With the Super Bowl quickly approaching, it is time to start looking out for people trying to trick you with a Super Bowl scam. Fans are eagerly awaiting the results of the playoffs to see who will go head-to-head next month. Whether your team makes the final game or not, it is an exciting time for football fans. Unfortunately, it is also an exciting time for scammers.

From bogus tickets and fake travel deals to illegal online gambling, there is no limit to the different ways that criminals can attempt to pick your virtual pockets with a Super Bowl scam. One nearly unbelievable Super Bowl scam involved a beloved community member and well-known businessman who stole more than $750,000 from his own friends and associates. That included $36,000 from his own mother.

It is important to learn how to protect yourself from a Super Bowl scam now so that all you have to worry about come game day is having enough snacks on hand to celebrate.

Tickets

Part of the trouble with spotting fake tickets from real ones is the fact that real ticket resale websites actually do exist. As long as the terms and conditions are met, buying someone’s unwanted tickets is legal. Sadly, it is rather easy to create a fake website that offers bogus tickets. Make sure you are only using verified ticket sources.

Hotel and Travel Packages

Just because you saw photos of a great suite close to the stadium or clicked on an ad for a $99 roundtrip flight, that does not mean your reservation is real. It is probably a Super Bowl scam. Only use legitimate travel sites to book your accommodations, and if possible, use a payment method that offers some kind of buyer protection. Avoid the urge to click on flashy last-minute deals, too.

Phishing Attempts

The easiest way to steal identifying information and funds is to never bother making fake tickets or fake travel packages. Instead, scammers send out a mass email or text message offers, or create viral social media posts. Unsuspecting fans click on the links in the message, hoping to get a great deal. Instead, either malware is installed on their device or the users submit their information and payment method to be stolen. The reality of scams and hoaxes is that these tactics are not limited to just Super Bowl scams. Criminals recycle their tools, mostly because they work, at any time of the year and whenever a major event is taking place. Be on the lookout for too good to be true opportunities and remember to safeguard your information at all times.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Data Privacy Day 2020 – The Year of Privacy

Like many great celebrities, Ellen DeGeneres is known for her generosity and gifts to her many fans. At the holidays, she tends to ramp up the effort and give high-dollar gifts to countless people. Unfortunately, the publicity surrounding these endearing episodes of her show has led to an Ellen Facebook scam.

Under the guise of The Ellen Show, fake accounts are offering sought-after prizes to social media users who jump through their hoops and fulfill their requirements. It might be commenting, sharing the post, liking it or clicking a link and filling out a form with a lot of personal information. In some cases, hoaxes of this kind have also led to financial loss when scammers move forward with their crimes. People in other scams like the Ellen Facebook scam have been asked for their personally identifiable information, complete identities and money. This holiday season—and all year long—do not be taken in by the Ellen Facebook scam, Lowe’s “tiny house” scams and other similar traps.

Remember, even commenting on a post like one to warn others that it is a scam can link your account to the scammer’s post. Instead, make your own post with a screenshot of the original if you want to get the word out and warn others. You can also report the post to Facebook or to the Group in which it was posted. Social media scams and hoaxes like the Ellen Facebook scam are a serious issue, and there is no sign that they are letting up soon. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to know how to spot the indicators. Major companies have official accounts (sometimes with a checkmark) and they do not make silly grammatical errors.

Also, stop and think about what they are really offering. When is the last time you heard of Walmart giving away $100 coupons to everyone who likes a post, or Lowe’s building houses for people but only if they respond in the nick of time? Quite simply, they do not do that. However, that does not stop unsuspecting people from interacting with the scammer and spreading the post far and wide. Be a good digital citizen and remind the people you care about that scams and hoaxes are no joke, especially this time of year.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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As this year winds down, it is important to spend a little time reflecting on the 2019 identity crimes, some of the things that went right in 2019 and the things that did not go as well. This is true for so many subjects, especially identity crime – which includes scams, fraud, data breaches, cybercrime and all of the other types of crimes that go with it.

Fallout from 2018

As in previous years, this past year has been a big one for these kinds of crimes. Tech users are still feeling the aftermath of things like the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle that was uncovered last year; Congress is still at work on what to do about consumer privacy in the social media age. Also, the news that phishing attacks more than doubled last year over the year before had researchers, businesses, lawmakers and consumers alike paying closer attention to the messages they receive.

What Went Right in 2019

Fortunately, new legislation has come along to make our privacy lives a little safer. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations went into effect in Europe last year, for example, and they inflict strict penalties on businesses that gather and store data but let it fall into the wrong hands. New laws in California and Colorado will be taking effect soon, intent on strengthening privacy and consumer choice. Best of all, the awareness of what constitutes these kinds of crimes and how to recognize them is increasing.

Top Security Incidents of 2019

However, this welcome news does not mean that consumers are safe or that hackers are finally giving up. With every new platform, tool or technology, there is even greater potential for new avenues of attack. Healthcare providers and insurance companies continued to be one of the hardest-hit targets this year, thanks to the overwhelming amount of personally identifiable information (PII) they gather. “Accidental exposure” breaches were a common 2019 identity crime for major-name companies, which happens when businesses store huge databases of private information – in an online server then fail to password protect it as an example. Even our entertainment was not safe, as many apps and online gaming portals suffered data breaches that were traced back to reusing passwords on multiple sites.

2019 did not just see a lot of large data breaches, but settlements as well.

Equifax Settlement

In July, Equifax reached a $700 million settlement for harms caused by their data breach. Equifax agreed to spend $425 million to help victims of the breach, leading to lots of discussion on how to file a claim.

Facebook Settlement

While the Equifax settlement was the largest in data breach history to date, Facebook blew it out of the water just two days later, as they were ordered to pay $5 billion. After the settlement, Facebook said it required a “fundamental shift” in Facebook’s approach at every level of the company in terms of their privacy.

Yahoo Settlement

A month and a half later a Yahoo data breach settlement was proposed for $117.5 million after over three billion Yahoo accounts were exposed. Identity Theft Resource Center CEO, Eva Velasquez, stated in a media alert that the settlement trend is moving the needle in the right direction for both consumers and victims. However, that was not without its challenges, including putting the onus on the consumer to tell the settlement administrators how they were harmed and provide proof of it.

10,000 Breaches Reported

This past year the Identity Theft Resouce Center also recorded 10,000 publicly-notified data breaches since 2005. As part of the milestone, the ITRC took a look back at some of the top breaches the last 15 years as part of our 10,000 Breaches Later blog series.

Minimizing Future Risks

While data breach fatigue is a recognized phenomenon, one that can occur when consumers are bombarded with constant news about their data being compromised, the flip side is the kind of paranoia that makes you want to unplug and go live off the grid. However, neither of those is the solution. What does work is an awareness of the threat and some good privacy habits to prevent crimes like the 2019 identity crimes:

We’re Here to Help

Remember, you are not responsible for the criminal behaviors of a hacker. However, you can take steps that reduce your risk of becoming a victim and help minimize the damage if the worst does occur. The Identity Theft Resource Center is always here to help. Call us toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat with one of our advisors.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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There is a new Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint phishing scam making its way around that is hitting the inboxes of consumers, business owners and even charities.  

Phishing attempts get their name from the wide net that scammers throw out, hoping to catch a few gullible people in the process. Some reports have even said that ridiculous stories and bad grammar are intentional. The reports have said it helps the scammers only catch the kind of people who are willing to believe that a major corporation sends out emails with terrible typos and awkward sentences.

However, this new BBB complaint phishing scam that appears to come from the BBB pretty much takes the cake:

Attn,

The Better Business Bureau has received the bellow referred complaint from one of your associate on the subject of their dealing with you. …We look forward to your urgent response. Before we take action on you

As you can see, the author of this email does not pay much attention to the rules of standard English. Remember, though, that the goal is to only interact with people who would believe an email such as this one would really come from the BBB. Anyone savvy enough to spot the errors and understand that a national company would never release such a message is probably too worldly to fall for the BBB complaint phishing scam.

However, there is a dangerous aspect to the BBB complaint phishing scam, that being the instructions (removed from the middle of the message for brevity) telling the recipient to download the attachment in order to read the complaint against them. It is noted twice in the email that it must be downloaded to a computer to be read, which is actually not true. The goal is simply to get you to open the attachment, which will undoubtedly install harmful software on your computer.

In order to avoid scams like the BBB complaint phishing scam—even if there is a chance that the message is legitimate—make it a habit to never click a link, download a file, open an attachment or any other dangerous response. Even if you recognize the sender’s name and email address, do not click or open anything unless you were expecting it since their account could have been hacked or spoofed.

Also, learn to be a little bit of a “message detective” when you receive a strange email or text. Is the grammar up to par? Are there strange salutations, like “Dearest Sir or Madam” or simply “Attn” instead of a formal greeting? Do you even have an account with the bank the email supposedly came from? Or in the case of the BBB complaint phishing scam, do you even own a business? If not, how would you be cited by the BBB for complaints about shady business practices?

Remember, scammers do not care if you actually have an account or own a business. All they need you to do is be curious enough to click that attachment. From there, they can root through your computer and find what they want. Do not fall for it.


Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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If you work at a small business, be sure to keep your eye out for small business phishing scams. Consumers have been warned for some time about the threat of phishing attacks. These scams are highly prevalent because they are easy to pull off and require almost no technical know-how. At the same time, they are also highly believable and victims fall for them too often. Therefore they can have devastating financial consequences.

However, consumers are not the only victims who face down this threat on a near-daily basis. Small business phishing scams have emerged as an increasingly popular scam for a variety of reasons.

In a phishing scam, someone sends you a message and pretends to be someone else. They might pose as your favorite retailer, your financial institution, your email provider, your college roommate or even your boss. The goal is to lure you into handing over sensitive information, making a payment, downloading a virus to your computer or some other similar malicious activity.

For small businesses, the scammer’s goal might be similar but may include a different approach, one that is more oriented towards businesses. One report of a small business phishing scam involved an email that offered the business owner the chance to be featured in a holiday gift guide. The link included in the email redirected to a harmful website and contained a virus. Other common small business phishing scams can include phony invoices, bogus tax notices, fake customer service complaints and instructions from the boss to purchase gift cards and submit the gift card numbers.

No matter how it occurs and what is the goal, it is the victims’ unfortunate task to be prepared. Avoiding a small business phishing scam requires that you can spot the signs of a phishing attempt, such as an email address that does not match the company name, intentionally bad grammar and spelling, a vague greeting or description of the issue or any instructions to provide sensitive information. Also, making it a good habit—or even a company policy—to never download an attachment, click a link or visit a website through a message unless you were expecting it can protect you. Keeping your antivirus software up-to-date is also important for fighting back against certain forms of phishing attempts. For companies, keeping a tight rein on who can interact with your computer network can also help prevent these kinds of attacks.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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E-Skimming is a New Cybercrime That is Just in Time for the Holidays

There is a new Better Business Bureau (BBB) complaint phishing scam making its way around that is hitting the inboxes of consumers, business owners and even charities.

Phishing attempts get their name from the wide net that scammers throw out, hoping to catch a few gullible people in the process. Some reports have even said that ridiculous stories and bad grammar are intentional. The reports have said it helps the scammers only catch the kind of people who are willing to believe that a major corporation sends out emails with terrible typos and awkward sentences.

However, this new BBB complaint phishing scam that appears to come from the BBB pretty much takes the cake:

“Attn,

The Better Business Bureau has received the bellow referred complaint from one of your associate on the subject of their dealing with you. …We look forward to your urgent response. Before we take action on you”

As you can see, the author of this email does not pay much attention to the rules of standard English. Remember, though, that the goal is to only interact with people who would believe an email such as this one would really come from the BBB. Anyone savvy enough to spot the errors and understand that a national company would never release such a message is probably too worldly to fall for the BBB complaint phishing scam including the email address from “report@bbbcomplain.com”.

However, there is a dangerous aspect to the BBB complaint phishing scam, that being the instructions (removed from the middle of the message for brevity) telling the recipient to download the attachment in order to read the complaint against them. It is noted twice in the email that it must be downloaded to a computer to be read, which is actually not true. The goal is simply to get you to open the attachment, which will undoubtedly install harmful software on your computer.

In order to avoid scams like the BBB complaint phishing scam—even if there is a chance that the message is legitimate—make it a habit to never click a link, download a file, open an attachment or any other dangerous response. Even if you recognize the sender’s name and email address, do not click or open anything unless you were expecting it since their account could have been hacked or spoofed.

Also, learn to be a little bit of a “message detective” when you receive a strange email or text. Is the grammar up to par? Are there strange salutations, like “Dearest Sir or Madam” or simply “Attn” instead of a formal greeting? Do you even have an account with the bank the email supposedly came from? Or in the case of the BBB complaint phishing scam, do you even own a business? If not, how would you be cited by the BBB for complaints about shady business practices?

Remember, scammers do not care if you actually have an account or own a business. All they need you to do is be curious enough to click that attachment. From there, they can root through your computer and find what they want. Do not fall for it.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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The 2020 census is approaching next spring, and forms are already being compiled to be mailed to U.S. households. With any large political event or happening, scammers try to take advantage of the public and this could soon mean a rise in census scams.

This important process comes around every ten years, and it helps with things like ensuring a region has adequate representation in Congress, adequate school funding and is cited in scientific research and social surveys. However, it is also time-consuming and can feel really invasive. Page after page will ask questions that might not seem to be anyone’s business. What is your household income? How many cars do you own? How many children do you have and how old are they? How many televisions do you have?

Increase in Government Imposter Scams

Unfortunately, there has been an increase in identity theft and fraud that masquerades as government agency communications, which could mean an increase in census scams. Scammers try everything from claiming your Social Security number has been suspended to threatening you with police action for unpaid taxes. They can even spoof their email address or phone number on your caller ID to seem legitimate.

There is every reason to suspect that scammers will take advantage of the publicity surrounding the 2020 census in order to steal your information as part of a census scam. They may even threaten you with jail time if you do not immediately pay a fine since it is technically a crime to not fill out the census.

Here are some things to remember that will hopefully help you spot census scams:

The official website

The website for the Census Bureau is census.gov, and the specific website for the 2020 census is 2020census.gov. However, a scammer could easily buy the domain for 2020census.com or spoof their email by swapping a capital 0 for one of the zeros in the number. Remember, caller ID and email domain names are not proof that the person is legitimate.

They will not call you

If the Census Bureau tried to call every U.S. household and take their census data over the phone, we would be ready for the 2030 census before they were finished. They will not call you and request your information, no matter what your caller ID says. They will also not email you a link to complete it online, so never click a link in an email unless you are expecting it. If you get a call, it is a census scam.

They might come to your house, but will not request anything

In some areas, government volunteers serving as census takers will knock on doors. However, they will not request Social Security numbers, bank or credit card numbers or any other payment information. They will also not ask for payments for their time or for the postage on your forms, no matter what the person claims.

The police are not coming to your house

Regardless of what the person on the phone says, the police are not being sent to your house for failure to fill out the census. Yes, it is required under the law and it is vitally important for a variety of reasons, but the police are very busy. The caller who claims you can simply pay some kind of fine over the phone, especially with prepaid debit cards or iTunes gift cards, is lying to you. It is a census scam.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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Individuals are reporting a new Venmo scam that tries to overpay you out of the blue but why would a scammer want to pay you? There is no limit to the creativity scammers can employ when they are trying to separate you from your money. Worse, as new technologies and platforms emerge, scammers come up with even more ways to take advantage of their victims.

A new Venmo scam that relies on the Venmo peer-to-peer payment app has users and security experts alike scratching their heads, trying to determine how exactly scammers can benefit and victims can be harmed. Venmo, owned by PayPal, lets you send money instantly from a stored credit card, bank account or pre-loaded Venmo card to anyone with an account. It is a great way to pay your friend for your part of the rent, for takeout food they brought over or concert tickets they bought in order to ensure seats located together.

What do you do if a stranger on Venmo sends you a suspiciously large amount of money? Some potential victims from the Venmo scam have received as much as $1,000 from someone they do not know, only to receive a strange message: “Sent to you by mistake, please return the money.”

It is already starting to sound fishy.

A lot of people have confused this Venmo scam with a fake check scam. In a fake check scam, someone sends you a check, you cash it, then you either return a portion according to their directions or make some kind of purchase on their behalf, such as buying them gift cards or sending them electronics. Once the bank finds out the check was fake, though, that money actually came out of your bank account.

In this Venmo scam, the best guess is that the scammer is only using you and you do not actually come to any personal harm at first. The scammer uses a stolen credit card number to send you money and says, “Oops! Can you send that back?” You actually see the money sitting there in your account and you do not really know that this person is a criminal. So you do it.

Most likely, the scammer withdraws the money to their Venmo card instead of back on the original credit card. They might also delete the stolen credit card from their account and submit their own card in its place so that the money you are sending them goes to their personal card.

First, you might wonder how anyone could make such a ridiculous mistake as to send you $1,000. Sadly, it happens. With Venmo, you do not have to have any kind of approval in order to look up someone’s name and try to send them money. However, that is exactly what the scammers are counting on.

Second, you might be tempted to think, “It is not affecting me in any way, so I do not mind sending it back to them.” That can be a dangerous tactic, though. It is unclear whether or not this scam is actually impacting the recipient of the money, but more importantly, you would now be taking part in money laundering of stolen funds.

Third, there is that little voice that might be telling you, “You do not have to send this money back! After all, you would be stealing from a scammer. They deserve it!” Not exactly. Remember, the money still came from someone’s stolen credit card and that person is a victim. When the victim discovers the charge on their card and sees that it is a Venmo transaction, the company may be more than happy to tell them which Venmo user it went to. In this case, that would be you.

Some users affected by this Venmo scam have reported that they tried to contact Venmo and the results were not very reassuring; they were simply told, “Sure, refund the money.” After all, accidents do legitimately happen.

If you are at all concerned about how this Venmo scam could affect you, reach out to law enforcement for support. Some forum users have stated they returned the money only after waiting for a reasonable amount of time, but again, that advice is more for avoiding a fake check scam. You can also contact Venmo and discuss suspending your account once you do return the money so that no further transactions can go through from that sender.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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Thanks to a very savvy social media user, the Identity Theft Resource Center has learned more about how scammers are operating international money theft via a Facebook lottery scam. A user reached out to the ITRC for help after very nearly losing a substantial amount of money.

A social media user named Jane* reached out online after receiving a direct message from one of her friends. It said that the friend had won a substantial amount of money in a Facebook lottery and happened to see that Jane’s name was on the list as well.

Jane was given the name of a man to “friend” on Facebook in order to ask about her winnings. The new friend took a lot of her information, including photos of her ID and driver’s license, to verify her identity, then confirmed that she was, indeed, a winner. All she needed to do in order to claim her prize was to submit payment for the fees associated with claiming her prize, roughly £279, which, unfortunately, she did.

However, Jane immediately thought better of it. She went to her online banking portal and transferred all of her money out of that account and into her savings account in an effort to block the transaction from going through. At the time that she reached out, she believes she succeeded in stopping it. The money has not come out of her account, and the supposed lottery official has messaged her several times asking when she will make payment.

How did this happen, and what does it have to do with multiple types of scams?

1. Account takeover

The original message came from an account that Jane recognized. Unfortunately, it was not her friend. It was either a copycat version of her friend’s account or a hacker managed to gain access to it, probably by guessing the username and password or using stolen credentials.

2. Phishing scam

A phishing scam involves some plausible story about why you need to submit your money, sensitive data, or both. In this case, the thief got away with Jane’s identifying information from her two forms of ID and almost made off with her money.

3. Facebook lottery hoax

For years, scammers have shared posts about a “Facebook lottery,” but there was not a clear reason why, until now. After all, most of those old posts did not ask for money or require anything. Now it starts to make sense. Since more users than ever have seen posts about a Facebook lottery or heard mention of it, criminals can actually cash in on the scam.

The victim, in this case, did the right thing by working to stop the payment from going through. However, her situation can serve as a warning to other users. Never share your ID with anyone who does not have proof of why they need it, be very cautious about believing strangers on the internet and remember that there is no such thing as winning a lottery or sweepstakes that you did not enter. You will never win any kind of prize or money without taking action beforehand. Protect yourself, your identity and your funds from these kinds of criminals.

*name has been changed to protect identity of victim

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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There are a million excuses why someone might send you a text, email or social media message that says, “Can you do me a favor?” It might be something simple like your boss asking you to go get some gift cards for a company-wide promotion, or a more cryptic message from a friend that claims they are locked out of their phone’s account and need a gift card to get back in. No matter what excuse they offer, there is a good chance it is actually a scammer posing as someone you know in order to steal from you.

The boss gift card scam is so simple that it requires almost no tech know-how. The message claims to be from someone you know. They might have “spoofed” your boss’ work email by changing the address a little, actively hacked into someone’s account or are pretending they are using a stranger’s phone or computer since theirs is locked. A simple internet search for your place of employment would show a scammer not only the names of people within the company but usually their email addresses as well. Some scammers may even send a spam email to the boss first to see if it is auto-replied with an “out of town” message, specifically so they can reach out to you under the boss’ names since they are traveling.

In this email scam, you are given a very plausible story as to why they need a gift card. You are to buy the card, send over the numbers from the back and then then they will pay you back. But as too many victims already know, the last step is the one that does not happen.

First, it is important to remember that once a gift card is bought or its code is revealed, it is just as vulnerable as cash. There is no way to recover those funds if you lose the card or its number is given to someone else.

Also, there is no plausible reason why someone would need you to go purchase a gift card. Most major companies will sell their gift cards in stores and online, and retailers like Amazon and Walmart who sell other companies’ gift cards will even sell others’ cards on their websites.

Finally, the best way to avoid becoming the victim of a boss gift card scam is to pick up the phone and call the person who is asking. If you verify the purchase before doing it, you will know for sure if this is genuine or not. This might mean giving your boss a quick phone call to ask if the email is real. Trust your instincts and protect yourself (and your company).

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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