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.

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 – Google Business Listing Scam

This one works either by email or by direct dial phone contact, and in both cases, a thief is trying to get access to your credit card. Whether or not they steal your identity is up in the air, but what will definitely happen is you’re signed up for a monthly membership and your card will be charged a recurring fee. And good luck trying to reach an agent to cancel that membership.

The so-called agent who contacts you promises that your small business can be listed on the first page of Google, meaning that anyone who types in “auto garage” will inexplicably see your business. Ask yourself, though, why would you pay to have random internet users see the name of your business? Is someone from Idaho going to drive to your shop in Virginia for repairs, just because he saw your listing on Google?

First it’s an ineffective way to reach customers, but second, it’s a scam. Do not hand over your credit card information or other personal data without knowing exactly who you’re talking to and what they’ll do with it.

#2 – Nepal Earthquake Scam

There should be a special punishment for people who scam well-intentioned citizens out of their money while pretending the money is going to charity. In the years since the attack on September 11th, 2001, the New York County District Attorney’s office has brought charges against approximately 500 people for fraudulent charity collections related to the attack, estimating that those cases alone stole around $5 million total.

Now, everywhere you look on online you’ll probably find a “click here to support” button related to the earthquake in Nepal. Due to this morning’s news that another earthquake has hit Nepal, the fraudulent charities are sure to increase.

Whenever a large-scale disaster strikes, it’s not only natural to want to help, it’s noble. It’s what makes the world great. But don’t let a scammer do even more harm by stealing concerned citizens’ money while ignoring the devastation in order to line his own pockets. Make sure you’re only giving your donations of money or items to reputable companies that are well-known for their disaster response capabilities and their transparency as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization.

#3 – Wrong Number Stock Tip Scam

You receive a voicemail message that was obviously intended for someone else, but just as you’re about to hit delete, the real fun begins. The caller—pretending to be leaving a message for someone else—shares a stock market tip that’s too awesome to miss. He makes sure to tell you to keep it to yourself, but to buy up all the stock in such-and-such a company before the big announcement tomorrow.

First of all, this is a scam intended to get you to buy up stocks in a company that’s floundering (and if this is how they resort to getting money for their company, no wonder they’re failing!). Don’t fall for it. But more importantly, this is also a crime. Even if the message had been for you and had been about a legitimate announcement that would send the stock through the roof, it would be called insider trading! You can report these scammers to the Federal Trade Commission by clicking HERE.

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.

No, a Nigerian Prince does not want to give you money.

This is an example of the Nigerian letter scam and it comes in many forms. The Nigerian letter or email scam is very common and typically requires the victim to send money to the scammer and, in turn, the scammer will reimburse them several times over.

A common example is an email from a representative of a Nigerian prince who needs to transfer $40 million obtained from an oil contract but cannot use an African bank account and therefore needs your assistance. They will want to use your personal bank account, but first, you need to open a Nigerian bank account with at least $100,000 in it to be a qualified foreign recipient of the funds. The prince’s representatives will provide information as to where you will send the money and promise you they will transfer your millions right after. Another example is that you are the winner of a foreign country’s lottery (somehow!) and if you send personal identification information and documents plus a small fee, you will receive your millions of dollars in lottery winnings. Of course, this never happens.

While there are many different ways these fake stories are formulated, they all follow the same basic principle. You send us money, and then we will send you much more. Any time you see this formula you should immediately suspect foul play. These Nigerian letters or email scams used to be very easy to identify because the emails looked very unofficial and there were so many spelling and grammar mistakes that it couldn’t possibly be from a legitimate organization handling millions of dollars. Nowadays they are much harder to detect because the scammers have been putting more effort into creating more realistic and convincing emails that include a business or bank logo, correct grammar and spelling, and sometimes fake websites to look more official and authentic.

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 2012 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book compiles complaints received by the FTC, various state law enforcement organizations, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. In the 2012 report, 7,782 complaints were filed under the category of Nigerian/Other Foreign Money Offers (not including prizes) down from 16,405 in 2010. Therefore, people may have become more aware of these scams, but the scammers are working every day to make their scams more and more believable. Be on the lookout for these scams and always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Should you fall victim to this scam you should immediately report it to:

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