. In all, older Americans reported fraud losses totaling $388 million through the third quarter of 2020, up 23% from the same period a year earlier.
There are ways to safeguard assets and to prevent such scams from occurring in the first place. Make sure you add your land line or mobile phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. Also, check with your phone company or mobile provider about call-blocking services. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all offer features for blocking robocalls.
If you receive something that looks like junk mail in your inbox, it's best to mark it as spam so your email service's spam filter recognizes it next time. Even if an email looks legitimate, it's always best to check the email address it came from before opening it or clicking on anything in the message. Emails sent from scammers usually contain various numbers or symbols rather than the simple email address of a legitimate institution. The same goes for web addresses, which also can be spoofed. You can google the name of the bank website where you've supposedly been directed to see if it matches. You can unsubscribe from marketing emails. Cyber safety firm NortonLifeLock shows how to do so on every major email service. When in doubt about an email, ask a trusted loved one, call the Senior Planet tech hotline at 920-666-1959 or call the AARP fraud watch helpline at 877-908-3360.
People can also request not to receive certain kinds of U.S. mail, as well as unwanted commercial email, through a service called DMAchoice. You can opt out of receiving prescreened credit and insurance offers by visiting http://www.optoutprescreen.com.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of fraud, you can call the National Elder Fraud hotline at 833-372-8311 and report it to the FTC by visiting the agency's website or calling 877-382-4357.
Always be skeptical says the AARP Fraud Watch Network. If they want you to hand over your money for any purpose, use this rule: "Guilty until proven innocent."
As more people shelter in place, Zoom's popularity has exploded. Here are some tips to help avoid scams and stay safe.
As coronavirus continues disrupting daily life, more people are turning to video conferencing services like Zoom to socialize while maintaining physical
distance. With a rapidly expanding base of new and inexperienced users, Zoom is fast becoming a popular target for hackers and phishing expeditions. As a result, users should know the common signs of
scams and learn to take advantage of the platform's built-in security features.
Zoom's popularity may be reaching new heights, but the service has been around since 2011. Zoom has overtaken even Skype for video conferencing with friends and family. Popular as it is, Zoom can still leave users vulnerable to exploitation.
Over 1,700 new domains featuring "Zoom" have been opened since the start of 2020, with over a quarter of those popping up since the pandemic began impacting the United States. Many of these new domains have been found to contain suspicious characteristics, suggesting they could be used to lure unsuspecting users into a scam. In addition, malicious files with "Zoom" prominently featured in their name are proliferating, which could lead users thinking they're installing Zoom's official software instead of malware. Some of these files have been confirmed to contain InstallCore, a platform that allows for remote installation of other potentially unwanted applications.
How To Zoom Safely & What To Watch Out For
There are simple ways to try and stay safe while using Zoom, and many of the easiest methods are general safety tips that ought to be observed for all online activity. Don't click on any links to meetings provided in the body of an email, to avoid being unwittingly redirected to a scam site - enter the URL manually, along with the password (if one is provided), and be sure to keep Zoom (and any antivirus software) up to date.
Within Zoom itself, there are multiple steps that can be taken to help secure a meeting with friends or family. Make sure you set and use a password - hackers have been known to guess the numbers used for Zoom's chat rooms and, without a password, can waltz right in. If you are the meeting's host, consider setting Zoom's host controls so only you can share images and screens with others - without host controls in place, anyone in a meeting can share any image they want, including ones they shouldn't. Meetings can be password-protected and locked so that, after a set time, no new users can join. There's even a waiting room feature, which allows the host to make sure everyone signed in to attend a meeting ought to be there.
Crashing Zoom meetings has become so common that it has developed its own name - Zoombombing. With coronavirus still on the rise in many locations and physical distancing orders upending life for the foreseeable future, Zoom will no doubt continue to see heavy use. Learning how to safely utilize Zoom in the coronavirus era could save time, headaches, and embarrassment in the future.
FTC LAUNCHES NEW SCAM REPORTING WEBSITE
The Federal Trade Commission has launched a new website designed to make it easier for people to report potential frauds to federal authorities and get quick advice on what to do.
The new site, at ReportFraud.ftc.gov, has a feature that prompts those reporting a fraud to the "next steps" that will offer specific guidance based on the kind of scam reported.
"Every time you report scams or bad business practices to the FTC, you're helping to protect your community." says Andrew Smith, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The new reporting site went online in October, the same month the FTC issued its report to Congress on the scams that ensnared people 60 or older in 2019.
Romance scams were by far the most costly to older Americans, causing nearly $84 million in financial losses last year, the FTC says. Those scams usually begin with a social media contact and eventually lead to a deceitful request for money.
Beware of online Grinches
Ben Black bought what he thought was a well-priced drone online. But the drone never showed up, the site stopped responding to his emails, and he never got his $100 back.
He was scammed. "I got caught in it," says Black. Online shopping scams, like the one Black fell for, are on the rise as thieves take advantage of the surge of people flocking to the internet during the pandemic. They do it by creating slick-looking websites pretending to sell gadgets, toys, cleaning supplies, and anything else in high demand. To lure you onto the sites, scammers pay for ads on Facebook, Google, and other websites.
The U. S. Federal Trade Commission says it received a record number of reports from people losing money to online shopping scams in April and May, 2020 mostly from people being tricked into paying for face masks, disinfectant wipes, and other pandemic-related supplies that never arrived. So far, the FTC has received more than 37,000 reports of online shopping fraud, amounting to $27 million in losses. The number has been increasing every year since 2015, amounting to $420 million in losses.
If you're on a website you've never used before, do an online search of the company's name along with the words scam or review. Check the site's social media pages for any complaints from customers. And try the Better Business Bureau's Scam Tracker, which lets you search company names and read any complaints. Another thing you should do: Read the site's "About Us" page. Misspellings or sentences that don't make sense are red flags.
Be wary of online ads. Place extra scrutiny on sites you find through social media ads, which are a common way to lure people in. Sometimes the ads are based on products you've been searching for online. For example, if you've been looking for a certain toy, scammers can buy ads to get their site on your Facebook timeline with a picture of the toy you've been wanting to buy.
Be suspicious of hard-to-find products. Another way shoppers get tricked is by sites that falsely say they have products in stock that are sold out almost everywhere else. Last year, for example, the FTC moved to shut down 25 sites that tricked people into paying for Clorox and Lysol wipes, only to never receive them. Scammers do the same during the holidays, saying that they have hard-to-find video game consoles or toys.
Don't fall for price. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is, says the Better Business Bureau. Scammers offer lower prices on hot products knowing that shoppers will find them hard to resist.
If you are scammed--Call your credit card company to dispute the charges and try to get a refund. You can also report the site to the Better Business Bureau and FTC websites, which could help others from being scammed.
AARP reports that sixty-three per cent of U. S. consumers planned to buy gift cards last year for family and friends. It is safest to purchase gift cards online directly from the retailer because cards on store racks can be tampered with. More than a third of U.S. adults report that they have received or have given a gift card with no balance on it.
Online Casinos are Looking to Snare Older Gamblers!
If you watch TV just look at all the online gambling sites that are popping up on your screen. With the arrival of the pandemic, the chance to bet on live sporting events and at casinos was greatly curtailed. Online wagering grew to fill the gap, experts say.
Now they are warning older people, especially those who like to make bets, that online sites may be targeting them.
From April through June last year, online gambling revenue more than doubled over the same period in the previous year, with a 114 percent increase in online casino games in April alone and a 208 percent increase in online poker the same month.
"It's only going to get worse because of the type of ads online gambling sites are running that target people who used to go to casinos but are home now." says Neva Pryor, exutive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.
In a TV ad that began running after the shutdown, a woman says, "My father used to go to the brick-and-mortar casino, but now he can gamble in his pajamas."
Older Americans may be more susceptible to the allure of online gambling because of the growing comfort with internet transactions brought about by the pandemic.
The Fear Equation
Phone scammers are increasingly turning to threats and scare tatics. At one time, the preferred path to illicit riches seemed to be sweetness: Be friendly, reassuring, likable. When you win over the trust of a target, you're best poised to get that person to send money.
But that has changed as of late. Many of today's hottest phone frauds are based on fear, with the scammer quickly trying to frighten, even terrify, the target into taking action.
Here are examples of frightening scams frequently reported to the AARP Fraud Watch Network these days:
1. The Social Security Imposter. Your SSN has been used in crimes, and you're going to be arrested, unless...
2. The Dreaded Computer Virus. You're about to lose all your information and photos, and only we can fix the problem.
3. DNA Cancer Screening. People like you have died because they didn't take the DNA test we are offering.
4. Missed Jury Duty. There's a warrant for your arrest because you didn't show up for your jury duty assignment.
5. The IRS Warrant. You made criminal mistakes in your past tax filings and will be arrested shortly.
There is a lottery warning about fake-win scams on phones!
Do you play the Pennsylvania Lottery? Well, there's a new scam that originated in Jamaica. It's being perpetrated over the phone by someone with a Caribbean accent.
The scammer tells people they have won a fictitious Mega Millions sweepstakes or a prize from another lottery game with a well-known name.
The criminal encourages the victim to make a payment for taxes or other costs to facilitate the processing of their prize, but the prize is never paid.
"Unfortunately, these types of scams are quite common, especially during a time of crisis, such as the pandemic, when people may be vulnerable." said the Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director in a statement. "We will only contact players if they won a Second-Chance Drawing, a giveaway into which a player may have submitted an entry, or to collect their winning story. We never call or email people at random."
Scammers sometimes find the names of lottery employees using the internet, then use those names and a "badge number" or other "made-up information."
They'll also use the names of real lotteries and lottery games, including multistate games like Mega Millions. Many scam operators are located offshore beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
Scammers will often set up fake websites and telephone switchboards to hide their whereabouts, creating a "spoofed" phone number, which makes it appear on a caller ID display that a call is coming from a U.S. area code.
The following also are signs of a scam:
Card Scammers Take Advantage of Crisis
Fraudsters are increasingly using pilfered credit-card numbers and phishing attacks to prey on overwhelmed consumers during the coronavirus pandemic.
There are a lot of tactics they use. They are generating random card numbers until they stumble upon legitimate accounts and attempting more fraudulent purchases with stolen card numbers.
Phishing attacks--the use of phone calls, emails or texts to trick customers into handing over their credentials--are rising. One man got a phone call recently from someone claiming to represent JP-Morgan Chase & Co. The caller, who knew the man's full name, email address and the last four digits of his account, said his debit-card number had been stolen and needed to be frozen.
The caller told him to set up a digital wallet to make purchases until Chase could ship a new card to his home. While on the call, he got an email, ostensibly from Chase, with a one-time activation code to set up the digital wallet.
After he hung up, he saw more than $300 in purchases had been made in Florida.
Chase refunded the charges and sent him a replacement card. "Scams typically increase during times of crisis, like pandemics and natural disasters," a spokesman said.
How to Save Yourself When You've Been Hacked
Your laptop is sluggish and choppy. You're getting strange alerts and prompts that you've never seen before. Your friends are receiving odd messages that you never sent. Reason: You've been hacked. But don't panic! Take these steps to regain control.
1. Change all your passwords immediately. If your computer has been compromised, it's safer to use a non-infected machine or borrow one from a friend to change your passwords. The damage might be limited to only your email or Facebook or whichever platform was initially hacked--but since many people use similar passwords for all of their accounts, there's a good chance that other accounts soon will be broken into as well.
2. Install a password manager, and use two-factor authentication. This is much better than trying to remember dozens of passwords. This software lets you create and securely store unique passwords that are automatically entered when you need to log in to a website. Those passwords are kept secure by one master password, which is the only one you have to remember. The best and most reliable is LastPass and it's free to use at the basic level. Next, go to the sites of your most important accounts and set up two-factor authentication with them. Once set up, you will need to enter a code from a text or some other prompt when you're trying to log in to that site.
3. Forget conventional wisdom on passwords. There's a common misconception that the safest passwords consist of short, arbitrary strings of characters. This type of password is clunky and nearly impossible to remember. It's better to create a long password that's easy to remember such as "TubaSkateboardStoveStairs." If the site requires numbers or special characters, you can always substitute a zero for an O or an exclamation point for an l or place a special character in between each word.
4. Finally, protect your friends. Once hackers have gained access to your social media or email, they will send messages to your contacts. That's because your friends are more likely to open a message and click malicious links if they think you are the sender. If you are hacked, send a mass text or email informing your contacts that you've been hacked and to be extra cautious until further notice.
How You Can Avoid Common Scams
Many scams are perpetrated by crooks impersonating a police officer, an IRS or Social Security agent, or a court
representative. Remember that government offices rarely call citizens to conduct business--and never demand quick payment. Just hang up.
Experts often hear from victims, "I've never been defrauded. I thought I was too smart." Think again. Scammers are professionals--and endlessly creative.
Sadly, if you have already been scammed, chances are good the fraud calls will increase. Thieves put your information on a "victim list" that gets sold to other scammers.
Many victims met their scammer on social media via a friend request. Limit your social media contact to real friends and family. Turn down requests from people you don't know. If you are lonely, you may be susceptible to the fake friendliness of professional thieves.
The 'Grandparent Scam' has seen a resurgence since the COVID-19 pandemic cut people off from their loved ones. Older people may feel isolated from friends and family. And when the phone rings, they hope for a connection, but sometimes end up defrauded.
Customer Service Scams
Gus Smith, a 75-year-old man who lives in California, saw an unusual charge on his Visa account for Amazon Prime. He did a quick Google search for Amazon's phone number, then called customer service. And just like that, he stepped into a snare set up by crooks.
His call was quickly answered, and he was told the charge could easily be removed--he just needed to confirm his credit card number by reading it back. Then he was asked for his Social Security number, "just so we can confirm your identity." When Gus balked, he was given an alternative: Buy some Google Play gift cards for $150 and read them the codes off the back. He would then be reimbursed fo that amount, and the original charge would be removed from his account. He did that but was told the transfer failed. It was only when he returned to the store for more gift cards that a clerk warned him he was being scammed.
His mistake is all too easy to make. When he Googled customer service for Amazon Prime, he hadn't looked closely at the search results. He used one of many fake numbers that pop up in customer service searches for companies like Amazon, as well as for airlines, hotel chains, technical support for major email companies and others.
Crooks pay for carefully worded ads engineered to be at the top when certain phrases are searched. Search engine companies root out fake numbers as fast as they can. But according to law enforcement experts, they remain visible long enough to hook lots of victims. When people are searching for customer service numbers, they are in a hurry and quickly scan for the first number they see. Voice-search devices such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa can give you the fake numbers, too.
This Year's Big Scam: Puppies
Frank Todd's beloved 17-year-old dog, a dachshund, recently died and he wanted a new puppy. He scrolled through pictures of cute puppies for sale online. He
exchanged emails with the seller, then paid $800 using a mobile payment service. He was told to expect delivery in early August. No puppy ever arrived. His first thought was "Who scams with
Lots of people, it turns out. The thieves are often outside the U.S. and prospects of getting your money back are extremely low. Some scammers build elaborate custom websites with dozens of pictures of dogs and fake testimonials. Others spam Craigslist with fake dog postings. For scammers, cute pictures are key. One listing offered a sweet puppy for a "small fee" of $600, saying the owner was unable to devote the time necessary to rear the puppy. The final straw for Mr. Todd came when he received a fake email from a company claiming to be an animal courier service. It asked for an additional $1,500 to handle the puppy shipping fees.
Fraudsters have placed an estimated one million or more suspected suspicious calls about coronavirus to Americans' smartphones, according to YouMail, which offers an app that blocks such unwanted telecom intrusions. The robocalls at times even have pitched fraudulent testing services, a dangerous sort of deception at a moment when patients are struggling to obtain diagnoses nationwide.
AARP has received reports of a range of scams, including people receiving text messages falsely claiming to be from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services asking them to click a link to take a "coronavirus preparedness test" that instead downloads malware onto their devices.
Authorities are being flooded with complaints as scammers try to cash in on the nation's panic over the coronavirus by peddling fake cures, soliciting donations to phony charities and selling needed items like masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper at jacked-up prices.
One such message began by asking if the person on the other end of the line is a diabetic using insulin. "We can qualify you to get a free diabetic monitor and a complimentary testing kit for coronavirus." a female voice begins (Note: female scammers are more likely to be believed) urging people to press two on their phones to learn more.
These and other scams have intensified in recent days as the outbreak has worsened in the United States, threatening to swindle and harm Americans at their most vulnerable--including the elderly, who might be most at risk of developing severe illnesses. Similar scams have targeted Americans over text messages and on major social media sites, pitching fake cures, fraudulent respiratory masks and a host of other suspicious products and claims.
One suspicious set of calls appeared to impersonate the company 3M, which makes masks that can help prevent the spread of coronavirus. A Los Angeles number associated with the effort has placed 20,000 calls pitching "coronavirus safety and medical equipment," according to Transaction Network Services, a Reston, Virginia-based company that assists wireless carriers and tracks robocall operations on their networks.
Other robocalls specifically seem to prey on Americans at a time when obtaining tests across the country has been difficult. "Thank you for calling the coronavirus hotline," began one such call registered earlier this month by Nomorobo, another smartphone call-blocking app. The male speaker then asks, "Will the free at-home test be just for you or for you and your spouse?"
The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported on virus scams. No, chewing garlic pills or drinking colloidal silver won't help you stave off the coronavirus. Legitimate doctors won't send emails in broken English claiming to have treated your sick relatives and demanding thousands of dollars in return. And no one should be charging as much as $10 for a roll of toilet paper.
There is a collective wave of national anxiety and a litany of price-gougers, snake-oil salesmen, email phishers and scammers are emerging just as quickly to exploit it.
"The idea is to play on fear." said Michael Levy a law professor at Penn. "When we're afraid, we don't think with the front part of our brain, and getting people to operate on fear is how they operate."
That's made some people more susceptible to scams shilling virus preventing air duct cleanings, urgent emails with dodgy links to malware-infected apps, and hucksters hawking special toothpastes online that they claim can curb the virus' spread.
Use common sense. It offers the best immunity to common frauds. Do not open emails offering information, supplies, or treatment in exchange for personal information. Don't click on links from unknown senders. Make sure your anti-malware and antivirus software is up to date.
Remember. If there is a medical breakthrough, you won't hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.
If you are on Facebook, beware of this scam:
(CNN)A pair of Ukrainian hackers used seemingly innocuous online quizzes and surveys, with titles like "What does your eye color say about you?," to gain access to private Facebook user data and to target users with "unauthorized" advertisements, the social media company says.
The alleged hackers improperly used a Facebook (FB) feature that helped them take control of users' internet browsers and gave them access to private information about Facebook users and their private friends' lists, Facebook alleged in a lawsuit filed in Northern California.
Working out of Kiev, Ukraine, the hackers lured Facebook users to connect their accounts to a range of online quiz apps with names like, "Do you have royal blood?, "You are yin. Who is your yang?" and "What kind of dog are you according to your zodiac sign?"
Once users connected their Facebook and other social media accounts they were asked to install what Facebook described as "malicious browser extensions" that essentially allowed the alleged hackers to pose as the affected users online.
Social Media Scams
AARP reports that crooks increasingly use these friendly digital hangouts to connect--and steal.
Facebook and other large social media platforms try hard to create a digital space that you'd want to hang out in: pleasant, attractive and safe for you, friends, family and like-minded acquaintances to gather and share. This makes them a ripe hunting ground for digital crooks.
Words With Friends: We often hear about romance scams on this popular digital game. After playing a couple of rounds with a stranger, you might be told, "Wow, you are really smart. I'd like to meet you." Then you'll get a pitch: "My daughter needs an operation. Can you help?" It's best to play games with only the people you know. If you do play with strangers, never disclose any personal information.
Facebook: Friending an account from a scammer allows the crook to have access to your profile and make a cloned account. Scammers also can clone an account from someone you are already friends with and send you another friend request, hoping you will automatically accept, giving them access to your personal information. Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know personally. And if you're already friends, don't accept a second request.
Gift Cards Gain Favor as a Tool of Swindlers
Scammers are always seeking quick, hard-to-trace ways to take money from their victims. It's easier than initiating a wire transfer, because the cards are easily purchased and the numbers can be sent instantly by phone or text message to a swindler who might otherwise have to wait for a large bank transaction to clear, law-enforcement officials say.
One senior, Holly Kay, in which a swindler told her she was helping catch a hacker who had compromised her home computer, bought eight $1,000 Macy's gift cards at a California mall. At the swindler's direction, she also spent $19,000 in one hour on gift cards at a Nordstrom store. The scammer remained on the phone with her for most of the transactions and at times had remote control of her computer, coaching her on how to answer cashier questions about why she was buying the gift cards.
Gift cards sold by large retailers are increasingly used by scammers in all types of fraud, including robocallers impersonating government officials. In all, Ms. Kay purchased $119,000 in gift cards at the direction of scammers.
Don 't be a victim of con artists. Let all unknown calls go to voicemail. Remember, scammers will not leave a voicemail.
Tips on stretching your Retirement Savings
Congratulations! After years of working and careful saving, you get to kick back and crack open that retirement nest egg. But don’t get too giddy just yet. Retirees still need to avoid plenty of financial pitfalls as they transition into their golden years. And while you’ve certainly earned the right to spend your hard-earned money how you wish, some decisions will leave you in much better shape than others. Here are choices, big and small, that you may want to avoid to keep your savings intact.
We know, we know — you want to spoil them. But before that flashy new toy or adorable outfit just seems to jump into your cart, remember that it’s not just your wallet you may save if you refrain. A little restraint can help stave off resentment from parents who may not be able to afford as much, for one, and keep materialism in tots under wraps. If you simply can’t resist, try to check in with their parents before buying. Chances are they may not need another stuffed animal, and that wool sweater you want to buy may not be practical for preschool.
It can be rough out there for young adults — wages have stagnated, it takes longer to save for a house, and college loans can be oppressive. But if you find yourself blindly writing a check to an adult child every month, reconsider, especially if you’re endangering your own financial well-being. If you must give, The Hartford recommends doing so only sporadically. That way, you’re no longer helping your children fund a lifestyle that they may not be able to maintain by themselves.
With retirement comes the gift of time — time, for instance, to browse the wonders that are available through your public library. Libraries can be a huge money saver if you’re paying a few bucks every time you rent a movie, or more to buy books. Also available: ebooks and audio books, free Wi-Fi, and maybe even subscriptions to genealogy sites.
It’s drilled into us as soon as we start our careers: Getting life insurance is a smart financial move. But as you age, it’s essential to remember what the purpose of life insurance really is: Ensuring that those who depend on your income can maintain their lifestyle should you pass away. If your children are grown and flown and major debts are paid off, think critically about whether a new policy makes sense — especially since life insurance gets pricier as you age.
Reported countries: Nigeria, India and USA
Damages reported: $200-$3000+
One of the most popular scams involve scammers convincing unwitting victims to accept fraudulent/fake checks.
Victims with banks accounts in the United States receive checks for whatever reason at much higher amounts than expected. Scammers then use a variety of creative, clever stories to explain any compensation discrepancies and convince the victim to send back overpayment via cash-like payment methods or wire transfer. When these checks bounce, the victim discovers that they have been fleeced. Over the years, this scam has been used with a variety of consumer actions, including purchase of vehicles and renting property.
ScamGuard advice: Never accept checks with amounts over the agreed upon price.
Never agree to send money back. Ask the bank if the check has cleared before releasing the merchandise to the alleged buyer.
Reported countries: Unknown
Damages reported: $200-$2000
The promise of cuddly and cute puppies, kittens and other pets is another scam and has harmed a lot of people.
Pets-for-sale scammers create fake websites that claim to be associated with pet adoption or animal nurseries. On these sites, they offer a wide selection of pets for adoption or sale at prices significantly below the norm. Some sites even offer puppies for free to attract victims. With this scam, victims are told that they must pay for at least the insurance, shipping and other services associated with processing and delivering the pets. Victims are then required to make their purchases and/or pay their fees with non-returnable, cash-like forms of payment, including but not limited to: Moneygram, Western Union, Vanilla prepaid cards or wire transfer to a foreign bank account.
ScamGuard advice: Avoid paying for a pet using any type of cash transfer method. Additionally, contact ScamGuard for more information about any pet
breeder in question. Reported countries: Unknown
Damages reported: $200-$2000
(This is one I could have fallen for!)...
Creativity wow.!! This is one of the smartest scams I have heard about. You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. Typically when checking in, you give the front desk your credit card (for any charges
to your room) and they don't retain the card.
You go to your room and settle in. All is good.
The hotel receives a call and the caller asks for (as an example) room 620 - which happens to be your room.
The phone rings in your room. You answer and the person on the other end says the following: 'This is the front desk. When checking in, we came across a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me your credit card numbers and verify the last 3 digits numbers at the reverse side of your charge card.'
Not thinking anything wrong, since the call seems to come from the front desk you oblige. But actually, it is a scam by someone calling from outside the hotel. They have asked for a random room number, then ask
you for your credit card and address information. They sound so professional, that you think you are talking to the front desk.
If you ever encounter this scenario on your travels, tell the caller that you will be down to the front desk to clear up any problems. Then, go to the front desk or call directly and ask if there was a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone tried to scam you of your credit card information, acting like a front desk employee.
This was sent by someone who has been duped........and is still cleaning
up the mess.
SWEEPSTAKES SCAMS ARE ON THE RISE
Scammers use mail, social media, text messages and phone calls to lure victims with a prize if the victim agrees to pay taxes or administrative fees. Self-defense: Never send money to claim a prize. If you have ever fallen for a scam, be doubly careful--thieves return to cheat anyone they have stolen from before.
According to Amanda Horowitz, the owner of Fight Back! a consumer organization, lottery and sweepstakes scams rank among the most common consumer frauds. Along with calls, mailings, emails and text messages, crooks now use online pop-up windows and social media to tell you that you've won money or prizes.
Fraudsters say you must first pay taxes, processing, delivery, legal and/or customs fees to collect your "winnings." A request for an upfront payment is an indication that someone is trying to defraud you.
When it comes to upfront payments, criminals have some favorites. They like to use money transfers because they are virtually the same as cash. Prepaid cards and iTunes gift cards are popular because crooks can access the card balance if you give them a number from the back of the card or a PIN over the phone.
They may also ask you to send cash in the mail. Once you give them money, they keep asking for more, claiming there's a bigger jackpot at stake, or that there was an error or problem that can be solved with more money. A refusal to pay might be met with threats of violence.
Never share your sensitive, personal financial information. Using your bank account or credit card numbers, scammers can make unauthorized transactions or they can sell your information to other scam operations.
Victims are sometimes asked to deposit counterfeit checks and send money back to the scammer. Note that if you deposit a fake check and it bounces, YOU'RE responsible for repaying the bank.
Another trick includes impersonating public figures, companies, a lottery, FBI and IRS officials, and others. This is done by cloning social media profiles, creating bogus websites and pop-ups, or pretending to be real lottery winners who want to "give away" part of their winnings.
Lottery and sweepstakes scams are typically run outside the United States using technology to disguise their phone number. For example, the caller ID display on a victim's phone may say "FBI" or display a number with a Washington, D. C. area code (202). The government and law enforcement never call to notify lottery and sweepstakes winners or award prizes of any kind.
Protect yourself: Don't wire money to an unknown party or pay with a prepaid card or gift card for a prize. Don't disclose personal information to an unknown party. Don't deposit a check and send money or prepaid cards back. Don't click on pop-up windows offering gift cards, prizes or contest entries.
Report a scam!
If you're a victim, you might be able to stop or reverse funds if you act quickly. Report the scam to:
IN TAX SEASON, BEWARE CON ARTISTS' LATEST SCAM
The Philadelphia Inquirer of March 18, 2019 reported that there's a new twist on the old IRS agent impersonator scam. The IRS warned that taxpayers are receiving phony calls from con artists claiming they're from the Taxpayer's Advocate Service, an independent organization within the agency.
Similar to other IRS scams, the new breed of criminal claims to be from the IRS, in this case "spoofing" the telephone number of the Taxpayer Advocate Service office in Houston or Brooklyn.
The con men request a call back -- but don't do it!
If you do, the pretend IRS employee will request personal information, including Social Security number or taxpayer identification number. The real Taxpayer Advocate Service does not call taxpayers out of the blue.
Many of us have gotten these robocalls. In other variations of the IRS phone scam, fraudsters demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
Scammers may promise potential victims they are entitled to a huge refund -- but must first provide personal information. Unfortunately, these criminals tend to prey on the elderly, so advise your older friends and family not to believe any "IRS agent" who calls.
There are other red flags: Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They know the last four digits of your Social Security number. They use a pretend caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS or a local law enforcement agency is calling. They may send bogus emails to support their phony telephone calls. They even create background noise to sound like a call center.
They may even threaten you with jail time, revoking your driver's license or visits by police. They sometimes even call back pretending to be from local law enforcement agencies or the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Hang up and call a trusted friend or family member to tell them what happened.
Remember, the IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment using a method such as a prepaid debit card, or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS mails a bill. They will not threaten you to immediately bring in police or other law enforcement. They will not ask for credit or debit card numbers nor will they call you about an unexpected refund.
The best advice is to HANG UP IMMEDIATELY. THE LONGER THE CON ARTIST IS ENGAGED, THE MORE OFTEN THEY WILL CALL.
If you think you owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Real IRS workers can help you. For more information, visit Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts on IRS.gov.
WHEN YOU'RE MOST VULNERABLE TO SCAM CALLS:
Monday was the hardest day to get someone to fall for a phone scam reports AAARP Bulletin of March 2019. Only 29% of people took the bait. By Tuesday, more than twice as many people succumbed. More fake calls succeeded later in the day--with 2 in 3 respondents being duped at around 5 PM.
The AARP study also found that women were better than men at scamming over the phone. "We don't really know why, but one possibility is people don't expect women to be the scammers." Criminals have figured this out. "You see tons of IRS and tech support scammers using women to do the calling. That's not an accident."
DEATH NOTICE SCAM ALERT
According to AARP, March 2018, publicly sharing personal information is risky enough in everyday life. It gets worse in death. It's never wise to let strangers know your name, address, birth date, birthplace, family members' names or even hobbies, whether you post the info on social media, take surveys or fill out product registration forms. But obituaries can take the risk to a whole new level. When published in newspapers and websites, they can spoon-feed scammers the precise nuggets they need. The more personal facts you provide in an obit--the greater risk of scams--for the departed and survivors alike. When it's time to write the notice, give the deceased's age but leave out the birth date, middle name, home address, birthplace and mother's maiden name. Don't even include the names of family survivors. This last advice will be hard to follow, but otherwise you put family members at risk of scams such as identity theft, deceptive debt collection (Crooks often call spouses, children or siblings to make a claim that survivors must repay the deceased's debts.) Unless you cosigned the obligation debts are paid from the estate--not from the pockets of relatives. Anyone saying otherwise is deceiving the grieving for a quick buck.
In another name-dropper, self-described insurance agents and attorneys get in touch with survivors to claim the departed took out a huge life insurance policy. But before benefits can be collected, a final premium (or taxes, handling fees, etc.) must be paid. Legit insurance companies don't request upfront fees by wire-transfer or prepaid debit card. Some scammers pretend they are clairvoyants who seek payments from survivors in exchange for supposed messages from beyond the grave--and threaten an evil curse if money doesn't arrive.
As seen in the January 18, 2019 issue of The Week: First, test life without the app for a week or more. If you find yourself happier, here's what you do:
First download all of your years of data. On the desktop version of Facebook, click the triangle in the top right corner and select Settings. Select Your Facebook Information and then Download Your Information. That will get you all your contacts and posts. Then go back to the same section and click the blue Delete Account button. It takes up to 90 days for Facebook to clear out your information and even then data that Facebook has already mined and shared will live on forever in databases.
HOW DO SCAMMERS KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT ME?
Information from the comsumer fraud experts with the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Many people don't understand how they get on the radar of crooks. Here are some of the ways:
1. You frequently enter contests. Online contests are gateways to unwanted sales pitches. Not only do marketers collect information like name, age and address, they may learn other things--that you like to travel or are buying a car. Also, they know you believe in luck. That could make you a target.
2. Mail in warranty cards. Ever notice that when you fill out a warranty card for a toaster or coffee maker that it requests information like how much money you make? It is likely that your information is being sold to others.
3. Fill out lots of surveys. Did you recently fill out a questionnaire rating your stay at a hotel or the service at a restaurant? Selling survey data is big business, and marketing firms and even criminals can learn a lot about you based on travel preferences or what type of car you drive.
4. Share personal updates on Facebook. Scammers turn to social media postings to learn more about those they've targeted. So don't post personal info, narrow who can see your posts and avoid posting real-time updates about your whereabouts.
5. Just living in the U.S. yields a trove of information. Many public records are available at the federal, state, county and city levels, including census data, criminal records, and bankruptcies. Private companies can pull together all this information on you and sell it to anyone. And it's 100 percent legal.
6. Obituaries are prime hunting ground for scammers, who learn the names of vulnerable widows, widowers, children or grandchildren. Honor the dead, but keep personal information in obituaries to a minimum.
According to the AARP Bulletin the schemes often target older Americans, as in the notorious "grandparents scam." where a caller is told that a grandchild is in trouble or injured and needs money wired immediately. Victims were told to drive to the nearest Western Union office and send cash. It's a pretty fast way to send money," said Margaret Moeser, an attorney with the Department of Justice, "People who are doing fraud schemes are interested in getting it done as fast as possible. Also, Western Union has a worldwide presence."
UPDATE ON ROBOCALLS
Robocalls have become an epidemic. There were 33 BILLION of them nationwide in 2019 through September, according to YouMail, a robocall blocking application. That's 101 calls per person. The Federal Trade Commission received on average more than 375 robocall complaints per month in fiscal 2017, up from 63,000 per month in 2009.
Technology has made it cheaper and easier to send robocalls. Perhaps the most problematic development has been called ID "spoofing," which not only disguises a caller's identity but can make it look as if the call is from a local number.
Whenever you get a phone call and don't recognize the number, let it go to voicemail. Anyone who legitimately needs to talk to you will leave a message. My husband and I just bought a new phone system and it announces the caller. A voice will repeat over and over "call from Dr. Miller." We do not answer unknown calls. The phone system also has call blocking. In addition to call blocking, we can add new scammers' phone numbers to the database. This has greatly reduced the amount of junk calls. ROBO CALLERS LOVE A PERSON WHO PICKS UP THE PHONE RIGHT AWAY. IT QUICKLY GETS TRANSFERRED TO A LIVE OPERATOR WHO WILL THEN TARGET YOU.
Consumer Reports states that by now, most of us have learned to ignore emails from Nigerian princes seeking investors and we decline digital pop-up solicitation for a bargain vacation in exchange for our bank information. However, these con artists are still successful. They come up with new schemes as soon as old ones are exposed.
We seniors know about smishing and spoofing but how about Shimmer Scams? Some con artists attach devices to ATMs to capture data from debit cards they can use to create a replica of the card. Enter the "shimmer," a thin card-sized gadget that con artists install on ATM machines or gas pumps. The "shims" contain a microchip that can read and transmit information from your card. Though your chip card cannot be cloned in the same way that a strip card can, bad guys can glean enough information to make purchases using the extracted data.
To protect yourself, whenever possible, use an ATM installed at a bank. Stand-alone cash machines that you may come across in a convenience store or a mall or an unattended gas station pump are easier for fraudsters to tamper with. Always cover the PIN pad when entering your number in case there's an unauthorized camera nearby. If your card encounters any physical resistance when you insert it into the slot, that may well mean a shimmer has been installed--so don't proceed. Then notify your bank. Keep a close watch on your statements.
Who Gets Scammed?
The most dangerous attitude any consumer can have is the "illusion of invulnerability"--as in, "I'm too smart to ever fall for a con." No, you're not, and all the data show that everyone, irrespective of age, education, ethnicity, or gender--has the potential to be scammed. Believe it or not, it's millennials, not seniors, who are most vulnerable. Among those who reported losing money to fraud, those in their 20s accounted for 40 percent, vs 18 percent for those 70 and older, according to 2017 Federal Trade Commission data.
However, older adults who fell victim to scams tended to lose larger amounts of money, compared with younger adults, the FTC found. Experts say losses by the elderly to financial fraud are not only attributable to age-related cognitive decline but also to the fact that the 65-plus generation controls trillions of dollars--and scammers follow the money.
Many scoff at the very idea of ever falling for the Grandparents Scam--until they get the call from a "grandchild" or other loved one in desperate need of money to pay for needed medical treatment. "Victims will tell us, 'I knew everything about this scam, and yet when I picked up the phone and this person said she was my granddaughter and was in trouble, everything I had in my brain went out the window and my emotions took over.'" says Amy Nofziger, a fraud expert at AARP.
Lotteries and sweepstakes nabbed nearly 10 percent of the fraud victims surveyed. Typically, the con begins with a phone call congratulating you on winning a contest you probably don't remember entering--an objection the scammers skillfully overrule. But before you can receive your winnings (a car, a vacation, a big check) you must first pay a fee, taxes, or other expenses via a wire transfer or prepaid debit card. The "winner" sends off the money, but the jackpot never arrives.
What to do if you've been scammed.
Only an estimated 14 percent of victims report the scam, whether because they were embarrassed, felt it was futile, or simply didn't know to whom to report it. Start with the police and report compromised credit or debit card information to the card issuers. The AARP Fraud Watch Network also has a hotline available to anyone (877-908-3360), and volunteers there can advise you of the best next step if you're unsure of what to do.
You have little chance of getting your money back but many experts emphasize emotional recovery. "Instead of yelling at the victim, "How could you be so gullible?" says the fraud experts at AARP, Say "I'm really sorry this happened to you, but it did, so now let's figure out how to get past it."
Good tech advice: Older adults are wising up to how iPads, smartphones and fitness trackers can improve their lives. The Wall Street Journal says to get tech savvy, don't ask your children or grandchildren. Their responses, often accompanied by an eye roll: "Why is that so hard?" or "I already showed you!" A key to conquering fears and thriving with new technology is knowing where to get help that won't run out of patience. If at all possible, get an outsider involved.
A note to family members: Don't stick seniors with castaway gadgets. If you no longer want that jittery old iPad, why would you expect your mom to have a quality experience with it?
But for seniors, instead of treating relatives as tech-support hotlines, the better plan is to find help from people who are technically--and emotionally--ready. Apple stores provide free setup for new products. They also provide one-on-one help for a project like organizing vacation photos. Microsoft stores offer personal classes for a fee. Chances are, you can get free support at your public library: 62% offer training on new tech devices. There are free lessons on the Internet, too. Go to: seniorsguidetocomputers.com/
When the virus restrictions are lifted, don't forget that Ann's Choice has a computer club right here on campus. The club conducts a number of training courses including Basic Computer, Introduction to Computers, Basic Email and Digital Camera. Come join them and make that PC a friendly part of your life.
To avoid phone scams, remember this good advice:
When the telephone rings, do not pick it up even if the number looks like a local number. Look at where the message is coming from. If it is an unknown number, just let it go to voicemail. Scammers give up after three rings and will not leave a message. Anyone really needing to get in touch with you will leave a message.
A New Credit Card SCAM...
This is a heads up for everyone regarding the
latest in Visa fraud. Royal Bank received this communication about the newest scam. This is happening in the Midwest right now and moving across the country. This one is pretty slick, since
they provide YOU with all the information, except the one piece they want. Note, the callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it. This information is worth
reading. By understanding how the VISA & MasterCard telephone Credit Card Scam works, you'll be better prepared to protect yourself. One of our employees was
called on Wednesday from 'VISA', and I was called on Thursday from 'MasterCard'. The scam works like this:
Person calling says - "This is (name) and I'm calling from the
Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a marketing company based in Arizona ?' When you say 'No', the caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching, and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards."
Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address). Is that correct?" You say 'yes'. The caller continues "I will be starting a Fraud Investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1-800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800-VISA) and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6-digit number. "Do you need me to read it again?"
Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works - The caller then says, "I need to verify you are in possession of your card."
He'll ask you to "turn your card over and look for some numbers."
There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the last 3 are the Security Numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the last 3 numbers to him. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, "That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?" After you say no, the caller then thanks you and states, "Don't hesitate to call back if you do." and hangs up. You actually say very little, and they never ask for or tell you the card number. But after we were called on Wednesday, we called back within 20 minutes to ask a question. We were glad we did! The REAL VISA Security Department told us it was a scam and in the last 15 minutes a new purchase of $497.99 was charged to our card. We made a real fraud report and closed the VISA account. VISA is reissuing us a new number. What the Scammer wants is the 3-digit PIN number on the back of the card. Don't give it to them. Instead, tell them you'll call VISA or Master Card directly for verification of their conversation.
The real VISA told us that they will never ask for anything on the card, as
they already know the information, since they issued the card! If you give the scammer your 3 Digit PIN Number, you think you're receiving a credit. However, by the time you get
your statement you'll see charges for purchases you didn't make, and by then it's almost too late and/or more difficult to actually file a fraud report.
What makes this more remarkable is that on Thursday, I got a call from a 'Jason Richardson of MasterCard' with a word-for-word repeat of the VISA Scam. This time I didn't let him finish. I hung up! We filed a police report, as instructed by VISA. The police said they are taking several of these reports daily! They also urged us to tell everybody we know that this scam is happening. I dealt with a similar situation this morning, with the caller telling me that $3,097 had been charged to my account for plane tickets to Spain and so on through the above routine.
It appears that this is a very active scam, and evidently quite successful....
According to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, a new twist in imposter scams involves crooks posing as tax collectors asking for money--they've even started posing as representatives of the Bucks County Treasurer's Office, says Michael Bannon, director of the Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection. Just picking up the phone puts the consumer at risk of being placed on a list of potential targets to be shared with other scammers. "These are professional con people. It's important to take steps to protect yourself," he says.
Bannon and his office help residents of all ages, but they spend a lot of time on scams that target seniors. Retirees are prime targets for scam artists because they tend to be home when telemarketers call, and they often need help with tech support, or managing their finances as they get older. Seniors generally have regular income from a pension or Social Security and savings that they're looking to maximize. They're also a large group, with 10,000 people turning 65 every day. Retirees have more at stake than younger victims because there's less time to make up for money that has been stolen.
Bannon runs a booth at the annual senior expo, recently held at the Lower Bucks Hospital. He hears lots of stories of telemarketers annoying seniors. One senior, Dennis, who lives in Bristol, says he received eight telemarketing calls the day before, starting at 8:20 A.M. One included a recorded message from someone claiming to be from the IRS. By afternoon, when yet another telemarketer called, he was ready to fight back. "I said, "You're just in time for a parade!" and I blew a whistle into the phone," he says.
Gerald, who lives in Croydon, PA says that he and his wife received a number of telemarketing calls over the last week because his wife is about to turn 65--and everyone seems to be trying to sell her a medigap or Medicare Advantage plan. Some callers claim that they're from Medicare or Social Security and need her personal information. He says a friend almost fell for a fake IRS call, complete with a Washington, D.C. caller ID. "They said he had 24 hours to pay up or a U.S. marshal would come," he says.
Bucks County recently warned seniors about the "grandparent scam" which starts with a frantic call from someone claiming to be a grandchild who needs money because of an accident or other trouble. Some crooks scour social media for names of the grandkids to make it sound legitimate. Callers ask the grandparent to wire money or to send a gift card or iTunes gift card number, which is harder to trace.
Stay on top of the newest scams by signing up for alerts from the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts. Learn about new tax-related scams at www.irs.gov/newsroom (click on "tax Scams/Consumer Alerts").
THINK TWICE BEFORE CLICKING THAT ONLINE COUPON
During the holidays coupons offering amazing deals at well-known stores are popping up on Facebook. The logo looks real and the deal fantastic.
Who wouldn't look twice at the promise of a 50% off coupon on everything in the store? Or $100 off $120 of groceries at a supermarket chain? Just click on the link.
Shoppers need to take time for a reality check. The deals are just scammers seeking personal information. A neighbor saw a post from a friend for a coupon for 50% off at Kohl's. It said Merry Christmas from Kohl's! To get the coupon, she had to click through a three-step process.
Step one: Share on Facebook.
Step two: Like on Facebook.
Step three: Click here and take a survey, including a section that will ask for your personal information so you can be "sent" the coupon.
Even if you are suspicious of the coupon, by the time you hit step three, you have already shared the link to your friends.
Social media sites have been inundated with coupon offers claiming consumers can obtain an extremely high-value coupon at many locations.
Some of the chains are Aldi, Kohl's, Target, and ShopRite.
Consumers should avoid downloading Internet coupons. If a friend emails you coupons, especially high-value coupons, they are most likely counterfeit. The scammers use surveys to get personal information for ID theft. Or malicious software can be downloaded onto your computer if you click on a link. Some counterfeit coupons involve specific products such as Coca-Cola or Kellogg Eggos.
Remember that plenty of real coupons exist in newspapers and on store websites, especially during the holiday shopping season. Stay safe.
Charity Fraud is more prevelent around the holidays: Someone contacts you asking for a donation to their charity. It sounds like a group you've heard of and seems real. How can you tell what charity is legitimate and what's a scam? Scammers want your money quickly. They often pressure you to donate right away. They might ask for cash and might even offer to send a courier or ask you to wire money. They often refuse to send you information about the charity or tell you how the money will be used.
Slow down. Tell callers to send you information by mail. For requests by mail, is it a real group? What percentage of your donation goes to the charity? Is your donation tax-deductible? How do they want you to pay? Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash or wire money.
If you spot a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY1-866-653-4261. You can also go online: ftc.gov/complaint
Scam Alert: Several years ago I received an email supposedly from Microsoft Account Team, ID 133 Email Security Alert (Sept. 2017).
Unusual activity detected--I did not open this but instead took my mouse and hovered over the address. It read From Microsoft.email@example.com
The misspellings in the address were enough to keep me from clicking on the email. Always check the sender when you get a strange email. Do not open it up but delete it right away.
AARP recently reported on new scams just in time for summer trips. Vacations put you in the path of scam artists who want to separate you from your travel dollars.
There is a new samaritan scam. You may be boarding a flight overseas and discover your wallet is missing. Your cellphone rings. A guy on the other end says he found it in the airport. But don't worry, the Samaritan has your name and address and can drop the wallet in the mail today. No need to postpone your trip to deal with canceling credit cards. The point of the call--which came from a disposable phone that can't be traced--is to lull you into giving the thief lots of time to ravage your accounts while you wait for the package that never arrives. You don't find out you've been conned until the bogus charges show up.
Be careful at hotels. Make sure the doors have adequate locks. One scam at hotels: A few minutes after you check in, you get a call from someone pretending to be from the front desk asking you to repeat your credit card number and security code--claiming it was written down wrong. A crook was lurking when you checked in and they need the information to rip you off.
Be alert to strangers claiming that there is a spill on your clothes. This is often a ploy to get close enough to grab your wallet or purse. Also, someone may approach you and offer to take your photograph with your friend or spouse. That's a good way to have someone dash off with your camera or smartphone!
Here are five tech activities to say NO to:
1. Giving strangers access to your computer. You might get an email that looks like it's from Microsoft and claims your account was compromised. It seeks permission "to remove the malware." Instead they just steal your personal data.
2. Opening an email attachment from a stranger. They may post something intriguing in the subject line to entice you to click on an attachment. It may say something like "I love you." If you do, it will install malware allowing them to take over your computer.
3. Using a thumb drive you got for free at a store or computer convention. It may contain malware.
4. Conducting private business on a public Wi-Fi system, such as Starbucks. A skilled hacker sitting near you can pick up everything you type.
5. Posting something on Facebook you might someday regret. Even if you delete the post, it will still be retrievable. Hackers can bypass even privacy buttons.
NEW FRAUDS TO WATCH FOR THIS YEAR
AARP reports that antifraud groups have raised public awareness that a request for payment by wire transfers and prepaid cash cards usually signals a scam, and the Federal Trade Commission has made it illegal for telemarketers to ask for payment that way. As a result, many scammers have turned to iTunes gift cards as their preferred payment method. Watch out for come-ons to purchase a card, load money on it and them provide the 16-digit code. It's a fast and virtually untraceable way to steal your money.
Don't get fooled by fake websites. Suppose you made a typo and left out the letter "c" when typing "Netflix.com" into a web browser. The website you landed on might have told you to update your software.
Sites like these with addresses that are only slightly different from those of real sites often are a scam. This is sometimes referred to as "typosquatting" if you accidentally type an incorrect address or click a link in an e-mail or at a website, not noticing the minor change.
These fake sites might ask you to enter financial information, such as a credit card number or you might be asked to update some software on your computer or download a file (which contains spyware or malware). If you're looking for a product or service, they might redirect you to another similar site that is more expensive than the original one that you wanted.
Victims think they are on the original website that they wanted and may comply. Don't be a victim: Double-check that you have typed the web address correctly before hitting enter . An alternative is to create bookmarks in your web browser for sites you visit often.
What is the new chip card? I just received my new and improved Visa card from the bank. How is it improved? It has an EMV chip.
These chips store your data and replace the card's traditional magnetic stripe. This makes it harder for hackers to make a counterfeit copy of your credit card if they steal your account information. The chips generate a unique code for every transaction so if scammers steal data from a retailer, they won't be able to use that information to make future purchases. The chips have become the standard in most of the credit-card-accepting world, leaving the U. S. as the only major economy that still relies on magnetic stripes.
The EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa and is a big deal. Half of the world's credit card fraud reportedly happens in the U. S.
Credit card issuers have begun sending out EMV-chip-enabled cards to people like me along with a letter that talks about the extra levels of security that these cards provide.
So this is great news, right? I recently went to the store and when checking out saw that the card reader isn't chip-enabled. A chip-enabled reader has a slot into which you insert the card, similar to an ATM machine. I'm able to swipe because my new Visa card still comes with a magnetic stripe on the back.
Because I swiped the card to make a purchase, the chip never came into play. I may as well have had my old card. Chip cards are great fraud fighters--but that is pretty much impossible in America right now. They aren't any good if most places won't accept them. Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express have told merchants that if they haven't upgraded their equipment to read chip cards, (Walmart is the big exception) they will be fully liable for their losses in any data breaches.
Most chip cards around the world are of the chip-and-pin variety, most chip cards produced in the U.S. are chip-and-signature cards. There's no PIN involved. You sign for your purchase, as you always have, with your mag stripe.
Putting a chip in a card without also attaching a PIN to it is a wasted opportunity. Why? It's much easier to forge someone's signature than to hack their PIN. The PIN and the security that it offers are the key to making all of this work most effectively. Credit card fraud in the United Kingdom fell by more than a third after chip-and-PIN was implemented.
I'm looking forward to the day when I can break out a chip-and-PIN card to pay for anything, anywhere. Then we will see just how powerful a fraud-prevention tool this technology can be.
SCAM UPDATE: Personal reports of phishing loan rip-offs, tech support schemes and other con games. Search by location or type, or send in your own reports. New from the Better Business Bureau. BBB.org/ScamTracker
Top Scams to Look out for Following the Death of a Loved one
The Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force lists the most frequent scams to look out for following the death of a loved one.
After her husband died, a fraudulent insurance agent called the widow. He claimed that her husband had fallen behind in making payments on a life insurance policy that he had purchased a few months earlier. If she paid him $250 in cash to bring the policy current, she would receive a death benefit of $25,000. He even offered to come to her home to accept the payment. Fortunately, she was too smart to fall for the scam.
It's a shameful story. Scammers like to target people who are recently bereaved--especially widows and widowers who might be especially vulnerable when they are grieving. The crooks read obituaries, skim information about recently deceased people and their families and use it dishonestly.
Identity Theft --You should alert your relatives to hang up the phone if someone calls and requests personal or financial data for any reason. Some scammers have reasonable-sounding reasons for requesting data. They could say that your loved one has not yet paid for a magazine subscription and all that is needed to bring the account current is a credit card number, that a utility bill is past due, or that bank data needs to be "updated." Never provide credit card data in response to an incoming email. If you get an email from your bank that claims that you owe money or need to update data, call or visit your bank to ask whether you really need to.
Fraudulent "Bills Due" is one of the oldest scams directed against grieving people. The scammer calls a recently widowed person and claims that the deceased individual owed money for something. The fraudster could claim that the deceased person put down a deposit on a piece of real estate, a vacation, an insurance policy, or a piece of jewelry that was supposed to be a surprise gift to the widow or widower. If the scammer is also an identity thief, he or she will offer the option of paying over the phone by credit card.
Inflated Bills from Funeral Homes-- The overwhelming majority of funeral homes are run by honorable professionals whose first concern is to provide caring service to families at their time of loss. Even so, stories do occasionally make the news about funeral homes that have tacked on charges for services that people were not expecting.
Be sure that you receive a fully itemized statement of services and costs before those services are provided. Even if you discuss arrangements over the phone, be sure to get a statement via email. If you get everything in writing, you can point to the statement that you received and pay only for the specific services that you requested. If you feel that a funeral home has attempted to engage in dishonest activies, contact the National Funeral Directors, a national organization that monitors the undustry.
Travel Scams -- Not long ago, a recently widowed man received a call from someone who identified herself as his granddaughter. She even used his granddaughter's name when making the call: "Grandpa, this is Sarah."
She said that she needed money to travel to his wife's funeral and asked him to wire funds to Florida. Fortunately, he called Sarah's parents befure doing so. The criminal had read his wife's obituary, which mentioned Sarah's name and hatched a plot.
If a suspicious person calls, say you need to call him or her back. The scammer will hang up, make up an excuse for why the number cannot be given out, or say that he or she needs to call you back later. Note that scammers call from "spook" phone numbers that cannot be traced.
Never provide any information via email or phone, such as physical addresses or credit card data.
Immediately inform any banks, insurance companies, or other businesses that the scammer claimed to represent. They know best how to investigate frauds that use their names.
The Mayo Clinic reports that seniors who used computers at least once a week had a 42% decreased risk for onset of mild cognitive impairment over a 4 year period. Other mentally stimulating activities include magazine reading 30%, social activities 23%, crafts 16%, and games, such as cards 14%.
Beware Netflix and Flickr photo-sharing Scams
Cyberthieves aren't just invading financial accounts such as credit card and bank accounts--they are also trying to access accounts that most people don't think of as targets--Flickr, Netflix and other video-streaming services.
This trend comes at a time when credit card providers, banks and various other businesses, including retailers, have beefed up the safeguards to protect account information and detect fraud.
The thieves are selling the account information, including user names and passwords, on the Internet underground market (the Dark Web.) Scammers then use the information to hijack your account.
In Netflix, scammers might use your user name and password to access Netflix or other video-streaming services. They can hijack your Flickr account and withhold your pictures from you until you pay a ransom. It could be used as part of a larger identity theft scheme.
Many people are less careful about security for these types of services thinking that cyberthieves wouldn't be interested. Wrong! Don't disregard security precautions when creating accounts for these services. Avoid easily guessed passwords and check your transactions and other activities on your account.
Don't use the same passwords for multiple accounts. Cyberthieves can steal the password and use it to try to access your other accounts. Always back up your photos on a hard drive or a flash drive, not just in the cloud.
What not to put in an e-mail
Quirky text and punctuation can trigger spam filters. This may prevent someone from receiving your e-mail. These include:
If you think that your e-mail did wind up in someone's spam folder, ask the recipient to add you to his/her contact list or address book.
Latest News on Passwords
The Wall Street Journal reports that passwords are getting longer, but not getting stronger. For the first time last year, "1234567890" "quertyuiop" (top row of keys on a standard keyboard) and "welcome" landed spots on the list of the years most common passwords, according to data from SplashData a company that makes password-management applications. These examples are longer than perennial favorites "1234" "12345" and "querty," which still rank high. SplashData CEO Morgan Slain said that if these longer passwords are based on simple patterns they will put you in just as much risk of having your identity stolen by hackers.
This dangerous malware is known as the Cryptolocker Virus.
Melissa was stunned when an "FBI" alert popped up on her computer saying her files had been locked due to illegal activity. The sender demanded $400 to release her files. She Googled the alert and realized she wasn't dealing with the real FBI. She had been targeted and was the victim of a ransomware attack.
After you click on an infected ad, e-mail attachment or website, hackers access your computer via malicious software (malware), locking or blocking access to files. Fail to pay by the deadline and they'll leave data irretrivable. Many hackers require Bitcoin, an untraceable virtual currency. McAfee Labs reported attacks rose 165% in the first quarter of 2015!
How to protect yourself:
I'm so old I remember when a hashtag was a pound sign AND we played tic-tac-toe on that!
New SMIShing Scam
Most people are alert to suspicious e-mails and phony phone calls, so scammers are trying new ways to con you. The latest is the "SMIShing" scam--the term for a phishing (or phone) fraud. It starts with a text (also called SMS)--that relies on our tendency to automatically reply to a text without a second thought.
Here's how it works. You receive a text message that appears to come from Google and contains a verification code. Then you get another text saying, "Google has detected unusual activity on your e-mail account. Please reply with the verification code sent to your mobile device to stop unauthorized activity." DO NOT REPLY TO IT. If you type in and send the code, the scammer will now be able to access your e-mail, gather information about you, and even change your account settings. They may even be able to forward future e-mail messages to their account!
Never send a verification code to anyone by text or e-mail. Use those codes only on the log-in page of the account for which they were sent. If you get a verification code that you didn't request, it could be that someone is tampering with your account. Contact your e-mail provider.
This scam uses Google in order to look legitimate. In the future, it may pretend to be your bank or brokerage account. Always be on the alert and when in doubt, contact your real account provider.
There are hundreds of Web trackers checking on you as you browse the Internet. One way to know is to install Ghostery. It is a browser extension that has a pop-up on your computer screen and it shows who is watching what you do online.
Web searchers accept Web trackers. The Web trackers assure us that we get benefits such as discounts and more relevant ads. Most Americans are unhappy with the trade-off but are resigned to it, thinking that they are powerless to do anything to protect their online privacy.
Ghostery is one way to enhance your Internet privacy. You can find it among Add-Ons in Firefox or Extensions in Chrome. You can also download it from Ghostery.com for Safari or Internet Explorer. It has an “Alert Bubble” feature, which displays a list of trackers active on each site you visit. Sometimes there will be dozens on a single page. Ghostery can be set up to block tracking, also.
There are similar add-ons called Disconnect and Privacy Badger. If you take advantage of these tools to block tracking, you will find that ads no longer seem to follow you around from site to site.
Gabriel Weinberg, the founder of DuckDuckGo, a Paoli-based company that offers tracking-free Internet searches said that “People think of Google as a search engine, but really it’s an advertising company.”
Don't Get Fooled by Fake Survey Calls
The Federal Trade Commission warns that people are getting automated calls that claim to want your opinion but they may be after your money instead. Phone surveys are exempt from rules that ban automated “robocalls” and calls to numbers on the federal Do Not Call Registry. One cruise line robocalled millions of phone numbers with what seemed to be a political survey. People who responded were told that they could receive a free two-day Bahamas cruise for their trouble. They were then connected to a salesperson who tried to talk them into paying for parts of the “free” cruise. What should you do if you get such a call? If someone tries to sell you something during a phone survey, hang up immediately.
If a robocall tells you to press a button on your keypad to be removed from the call list, don’t do it! Pressing this is likely to increase the number of calls you receive. First visit DoNotCall.gov to confirm that your phone number is on the Do Not Call Registry. Next, visit Nomorobo.com to find out if its free robocall-blocking service is available for your landline and/or cell phone carrier.
Did you know that phone scams cost consumers nearly $8.6 million in 2014? The average loss was $488.80. You can protect yourself:
Are you on Facebook?
Check your privacy settings. Here’s how to manage privacy settings. Click “Timeline and Tagging,” then set “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?” to “Enabled.” Also set “Who can post on your timeline?” to “Only Me.” Also, click “Privacy,” then set “Do you want other search engines to link to your timeline?” to “No.”
Here’s a Great Trick to Protect Your Password
When signing up for a website, don’t answer security questions honestly—such as your birthplace or first school. Write these wrong answers down and use them for all future security questions.
What is the difference between http and https?
Http stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The S stands for "secure". Most websites begin with http://. This means that the website is "unsecure". The website is talking to your browser and it is possible for someone to eavesdrop on your computer's conversation. If you fill out a form on the website, it is possible that someone could see that information. This is why you never, never enter your credit card on an http website. If you need to enter your credit card info, look to see if the web address begins with https://. If it doesn't, do NOT enter your credit card number. There is one caveat: even scam artists can have https sites so make sure you only do business with reputable firms.
"Never believe every quote you read on the Internet."
Be careful searching online for comedian Jimmy
Kimmel or singer Bruce Springsteen! Searching for these celebrities online could expose your computer to a virus or something worse. According to Google statistics, on average there are almost a quarter-million searches for Kimmel every month. Cybercriminals know this, so they create malicious websites. When you go to such a site, you might end up downloading malware that lets criminals steal your personal information. Other celebrities on the most dangerous list include singers Christina Aguilera, Jon Bon Jovi, Blake Shelton and Britney Spears.
How can you avoid celebrity traps?
Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to put a virus on your computer or some other nasty surprise. Don‘t be a victim. Look for a site with a picture of a lock at the beginning of the address or the words https, not just http. Even https isn't foolproof--scammers have https websites too. Know what you are getting into.
I just saved a bunch of money on Christmas presents by discussing my political views on Facebook.
Make sure you secure your old phone beforehand. Remove any SD or Micro SD memory card. Take out the SIM card, which gives your phone its number and identifies it on your cell network. Use a pin or open paper clip to pop it out. Make sure you wipe the phone's built-in memory and return it to factory setting. To do this in iOS, choose "Settings/General/Reset/Erase All Contents and Settings." In Android look in "Settings" for words such as "Backup & Reset"--exact words vary for different manufacturers. In a Windows Phone, go to "Settings/About/Reset Your Phone."
A type of virus is hitting many of our fellow residents. It runs in the background and causes numerous pop-ups, like one that tells you that you need computer help. It also sets up certain words on your browsers to look like links to other web sites - they are, but you really don't want them.
To get rid of malware, first download the free version of malware bytes - go to www.malwarebytes.org and click on free download. When that happens, run it. It should clear away the malware. If it doesn't you will likely have to call for tech help.
Many YouTube videos are not worth viewing but now you can see the best ones on Devour.com. Devour picks the best ones daily and posts them to the site.
How about comics? Try this site: GoComics.com
Daily updates of newspaper comic strips (also web comics).
Retronaut: images, audio and video from the past. Reels from old Warner Brothers films—also, bloopers. Retronaut.com
Buzzfeed: Fascinating stories of adorable animals, celebrities, etc. Buzzfeed.com
THE JAMAICAN LOTTERY SCAM
Jamaican scammers took $1 billion from Americans, mostly the elderly, in the past four years! One in every five Americans age 65 or older has been abused financially. The ability to recognize fraud can fade with aging, even among people without dementia and seniors can lose thousands of dollars or more before their families notice. Law enforcement is lax. There were 36,000 cases in the last six months alone and they are expensive and difficult to pursue by law enforcement! Federal authorities often decline to investigate cases involving less than $100,000.
Here’s how it works. First the scammer phones the victim. They use a contact list with the victims name and phone number on it. They may say cheerily, “Great news! You have won $1.5 million and a car in a lottery.” If you reply, “I didn’t enter a foreign lottery.” They will respond, “You probably were entered automatically at a store. What color car do you want? Oh---there is the matter of a few small fees.” The victim then goes to the bank to buy a payment card to send money.
Scammers sometimes phone a dozen times a day, forging personal relationships with lonely victims. The con artists pretend to be car transporters, lawyers, bankers, even an FBI agent and a U.S. Marshal, all needing funds to solve problems.
Other common scam lines: “Your check was misplaced. We need another.” “This is the IRS. You have to pay withholding tax.” The scammer may get belligerent and say, “You had better pay those fees!”
The elderly victim may become frantic as scammers phone repeatedly, escalating their demands or pretending to be a government official.
After the victim sends thousands of dollars, the family may finally find out and step in to freeze bank accounts and change the phone number.
THE GRANDPARENT SCAM features a scammer pretending to be a grandchild on the phone.
“Is that you, Billy?” the grandparent responds. “Yes!” says the scammer. “It’s Billy. I’ve been kidnapped in Mexico. Wire $2,000 or they will hurt me! Don’t tell my parents.” A surprising number of people send money. Now scammers are pretending to be a friend of the grandson and call during spring break or during summer months when they are more believeable. "Hello. This is Sam. I'm a friend of your grandson. He's been hurt in an accident..."
TIRED OF ROBOCALLS?
On a single day recently, a resident of Ann’s Choice had three phone calls with the same pre-recorded message. It claimed that she could win $3,000 worth of groceries if she’d answer a few questions. “I tried to opt out and got a message that they were removing my number from the list but the calls kept coming.”
You might feel smug and think: I put my telephone number on the Do Not Call List last year. Think again. Scam artists don’t care about screening out the more than 220 million phone numbers on that list. They are often overseas and enforcement is challenging. Calling 888-382-1222 may help a little but scammers are ahead of the game. Advances in technology have made it easy and cheap to send thousands of pre-recorded calls per minute using autodialers and fake caller IDs that make tracing hard. The Federal Trade Commission receives more than 150,000 complaints about robocalls each month.
IF YOU PICK UP A ROBOCALL, HANG UP IMMEDIATELY. Pressing a number signals that the autodialer has reached a live number and can lead to more calls.
BUYING ONLINE SCAMS
If you go online to shop, most sites include a photo of the item for sale, but a few say “E-mail me for a photo.” DON’T. There’s a good chance that they’re trying to scam you. If you request a photo of the item, opening that photo might load a virus onto your computer. Or you might see a web page that looks like a well-known shopping site—perhaps eBay or Amazon.com. It will ask you to enter your user name and password. Then it will fall into the hands of the scammer. Don’t let them E-mail you a photo.
Several residents have reported receiving calls supposedly from Microsoft saying that there was something wrong with their computer - either a Microsoft problem, a security issue or the expiration of some software. One resident reported that the person who called specifically said that they were contacting people at Ann’s Choice. The caller then asks to be connected to the computer to “correct the problem”. This is probably a scam. Do not allow anyone to connect to your computer unless you have initiated the call. Do not use a number that the caller gives you but contact the company using a number that you have independently obtained.
A new scam is called “smishing” which means fishing for personal information. A resident from Ann’s Choice received a text message on his cell phone from Best Buy letting him know he had won a $1,000 gift card! His first reaction was, “What great news; just in time for the holidays!”
The text directed him to follow the link to their website in order to enter the code # that was included in the text message. If he had followed the link, it would have led him to a page set up to look very similar to the legitimate Best Buy web page. He would then be required to enter information such as his birthdate, Social Security number and credit card number in order to claim the “gift card.” This would make him a victim of identity theft.
Always ignore a “smishing” message. Do not respond at all. Even simply replying “get lost” or “I know this is a scam” could lead the con artist to think they have reached a person who is willing to engage with them somehow. If they know the phone number is active, they may load you with other scams. Contact your cell phone provider to inquire about blocking unwanted messages.
Six Wholesome Habits for Computer Users
Back up your data. It could save you hours of time in lost work, not to mention valuable family photos.
Keep your apps updated. Windows, Adobe Acrobat, your Web browser and your security suite should all have automatic update options and you should use them to keep your PC safe.
Always use safe passwords. Have you been using your name spelled backward, your pet’s name or the word “password”? Shame on you. Use a different password for each important account. It should be at least eight characters, including numbers and letters.
Avoid e-mail attachments. Never, never open e-mail attachments from an unknown e-mail address.
When sending e-mails, never hit ‘reply all’ in response to a message unless every single person needs to see it. Don’t send messages with large attachments. 5MB to 10MB should be the limit. Never send messages written in all caps. When forwarding e-mails, please remember to delete all previous recipients before sending.
Ann’s Choice residents know they should recycle their old or unwanted technology products. But how do we do it?
Best Buy has a recycling program. They have in-store kiosks for ink and toner cartridges, rechargeable batteries, wires, cords and cables. Their location is 1130 Easton Road in Willow Grove.
Amazon doesn’t charge people to recycle Kindle e-readers or batteries (working or not). You can print free UPS labels for shipping old Kindles to be recycled. Just go to ecotakeback.com/kindle. Then you simply drop the Kindles off at a UPS store.
Staples stores will accept a variety of products, including laptops, monitors, mice and GPS devices but not TV’s. Our local Staples is located at 1075 Main Street in Warrington, near Wegmans.
If you buy a new Dell computer, just select “free recycling” and the company will take the old one, even if it is not a Dell.
Goodwill will take PC’s, laptops, tablets and keyboards, but not mobile phones. A Goodwill store is nearby at 1487 West Street Road.
HAVING TROUBLE READING WEB PAGES?
Web pages aren’t always as easy to read as they should be. You can zoom in or out of any Web page by holding down <Ctrl> and rolling the scroll wheel up or down to zoom in and out as you like.
Another way to enlarge the print on web pages: In Internet Explorer, click on 'view' from the toolbar>select 'text size'> and click on the text size that you want. If you are using Firefox, Opera, Safari or Chrome, press and hold Ctrl while pressing + to increase the font size. Press and hold Ctrl while pressing - to decrease the font size.
If you are on the Internet, you have most likely seen a CAPTCHA. They are the crooked and stretched collection of letters that you have to type before you can post a comment or send an email.
The CAPTCHA was created at Carnegie Mellon University in 2000. The name is short for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. Websites need CAPTCHAs to prevent the bots of spammers. The little puzzles work because computers are not as good as humans at reading distorted text. Google reports that people are solving 200 million CAPTCHAs per day.
There are hundreds of different kinds of CAPTCHAs and one of the biggest is called reCAPTCHA. You will find it on Google who offers it for free. People spend nine seconds solving a reCAPTCHA, and 92% get it right. The letters will only get more distorted as more spammers come aboard. Some spammers now employ people in foreign countries to solve the CAPTCHAs.
Seniors have the most trouble reading a CAPTCHA. They are more likely to have cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration—eye diseases that can make vision blurry. Older people read best when there’s high contrast and more space between letters. The trick to solving CAPTCHAs is to just type what you see. Don’t think about it too much and you’ll have better success.
www.duckduckgo.com for private Internet searches. It does not track what you do. Give it a try.
Cleaning a flat screen (LCD, LED, or Plasma) monitor:
Has Your Email Address Been Compromised?
There is a new online service called PwnedList (https://pwnedList.com) where you can find out. PwnedList has nearly 5 million names in its database of stolen personal data. Just type in your information and click check. If you are listed in the database, it does not necessarily mean someone has tried to break into your account; however, you should consider changing your passwords.
Quick Fixes for Browser Annoyances
Recover your URL bar. If your grandkids used your computer and your URL bar disappears, here’s what to do: In Internet Explorer, right-click on any toolbar and check Address bar to bring it back. In Firefox, go to View Toolbars and check Navigation Toolbar. And in Safari, press <Ctrl>-<Shift>-\ (or <Command-<Shift>\, if you are on a Mac.
Bring your tabs back. Did you accidently close a tab or more? Each browser has an easy way to get them back: In Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome use <Ctrl>-<Shift>-T; Safari uses <Ctrl>-Z.
Print only what you want. Most often, printing a Web page results in ink and paper wasted on images, Links, and ads. A good solution is a handy bookmarklet called PrintLiminator. (find.pcworld.com/72466).
First, install the PrintLiminator bookmarklet in your browser by dragging it to your bookmarks bar.
The next time you want to print a page, select the Printliminator command instead of Print. A small toolbar will appear in the left corner of your browser. You’ll have four options: ‘Remove All Graphics’, ‘Apply Print Stylesheet’, ‘Send to Printer’, and ‘Undo Last Action’. To remove the graphics on the Web page, click Remove All Graphics’. To delete certain elements of the Web Page---links or buttons, for instance—click Apply Print Stylesheet. Printliminator will organize all of the printable elements into sections on the page. To remove a section, put your mouse over it, and a red box will appear around it. Left-click the selection and the object(s) in the box will vanish.
When you’ve finally configured the page as you want it to appear and are ready to print, just click the Send to Printer button.
Another free resource for removing ads and other elements before you print is PrintFriendly.com
How to copy an email to Word: Highlight the words you want to copy. Press CTRL C. Minimize the screen. Open a new word document. Press CTRL V.
Get less e-mail. A free service to manage e-letter subscriptions and junk e-mail. Choose to get them all together as a single daily message or unsubscribe to any that you no longer want: Unroll.me
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