National Consumer Protection Week 2015 takes place March 1-7. As part of this initiative, ITRC blogs this week will provide tips to protect consumers from scams, fraud, and identity theft. For more information about this yearly event, visit ncpw.gov to find free materials from government and private organizations. Be an informed consumer; avoid scams and fraud!
Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with top industry experts to bring you the most relevant and timely updates about threats to your personal data security. One group, Scam Detector, combined with their local Better Business Bureau, produces a top ten list of threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at their top three scams or fraud attempts for the past week.
#1 – LinkedIn Job Offer
While social media scams on outlets like Facebook are so common they’re losing their effectiveness, more serious social media sites—like the professionally oriented business community LinkedIn—are just now emerging with some pretty outrageous scams. One that has come up recently involves being messaged by one of your connections with a job offer.
First of all, the whole point of LinkedIn is to maintain connections throughout your field or industry, so these kinds of messages aren’t uncommon. That’s why the scam works so well. Unfortunately, the person contacting you has actually hacked into your friend’s account and is sending a phony job offer. The job itself entails something illegal, which is to accept payments on behalf of a major-name corporation who doesn’t currently have the financial right to conduct business in your region. You’re to take the payments from customers, send them the money, but withhold a percentage of the payment for yourself. Unfortunately, the people who are “ordering” these products are the scammers! They send you a check, you wire the remainder to the fake company account out of your own finances, and then the check bounces.
As with every possible scam scenario, listen to your instincts. There is no such thing as easy money, and you will never be contacted online to be given something for free.
#2 – Movie Download/Rental Scam
This one has been making the rounds via iTunes, but it’s surely just a matter of time before Amazon Video, Redbox, and other streaming services start to get pulled into the scam as well. You receive a very official-looking email from iTunes (or the other guys) with a subject line that says something like, “Your receipt #672340 for [Insert Movie Name Here].” You open the email to see what this receipt is, only to find that you were charged an outrageous amount of money to rent a movie or two. Of course, the kind folks who sent the email have a prominent link for you to click in order to challenge the transaction, since you obviously didn’t make it.
The link, of course, is the real problem. It’s not taking you to the customer service department, it’s taking you to the scammer’s own destination. There are also two dangers here: the first is that you’re downloading harmful viruses when you click the link, but the other is that the link may take you to what looks like a legitimate customer complaint form. Once you fill out the form, you just handed all of your personal information (and passwords, banking info, etc.) to the scammer.
If you receive an emailed receipt that isn’t legitimate, ignore it and go to your account yourself. Check out your recent transactions and see if you’ve been charged for any unexpected rentals or purchases. Of course, you can also forward the email you received to that company’s “phishing” department for verification.
#3 – Car History Scam
You’ve probably seen commercials for really helpful services like CarFax that show potential buyers the damage and service histories on previously owned vehicles. Unfortunately, there’s a new scam out there that involves getting you to buy this kind of service history.
For the purposes of this scam, it mostly occurs when you try to sell a vehicle online, although it could happen in person or based on a classified ad. You’re contacted by someone who seems genuinely interested in your car. He says all the right things, doesn’t come across as pushy or shady, and wants specific info on your vehicle. One of his requests is that you provide a car history, and he’s even kind enough to send you a link to one of the cheapest and most comprehensive history report sites out there.
The problem is, he makes a commission for getting you to purchase this history. Once you’ve either bought it from that site, provided one from a different site, or refuse, he changes his mind and no longer wants to buy the car. He’s made his money, so he doesn’t need you anymore.
It’s a good idea to go ahead and have the vehicle history before placing your car’s ad. It demonstrates that you’re a genuine seller who is being transparent about the vehicle’s quality and value, and will protect you from this type of scam. If you’re not including that fee in the sale of your vehicle, just remember that this scam is out there and that affiliates work the internet to make their commissions.
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.