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.

Scam Detector leads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – Loan Collections Call

This particular scam affects countless people because, all too often, it works. The beauty of it—at least from the scammers’ points of view—is that the victim doesn’t even have to have ties to the company they claim to work for, although it works better if they do.

Callers claiming to represent payday loan companies reach out to their victims and inform them they are behind in their payments. They demand all manner of sensitive private information, much of which the victim is ready to hand over after they’re threatened with being sent to collections or even law enforcement.

Always remember that phone callers are not entitled to your detailed information like Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. Even if a caller claims to be from a company you conduct business with, you are not required to provide any unsolicited information. If there’s a question about your accounts, call the company personally and confirm any issues.

#2 – Federal Utility Scam

Using phone calls, text messages, and even internet contacts, people who claim to be federal aid workers have been reaching out to people and telling them about a new program under the Obama administration that helps citizens pay their utility bills. In exchange for all their private information, the victims are given a routing number and checking account to use the next time they pay their bills.

Unfortunately, there is no such program. The numbers are fake, and the scammers have taken their victims’ identifying information. Remember to always investigate any new program or offer before taking part, especially the ones that seem too good to be true.

#3 – Bank Card Scam

The thief works this scam by calling a place of business, pretending to be from the company through which they process credit card transactions. He tells them that the line is down, and if they process any credit cards from a specific issuer then they must dial the phone number for approval first. The owner of the card is then required to get on the line and verify their information.

This is a complete scam. You will never be required to speak to an agent of a company in order to make a credit card payment at the point of sale. Also, do not let a salesman, waiter, or manager dial a phone number that you’re not aware of, then request your private data.

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.

When internet users think of social media, they’re probably envisioning the major names like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. The reality is there’s a host of connection platforms out there, each with its own target audience of users, and each with its own dangers.

Some platforms actually serve double duty. Pinterest, for example, is a great way for individual users to keep up with interesting images and weblinks that they find on the internet, but it’s also a way to connect with people who share similar interests in specific topics. Skype, which started life as a great VoIP communication tool for messaging, chatting, and video calling, also allows users to connect with old friends or meet new people through friend requests.

It’s this misunderstanding of the functions of platforms like Skype that have led to a host of issues concerning cybercrimes, cyberbullying, extortion, and more. If you’ve ever spent any time on Skype you’ve probably already received connection requests from people you don’t know, maybe even people whose user names might seem a little shady (looking at you, “girl4fun23”).

But a quick search through Skype’s help forum reveals a horrifying world of Skype extortion. Essentially, you receive a friend or connection request from someone you don’t know. His or her profile picture is intriguing, though, so you accept the request. You strike up a chat relationship with this person, and then it quickly moves to video chatting. From there, things get a little “heated,” and you and this other individual are eventually enjoying some video face-to-face time that you might not want others to see.

Too bad. This person has been recording your Skype sessions through the platform’s record function. He or she tells you that unless you pay up, the video will be released on your Facebook account, sent to all your Skype connections, posted to YouTube, even emailed to your co-workers or children.

Throughout the Skype forum on this issue, victims shared the same story: within seconds of complying with the stranger’s request for “sensitive” video play, the chat immediately turned to extortion. Some victims were told to wire money by Western Union, sometimes to the tune of hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Helpful moderators and veteran Skype users had the same advice for everyone: block the individual on Skype and on any other social media sites where you may have connected with them, and delete your Facebook account to keep the person from posting the video to your wall where others could see it. It was also suggested that the victims run an antivirus check of their computers to seek out harmful software.

Fortunately, there were no posts that indicated any of the scammers had taken the steps any further. No one reported that the incriminating video had actually been shared or that they’d been contacted again. That indicates that these scammers are out for a quick victim; if you don’t do what they want, they apparently go on to the next person.

One of the best courses of action for situations like this is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Be careful about connecting with people on social media whom you don’t have a personal or professional connection with, and remember that it’s all too easy to create a fake profile to dupe you into believing this person is kind and genuine. Also, it should go without saying but obviously the reminder needs to be put out there: don’t do anything on the internet that you wouldn’t do in person, in front of a large crowd of people. Nothing on social media is ever “private,” and nothing is ever truly deleted.

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. Scam Detectorleads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity.

Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – The Bet You Can’t Scam

There’s a popular meme making its way around social media sites, mostly Facebook, that challenges the users and plays off their natural curiosity. Unfortunately, the consequences of this scam range from nothing more than a mild waste of your time and the relinquishing of your contacts list, to downloading harmful viruses to your computer.

Typically these are simple images that your friends share on Facebook. They’ll have odd, too-simple “challenges” like, “Bet you can’t think of a word that starts with A and ends with E.” Too easy, right? That’s because the original post is designed to lure you into commenting with the first word that pops into your head. Once you comment, the original poster can continue to send you marketing information and can then create posts that reach your friends’ list. It’s mostly harmless, but intrusive.

What is more alarming are the more nefarious ones, like, “99% of people won’t be able to sit through this entire video!” These lures are more dangerous, and may even state that you must be a certain age to view it or that it’s not safe for work (NSFW). Once your curiosity gets the better of you, you click the link to be taken to a video. Clicking the link (or perhaps the video link) can install viruses and malware on your computer, giving scammers the ability to root around through your computer and uncover information about you which can be used to steal your identity.

#2 – Account Upgrade/Account Suspended Phishing Scam

Phishing emails are sent out randomly by scammers who are “fishing” for their next victim. They can send these out to hundreds of thousands of people a day, all hoping that someone takes the bait.

One of the more common phishing emails is the kind that tells you your account has been suspended, is overdue, or needs to be verified or upgraded. These emails may appear to come from PayPal, eBay, Chase MasterCard, or other well-known companies that have millions of customers. Scammers choose them because there’s a good chance you have an account with one of those companies.

If you ever receive an email that tells you your account is in need of some kind of repair, do NOT click the link! Instead, delete the email (even if it claims to contain a reference number you’ll need) and then log into your account on your own and verify that everything’s okay. If you’re still in doubt, speak to an agent from the company by calling a number you have on file.

#3 – Major Event Scam

Any time a major event occurs—such a disaster like the Nepal earthquake, or a significant visit like the Pope’s upcoming US tour—scammers will come out of the woodwork to bilk people out of their money. It may be in the form of donation requests, either electronically or by text message, or in terms of selling you high-priced, fraudulent tickets.

Whenever you’re responding to any kind of newsworthy event, make sure you’re only working with a reputable source. For charitable giving, you can go through a number of sources before donating that will ensure your money reaches those in need. Sources like the Better Business Bureau and the IRS can verify a charity’s status.

For online ticket purchases or event passes, be sure to use established ticketing sites that have verifiable security on their websites before entering your personal details and financial information.

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.

There’s a new phone scam tactic out there and it’s increasing at a rate that has security experts, law enforcement, and even the banking and financial sectors alarmed. It’s called spoofing, and the consequences range from annoying to life-threatening.

Spoofing occurs when a person manipulates their phone in order to use someone else’s existing phone number to initiate a call to their intended victim. Scammers often use automated software to conduct these spoofed calls, meaning they’re not even sitting at a telephone and dialing the numbers. They can pull off millions of fake calls every month, as one security company found. When you receive a call like this, your caller ID may indicate an individual’s phone number, a company or business phone number, or even a message indicating it’s an unknown phone number, but it’s really someone else on the other end of the line.

The real danger is from a scammer whose phone number makes him appear to be from your bank or credit card company, making you more likely to believe whatever lie he’s about to tell you and trick you into handing over your personal information. Another issue with spoofing is that the caller will wait until you answer and then simply hang up. When you call back, thinking the call was accidentally disconnected, you’re actually calling a foreign country and paying international calling rates.

Unfortunately, another use scammers have for spoofing is simply to pull of spiteful pranks. One man in Washington used spoofing to inform the police he was holding hostages at a certain address. By the time the scenario had ended, a SWAT team had broken into the home of an unsuspecting family, which could have had deadly consequences. A Colorado Springs woman had her phone number stolen and used to call countless people over and over; the multiple victims then called her back repeatedly to tell her to stop harassing them, and some of those callers even threatened her life if she didn’t stop calling them.

So how do you protect yourself from spoofing? If you’re the one receiving the calls, the end result of having your phone number randomly stolen for illegal purposes can be upsetting, and more than one individual has had to change her phone number in order to make it stop. Be sure to report it to law enforcement and your phone provider, though; some scammers have employed phone spoofing in order to commit crimes like fraud, and you want to make sure there’s a record that you were the victim, not the perpetrator.

If you receive a phone call from an unknown number, feel free to ignore it. If it was actually a legitimate and important communication, they’ll leave a message, but be sure you call the number that you have on file if it’s from a business, and not the number that appeared on your caller ID. If you receive a call from a number you know, however, like your bank or credit card company, remember to NEVER give out sensitive information like your account number, your PIN number, your Social Security number, or other personal data. If they’re really calling from your bank, they already have that information and there’s no reason for you to provide it. For many companies, asking for this data actually violates protocol, so the only person who would ask for it is a thief.

You’ve probably seen splashy ads on social media that shout messages like, “Never pay taxes again! Keep your money!” These ads are far from the truth, though, and they’re meant to trick you out of your money while selling you a blatant lie.

Unlike most scams that steal your money, though, this one can even land the victims in hot water. One of the many manifestations of this kind of “no taxes” scam is the Corporation Sole scam. It’s intended as a way to exempt religious organizations from various forms of taxation while also ensuring that the individual religious leader couldn’t have his personal assets seized by creditors of the organization.

The Corporation Sole is being marketed to individuals as a way to avoid paying any income taxes, and as a way to “hide” their assets from creditors, ex-spouses, and more. Unsuspecting victims of this kind of scam are promised insider information on how to take advantage of “legal” loopholes in order to avoid reporting their income, having to pay child support, and other shady dealings. Unfortunately, there’s a double-edged sword to this kind of crime. Citizens are being scammed out of their money to learn how to dodge the tax system either in the form of “exclusive” high-priced live seminars or through expensive online course materials. The problem is, paying someone for the information does not absolve them of the crime if they do go on to attempt to avoid paying their taxes. They’re not only the victims of a scam, they’re also now criminals themselves.

One recent court case actually ended in a guilty verdict and jail time for two such scammers. Gerrit Timmerman, III of Utah and Carol Jean Sing of Nevada were both found guilty of setting up Corporation Sole entities for a fee for their clients; they were sentenced to four years and three years in jail, respectively. Fortunately, the defendants in this case were not able to claim innocence on the grounds that they were not the ones responsible for not paying the taxes. In this instance, simply saying, “I only told people about the plan, I didn’t say they SHOULD do it,” does not cover them.

The IRS publishes information routinely on the top tax fraud scams, which can be found on its annual “Dirty Dozen” list. The Corporation Sole scam has long been on that list for scammers telling individuals they can impersonate a charitable organization. If you’re ever approached with information on how to skirt the system or avoid having to participate in any process that is regulated under the law, seek reliable help immediately from someone who has not only expert knowledge of the subject, but who also doesn’t stand to gain financially from convincing you to break the law.

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.

Scam Detector leads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – Online Ticket Scalpers

It’s exciting to learn that your favorite Broadway play is touring the country or that your teenager’s favorite band is coming to a city near you next year. And with the ability to buy tickets online, you no longer have to camp out on the sidewalk over night to get tickets. Unfortunately, that’s also opened up a whole world of scamming.

There are two issues with online ticket scams. The first is that tech-savvy and unscrupulous people use autobot software to buy up hundreds or even thousands of tickets to a hot show. The scammers then turn around and sell the tickets they bought for double or triple the face value. They know you’ll pay it, because the original website just sold out in a matter of minutes…thanks to them.

Of course, this also leads less tech-savvy thieves to run copycat scalping websites that take your money and never send you a ticket. They’re long gone with your credit card information and your payment, and you don’t have any tickets. ALWAYS buy your tickets from a reputable ticket sales websites, and do not fall for scalping.

#2 – Email Money Transfer Scam

With the ease of online banking, online bill paying, and online money transfers, this scam is all too easy to pull off. You receive an email that says someone—quite possibly an actual name you know, if that person’s email account was hacked—has sent you an electronic payment for an outrageous amount of money. Everything about the email looks legitimate, since the thieves used an actual screenshot of a money transfer as the basis for their message.

The problem is clicking on the link in their message. Instead of taking you to a website to claim your money, you just downloaded a virus to your computer that lets the scammers sift through your personal information. They may even break into your email account in order to send this fake message to even more people, people that you know.

If you receive a strange email like this one, there are a couple of steps to take. First, confirm it with the person who supposedly sent you the money. Next, in your inbox list of emails, hover your mouse over the sender’s name (rest your pointer arrow on the name but don’t click); this will show you the email address of the actual sender. Finally, check with your bank account to see if any funds were deposited. Whatever you do, DON’T click on a link in the email itself. This is a phishing email, and it has consequences.

#3 – Inheritance/Parcel Scam

This scam works typically via email, and informs you one of several different scenarios has occurred. This was once more common in terms of the inheritance scam, where the victim was informed a relative had died and left him a lot of money; he need only pay the one-time legal administrative fee to claim it. Of course, there was no inheritance because there was no relative.

As people have become aware of this scam, it has shifted slightly to a new form that tells you a package is waiting for you at the post office or other shipping claims department. You’re informed that the delicate nature of the package—a card worth an outrageous amount of money, gold bars, jewels, whatever—means you must sign a sworn affidavit and file it with the country of origin from where the package was sent. Of course, the email also includes a way to easily supply this affidavit to you; you need only hand over all of your personal information and a credit card to pay the fee.

Obviously, this is a scam. You will never be informed of an inheritance or a sensitive package via email. You will only be notified through regular mail with a written letter. Delete the email immediately, and whatever you do, don’t click the link or supply any sensitive information about yourself.

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.

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. Scam Detectorleads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – Property Tax Scam

This one has gained traction lately because it’s so easy to pull off. Scammers dial random phone numbers in a given location, then claim that the homeowner hasn’t paid his property taxes. With threats of having the home seized and the police coming to place the homeowner under arrest, it’s easy to see why some people fall for it. They willingly turn over their personal data or even make a payment with their credit cards, all while being scammed.

Remember a few key rules for how the government reaches out to citizens to resolve matters like this one. First, you will never be contacted by phone or email, only by a mailed letter so that you have a paper record of the issue. Next, no legitimate contact will call you to tell you the police are coming to arrest you. That’s simply not how it works.

#2 – Fake Website Scam

This scam, seen recently to involve the popular WhatsApp platform, can apply to almost any major company with an easily recognized logo. It’s happened with major credit card companies, large banks, PayPal, and many more.

In this one, scammers create a fake email or website that looks for all intents and purposes like a commonly used website. Again, this one recently cropped up with the instant messaging app site WhatsApp, which has more than 700 million registered users. By using the WhatsApp name in the web address and the company’s logo on the website itself, unsuspecting users are duped into “verifying” their sensitive information and turning it over to the scammers.

To avoid this one, ask yourself before entering any information, “Why are they asking for this data? THEY contacted ME!” Then keep your information from falling into the wrong hands.

#3 – Facebook Notification Scam

Much like the scam mentioned above, this one sends out a phishing email that pretends to come from Facebook. Its message might vary, and can include threats to delete all your contacts, to remove all your posts, to delete your account altogether, or more. When you click the supplied link in the email, though, you’re taken to a sleazy website that often sells pornography, illegal medications, or other contraband.

First, if you were somehow lured into making a purchase on the site, your items will never arrive and the scammers have your credit card info. But even if you’re not interested in black market Viagra, just clicking the link can download a virus or other malicious software to your computer.

If you ever receive an email stating that something is wrong with any type of account, don’t click the link! Go directly to your account on your own (such as going to Facebook.com and logging in) and verify that everything is fine.

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.

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.

Scam Detector leads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – Final Expenses Mailer

We’ve often said that scams that target the elderly are especially atrocious, and this one’s no different. In this postcard scam, which uses physical correspondence in order to target senior citizens who may not have access to computers and email, cards are deposited in mailboxes in neighborhoods with a high elderly population. The mailers look very official and promise low-cost “final expense” insurance, also known as a burial policy. The recipient is encouraged to act quickly to take advantage of a full $15,000 policy (or higher), which only costs a nominal, one-time administration fee.

Of course, once seniors pay the fee, there is no policy. Not only did the thief make off with that fee, he now has all of their personal information and can use it to steal their identities. Remember to only pay for policies that have been verified through a reputable insurance company and are genuine.

#2 – Genealogy Search Scam

A number of websites have sprung up offering to trace your roots for you, but be warned, they’re not just looking for your ancestors. Some of them are looking for your financial information.

While there are legitimate fee-based search websites out there, the imitation sites are the real threat. Not only do you have to pay a fee to receive your genealogy results, you also have to put in a lot of highly personal information about yourself, enough data that a scammer can use it to steal your identity. At best you’re paying a significant fee for someone to do a simple Google search that may not even be accurate… after all, how would you know whether or not your great-great-great-great-grandfather was really a deckhand aboard a British ship?

Make sure you’re only working with reputable websites that have genuine reviews from satisfied customers. In the case of family tree searches, make sure the amount of data you have to input is worth it and is secured.

#3 – American Red Cross Scam

We’ve had a rash of natural and man-made disasters lately, and one of the names that is synonymous with disaster relief and preparedness is the American Red Cross. Unfortunately, scammers know that the public often wants to help following any major event—especially one with significant destruction or loss of life—but can’t physically go respond in person. Scammers have stolen countless dollars from well-intentioned individuals under the guise of working for the Red Cross.

It’s vital that we all pitch in and give, especially when disaster strikes, so don’t let fear of scammers keep you from supporting worthy causes. Just be sure that your dollars are going to a verified source of relief, and only make your contributions directly to the organizations you’re trying to support.

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.

“If it sounds too good to be true…” It’s been said so many times, you don’t even have to hear the rest of the phrase to know what’s coming. And yet—somehow—scammers still try it and consumers still fall for it.

A recent rise in government grant scams has a lot of consumers scratching their heads. What is a government grant, and how does this scam work? Simple: by convincing you that your government has nothing better to do with the funds it collects in taxes than to call random citizens and offer them thousands of dollars.

See? You’re already wondering how anyone could fall for this, but when the phone call comes and the very official-sounding pitch begins, it can be easy to forget how our system of taxation really works. But you can rest assured that the government does not draw names from lists of so-called “good citizens” and call them out of the blue.

There’s another sure-fire way you can tell that there’s something shady about this grant offer: you have to pay money—typically several hundred dollars—in order to receive the funds. And not only do you have to hand over some money, you have to do it by wire transfer or pre-paid debit card. You know, two forms of payment that are very hard to trace.

So here’s the bottom line: you NEVER pay to receive your winnings in any contest, lottery, or award, and you NEVER give your personal information to someone who contacts you unexpectedly and claims that you won something.

Having said all of that, the website that the scammers reluctantly provide when pressured into answering is Grants.gov. The .gov web address lets you know that this is an actual government website. The scammers are lying, though, and their attempts at fraud are not associated with it. Grants.gov is an extensive database of all government grants that are available for application, so they know you’ll never be able to find them (or prove they aren’t associated with it) just by searching the website.

On the plus side, Grants.gov is a legitimate source of information if you are planning to apply for a grant. However, as anyone who’s ever applied for a grant can tell you, it’s a lengthy process filled with all kinds of verification requirements—much of it in writing—and no, the grant recipients don’t win money for doing nothing. If you’re seeking actual sources of grant funding, it’s an excellent place to start.

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. Scam Detectorleads the way by publishing a top ten list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each week, ones that are either new or gaining in popularity. Take a look at some of their more recent top scams or fraud attempts.

#1 – Juice Jacking

Don’t these slang terms for cybercrimes keep getting better and better? But juice jacking, a new form of gleaning data off your smartphone or tablet, has already made its way into pop culture on detective TV shows. It occurs when you plug your device into a public charging station such as at a mall or airport, only their included cable doesn’t just power your phone. Inside the tampered-with charging station, a thief has installed a computer and the cable is actually syncing your phone or tablet, stealing your photos, your passwords, your emails, and more.

To avoid falling victim to this process, stay clear of those charging stations as much as you can. Carry your own charger if you’re in danger of losing your battery life that day, and only use a wall outlet with your own cable. If you absolutely must use a public charging station, power your device all the way off (not just in black screen sleep mode) before plugging it in.

#2 – Facebook Privacy Notice

If you’ve been around Facebook for any amount of time, you might have seen people posting a privacy notice and then encouraging others to paste it on their walls, too. It basically has wording to the effect that the individual does not give permission for Facebook to use their photos, posts, images, or any other content from their walls. It also claims to absolve the individual from any liability that may arise from sharing content on their Facebook feeds.

Sadly, you can post whatever pronouncement you want… it doesn’t make it true. When you signed up for a Facebook account, you agreed to THEIR terms of service, not your own. Anything you share on Facebook can be stolen by other users, shared by anyone you’re connected to, and used in any way other people see fit. Simply stating, “Don’t touch my pictures,” isn’t going to protect you in any way. Remember, EVERYTHING you post on social media can (and quite possibly, will) be shared by others.

#3 – IQ Test Scam

You’ve probably seen some pretty ridiculous “tests” and “quizzes” on social media. Some of them are funny, like “What Disney Princess are you?” or “What Marvel superhero are you?” Your answers to some basic scenario-based questions reveal which character you have the most in common with.

But there are some quizzes that mimic these types of games, and they’re not so funny. Many of them pose pointless queries like, “Bet you can’t name a city without the letter A in it!” to entice you into playing along, while others offer to test your IQ. Once you click the link and you fill out a few pieces of information to start the quiz, you’re locked in. The scammer will use your phone number to send you “premium” text messages, and by the time you get your phone bill, you’ve received dozens of these daily per-charge texts. A less malicious but still invasive form of it is simply to nab your email address so they can then flood your inbox with spam emails. The scammers make money off of luring you into giving them your info, then they can sell that info to marketing companies.

Never enter personal identifiable information on an unknown website or app, and always ask yourself, “Why in the world do you need to know my phone number to see how smart I am?” You can bet the scammers are laughing at how gullible you were, not how intelligent you are.

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.