Scam Alerts

In the News

Fraudsters and criminals are always thinking of new ways to steal your money or your identity.

Don’t let the fraudsters take what belongs to you! Keep informed of their latest scams:

Water Damaged Cars Flooding the Market

Recent storms and flooding plaguing the Midwest and Southeast could impact car buyers across the country. Vehicles damaged by floods in those areas can be cleaned up and taken out of state for sale. You might not know a vehicle is damaged until you take a closer look or have a mechanic check it out.

Here’s what to do:

  • Look for water stains, mildew, sand or silt under the carpet, floor mats, and dashboard, and in the wheel well where the spare is stored. Look for fogging inside the headlights and taillights.
  • Do a smell test. A heavy aroma of cleaners and disinfectants is a sign that someone’s trying to mask a mold or odor problem.
  • Get a vehicle history report. Check a trusted database service. There are reliable services that charge a small fee. The National Insurance Crime Bureau’s (NICB) free database includes flood damage and other information.
  • Understand the difference between a “salvage title” and a “flood title.” A “salvage title” means the car was declared a total loss by an insurance company because of a serious accident or some other problems. A “flood title” means the car has damage from sitting in water deep enough to fill the engine compartment. The title status is part of a vehicle history report.
  • Have your mechanic inspect the car’s mechanical and electrical components, and systems that contain fluids, for water contamination.
  • Report fraud. If you suspect a dealer is knowingly selling a storm-damaged car or a salvaged vehicle as a good-condition used car, contact your auto insurance company, local law enforcement agency, or the NICB at (800) TEL-NICB (835-6422). You’ll help someone else avoid a rip-off.

If you have other questions about buying a car, these resources can help.   (ftc.gov)

Is Your Phone a Prized Possession?

Let’s be honest: I spend more time playing games on my smart phone than talking on it. Our phones have become our family photo albums, personal gaming systems, calendars, encyclopedias, navigators, and instant messengers. If you can think of an activity, there’s probably an app for it.

Unfortunately, some apps might not be what they claim, and downloading the wrong app could put your phone on the fritz. According to the FTC, that’s what happened to thousands of people who downloaded the Prized app before it was removed from the app store.

Prized claimed that users could earn prizes by completing tasks like playing games and taking surveys. Instead, the app contained malware that hijacked the phone’s computing power. As a result, phones ran slower, had less battery life, and used up people’s data plans. The company was using the hijacked computing power to mine virtual currencies – like Dogecoin and Litecoin – for their own profit, without the authorization or knowledge of the phone owners.

For tips on how to avoid downloading malware to your phone, click here(ftc.gov)

OPM Data Breach – What Consumers Should Do

The FTC Has released information to assist current or former federal employees whose personal information may have been exposed in the recent data breach at the Office of Personnel Management and the Interior Department.  Steps to help protect consumer identities include checking credit reports, taking advantage of offers for free credit monitoring, and placing fraud alerts on credit reports, among others.

If your credit union has members that may have been affected by this data breach, please share this link with them:  OPM data breach – what should you do?   (consumer.ftc.gov)

The Skinny on Phony Weight Loss Promises

You get an email from a friend, with a link and a message: “Hi! Oprah says it’s excellent!” But did your friend really send this message? And what’s so excellent?

Millions of people get emails like this one, but not from their friends. Instead, according to the FTC, marketers hired by Sale Slash sent spam emails from hacked email and social media accounts. Why? To trick people into thinking the messages came from a friend. And, of course, to sell stuff.

The links in the messages led to fake news sites promoting Sale Slash’s weight loss products. Everything about the news sites was fake. Endorsements from Oprah and The Doctors’ TV show? Fictitious. Reviews from news reporters? Phony. Testimonials from people with dramatic weight loss stories from using diet pills? Bogus.

Also false, according to the FTC? Claims that Sale Slash’s products would help people “melt away” extensive amounts of belly fat without diet or exercise. Just not true.

So here’s the skinny:

    • Even emails that seem to be from a friend might not be. Stop and check before you click any links or open any attachments.
    • Just because it looks like a celebrity or news reporter endorses a product, that doesn’t make it true. And it doesn’t mean that the product really works.
    • Anyone who claims you can lose more than a pound a week without diet and exercise is probably lying.     (ftc.gov)

 NCUA Text Message Scam

More than 40 consumers around the country have received a scam phone text message purporting to use a National Credit Union Administration phone number, the agency announced Wednesday. Consumers who receive a text from 703-518-6301 asking for personal information should contact the agency’s Consumer Assistance Center hotline at 800-755-1030. The NCUA’s privacy policy states that it will never request personal or financial information from consumers.

According to the NCUA, the perpetrators are able to mimic a telephone number to generate text messages. The messages may warn of a debit card reaching its limit or use some other trick to persuade individuals to provide personal information or go to a malicious website.

Consumers should not click on links in the message, provide information to any websites referenced in the message nor attempt to conduct any financial transactions through those websites.

This attempted fraud scam is classified as “spoofing” by the Federal Communications Commission.

Vacation to ….Nowhere?

With winter almost over, are you itching to get out of town? As you search for your perfect getaway, you might come across good-looking vacation rental deals that seem amazing. Unfortunately, some “steals” are posted by scammers trying to steal your money. They’ll leave you with a vacation to nowhere.

Scammers have plenty of tricks up their sleeves: fake websites that look legitimate, post gorgeous photos of homes and condos — real and fake — on property sharing sites, and get your attention with super low rental prices. You may be asked to wire money – a full or partial deposit. Either way, you arrive at your vacation destination to discover it doesn’t exist and your money is gone.

Here are some tips to help you avoid a vacation rental scam:

  • Search online for the owner and listing with words like review, scam, or complaint.
  • Check that the address of the property really exists.
  • Consider using a credit card to book your rental.

Check out tips to avoid other travel scams at ftc.gov/travelscams, and have a fun and scam-free vacation!  (ftc.gov)

Scammer Faces Slammer!

For years, we’ve been hearing about lottery scams: the imposter who convinces you that you’ve won the lottery (you didn’t) – and all you have to do is pay some fees to collect your millions (you won’t). And for years, we’ve been hearing about lottery scams that originate in Jamaica, where telemarketing lottery scams became a cottage industry in some parts of the island.

The Federal Trade Commission, which has helped criminal law enforcers investigate these types of cases, reports that the Department of Justice recently extradited a Jamaican man on charges that he was part of an international lottery scheme targeting older adults in the U.S. He’s the first person to be extradited in this kind of case.

According to the indictment, a 28-year-old Jamaican man, Damion Bryan Barrett, called people in the U.S., spoofing phone numbers to make it look like the calls came from the U.S., and often claiming they were calling from the IRS or Federal Reserve, or a well-known sweepstakes company. Barrett, the indictment says, told people they had won cash and prizes – which they could collect if they sent up to thousands of dollars in “fees.” Then, Barrett and his colleagues allegedly told people to send money to middle-men in southern Florida, who sent the money on to Jamaica. But, says the indictment, not a single person actually got any money from their – ahem – winnings.

If he’s convicted, Barrett faces prison time, a fine, and mandatory restitution to the victims of his scam. But whatever happens in court, this extradition shows how serious the Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners are about cracking down on people who try to defraud American consumers. That’s good news for all of us.

Meanwhile, if you get a call or email that you’ve won something, follow this advice: never send money. And report the call or email so we can help in the fight against these scammers.(Source: Lois Greisman, Associate Director, Division of Marketing Practices, FTC)

 

 

Find the details on more scams here.