What a year it’s been—just one month into 2018 and there are already 3,151 scams added to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker℠… and counting. That is good news, sort of, because last year at the same time there were already 3,932 scams found.
Many of the same scams are repeated each year, often driven by financial life moments such as taxes, holiday shopping, and utility scams. So far in January, a number of different and new scams have made the news, including:
Secretary of State Scam
This scam starts when you receive an email claiming to be from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who says you’re owed a payment he knows about because of an investigation by the FBI and CIA. The scam reportedly states that you will receive an ATM card with more than $1 million dollars on it, but first you have to send $320 along with personal information to receive it. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says this is false, warning Americans not fall for this—or anytime you’re told you have won a prize, owe money, or may go to jail.
Jackpotting is a new cyber-attack scam that the Secret Service warned financial institutions about criminals installing software or hardware on ATMs that force the machines to issue large amounts of cash. Criminals have found ways to exploit the standalone machines commonly found in pharmacies, big-box retailers, and some drive-thru ATMs.
It’s hard to know the exact financial implications because sometimes these crimes aren’t disclosed publicly. But anytime money is missing, it’s sure to have an impact on the banks and ultimately you—the consumer—in the former of higher fees or more obstacles to accessing your cash.
As the price and popularity of Bitcoin and other cyber-currencies skyrocketed in late 2017, scammers eagerly sought to take advantage of the frenzy.
The Japanese Bitcoin exchange Coincheck was hacked in January and the thieves were able to steal more than $500 million in cryptocurrencies. This is the largest cryptocurrency hack to date. Facebook and Instagram have banned advertisements for certain bitcoin, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and some other cryptocurrency-related products because of deceptive and misleading practices. Several ads were leading victims to sites such as Prodeum, whose only purpose was to take their money and not provide the advertised service.
This scam happens when you answer the phone and the person on the other line asks: “Can you hear me?” and you respond, “Yes.” Your voice is being recorded to obtain a voice signature for scammers authorize fraudulent charges over the phone. You can visit the FCC website to block any unwanted calls.
The popular service is the target of an email phishing scam featuring the subject line “payment declined,” which may get your attention if you are a subscriber. The email wants you to click on a link to update your credit card information. If you see this don’t click on the link because it can be dangerous malware. Visit your Netflix account by typing the address in yourself to check your account as a safer means of verifying your account status.
This scam involving users of the popular AirBnB site that lets travelers rent an apartment or house. The scam starts with an impostor home or apartment owner directing the renter towards a fraudulent or “spoof” website to finalize payment for the rental. Those fake sites result in lost money and no place to stay because the rental property being discussed is usually not even available. In fact, the real owners are most likely unaware that their property is being spoofed by scammers.
Death Threat Hoax
The FBI came out warning consumers about death threats being made through emails that state “I will be short. I’ve got an order to kill you.”
The email then demands money or bitcoin as a payout from the email recipients. Other versions of the scam could state that a “hitman has been hired to kill” them. This scam is very aggressive and threatening in nature to convince people that they have to pay or else.
How to Protect Yourself From Being Scammed?
To avoid being scammed you have to remain diligent and follow these steps:
- Assess the validity of all messages that you receive from people and business that you do not know. That includes any unsolicited phone calls, people knocking on your door, emails sent you—even those that look like they are from a company you do business with, or family and friends—and letters received in the mail that look like they are official.
- Any emails and links sent to you that seem off should be checked first, by rolling your cursor over them with your mouse before actually clicking on the link. Look at the destination URL is to see if it looks legitimate or not.
- Scammers will also pose as imposters from businesses or organizations and call or approach you in person. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently warned people about scammers posing as CFPB employees.
Criminals will go to great lengths to try to pressure you with demands for money or payments. If you feel you are being victimized, make sure to report the scam to proper government agency, your local Better Business Bureau office, and your local police department.