I know that all my readers are the best looking and most intelligent humans ever evolved. But we all know that one person who may, just may, need a little guidance when dealing with this internet thing. Every now and then I post stuff about safe internetting, and it seems to help. A little, anyway. I have gotten emails from nice people who were able to print this stuff out and share it at nursing homes, homes for the developmentally disabled, and for those around them who just never seem to catch on. There are eleven common scams that seem to have reared their ugly heads again and are making inroads into people’s pockets as well as their computers. So, in an attempt to tamp them out once and for all, yes – I know that’s a Sisyphean task, I gathered them here, top ten lists are for amateurs, for you to be aware of.
Well, not you, of course, but that friend of yours.
#1. Tech Support Scams
Reported countries: India and Pakistan. In many cases, scammers used U.S. VOIP phone numbers.
Damages reported: $100-$1000 and the cost of real technical support after to fix the damaged computer. As scammers usually ask for payment via credit card, many victims have also reported having their identities stolen afterward.
It’s rare that any technician from a PC manufacturer or tech support company would cold call non-client computer users and tell them that there’s an immediate threat to their computers and that the company needs remote access to fix the problem. Yet, many people fall for this scam.
Operating usually out of India, scammers call victims and allege that they’re with a big name tech company. Victims are told that their computers are either already infected or about to become infected with malware that can cause significant damage, such as operating system corruption or identity theft. The “technicians” then urge users to allow them to have remote access to troubleshoot and fix related issues. Scammers use these opportunities to infect systems with malware or perform other damage; or send users to third-party websites that cause damage. All of these actions are focused on the singular goal of giving scammers access to computers so they can cause errors and then charge for unnecessary repair services.
#2. Fake/Counterfeit Merchandise Scams
Reported countries: China
Damages reported: $100-$1000. As scammers usually ask for payment via credit card, victims have also reported identity theft at a later time.
With so many online stores available, it’s sometimes very difficult to know the difference between a legitimate e-commerce site and a fake one set up to steal money or a person’s identity.
Operating predominantly out of China, scammers set up generic online stores that sell name brand items or mimic the websites of big name brand companies. On these sites, scammers sell fake or counterfeit products at significantly reduced prices designed to attract buyers looking for big deals on name brand merchandise. The over-reaching goal of these scammers is to gain access to the credit card numbers of their victims and then use the numbers to fraudulently make purchases, or make a buck with the information on the black market. In some cases, the criminals even go so far as to send fake or counterfeit products to victims. As the merchandise ships from international locations, victims often remain unaware of any wrong-doing against them until weeks have passed. Although many brand companies discover these sites and shut them down, it’s usually too late.
#3. Pets-for-Sale Scams
Reported countries: Unknown
Damages reported: $200-$2000
The promise of cuddly and cute puppies, kittens and other pets is another scam and has harmed a lot of people in 2014.
Pets-for-sale scammers create fake websites that claim to be associated with pet adoption or animal nurseries. On these sites, they offer a wide selection of pets for adoption or sale at prices significantly below the norm. Some sites even offer puppies for free to attract victims. With this scam, victims are told that they must pay for at least the insurance, shipping and other services associated with processing and delivering the pets. Victims are then required to make their purchases and/or pay their fees with non-returnable, cash-like forms of payment, including but not limited to: Moneygram, Western Union, Vanilla prepaid cards or wire transfer to a foreign bank account.
#4. Grant Scams
Reported countries: India and Pakistan
Damages reported: $100-$2000+
Representatives of the United States government don’t call American citizens with offers to sell them grant money. Operating usually out of India and Pakistan, scammers who deal in selling grants purchase consumer information from legitimate companies that run payday loan affiliate websites. The companies usually have no idea that they’re dealing with scammers. Instead, they believe that the scammers can offer some of their payday loan applicants financial assistance. Scammers also acquire consumer personal details from unsuspecting advertising agencies who run lead generation campaigns targeting consumers in need of loans. The scammers then contact the people from these lists and claim they represent the United States government. They advise victims that they can provide access to grant money for a “processing fee”. As with the Pets-for-Sale scenarios, scammers require victims to pay via non-returnable payment methods that act like cash.
The processing fee is merely the beginning of the crime. Grant scam artists then use the banking information of their victims to gain access to additional funds or sell the information to the highest bidder on the black market.
#5. Collection Agency Scams
Reported countries: India and Pakistan
Damages reported: $100-$2000+
Some scammers are well aware that collection agencies have the right to contact consumers who owe money to them or companies they represent. Criminals involved with collection agency scams use this knowledge to their advantage to steal money.
Representing a fake collection agency, or even the United States Attorney General’s office, scammers make cold calls to victims and threaten lawsuits or embarrassing on-the-job confrontations unless the victims start making payments. Sometimes, the scammers support their claims with real details about outstanding loans. This type of scam can go on for months. After repeated harassment, victims cave to demands and pay a fee. Some time later, the scammers repeat the tactic with the same victims or sell/share the information to other scamming organizations who repeat the vicious cycle. Fee payment is also expected via non-returnable methods, such as Moneygram, Western Union, Vanilla and wire transfer.
#6. House/Vacation Property Rental Scams
Reported countries: Unknown
Damages reported: $500-$3000+
After the housing market scandals of the last few years, many consumers have opted to rent home and vacation properties, and scammers have targeted this trend.
Scammers advertise properties that they don’t actually own on classified ads websites, such as Craigslist and Backpage, with attractive pictures and detailed descriptions. Typically, they associate the ads with desirable, rich or low crime rate neighborhoods and offer prices that fall well below local rental averages. Instead of in-country phone-based contact, scammers use VOIP numbers from foreign countries and text messaging to communicate with buyers and renters. All payments are requested via non-returnable methods like Moneygram, Western Union, Vanilla and wire transfer.
#7. Payday Loan Scams
Reported countries: India, Pakistan
Damages reported: $500 – $3000+
As previously mentioned, scammers love to pick their victims from those most in need — people who are willing to take out high-interest payday loans.
Like grant scams, payday loan scams rely heavily on legitimate leads gathered by payday loan affiliate website companies or advertising agencies. Advertising agencies use cleverly designed small websites to entice consumers who have bad debt to apply for payday loans. Once the information is gathered, they sell it to other companies and re-sell it over and over until a scamming company posing as a legitimate company gains access to it. From there, scammers advise payday loan applicants that they qualify for low interest loans that they can also can get immediately with payment of a processing- or security-related fee. For example, some scammers tell victims that the fee helps confirm that the victims have the means to repay their loans when it’s time. As with similar scams, payday loan scammers request upfront money through cash-like payment methods or wire transfer and then never follow through with any sort of loans. Sometimes these criminals also ask for the bank account details of their details. They claim that they need the information to direct deposit the approved payday loan amount, but in reality they take the information to steal from the accounts later or to sell it to those who will use it to steal.
#8. Timeshare Resale Scams
Reported countries: USA, India
Damages reported: $200-$3000+
“Don’t have the time or money to invest in your timeshare any longer? Need someone to take it off your hands? We have the perfect buyer for you!”
These lines are what scammers want you to believe.
For decades, criminals have taken advantage of the idea of sharing a single property between multiple owners to reduce costs.
Operating usually from within the United States, timeshare resale scammers tell their victims that they have buyers, or in some cases renters, ready to take over any timeshare at a moment’s notice. The scam? They require an upfront fee to move forward with the process. Timeshare resale scammers give their victims a wide range of reasons for the fee, including but not limited to: appraisal, marketing analysis and fees related to transfer or closing. Some even claim that any fees pay for marketing and go so far as to mock up a contract that has wording to that effect to reassure their victims.
#9. Dating and Relationship Scams
NEVER FUCKING CLICK ON A RANDOM EMAIL LINK FOR DATING SITES. JUST DON’T DO IT!
#10. Work from Home – Inspecting and Shipping Merchandise
Reported countries: Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe
Damages reported: Loss of funds for variable amounts. If not reported to authorities immediately, victims can suffer legal consequences if believed to be part of any criminal activities related to product sales or shipping.
Many people around the world dream of working from home. After all, who wouldn’t want to give up the stresses from commuting to work or dealing with co-workers? For some, job ads and websites claiming to offer at-home work opportunities seem like the perfect answer.
In reality, these offers are usually the bait for various types of scams.
One big scam in 2014 involves at-home merchandise inspection and shipping. Scammers set up professional-looking websites and claim that the sites are owned by shipping and logistics intermediaries. Some also set up sites to state that they can offer these work-at-home opportunities because they represent large merchant companies in the United States that don’t have international shipping services.
Scammers use job search website ads to attract victims or target victims using job board profiles. They go through the interview process with each victim, usually via an Internet communications application like Yahoo Messenger, and then offer a job to every single person they interviewed. Once they’ve “hired” their virtual workers, scammers use stolen credit cards to purchase merchandise and then ship it to their new work-at-home “employees” with instructions on how to open the packages, inspect the merchandise and ship it elsewhere.
Not long after, usually a week, the scammers cut all ties with their recent batch of employees or go a step further and attempt to scam their victims with fraudulent paychecks made out for amounts that are much greater than the compensation for time worked. Victims are then advised to deposit their checks and use the overpayment amount to perform a bank transfer of the funds to one or more people who supposedly weren’t paid for some type of service, such as document verification or office supplies. The check then bounces and victims to their horror that not only worked for free, but they also lost extra money.
#11. Fraudulent/Fake Check Scams
Reported countries: Nigeria, India and USA
Damages reported: $200-$3000+
One of the most popular scams involves scammers convincing unwitting victims to accept fraudulent/fake checks.
Victims with banks accounts in the United States receive checks for whatever reason at much higher amounts than expected. Scammers then use a variety of creative, clever stories to explain any compensation discrepancies and convince victim to send back overpayment via cash-like payment methods or wire transfer. When these checks bounce, the victim discover that they have been fleeced. Over the years, this scam has been used with a variety of consumer actions, including purchase of vehicles and renting property.
It really all comes down to this; do you know the person or company that allegedly sent the email? If so, contact them directly, don’t respond to the email. Second, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. It’s really that simple.
Also, no, there are no restaurants giving out $50 coupons for clicking a link. They’d go fucking broke if they did.