• People selling their homes are receiving unsolicited unemployment benefit payments
  • Scammers are using identity information stolen in data breaches to apply for government benefits
  • If you receive an unsolicited benefits payment, tell your mail carrier or file a fraud report with the Postal Inspector

“After our home was listed on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS), and after major real estate sites like Zillow and Realtor.com picked up our listing, we began receiving dozens of letters daily from the California Employment Development Department. The envelope messaging ranged from everything from ‘timely response requested’ to letters from the Overpayment Department.”

That is what one person recently reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), and others are experiencing as well. Unemployment benefits mail fraud scams are making the rounds, leading to threat actors exploiting people whose personal information has been stolen or is otherwise public. Crystal contacted the ITRC to see what could be done to stop the daily delivery of fraudulent benefit payments.

“The first time this happened, I returned the letters to the post office with “Return to Sender. Addressee never lived here. Fraudulent” written on each of the envelopes,” Crystal said. “The next day, we received more letters (17), and by day three, when it looked like there were over 25 letters, our postal carrier knocked on the door. He asked if any of these people ever lived here and, after answering no, asked me what I thought was happening. He said he would let the post office inspector know – and that an investigation would be opened.”

Crystal believes the scammers were using her home address to apply for benefits in other people’s names. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) told the ITRC they are aware of the unemployment benefits mail fraud scam where people receive legitimate benefit debit cards, real confirmation and declination letters, and notices of employment in the mail. The USPIS says they are working with letter carriers to help spot these scams.

Who It Is Targeting

Home sellers; unemployment benefit applicants.

What It Is

Mail fraud scams where victims are receiving suspicious mail regarding unemployment benefits.

What They Are After

Scammers use stolen identity information, including Social Security numbers (SSN), to apply for unemployment benefits using the addresses of homes that are being sold. Once approved, the state unknowingly issues benefits to the attackers. These identity thieves hope to retrieve the benefit cards from the mail at the “for sale” house or contact the homeowner to request the mail be forwarded to the thief.

What You Can Do

If a suspicious offer, promotion or solicitation arrives through the mail, give it to your letter carrier and ask them to pass it along to a Postal Inspector. You can also bring it to your local post office, or forward the solicitation to the USPS Criminal Investigation Service Center at:

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Criminal Investigations Service Center

433 W. Harrison Street, Room 3255

Chicago, IL 60699-3255

You can report fraud at their website http://www.uspis.gov/ or call 877.876.2455 and say “Fraud.”

The ITRC is here for anyone who is targeted with an unemployment benefits mail fraud scam. Victims can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the website to speak with an expert advisor.

CashApp scams have seen an uptick since COVID-19 began impacting the United States. In April, we wrote about scammers out in full force trying to get consumers to fall for CashApp scams by clicking on fraudulent and malicious links that could steal people’s money and identity, taking advantage of the economic hardships. Now, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) is receiving multiple calls and live-chats about a twist on the CashApp scam: a CashApp customer support scam.

Who Is Targeted

CashApp users

What It Is

A CashApp customer support scam where scammers act as CashApp customer support on a hotline to gain access to users CashApp accounts or ask users to download software to allow remote access to their mobile device.

What They Are After

Scammers are after money and personal information using a fake customer support hotline. In one CashApp scam case reported to the ITRC, a scammer stole all of the victim’s money and changed their username and password. In another case, a scammer was able to get a hold of the victim’s bank account number and access the victim’s bank account.

How You Can Avoid It

  • As of right now, CashApp only offers customer service via email or through the app, not by telephone. Reach out to customer support directly through the company’s website or app.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone if you do not know who is on the other end.
  • Do not download software to allow third parties to have access to any of your mobile devices.
  • Only use CashApp to transfer money to people you know.
  • Add additional security measures, including multi-factor authentication.

If you think you may have fallen victim to a CashApp customer support scam, you can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website.


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With some businesses opening back up after temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are trying to capitalize using online job scams to steal people’s personal information.

Recently, Scripps Health found hackers exploiting job seekers through phishing emails with Scripps Health-themed “lures.” Scripps sent the following email to warn their community members:

Image provided to the Identity Theft Resource Center by public

ATA Engineering, another San Diego-based company, reports they also are seeing similar-type online job scams.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a rise in victims contacting the organization about online job scams, including phishing emails. Some of the particular job scams reported to the ITRC include ones from Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and Facebook. The ITRC has had more than 40 victims reach out about online job scams the last three months.

Who Is It Targeting

People looking for work amist the COVID-19 pandemic

What Is It

Either a fake listing posted on a job board or a phishing email, robocall, social media message, or text message looking for a response.

What Are They After

While scammers attack in different ways, they are all looking for one thing: personal information. They hope they can trick people who are desperate or vulnerable into giving up sensitive data like usernames and passwords, financial data, or Social Security numbers. Once scammers have that information, they can commit many different forms of identity theft.

How You Can Avoid It

  • Never click on a link or open an attachment from an email you are not expecting. Instead, go directly to the source to verify the validity of the message.
  • Review all emails and websites carefully to make sure there are no suspicious addresses, subject lines or URLs.
  • Be careful about how much personal data you share, at least during the application process. Do not turn over information like your Social Security number until you are hired.
  • Make sure you have the job, and it is legitimate, before giving away financial information like a bank account number or routing number for direct depositing of paychecks.

If you think you may have fallen victim to an online job scam, you can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website.


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Phishing attacks are nothing new. However, with scammers increasingly using sophisticated and new methods of harming recipients that experts are not as familiar with, being able to identify a phishing attack has never been more important. They can arrive as emails, texts, social media messages, phone calls or links to websites which appear to come from someone the victim knows or a legitimate business. It might look like a boss or co-worker, someone in an email contact list, a bank or a consumer’s favorite retailer.

Trusted brands are used to provide an air of credibility for scammers, who capitalize on the good reputation and relationships these brands have built. Some brands that have been used in phishing attacks to target consumers include Wells Fargo, Zoom, American Express, Apple and Microsoft. The companies being used are not involved in these scams; in many ways, they are victims of the scammer as much as the targeted consumer.

Every phishing attack has a different goal, depending on what kind of ruse they are using. Some use links or attachments to insert malicious code on the user’s device so they can collect more information. Others attempt to steal people’s personal and business usernames or passwords,  and others still try to get someone to click on a well-disguised link so they can divert them to a place where the user enters even more information that the fraudster will use to his or her benefit. While phishing attacks have different objectives, the attackers’ primary goal is to steal the information needed to scam individuals and businesses.

Fortunately, the age-old advice about avoiding a phishing attack still holds true. These are some things people should keep in mind when trying to identify a phishing attack.

Check the email address and URL to make sure it is not fake

Check unexpected inbound messages very carefully, paying special attention to the sender’s email or website address included in the message; they might notice something strange. If it says “Amaz0n.com,” for example, it is fake. If the website link is Citibank.card.shop.com (as an example), instead of the company’s actual web address, again, it is probably fake. Always go back to the source of the email (or in this case, the company that is being represented) and check for alerts about potential scams of which they are already aware. Many times, the company is aware and has posted information about the scam.

Never click on an unknown link or open an unexpected attachment

Received an unexpected email, text, social media message or phone call with a link or an attachment?  Consumers should reach out directly to the purported “source” of the communication to verify the validity of the message before clicking on a link or opening an attachment (as mentioned above). Clicking on a malicious link or opening a bogus attachment could lead to someone’s personal information being stolen or infect the device with malware.

Check the message for grammatical errors and awkward phrasing

Read unexpected messages carefully and with a critical eye. Grammatical errors and awkward language are two quick indicators that the email isn’t sent by the company indicated. In trying to identify a phishing attack, customers should remember that companies do not send out emails or other messages with glaring errors – in most cases, large, reputable companies have teams checking their communications for just those types of issues. Smaller businesses may have a looser communication style, but loyal customers will know if something is “off.”  If someone sees any strange mistakes, that is probably a sign it is a fake. In fact, sometimes spelling mistakes are intentional so that only more gullible recipients will interact.

Never trust the caller ID

Do not go by what the caller ID may say. It is easy for a scammer to change the phone number or screen name to say anything, like “IRS” or “County Sheriff’s Department.” If someone calls with an attempt to verify identity information or demands for some kind of payment, consumers should hang up immediately and initiate contact with the company directly using a verified phone number from a trusted source. Here’s a tip: people should put numbers in their contact list for companies that are used regularly – but name them something only they would identify. For example, list the bank as “Bank on 4th & Main St.” instead of by the bank’s name. That way, if there’s an inbound call from the number, the person receiving the call will know they can trust it.

Remember that in many cases, fraudsters are using websites that look like the companies they are pretending to be. A web search could also bring someone to a potential fraudulent site. People should always treat the search results with the same critical eye as they would these other steps.

Phishing attacks can be confusing because of how close to real they can look or sound. Scam websites, emails, phone calls and text messages that mimic trusted brands will continue. However, by implementing these tips to identify a phishing attack, it will help reduce the risk of falling for a phishing attack.

Anyone with additional questions about phishing attacks, or believes they have been a victim of one, can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 to speak with an expert advisor. They can also use the live-chat feature on the website to get the help they need.


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A new Netflix phishing email scam has been targeting customers under the guise of a billing issue or account suspension. The attack, claiming to be from Netflix support, looks legitimate enough to get some users to expose their credit card information.

The Netflix phishing email scam is titled “Notice of Verification Failure,” and it claims there is an issue with billing. It asks users to verify their personal information within 24 hours to prevent their account from being canceled.

The link provided takes the user to a CAPTCHA page with Netflix branding. Once it is filled out, they are led to a site aiming to steal credit card details and billing information. While there have been other Netflix phishing scams, this new version uses pages hosted on legitimate domains, making it seem more realistic.

Steps You Should Take

  • Be suspicious of any email or text message asking you to verify personal information or credit card details
  • Check for spelling errors in URL links and email addresses
  • Instead of clicking any links in the email, go directly to your Netflix account through your web browser to see if you have a notification about your billing. Also, reach out to Netflix directly about the email.

Remember, scammers cast a wide net by posing as big companies to scam consumers. Due to the increase in streaming services and online platforms during COVID-19, there may be a continued rise in phishing attacks and other related cyberattacks.

If people have questions regarding Netflix phishing email scams, they are encouraged to contact the Identity Theft Resource Center through the website to live-chat with an expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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USS Bonhomme Richard Charitable Giving Scam

Scammers love using instances of crisis to take advantage of consumers and steal their money and personal information. That is exactly what they are doing after a Navy ship caught fire. As reported by Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC)  partner, the Federal Trade Commission, fake crowdfunding pages have been created as part of a charitable giving scam, after a fire destroyed the USS Bonhomme Richard and sailors lost all their possessions.

Who is it Targeting: Consumers wanting to help sailors in need after the USS Bonhomme Richard fire

What is it: A giving scam using crowdsource funding pages to take advantage of the crisis

What Are They After: The charitable giving scam employs fake crowdsource funding pages to steal people’s money instead of putting it towards the sailors impacted by the USS Bonhomme Richard fire. However, there is no way of knowing whether the money makes it to the sailors in need. Also, scammers can steal people’s personal information, like their credit card number or bank account information, to target them with future scams or, depending on what information the scammers get, commit identity theft and fraud.

How You Can Avoid It: Don’t rely on crowdsource funding pages to make legitimate donations. Crowdsource funding pages make it impossible to know whether the donations make it to the recipient. Always do research and only donate to known and trustworthy charities. Learn more about how to check out a charity before giving at https://www.ftc.gov/charity.

If people have questions regarding charitable giving scams, they are encouraged to contact the ITRC through the website to live-chat with an expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Bitcoin scams come in many different forms. Scammers use different platforms to try and get people to pay them in bitcoin (also known as cryptocurrency or digital money). Bitcoin scams are a popular way for fraudsters to trick people into sending money. Recently, they used Twitter and some of its most notable accounts to target Twitter users.

On July 15, hackers compromised verified Twitter accounts and sent cryptocurrency scam tweets requesting bitcoin donations with the promise of doubling the investments to “give back to the community.” Scammers responsible for bitcoin scams not only aim to steal people’s money, but also collect their personally identifiable information (PII) and sell it to other cybercriminals.

According to Twitter, attackers are believed to have targeted certain Twitter employees through a social engineering scheme. Twitter says the attackers successfully manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems, including getting through their two-factor protections. While Twitter continues their forensic review, they believe the bad actors may have attempted to sell some of the usernames. The hackers are not believed to have viewed previous account passwords. However, they were able to view personal information, including email addresses and phone numbers.

Twitter says nearly 130 accounts were targeted, and 45 successfully hacked. The Twitter accounts hacked include high profile individuals with verified accounts such as Barak Obama, Kanye West, Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Twitter responded by preventing any blue-check marked accounts from tweeting while security teams responded to the attack. Twitter apologized for the attack; the UK’s National Cyber Security Center, whom Twitter officers reached out to for support, released a statement urging people to treat requests for money or PII on social media with extreme caution.

The recent social-engineering hijack of Twitter accounts highlights a larger issue that has been on the increase since COVID-19 began: the prevalence of cryptocurrency scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission, most bitcoin scams appear as emails trying to blackmail someone, online chain-referral schemes or bogus investment/business opportunities. However, no matter how the scam is executed, a scammer wants the victim to either send money, give-up their PII or a combination of these. Once someone engages, there is usually nothing they can do to get their money back.

The Twitter hack creates a teachable moment – what should consumers do to reduce their risk of falling for a bitcoin scam? It also highlights the need for businesses to ensure their employees are educated on social engineering. This incident proves that even the most technologically-advanced companies are not immune from an employee granting access to bad actors. To avoid a bitcoin scam or other forms of social engineering, people should remember the following:

  • Never share PII through social media channels and always verify the person or business asking. While these scams are designed to steal people’s money, they are also designed to collect PII to sell to other cybercriminals.
  • If someone sees a tweet, email, text message or other social media post that asks for payment in bitcoin, it is – most likely – a scam.
  • High profile individuals will not contact anyone to give away large sums of money – especially in bitcoin – by social media message. There are other methods for informing someone if they are a recipient; if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If a consumer receives a message telling him or her it’s a guarantee to make money, it is probably a scam.
  • No one should ever click a link, download a file or open an attachment if they are unsure of who sent it or what it is; they should be cautious of links that are shared on social media.
  • Keep up with the latest around scams and how they work. The Twitter bitcoin scam employed a lot of common cognitive biases. Understanding how bitcoin or cryptocurrency works reduces the number of people who fall for scams about it.

If someone believes they are a victim of a bitcoin scam or has questions about other scams, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Is This an Amazon Brushing Scam?

Third-party sellers on Amazon are buying their own products so they can leave five-star reviews, then using victims’ names and addresses to disguise themselves as customers. 

Who Is It Targeting: Amazon customers

What Is It: Brushing scam that uses another person’s information to place fake orders

What Are They After: This Amazon brushing scam is tricky because while victims are not charged for the goods that appear on their doorstep, being a victim still means that someone has gained access to your name, mailing address, and other information. Some people may not think of this as being victims of a scam, but there is no way of knowing what else these scammers could be doing with your personal data.

In a post on Reddit, one user randomly received a weeding tool and posted to understand what he received in the mail by mistake, unknowing it was part of a brushing scam.

Image of Reddit.com

Another Reddit user let the original poster alerted them to the possibility of this being a scam and referred them back to our resources for assistance.

How Can You Avoid It: If you begin receiving packages that are addressed to you but you did not order, contact the retailer immediately. Change your passwords on your online accounts, just in case the scammer got your address by hacking an account.

According to The Verge, Amazon will start disclosing the names and addresses of US-based third-party sellers on its Marketplace platform as part of an effort to fight counterfeiters. The company announced the change in a note sent to sellers on Wednesday, and goes into effect on September 1st.

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or an Amazon brushing scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here.


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Mystery shopping has been around for a long time. Mystery shoppers help businesses, retailers and restaurants get information on the quality of their stores in exchange for money. In the past, scammers have found ways to turn the service into a mystery shopper scam, also known as a secret shopper scam. These scams are resurfacing during the coronavirus due to over 45 million people filing for unemployment and looking for some extra cash.

There are different forms of mystery shopper scams. One popular version of the scam is when scammers pose as retailers looking to lure people into being secret shoppers. They ask victims to pay for their products or training and then take off with their money. Fraudsters will also steal a victim’s personally identifiable information (PII) from the application they filled out and commit identity theft.

Another version of the mystery shopper scam includes fake checks. In this scam, the victim signs up to become a secret shopper through an online form – potentially giving away sensitive PII like Social Security numbers, date of birth and address. Then the victim is sent a check in the mail to use to secretly shop at a store. Once the check is posted to their bank account, the victim begins to shop as instructed. In some instances, the victim is told to buy reloadable cards and send pictures of them and their PIN card numbers from the back. Once the bank finds out the check is fake, the victim is on the hook for all of the money that they spent plus bank fees. This particular version of the scam lures victims in with a fake check, like the one pictured below that was sent to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) from a mystery shopper scam victim:

At first glance the check appears to be legitimate. However, while the check says it is to PNC bank, the routing number is for HSBC. Hanover Insurance Company also has a notice on their website about fraudulent checks.

The ITRC was also sent this letter that went along with the check:

While the letter also seems legitimate at first glance, the company listed is Assign Retailer Metrics Inc. instead of Hanover Insurance Company. The letter also asks people to take pictures of the card numbers and scratched PIN numbers and email them to a Gmail account instead of a company account. These are just a few signs that prove this is a secret shopper scam.

Mystery shoppers can be very effective for retailers because the secret shopper can buy whatever the retailer wants them to buy and then report back their experience. However, it can leave consumers looking for a way to make a little extra money in the difficult economy vulnerable to being taken advantage of by ne’er-do-wells. There are things people can do to reduce their risk of falling for a mystery shopper scam.

To avoid these types of scams, people should:

  • Never pay to be a mystery shopper – don’t wire money or  send a “deposit” via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle
  • Do NOT give out PII on an application
  • Be wary if offered a lot of money for a simple task
  • Cash the check at an issuing bank or wait until the money has not just posted but cleared the other account; if the check is not good, the victim can return the cash into their account

There are also things people can do to spot a legitimate mystery shopping opportunity. People should:

  • Do their research on legitimate opportunities; search the internet for reviews and comments on mystery shopping jobs
  • Remember they are paid to be a mystery shopper (typically after the task is completed); they do not have to pay to do it

Anyone who believes they are a victim of a mystery shopper scam can live-chat with an ITRC expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530. Advisors will guide victims on the next steps they need to take.


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