Due to the coronavirus, the stock market is making headlines right now, for all the wrong reasons. Scammers see it as the perfect time to prey on consumers with investment scams.

Who Is It Targeting: Small-time, first-time, and seasoned investors

What Is It: Various scams that target novice and seasoned investors

What Are They After: When the stock market makes headlines—whether good or bad—scammers are more prone to come after unsuspecting consumers and steal their money. Some investment scams may simply tell victims to invest heavily in a certain stock, while others will actively trick investors into handing over their personally identifiable information. With news of the coronavirus growing each day, this is also a time when spoofed emails—such as those that appear to come from a financial institution or brokerage—can lure someone in and steal their account access.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Do not act on instinct or be driven by panic
  • Remember that the stock market is a long-term prospect, not a “get rich quick” scheme
  • Always seek out professional information before you respond or take action

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or an investment scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. You can also live chat with an expert advisor. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from TMJ4.com


Scammers have gotten creative as the COVID-19 pandemic has driven most people to spend their days in their homes – including creating phishing emails that attack both businesses and consumers. Fraudsters are currently taking advantage of the millions of people working from home. They may try representing themselves as the U.S. government, whether it be about a stimulus check, unemployment benefits, etc. Now, with the National Guard and other types of support being implemented in certain areas, the alarm is being sounded on scammers going door-to-door.

The National Guard is being deployed to assist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency work in some states. Some of the aspects of their duties include helping FEMA with gathering swabs and transporting them to certified labs for testing; delivering medical supplies as directed and creating medical stations. The National Guard says they have been activated for logistical support, and are not being deployed for enforcement. That means they will not be going door-to-door to implement any self-quarantines or shelter-in-place orders. If a “military personnel” comes to a person’s door posing as a National Guardsmen, the healthcare department or a healthcare professional regarding COVID-19, whether it is with a “test,” “cure” or regarding sheltering in place, it is likely a scam.

With that being the case, interactions someone may have with the National Guard would be at an identified FEMA drive-thru testing station or designated location for medical assistance. These two scenarios are examples of where you may be asked to provide personal information to the National Guard in reference to COVID-19 relief.

These types of door-to-door scams are not uncommon during a time of crisis. Scammers typically use them as an opportunity to pose as someone who can help people, but in reality, all they will do is hurt them.

If someone is going door-to-door posing as a utility worker, law enforcement, government agency or healthcare professional, ask for their identification before engaging in any conversation. Providing an ID card doesn’t always mean the person is legitimate because it is easy for a scammer to create what might look like an ID, dress up and act like someone else. If the person at the door is reluctant to show their ID or you have concerns about their legitimacy, close the door and call the organization that they are representing.

Also, if someone comes to a person’s door offering that if a fee is paid, they can provide faster service for aid, it is a scam. In fact, that is one of the go-to tactics scammers use to lure victims in. In the event that you are asked to provide personally identifiable information by someone on your doorstep, calling the organization that they are representing could prevent you from self-compromising sensitive information.

Finally, if someone is uncomfortable with anyone who comes to their door, they should call their local law enforcement. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

If people have questions regarding COVID-19 scams, they are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center through the website to live chat with an expert advisor. For those that cannot access the website, call the toll-free hotline (888.400.5530) and leave a message for an advisor. While the advisors are working remotely, there may be a delay in responding but someone will assist you as quickly as possible.


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The University of Utah Health announced that it discovered two different data breaches that impacted patients’ personal data and medical records. The first University of Utah Health data breach gave hackers access to some employees’ email accounts, while a second one is believed to be linked to malware that was discovered on an employee’s computer.

In regards to the first University of Utah Health data breach, investigators believe phishing emails were the culprit. Phishing emails are nothing new—if someone has an email account, they have probably received one before—but the methods that hackers are using are constantly evolving. In the case of a professional setting, the phishing email could look like it comes from a trusted source, such as a third-party that the company does business with or even someone from within the company itself. These hacking attempts often instruct the recipient to enter their username and password to confirm their identity and re-establish their login.

Malware typically happens when someone installs the software on their computer. Opening a harmful attachment in an email, downloading a suspicious file or clicking on a link that takes someone to a malicious website are just a few of the ways hackers can get consumers to fall into one of their traps. Once the malware is installed, the hacker can deploy it on the computer and use it to steal information.

The health center has begun notifying affected patients of the University of Utah Health data breach, but that process is still ongoing. If someone believes they might have been affected, they can reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) for assistance and information. They can also take some of the following steps if they believe their information may have been compromised in this or any other data breach:

  1. Change your passwords on any sensitive accounts immediately.
  2. Place a freeze on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting agencies.
  3. Monitor your insurance statements carefully for the coming months to make sure no one has used your identity to seek medical treatment or prescriptions.

Victims can reach the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530. They can also live chat with an expert advisor that will help them create a customized plan that is tailored to their needs.


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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow and seriously impacts everyone across the country, so do the number of COVID-19 scams that will pop-up trying to get access to personally identifiable information (PII) and finances. It can be difficult to decipher which emails, phone calls, social media posts or text messages are scams versus legitimate ones. Scammers will always take advantage of new opportunities in a time of crisis like evictions and foreclosures assistance, unemployment benefits, stimulus payments, etc. Here are some tips to help navigate those emails, text messages and voicemails:

Go to the source

Unsure if something is legitimate? Go to the source of the potential assistance. That means if the offer of unemployment benefits seems to be uncharacteristic, go directly to the employment development department and check their website. If it has to do with housing – whether that’s eviction or foreclosure assistance – head to that source (local housing commission, banking institution, etc.). Don’t trust an inbound message that isn’t verifiable.

Unsure of how a fraudster might try to get consumers to self-compromise?

Based on experience, the ITRC anticipates that they will give these a go:

1. Government Checks: Consumers receiving an email or phone call from someone that claims they can ensure a check from the government for an individual right now; it is likely a COVID-19 scam. The government is still working on the details of how these funds will be made available as of the original date of this post. For specific details, consumers can always visit local, state or federal government websites to get the most accurate information.

2. Asking for Verification of PII: If someone calls asking for a Social Security number, driver’s license number, credit card number or bank account information, it is a high probability that it is a scam. Say “K, Bye”, hang up and call the company directly to see if the offer is legitimate. If it is real, they will have a record of the calls and offers that were made.

3. Pay Upfront for Government Assistance: The government will not ask consumers to pay upfront to get any of the relief money. Scammers have attempted this before with the “Federal Government Empowerment Money Program” scam.

4. Social Media: If consumers receive messages on a social media platform claiming to be the government for anything regarding COVID-19, anticipate that this is a COVID-19 scam, too. Report it to the social media platform and block the sender. The government does not contact individuals through social media. Additionally, posts or messages enticing individuals to “sign-up” to receive more information on how to get access to more information or funds should be considered gateways to compromising PII.

5. Emails: There are loads of phishing emails under the guise as COVID-19 help. If an email arrives that wasn’t expected, ignore it and go directly to the source to determine whether or not it is legitimate. Under no circumstances should consumers click on any links or open any attachments from unanticipated emails or texts. COVID-19 scams via phishing emails are going around right now attacking both businesses and consumers.

6. Phone Calls: COVID-19 phone scams are beginning to gain steam and something else consumers should be aware of. The advice for phone scams is pretty similar to email scams. Don’t answer calls from numbers you do not recognize and do not return calls from voicemails if you aren’t completely sure from whom the call originated. Should a call regarding COVID-19 assistance inadvertently get answered, say “K, Bye!,” hang up and directly call the source. Verify the legitimacy of the call.

Scammers Take Advantage of Public Events

Every time there is a crisis, natural disaster or newsworthy event, expect scammers to come out in full force looking to take advantage and play on the public’s fear of the unknown. It is important to not let scammers take advantage of us while scared and unsure of what to do. These tips should help reduce the risk of falling victim to a COVID-19 scam.

Contact ITRC For Free Assistance

You can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free if you think you may have been a victim of any type of scam at 888.400.5530. You can also live chat with one of our expert advisors for assistance.

Don’t forget to download the ITRC’s ID Theft Help App to help in managing your identity crime case should you find that you are a victim of a scam.


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As too many victims have already learned, there is something worse than just being a scammer’s prey. That something worse is being pulled into the scam yourself until you are (inadvertently) a criminal as well. There are a variety of scams, including romance scams, work-from-home scams and lottery scams, in which being snared in the scammer’s trap can leave you facing jail time. It is what is called a money mule scam.

In a money mule scam, criminals get someone else to move funds for them. It might be cashing checks and mailing the money to other people, depositing funds into your account and buying items that you send elsewhere, or any other similar kind of transaction.

First, never give money to someone you have met online, no matter what excuse they give you. However, the flip side is that you should never accept money from someone either. Ask yourself why this person is using you as their own personal ATM, or why you are the one buying iPads or smartphones and shipping them to other people. Why can’t your “friend” do it themselves?

The answer is not a good one. There is no legitimate, legal reason why someone can manage to send you money but cannot make a purchase for themselves or transfer that money to a different individual. The only reason to do it is to avoid putting their name on the paper trail, or because residents of their home country are not allowed to make the purchase or transaction. Most likely, though, is that the original funds were stolen. You are now the person who deposited that stolen money into your bank account, and you can be subject to a criminal investigation as a result.

One variation of the money mule scam includes overpayment scams. This happens when someone sends you money—often for a fake “work from home” job, an invoice to your company, or even a purchase like buying your used car—and then claims they have overpaid you. When you accept their funds and send some of it back, you are not only taking the risk that their check was bad and the refund actually came out of your own account balance. Worse, their original funds may have been stolen. You took possession of the stolen money (which can be a crime) and then turned around and moved those funds back to them from your account, which can fall under money laundering.

What do you do if you think someone is using you as part of a money mule scam?

  1. Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center and the Federal Trade Commission for help and information.
  2. Stop making any sort of transactions immediately.
  3. Monitor your accounts to ensure the scammers are not still able to access your funds.
  4. File a police report if you have lost any of your own funds in interacting with the scammers.

Money mule scams are some of the most dangerous scams because they can inadvertently turn victims into criminals. Do what you can to educate yourself to reduce your risk of falling victim.


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There are a variety of ways that hackers can infiltrate a company’s network and steal users’ information. J. Crew Group, a clothing retailer with various online retail shopping sites and nearly 500 brick-and-mortar stores, recently announced that it had discovered a J. Crew data breach of the company’s servers in April of 2019, and has traced the breach back to a tactic known as credential stuffing.

Credential stuffing is a growing problem and has exploded since 2018, mostly because the necessary information is available for sale online and anyone with a little bit of know-how can do it. It can happen when anyone reuses their email addresses and password on multiple accounts. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2019 Data Breach Report, 83 percent of people use the same password for more than one account. If your information is ever stolen in a data breach and you have used that same username and password combination on other websites or apps, a hacker who accessed your stolen information—or someone who buys your stolen information on the Dark Web—can test out your credentials on other sites.

J. Crew’s investigation found that information such as names, billing and shipping addresses and the last four digits of stored payment cards were accessed in the J. Crew data breach by outsiders who relied on this method of breaking in. Other details were compromised, but nothing permanent like birthdates or Social Security numbers.

This is just one of many reasons why it is important to establish strong, unique passwords on all of your accounts, no matter how sensitive or inconsequential they may seem.

The company has completed a forced password reset and issued data breach notification letters. Anyone whose information was exposed in the J. Crew data breach can also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center’s toll-free number at 888.400.5530 or via the website’s live chat feature to speak with an expert advisor if they need more information. This resource can also help you come up with actionable steps if you need them.

In this or other data breaches, ITRC’s free ID Theft Help App can help you too. Simply download it from your device’s preferred app store in order to keep tabs on your specific incident and monitor what actions you have taken. You can even reach out to the ITRC for assistance directly through the app.


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A RailWorks data breach has left many unanswered questions. When a company issues a data breach notification, it can be difficult to know what to do. RailWorks, a US-based transportation infrastructure company, reported a data breach due to a ransomware attack that may have affected an estimated 3,500 employees, former employees and their family members.

While the company knows what kinds of personal information was compromised, names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and much more, there are also many unanswered questions about the RailWorks data breach.

  1. How did the ransomware infect the system?
  2. What kind of ransomware was used in the attack?
  3. What did the hackers do with the stolen information?
  4. How did RailWorks unencrypt its system?
  5. How was the breach discovered?

What is clear is the step that RailWorks is taking to protect those who were affected. In addition to the notification letter, RailWorks is providing a year of comprehensive identity theft protection. This includes credit monitoring from all three credit reporting agencies, up to one million dollars in identity theft insurance and an anti-phishing app.

As some of the victims of this breach were minors, there are special considerations to be taken into account. For example, RailWorks recommends that the victims place a freeze on their credit reports in order to stop anyone from using their stolen information. That process is a little more involved if the person who needs this protection is a child.

If you ever receive a data breach notification letter, you might have questions too. Even if you do not understand what the impact of the RailWorks data breach could be, if you are offered identity theft protection or credit monitoring, it is suggested to take advantage of the offer.

If you need further assistance on the RailWorks data breach or any other breach event, you should also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. Our expert advisors can help you via toll-free phone call (888.400.5530) or the website’s live chat feature, and they can answer any questions or concerns you may have.


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A Health Share data breach has exposed the personal information of many of its members. This comes after a laptop was stolen from a company vehicle.

Advances in cybertechnology mean that a hacker can sit anywhere in the world and potentially break into a computer network. New methods and tactics have made it even easier for criminals to steal personal identifiable information (PII), medical records, complete identities and more.

However, that does not mean the threat from “old-fashioned” crimes has diminished. Health Share of Oregon has just announced a data breach of its members’ PII—including names, birthdates and Social Security numbers, but not medical records—due to a laptop being stolen from a vendor’s vehicle. The vendor, GridWorks, provides patient transportation to some Health Share members. A company vehicle was broken into and the laptop was stolen.

Health Share has not been able to determine whether or not the members’ information has been used maliciously by the thief as part of the Health Share data breach. Therefore, the company is providing a year of credit monitoring and identity monitoring to its affected members.

Health Share is already taking proactive steps to prevent this kind of incident in the future. For example, they are conducting audits of their third-party vendors and implementing tech training for any vendors who are able to access member information.

There are also steps that consumers can take both before and after an event such as the Health Share data breach:

Before  

  1. Be mindful of where you share your PII.
  2. Ask questions about how your data is stored and who can access it.
  3. Monitor your accounts closely so you can be aware of any problems as soon as you suspect something.

After

  1. If you are issued a notification letter, keep it for reference.
  2. Be sure to follow the steps in the letter if any credit monitoring services are offered.
  3. Watch your accounts carefully for signs of suspicious activity, and be mindful that criminals can use your PII for things like applying for benefits, seeking medical care or even getting a job.

The Identity Theft Resource Center is also available to help those affected by the Health Share data breach, or any other data breach incidents. If you have been the victim of a breach or need more information on protecting yourself, call an advisor at 888.400.5530 or live chat with one.


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As news of a COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow, companies large and small are requiring more employees to work from home in an effort to create social distance. However, that is leading to an increase in the risk of COVID-19-related cyberattacks.

Potential Risks of Teleworking: Higher Rates of Phishing/Cyberattacks

With more than 10,000 breaches tracked since 2005, the Identity Theft Resource Center anticipates a rise in the cyberattacks on business infrastructure as more of their employees potentially work remotely from home. In 2019 alone, “hacking” accounted for 39 percent of all breaches.

Working Remotely Cybersecurity Tips

While people are working remotely, especially during an event like the COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical they follow the same security policies at home that they would at work.

1. Update all of your software including the operating system (Ex: Mac, Windows, Linux, Chrome) & applications; turn-on “auto-update” if you have not already

Hackers use known flaws that have not been fixed to break into business networks and home accounts. Keeping software updated prevents many attacks.

2. Add a stronger passphrase to your home Wi-Fi & wired networks

Many home wireless routers (and other Internet of Things or IoT devices) have easy-to-guess default passwords. Update them to stronger passwords, or use an even stronger passphrase (see below).

3. Update account passwords to a passphrase of at least 10 characters and give each account a unique passphrase you can remember

Gone are the days of changing our password every 30 days and Us1ng a C0mP1ex set of characters as your password. Current recommendations are to use a memorable phrase that you can easily remember – like a book title or movie quote.

4. Keep your work passwords and personal passwords separate to limit the potential of “credential stuffing attacks”  

Hackers use stolen passwords from data breaches to break into computer systems because they know the vast majority of people reuse the same passwords for both work and home accounts. Using the same password for your work accounts as your personal accounts could translate into fraudsters gaining access to one from the other.

5. Do not click on any email, attachment, text, social media post or weblink unless you know the source is real

Phishing attacks are not just for email anymore. And, hackers use near-flawless copies of real materials to fool people into clicking on the fake, but dangerous links or attachments.

6. Check websites and email addresses thoroughly to ensure it is the actual address of the company who sent it

The best way to avoid a phishing attempt is to verify the web or email address to make sure it comes from a legitimate company.

7. If anyone asks for personal data related to COVID-19, it is probably a scam

Scam artists take advantage of vulnerable people during times of crisis and they are using the current COVID-19 pandemic to get the attention of people online and on the phone. Never give personal information to any person or organization that contacts you unsolicited. 

ITRC is Available for Questions & Assistance

The Identity Theft Resource Center, based in San Diego, is operating at limited-capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak to ensure the health and safety of our staff, their families and the community. The ITRC will continue to assist individuals across the country who are victims of identity crime, data breaches and identity-based scams, including COVID-19-related scams. We are here for individuals and businesses who may have questions or need assistance with these scams. You can reach one of our expert advisors via our website Live Chat, toll-free phone number (888.400.5530) and email (itrc@idtheftcenter.org).


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