What is it:

“Flipping” scam that promises you big money on social media

Who is it targeting:

Social media users on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and more

How does it work:

A flipping scam looks a lot like a pile of cash, at least in the picture accompanying the post. A user on the same platform shows the image and promises that you, too, can earn this kind of money for sending in only a little bit of upfront payment. Their post may even have a lot of comments from people who claim to have already benefitted, thanking the person for bringing them into this kind of wealth. Be warned: those people are not real and neither is the money.

A flipping scam plays off the old concept of an illegal pyramid scheme, in which you send in $100 and get ten people to send you their $100, and so on. However, this one does not even bother going that far. You send your money to the scammer, and that is the end of it.

What you can do about it:

  • Remember that things, and people, are not always what they seem on the internet
  • It is very easy to create fake accounts, fake posts and fake followers
  • Some of these scams want prepaid debit cards or gift cards, but remember that those are just as insecure as cash

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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New Venmo Scam Targets Payment App Users

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A new Venmo scam is making the rounds nationally, one that can lead to massive financial losses in your Venmo account.

Payment apps are a fairly new invention, especially peer-to-peer apps that are connected to your bank account or a credit card. Unfortunately, what is not new is phishing scams.

Fraudsters are reaching out to unsuspecting victims and convincing them that something is wrong with their account. The scammer, while looking and sounding like the legitimate company, tricks the victim into handing over their account credentials, sending money or doing something else that causes them harm.

Payment apps that allow you to make retail or restaurant purchases have been in use for a long time, but these new apps like Venmo allow you to pay another individual simply by having an account. You might split the cost of dinner with a friend or pay someone back for buying your concert ticket when they bought theirs. The idea is that it is more convenient than cash and does not incur such a high fee as some online payment methods.

Law enforcement and Venmo have both issued warnings to the public about a new Venmo scam that includes phishing attempts that come through as text messages, claiming to be the payment app company.















Image courtesy of Kane County Utah Sheriff’s Office

Since the app is installed on the user’s phone, receiving a text message might not seem so strange at first. What is strange, though, is the request to verify your username and password due to a supposed problem with your account. In the Venmo scam the victim clicks the link, enters their credentials to verify or unlock their account, and the scammers log into that account from their own device, then send themselves a massive payment from the Venmo user’s account. As you can see, this Venmo scam is very effective because it looks trustworthy.

A Facebook post to warn the public of the Venmo scam was issued by the Dighton, Massachusetts police department with information on the scam. It was later confirmed by Venmo, who issued its own warning.

The company has stated that they will never text or email you for your credentials. However, avoiding any scam like this requires the ability to ignore it.

If you ever get a text, email or phone call about an account you own, ignore it and go directly to the app settings or customers service number yourself. Do not trust the contact information in the message, but rather look it up on your own. Do not click any links or open any attachments. Look into your account to see if there really is anything suspicious going on, and then contact a support agent if you need to be sure.

Image of Venmo app settings

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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The internet is a great tool in many ways, but it is also filled with privacy pitfalls. Overexposed information from data breaches are now the third certainty but background check websites are a legal, affordable and easy way for someone to collect a lot of your personal information. With the right pieces of the puzzle, a criminal could even use background check information to steal your identity. One Michigan man used the large amount of information found publicly on these sites to open bank accounts in as many as 51 people’s names to which he collected nearly $200,000 in fraudulent loans.

Background check websites are perfectly legal ways for someone to find out information about you. Usually, there is a reason for an individual to pay for the data. Perhaps they are hiring a summer babysitter and want your criminal history. They might own a small business where you have applied for employment. Maybe the person is trying to serve court documents on you and they need to know key information in order to file the with the court. Again, background check websites serve a valuable purpose, even if they can be used for harm.

It is important to know that one of the safety nets that is supposed to protect the public from people who use background check websites for identity theft is nothing more than a statement on the website that the information is not to be used for identity theft.

The FBI has already uncovered multiple victims in cases where their information was purchased from a background check website then used for identity theft. As noted by Quartz, “Online identity thieves use services that provide personal information for sales leads, real estate transactions, and credit reports to steal millions, gathering details about their victims’ lives from federal, state, and local records sold by brokers like BeenVerified, Instant Checkmate, and TruthFinder.”

Until legislation is enacted that will offer stronger protection for consumers, it is up to you to protect yourself.

Watch what you share and what you sign up for

Remember, your identity is like a puzzle. The more pieces you put out there about yourself, the higher the chance a thief can connect the pieces.

Be on the lookout for phishing attempts

A background check website will not tell a buyer everything, but it can be enough to connect the dots. The rest of the filling in can occur by sifting through your social media accounts or sending you phishing emails. Practice good online safety to prevent this kind of thing.

Put a freeze on your credit report

This free option can stop identity thieves from achieving their goal, namely to open new bank accounts and take out loans in your name. By placing a freeze on your credit report with all three of the major credit reporting agencies, lenders are not supposed to be able to issue new lines of credit under your Social Security number. Remember that it takes time to thaw your credit report if you did need to take out a loan or make a large purchase.

Monitor your accounts carefully

Some of the victims of a background check identity theft had reported small amounts of money being withdrawn from their bank accounts or as fees associated with their accounts. By not ignoring those small transactions, they were able to put a stop to a much bigger crime. Look over all bank statements, credit card bills and your credit report routinely for anything unusual.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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Unsolicited phone calls with recorded messages, known as robocalls, have been a nuisance probably since the invention of the telephone. And they’re getting worse. In fact, in a single one-month period this year, there were more than 4.7 billion robocalls placed to U.S. phone numbers. While the telemarketers of yesteryear were certainly annoying, today’s threat is far more dangerous. Robocalls, which some consumers report can occur at all hours of the day and night, may actually be decreasing in number. However, the amount of money that victims lose to phone scammers is higher than ever.

“But I am on the Do Not Call List. Why am I still getting these phone calls?”

If you have put your phone number on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call registry and you still receive robocalls, that should be your sign that the call is not real. With that said, there are exceptions to the rule. Charities and political campaigns are still permitted to contact you, as are companies you do business with.

“But my caller ID said it was the Social Security Administration!”

It’s okay to be skeptical of your caller ID screen. It is easy for the scammer to change the appearance of the number they are calling from. They can put any phone number or name on your screen in order to entice you to pick up.

“But they said I was in trouble with the police and about to lose my healthcare coverage.”

No matter what story the robocaller gives, ignore it.

The IRS does not call you to inform you about your back taxes or penalties.

The police will not call you about a warrant for your arrest.

Your granddaughter was kidnapped? Try calling them first.

If you are ever in doubt about any situation like this, hang up and contact the company directly. Take down the caller’s information first, including their name, company or agency and employee or agent number they have, the phone number they are calling from and anything else that might be helpful. Then contact that organization directly using a verified phone number. You will quickly find out that no one by that name works there, your account is perfectly fine or your nephew is not in jail. If you do discover that something was legitimately wrong, you can handle it through the proper channels.

“But the caller said that I owe money!”

You will never receive a legitimate phone call in which you must make a payment immediately. It will always be a robocall. Even something like a call from your credit card company or utility company might be a courtesy reminder that you are past due. However, you will never be required to pay over the phone. The IRS and the Social Security Administration, two common scam targets, do not accept phone payments when someone calls you.

“I think I really do have to pay them. Where do I buy an iTunes gift card?”

Never make a payment of any kind with an iTunes gift card unless you own an Apple device and you are buying an app or song. iTunes gift cards, prepaid debit cards and wire transfers are all common tools for scammers, no matter who they claim to work for. They take the information from the card you bought, drain all the money and you cannot get it back no matter what you do. There is no such thing as a legitimate transaction that must be paid for with one of these methods.

“Okay, you have convinced me. So how do I make it stop?”

Fortunately, there are steps the government is working on to crack down on robocalls. Until the miracle cure for this dangerous nuisance appears, there is one thing you can do: ignore the call. Do not answer and hang up, either, since some of the software robocallers use is to track whether or not their potential victim has a working phone number. Answering the call and hanging up will only confirm that the number is good. Also, if you do answer and discover it is a robocall or possible scam, simply hang up. You might offend the caller, but the caller is breaking the law by contacting you in the first place. Do not put yourself at risk to avoid upsetting a criminal.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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A new American Express phishing attack that specifically targeted American Express cardholders is unlike other attacks, according to security researchers. It contains a sophisticated method of harming the recipient that experts are not as familiar with.

Phishing attacks are nothing new. They arrive as emails, texts, social media messages or phone calls that appear to come from someone you know. It might look like your boss or co-worker, someone in your email contact list, your bank or your favorite retailer.

Each new phishing attack email has different goals, depending on what kind of ruse they are using. A fake email from your boss might tell you to change a password or send funds to a different account number, but an email from your bank might try to get you to hand over your username and password. Many phishing attacks only want the user to click a link in the email so they can be taken to a fake website where the thief steals their information. Or even worse, a link that downloads a virus to their computer.

In the case of the American Express phishing attack, the link embedded in the American Express phishing emails is two different parts. This way, the hacker can insert malicious code into the link while also confusing your antivirus software. Instead of warning you about a harmful link, your software does not recognize it as malicious.

The email itself was very typical of these kinds of attacks, namely in that it was filled with grammatical errors. Some reports have shown that the spelling and punctuation mistakes, like the ones seen in the American Express phishing attack, are intentional so that only more gullible recipients will interact with it.

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

Never click a link or download an attachment that you are not expecting

If the email came from your boss, pick up the phone and verify it. If it appears to come from a company you do business with, ignore the email and go directly to their website. From there, you can see if there is an issue with your account.

Spelling matters

Companies do not send out emails or other messages with multiple errors. If you see any strange mistakes, that is probably a sign it is a fake.

Check the email address and URL

If you look very carefully at the sender’s address or the website address they have included in the message, you might notice something strange. If it says “Amaz0n.com,” for example, it is fake. If the website is Citibank.card.shop.com, instead of the company’s actual web address, again, it is a fake.

Do not trust the caller ID

If the phishing attempt comes by phone, like the American Express phishing attack, do not go by what you saw on the caller ID. It is easy to change the phone number or screen name to say anything the scammer wants, such as “IRS” or “County Sheriff’s Dept.” If you receive a phoned attempt at getting you to verify your identity or make some kind of payment, hang up and contact the company directly using a phone number you have located yourself.

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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What It Is

Scammers are looking to cash in on the buzz surrounding the Equifax data breach, specifically the ability for consumers to check their data and file a claim if they were affected.

Who It Is Targeting

Any consumers who may have had their information stolen in the Equifax breach could be at risk of an Equifax settlement scam, but scammers may also seek out people who were not affected in order to sell them protection products.

What You Need To Know

Equifax is one of the three major credit reporting agencies, and they were breached in 2018. More than 147 million consumers had their complete identities stolen by hackers. Now, Equifax has launched its settlement website where you can find out if your information was stolen, file a claim for compensation and apply for credit monitoring. Equifax settlement scammers are capitalizing on the buzz surrounding this new website and have already targeted victims.

What You Should Do About It

  • Make sure you are only using legitimate websites for this process, namely the FTC’s site and EquifaxBreachSettlement.com.
  • You do not have to pay anything to file a claim, look into your data, receive credit monitoring services or otherwise participate in this settlement.
  • Never verify your information for someone who contacts you and offers to find out if you have been affected.
  • Never hand over your Social Security number to someone who contacts you in any way.

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There are countless moving parts when it comes to planning your wedding, and many of those parameters can lead to scams and fraud. Wedding scams can turn your dream day can turn into a nightmare.

Say yes to the dress but no to scams. Wedding dresses that do not look like they did online and photographers who do not produce the photos of your big day despite advance payment, are just the tip of the wedding scam iceberg. Some bride and groom related scams can lead to identity theft, online account takeover and even home invasions. Here are just a few possible ways those planning a wedding can fall victim to a scam.

Social Media Oversharing

Your engagement means you will be planning a wedding, booking a honeymoon and perhaps looking for a new place to live. It could even mean expensive gifts will be arriving at your residence. Social media is great for keeping your friends and family updated on your wedding preparations, but it can also have some pitfalls.

If you do not choose to keep your posts private, then you need to be on your guard against too-good-to-be-true offers and advertisements. Worse, a bride-to-be could be sharing both her married name and her maiden name with a would-be identity thief, or alerting a burglar to a possible payday.

Honeymoon Travel

Whether you are taking a far-flung distant trip of a lifetime or a more low-key weekend getaway, your honeymoon does not need to be ruined by a travel scammer. From phony listings, reservations that steal your credit card information and bookings with bogus hidden fees, there are a lot of ways someone can take advantage of your finances and your identity.

To avoid this trap, only use reputable sites that you can trust with your private information, and monitor the payment accounts you used carefully for any sign of fraudulent activity. Remember, this is not only true for your pre-wedding planning. Follow up in the weeks and months after your trip to make sure nothing is amiss.

Gift Registries

If you are accepting gifts from your friends and family, a gift registry really does help them out. It can provide a wide price range to choose from, and helps ensure their thoughtful gesture is really something you want or need – but no one needs identity theft.

Establishing an account with a reputable online retailer with a proven history of security gives peace of mind about making an online purchase. You will also have a better chance of receiving a tracking number for purchases, as well as customer service protection.

Credit Reports, Social Security Cards and More

Part of getting married inevitably involves your government documents. Some brides choose to change their last names, which means applying for new drivers’ licenses, Social Security cards, credit cards, insurance benefits and more. Newly married couples may also need new tax withholding forms, wills, insurance paperwork, utility or rental agreements and other similar considerations.

What it boils down to is an abundance of paperwork with your complete identities on it, waiting to be stolen, copied or forged. It is vital that newlyweds keep all of their important papers secured and out of sight, and destroy completely before discarding. That might mean adding a home-model cross-cut shredder to your gift registry, just to be safe!

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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Savvy online shoppers look forward to the veritable Christmas in July that is Amazon Prime Day, but scammers look forward to this event too. Amazon scams account for a significant percentage of internet retail fraud so it is important that consumers know what to look for. Armed with the ability to spot an Amazon scam, you can work to avoid them while still saving big during online shopping.

Amazon scams are so prevalent simply because they tend to work. With the sheer number of Amazon and Amazon Prime customers using the website, there is a good chance that any phishing attempt hiding behind the Amazon name and logo will find its way to a customer. There is no single type of Amazon scam, but they can take on so many different forms that it can be hard to tell what is real and what is a trap.

Many online shoppers are about to embark on a two-day shopping spree full of great deals for Amazon Prime Day. However, good deals could also mean lots of scammers. This Amazon Prime Day, which runs through July 15 and 16, make sure you know how to protect yourself from these scams:

Phishing Scams

There are several different phishing scams involving Amazon, especially on Amazon Prime Day, and other retailers, but some of the more common ones include:

  • “There is a problem with your account, please click here to verify your account or change your password”
  • “Here is your receipt and shipping confirmation” for a product you never ordered
  • “Please verify your payment method”

The goal is always to get you to click an included link then enter your sensitive account information for the scammers. The link may even install a virus or other harmful software on your computer.

Discount and Coupon Scams

Amazon is not the only retailer whose name and logo are used for fake coupons and discounts. This tactic offers phony discounts of up to $100 to use on the website in exchange for filling out an online form. The coupon is not real, and the scammers have just stolen all of the information you supplied to them. These can often be seen making the rounds on social media sites like Facebook and in consumers’ email inboxes.

Review Scams

After a big shopping event like Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day, you might suddenly be inundated with requests for product reviews, whether you bought anything or not. Some of these offers will even sweeten the deal with promises of cash in exchange for your review. Paying someone for a review is a clear violation of Amazon’s terms and conditions and can lead to problems with your account. More importantly, these offers are not real. The scammer may steal your personal information, launch a spam email campaign, install malicious software on your computer or worse.

Amazon Prime Day can also lead to account takeovers. It is important to monitor your debit card and credit card accounts for any suspicious activity, and report anything unusual to your financial institution or the retailer immediately.

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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A virtual private network (VPN) is a digital tool that keeps outsiders, such as hackers, identity thieves, spammers and even advertisers from seeing your online activity. VPN is an installed piece of software on your laptop or desktop that is either stand-alone or bundled with your antivirus or security software. For mobile devices, VPN can be a downloadable app from your manufacturer’s preferred app store.

Everyone needs one, especially people who use their computers or devices for any kind of sensitive activity like business or data management. It might be work-related communications, file sharing with your team members or collaborating on a project. From a personal-use stance, using a VPN protects you while online banking, shopping at your favorite websites or just surfing online.

VPNs can have a few issues, namely that they are simply a safety net and not a catch-all for security. You can still end up hurt if you do not follow the rules of smart internet use, like good password hygiene and being careful of untrustworthy websites.

There is another problem with using VPNs: blocking. When you are traveling for business, for example, some hotels and airports may block the ports for a VPN, meaning you cannot use your VPN if connected to their Wi-Fi.

If your VPN is blocked and you need to rely on a public connection, your personal identifying information (PII) can be picked up by someone monitoring the connection. This is not just a concern for airport or airplane Wi-Fi. In one event, hackers used luxury hotel Wi-Fi to steal business executives’ data.

How serious is the problem? According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s monthly data breach reporting of publicly available breach notifications, there have already been 246 business breaches this year. Of those, 23 percent of the exposed records involved unauthorized access attempts like phishing attacks. Another report stated hackers were able to infiltrate the public Wi-Fi of hundreds of different hotels, convention centers, and data centers in 29 different countries, including the U.S.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take if you are having no success using your VPN:

  • Disguise your VPN traffic as regular web browser traffic, which makes it impossible for the hotel’s network to block your VPN service
  • Check with your office IT administrator about your computer’s configuration so they can log the situation and troubleshoot it for you
  • If you cannot connect your computer to your VPN, try connecting your VPN to your hotspot on your phone for sensitive internet activities 

NOTE: While a VPN can have performance issues like taking longer to connect or slowing down the browser, it is still a good way to keep your information safe and reduce your risk of falling victim to a crime. The slow-down “cost” is outweighed by the benefit of protecting your information.

Finally, whether you are using your VPN or not, it is important to never leave your device unattended at a conference, hotel, coffee shop, or other location, even for a moment. Make sure your passcode is enabled to help keep others out of your device, and enable the “find my device” option in your settings if the manufacturer provides it. You can also set up a pre-installed or downloaded tool to wipe your device remotely if it falls into the wrong hands.

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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Gift card scams are nothing new, but there is a new avenue for thieves to go after your money. While criminals have long relied on prepaid debit cards or iTunes gift cards for everything from IRS scams to fake online buying and selling, the latest “currency” is Google Play cards. As a result, Google Play gift card scams are on the rise and may already be targeting you or your loved ones.

You may have already learned about avoiding scams involving iTunes gift cards. These cards, which are only intended to be used for Apple Store purchases became a favorite tool for scammers who demanded untraceable payment in this card currency. Now with more criminals aware of the opportunity, the go-to choice for scammers is quickly becoming Google Play gift card scams. Here are some of the ways scammers target consumer finances by demanding payment through Google Play gift cards.

Impersonation Scams

Every malicious thing you have heard about iTunes gift cards, prepaid debit cards and even wire transfers is also true about Google Play gift cards. Callers pretending to be with the IRS, with law enforcement, with medical offices, bogus charities and other plausible outlets, may call and demand payment via gift cards. Remember, no credible agency or company will ask for an untraceable payment via gift card.

Reselling Gift Cards

There are multiple online platforms where users can sell unwanted, unused gift card balances. Criminals have taken advantage of this opportunity and steal the balances from unsuspecting sellers. One commonly reported Google Play gift card scam is the three-way call. The purpose of the call is to have you dial the number on the back of your card and verify the balance while the potential buyer listens. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. However, as you are entering the card number on your phone’s keypad, the listener is recording the tones. After you end the call and before the scammer buys your card, they simply use the recorded tones to transfer all the money off your card and onto one they own. Avoid Google Play gift card scams by only using reputable sites and verifying buyer reputation when possible.

Balance Inquiry Scams

Checking the balance on your gift cards is a good idea. It helps you know how much to spend and how much you have left on a reloadable card. However, hackers have invented a tool that allows them to wipe gift cards clean by attacking the computer network that keeps up with the balances. In order to avoid that kind of theft, it is a good idea to use your gift cards shortly after receiving them. Also, remember that some types of cards can start to lose value each month if you do not spend them. You can avoid this with a Google Play card by installing the card in your mobile wallet on your Android device.

Protect Card Numbers

Google Play gift cards, just like other gift cards, are only as safe as the information on the magnetic stripe or in the assigned number on the back. If you lose your card or someone gets the number, they have access to your money. Never share your card information with someone who contacts you, and never verify your gift card number for someone.

Providing Emergency Help

One common Google Play gift card scam is for a person to claim they need a Google Play card for some reason, such as to download an app they must have for work or to buy a movie or book they need for school. The only catch is supposedly they are living in a location where they cannot buy the cards. They reach out to you on social media and offer to pay you to buy them a card, giving you the price of the card and a little something extra for your time. Once you read them the information from the back of the card, they will drain the funds off it and you will not be reimbursed. Remember, there is no valid reason why someone should need you to buy them a card, and you will be violating terms of service for gift cards if you provide one.

Google asks its users to remember two very important truths about Google Play gift card scams, and these are true of any kind of reloadable payment card. First, it can never be used for any purpose other than downloading content from the Google Play Store. Second, you must protect the number like cash. No one will ever have a genuine reason to ask you for the number from the back of a card. If you have been a victim of a gift card scam, report the instance to the Federal Trade Commission.

Of course, the Identity Theft Resource Center is here to help. Speak to an identity theft advisor 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.

Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

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