Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with some of the top industry experts to provide consumers with updates about threats to their personal data. Scam Detector leads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.
#1 – Appliance Repair Scam
Need some work done around the house? Do you have an appliance that’s on the fritz? That’s what these scammers are counting on. With consumers actively working to be responsible—both in terms of their finances and the environment—more people are getting away from the “throwaway society” mentality and trying to hang onto their high-dollar items and repair them instead of replace them.
A card in your mailbox or a cold-call phone representative will claim to come out and do a free inspection of any projects that you need doing. Once the inspection is complete, the handyman will give you a list of items he needs to buy in order to complete the job. He asks for payment to save himself the expense of making the purchase…and that’s the last you’ll see of him.
If you have repairs that need doing, make sure you only use a licensed repairman who can provide references. If there are parts that need to be purchased, have the handyman make the purchase and provide a receipt before you reimburse him.
#2 – Sextortion
This is one that strikes fear in the hearts of the public; it’s something straight out of a cyberthriller crime novel, and for good reason…it’s downright scary.
“Sextortion” is the act of getting someone to comply with your demands or risk having their personal business shared with a very public space: the internet. It can happen to anyone who has an online relationship with someone, even if it’s someone they think they know. In these cases, someone gains access to an incriminating photo (real or faked), derogatory message, or other inflammatory content, then uses it to get you to engage in behaviors of their choosing. Failure to comply will result in the picture being distributed to loved ones, your school, your employer, or worse. The demand could be sending money to pay off the extortionist, but an increasingly common form of this crime involves being forced into taking pornographic pictures or engaging in live sex acts on webcam.
It’s easy to see why victims of sextortion are often teenagers, members of the military, or family members of active duty soldiers: in those cases, the victim may be lonely or isolated and just enjoying a harmless casual relationship with a stranger online; there is also the perception of serious consequences for having provided even one picture in the first place. There have even been reports of sextortion cases that have ultimately resulted in suicide, as the victim felt she had no other way to put an end to it.
Prevention is the best course of action in handling sextortion, so it’s vitally important to talk to people you know about this crime in order to keep them from becoming victims. It’s also absolutely imperative that you help them understand that a silly mistake in sending someone a photo of yourself isn’t the end of the world, and that they aren’t required to comply with any future demands. This type of online behavior is a crime, and must be reported to the police.
#3 – FTC Sweepstakes Fraud
The Federal Trade Commission is a well-known government agency that works to keep commerce transactions legitimate for consumers and businesses. That’s why you might be more willing to fall for a promise of winning a cash prize if it comes with the FTC seal on the letterhead, and with the apparent signature of a real director from the agency.
Your official-looking letter will come with one catch: you have to submit several thousand dollars in “legal fee” to the FTC in order to claim your millions.
Remember, not only does the FTC not oversee lotteries or sweepstakes, no legitimate winnings will EVER require you to submit payment in order to claim your prize. You also won’t be surprised with millions of dollars in your mailbox. If you have to pay for your prize and you don’t even remember entering a sweepstakes in the first place, you didn’t win anything.
For the rest of this week’s top scams, visit Scam-Detector.com or the ITRC website under the Current Scams & Alerts section. Be sure to share this information with others so they can stay informed and protect themselves.