Top Scams of the Week for March 22, 2016

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.

The Better Business Bureau leads the way by publishing a recurring and continually updated list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each day in its Scam Tracker.It’s worth noting that IRS Imposter Scams are still topping the list of reports to the BBB, and that isn’t likely to change until well after tax season. In the meantime, take a look at some of their other recent top scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – Secret Shopper Scam

Mystery shopping has been among the top scams for a long time, and it keeps working because there are actually legitimate mystery shopping companies out there. The way to tell a scam from the real thing, though, comes down to whether or not you have to pay any money to sign up, receive lists of stores, or set up your own mystery shopping jobs.

But there’s a new take on it, and it combines the work-from-home scam with a money laundering scam. In the version reported this week, the victim was paid with a personal check and told that the shopping job involved depositing the check into her bank account, keeping $500 for completing the job, then wiring the remaining $1600 to another person via Moneygram.

If the victim had followed through, the original personal check would have bounced and the $1600 money wire would have been taken out of the victim’s bank account.

There is no legitimate reason why you should ever receive a check and then turn around and send a portion of those funds to someone else. It is a known front for criminal activity and financial fraud.

#2 – Bad Check Scam

This scam plays upon your fears of criminal action after informing you that you’ve broken the law. The victim received a letter that appeared to be official, informing him that he had bounced two checks. It went on to say that there were now bad check charges filed against him, and if he did not pay the amount of the checks plus his court fees, he would be arrested.

Here’s the catch: the letter stated that the only way to pay the fine was with a certified check. The victim couldn’t transfer money from his savings account to cover the checks, for example, or go down to the police station and pay in cash.

Whenever you’re given only one payment option—and it’s an untraceable method, like prepaid debit cards or money wires—that should cause you to think twice. A quick phone call to your bank will let you know if you’re the target of a scam or not.

#3 – Ransomware Scam

Ransomware is a form of cyberattack that can affect anything from a Fortune 500 company’s network to the smartphone in your pocket. There are a variety of different ways that your technology could have become infected, but the end result is still that a scammer is holding your device or computer for “ransom.”

It happens when you’ve accidentally installed some malicious software. A box or screen appears that tells you your computer is infected, and nothing you do seems to fix it. If you call the phone number or go to the website to fix it, you’re told to pay a fee to “clean” your system. Sometimes these messages seem to come from a legitimate source, like Microsoft informing you that your network is compromised and they can repair it; other versions have been far more sinister, as in a hacker actually stating he was responsible for this and will only remove it if you pay up.

The most important thing to do is never give in to the demand. If you cannot unlock your system yourself, take it to a computer repair office and see what can be done. Turning over your credit card number to a scammer in order to remove the issue only gives them your financial information, and may not even remove the problem.

For the rest of this week’s top scams, visit the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker site 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.

Anyone can be a victim of identity theft, anyone can use our services and anyone can help us help others. If you found this information useful, please consider donating to the Identity Theft Resource Center to help us keep our services free to the public.

 

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