Fraudsters and criminals are always thinking of new ways to steal your money or your identity.
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)
No sooner had word gotten about that Anthem, a health insurer for more than 80 million customers, had been hacked than the scam artists started sending phony “Anthem” emails – pretending to help while phishing for personal information. Designed to look as if it comes from Anthem, the email will ask customers to click on a link, or open an attachment, for free credit monitoring or “credit card account protection.” Forward the message to the Federal Trade Commission at email@example.com and then delete the message from your inbox.
Anthem says it will contact current and former customers by postal mail with specific information on how to enroll in credit monitoring. Anthem also says it’s not calling customers about the data breach or asking for credit card information or Social Security numbers over the phone. (consumer.ftc.gov)
Criminals impersonating IRS officials were on the rise last year, as was tax-related identity theft, according to a new report.
The Federal Trade Commission disclosed that tax-related identity theft was the most common form of identity theft reported to the FTC in 2014, while the number of complaints from consumers about criminals impersonating IRS officials was nearly 24 times more than in 2013.
IRS impersonation scams typically consist of an individual contacting a consumer by phone, claiming that they are an IRS agent and that the consumer owes the IRS money, the FTC explained in a release. “The callers suggest to consumers that they pay by wiring money or loading money on a prepaid debit card. The callers often threaten arrest or legal action, and their calls may appear to originate from Washington, D.C., phone numbers; scammers may even know a consumer’s full or partial Social Security number, lending credibility to the scam.”
Consumers should remember that IRS employees won’t call out of the blue and threaten arrest or demand specific methods of payment. (cutoday.info)
The Federal Trade Commission has learned of a phony “delivery failure notification” email making the rounds that looks like it’s from the U.S. Postal Service — but it’s not. The email is bogus and there is no package. And if you downloaded any attachments, or clicked on any links, you’re likely to end up with a virus or malware on your device.
So how do you tell what’s legit and what’s a scam? Here are some ways to spot a bogus email:
Another sure sign an email is a scam? If you hover over the link in the email, it won’t show the official website of the supposed sender — in this case, the U.S. Postal Service website.
Listing your business in a directory can be an effective way to advertise the products or services you offer potential customers. But be sure you know what you’re getting for your money… and that you even asked for the listing in the first place.
If you run a small business, here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers:
Tax season is getting close — and for some people, so is an experience with tax identity theft or IRS imposters. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. You usually find out something’s wrong after you file your tax return.
Also, IRS imposters work year-round — posing as the IRS when they call and say you owe taxes. They even threaten to arrest you if you don’t put money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number. They might know all or part of your Social Security number, and can fake caller ID information to make it look like it really is the IRS calling.
January 26th-30th is Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week. That week, the FTC, AARP, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) will be hosting a webinar to give you the facts about these scams, and teach you how to protect yourself and those you care about:
The Webinar on Tax Identity Theft and IRS Imposter Scams, on Tuesday, Jan. 27th from 2:00-3:30pm EST, is open to everyone. Find login information, as well as articles and other resources, at ftc.gov/taxidtheft. (Source: FTC.gov)
In a new twist on the well-known tech support scam, criminals are exploiting browser pop-up windows. The pop-up window states that victim’s computer has been hacked, while a second pop-up provides a number to call. In another variation on the scam, an individual who paid the required fee later received a call advising the victim the funds paid for the services were used to purchase weapons for ISIS and asked for additional money to remove the victim’s name from a black list. (Source: ic3.gov)