Every week, the ITRC brings you the most prevalent or potentially harmful scams of the prior week, courtesy of the watchdogs at ScamDetector. The list below is culled from their top ten for August 22nd through 28th, to which we’ve awarded our own top three honors.
#1 – Bank Card Scams
This week’s gold medal for scamming goes to the geniuses behind the malfunctioning bank card scam. In this particular scam, the very official-sounding thieves call a business and pretend to work for a specific—and usually large, well-known—bank, claiming that there’s a temporary problem with the bank’s payment processing setup. They explain that anyone who comes in to pay with a credit card issued by that bank must first verify their security information by calling the number the thieves then provide.
The customer, who is unaware of this but realizes he has no means of payment if he doesn’t follow through, is asked to provide his security information over the phone to the “bank employee” in order for the transaction to go through. Since the transaction is then approved due to the fact that there was no temporary malfunction in the first place, the customer thinks the matter is resolved and may forget it ever happened. Meanwhile, the thieves have all of his personally identifiable information.
This scam would be especially lucrative at restaurants; in a retail store, a customer who balks at providing his information on the phone can simply walk away, but a dining patron is basically trapped since he’s already eaten his meal. It becomes a matter of providing the requested information, or finding another way to pay for lunch!
Businesses who receive a phone call like this should immediately hang up and contact the bank by its real, verified phone number. If a consumer is ever told in a place of business to provide his personal information to anyone in order to process a transaction, he should immediately refuse and report the matter to his credit card company.
#2 – Lottery Winner to Give Away Money
Most of us know not to fall for those scams in which an email message claims the recipient has won countless millions of dollars in some foreign lottery. After all, not only did you not enter any lotteries, it’s too good to be true, right?
Since people just aren’t going to fall for that one like they used to, scammers have taken a new approach, this time going straight to the news headlines to get their material. By tracking the verified winners of valid, large-jackpot lotteries, they create whole online identities pretending to be that winner. Since you can verify the winner’s identity on news websites, this seems to be legitimate. When that winner’s bogus accounts begin to promise to share the winnings, naïve people jump on board and hand over their account numbers so the money can be transferred.
This scam is dangerous in so many ways. First of all, because the real name and photograph of the unsuspecting lottery winner were used, people are more likely to fall for it. Also, this scam requires the victims to take action in order to participate, as opposed to those anonymous emails that just show up out of the blue and promise millions of dollars. Finally, the dollar amounts in this scam are so much smaller that it feels like it’s genuine. We might not fall for a promise of $100 million dollars, but a lottery winner giving the first one hundred people to respond one thousand dollars each? Why not?
Don’t let this type of scam impact you. Remember the adage, “If it’s too good to be true…” and take it to heart, especially when your private data is called into question. Never share your account numbers, Social Security numbers, or other information over the internet or with strangers.
#3 – Robin Williams Scam
This one takes the cake for being the lowest of the low. Following the tragic death of Robin Williams, increased social media attention on the actor, his family, and the plight of depression and mental illness flooded the internet. So of course it didn’t take long for someone to figure out how to make money off of it.
In this scam, you’re given the opportunity to see a “recorded” message the actor allegedly made with his phone moments before he committed suicide. And as so many people care about the man and about depression, a lot of people fell for it in their attempts to make sense of it all. The only catch was you were required to answer survey questions in order to watch the video at the end, which turned out to be fake. The scammers made money from the companies listed in the survey in exchange for getting you to participate, and you quite possibly downloaded a virus or malware to go along with it.
Always remember that no reputable news outlet will require this type of interaction on your part to share the news with you. You will not be required to answer questions, fill out a survey, or download any software to see videos from actual news agencies. Anyone who requires these steps—like celebrity gossip sites—is making a buck off your interest in the story and possibly harming your computer.
These three round out the top ten, so for a full look at the major scams to make headlines this past week and for all of the helpful information you need to protect your identity, be sure to check out the ITRC website.