Scam and Fraud roundup: The latest cons


young woman fraud victim looking distressed

Thieves are highly creative and spend 24-7 just trying to figure out ways to separate you from your money. Even if you are super safe and cautious, you can be a victim of a con, a phish or a fraud. Scams happen both online and off – but it’s quite efficient for criminals to mass target potential victims via the phone and email. Check our our roundup of some of the latest scams, according to some of our favorite security sources.

Social Security is not trying to take your benefits
The Federal Trade Commission posts a robocall of the latest scams which threaten to end your benefits. They offer this reminder:

  • Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended.
  • The real Social Security Administration will never call to threaten your benefits.
  • The real SSA will never tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on a gift card.

American Express Phishing Attack Targets Customers
If you are an American Express cardholder, learn the email phishing and phone scams. Learn more about it and how to avoid it. Also remember this good advice:

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.

Don’t pay for help with student loans
If you have student loan debt, a program that promises to reduce or erase it might sound like just what you need. But some of these programs just take lots of your money and give you no help — or do only what you could have done easily by yourself.  Don’t pay for help finding money for College; Don’t pay for the Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA®) form – it’s free; Avoid scams for loan or forgiveness – you can contact the lender yourself. The Department of Education has a great resource on Avoiding Scams that offers detailed explanations of common scams and reputable sources for grants and scholarships. Also, see this one page handout: Don’t Get Scammed on Your Way to College

Don’t Fall for Equifax Settlement Scams
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. If you were a victim of the Equifax breach, learn how to avoid scammers and get to the legitimate sources.

The latest news on romance scams
People reported losing $143 million in romance schemes last year, more than any other type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

How not to get scammed, according to a former con artist
You may recall Frank Abagnale – or if not him, you may recall Leonardo DiCaprio’s depiction of him in the 2002 Spielberg film, Catch Me If You Can. Abagnale was a highly successful conman until he was caught and served 5 year in prison decades ago. He later became a security consultant for the US government and FBI. Read his recent interview in Vox, where he talks about his latest book dealing with robocalls, IRS fraud, and good old-fashioned stolen passwords. He says these are still some of the leading ways that Americans lost $16.8 billion to scams in 2017. According to Abegnale, “Crime is basically the same; the only thing that’s changed is today there are so many forms of communication and the ability to scam someone from thousands of miles away without ever really having personal contact with them.” See our past post on Abegnale, A conman you should listen to.

Past posts on scams & fraud

 

Imposter scams top the FTC fraud list for 2018


In 2018, people reported losses of nearly $1.48 billion in fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.) That was a $406 million over what consumers reported losing in 2017. One in every 4 people who report fraud to the FTC suffer some monetary losses.

The FTC, which monitors fraud through its Consumer Sentinel Network, has collected tens of millions of consumer reports about fraud, identity theft, and other consumer protection topics over more than 20 years. In a recently issued report, The 2018 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (FTC), the FTC summarizes nearly 3 million consumer reports. Reports encompass both those in which money was lost, as well as those in which mo money was lost.

They sort consumer reports into 29 top fraud categories, and of those categories, in 2018, the three that topped the list of reports were:

  • Imposter Scams -18%
  • Debt collection – 16%
  • Identity theft – 15%

chart- top 10 fraud categories

Related: Imposter scams top the list of 2018 consumer fraud complaints and Fraud alert: This is (not) the government calling.

Some other key fraud report findings include:

  • Telephone was the method of contact for 69% of fraud reports with a contact method identified
  • Wire transfers continue to be the most frequently reported payment method for fraud
  • Those aged 20-29 reported losing money to fraud in 43% of reports, while people aged 70 – 79 reported losing money in 15% of their reports.
  • People aged 70 and older reported much higher median losses than any other age group.
  • States with the highest per capita rates of reported fraud in 2018 were Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Delaware, and Maryland.
  • States with the highest reports of identity theft were Georgia, Nevada,California, Florida, and Texas

You can search the full report to find a breakdown of information on fraud by state – here are more highlights.

consumer fraud infographic

Equifax Data Breach: Here’s what to do if you haven’t acted yet


criminal looking through computer data

If you’ve been immobilized about taking action related to the mammoth Equifax data breach, you’re not alone – many people have been. The sheer enormity and scope of the breach – 143 million records in the US alone – left many feeling hopeless. There have been big breaches before so it is easy to become numb to the significance, but this is a truly alarming incident that merits a response. Equifax, as one of the nation’s big three credit reporting bureaus, has access to your most sensitive personal data, including your birth date, Social Security number, driver’s license, address, account history and more.

We’ve gathered the best consumer advice we’ve found from trusted sources on what you can do to protect yourself.

First up: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has compiled an excellent summary page: The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do. It explains more about the breach and the steps that you should take to protect yourself. FTC also points to a very useful site from IdentityTheft.gov related to what you should to when your information is lost or exposed. In a simple drop down menu, they guide you through the steps you should take for various types of exposure, including information about specific breaches. You can see more about these services in this video clip:

Next up: This brief video from AARP is also quite good. Here’s the accompanying article: How to Protect Your Personal Data From Hackers.

Finally, more excellent advice on actions consumers should take comes from Trend Micro, the digital security firm. Their Simply Security blog features a post on The Equifax Data Breach: What Do I Do Next? At the end f the post, they offer a bulleted list of action stops.

Key links you need:

66 ways to protect your identity and privacy


PrivacyNot again. The news is full of reports that more than 500 million online users had their privacy breached in the recent Yahoo online hack. Yahoo is not alone – LinkedIn, MySpace, Dropbox, Target, Anthem, Sony — it’s impossible to keep track, but you can see a list of the largest data breaches of all time for a trip down memory lane. And now we learn that Russian hackers are trying to compromise our voting and election systems.

What’s a person to do?

Well, if you fear your info was leaked in the recent Yahoo leak, the company has an info page of signs of a hacked Yahoo account and what to do.

But taking remedial steps after the horse gets out of the barn doesn’t help you much for protection  from the next attack. If your house was robbed, you’d take steps to beef up security, and online isn’t much different – you need to take serious preventive steps now to avoid exposure. It’s human nature to put this off – plus, it can be hard to know just what steps to take. That’s why we were happy to see that the recent Consumer Reports has made online security a focus of the new issue.

Their excellent article 66 Ways to Protect Your Privacy Right Now is a comprehensive must-read, covering online, mobile and real-world security matters. It includes concrete tips, how-tos, and videos on the following topics:

  • Screen locks
  • Snail mail privacy
  • Unbreakable passwords
  • Mobile account safety
  • Connected devices
  • Handling public WiFi
  • Everyday encryption
  • Facebook settings
  • Home WiFi settings
  • Boosting web browser privacy
  • Beating ransomware
  • How to avoid phishing schemes
  • Google settings

If you find 66 steps a little overwhelming, here’s their suggestion for a shortcut: The Consumer Reports 10-Minute Digital Privacy Tuneup

Here are some related resources that we’ve previously posted:

 

Identity Theft Protection: A guide to what & when to shred


Depositphotos_41034773_xs

Wondering which financial documents to keep and which to shred? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers this handy shredding infographic along with an accompanying article A pack rat’s guide to shredding. Both offer helpful advice on what security experts say you should shred immediately (ATM receipts, credit card offers, sales receipts) to what you should keep forever (birth certificates, tax returns) and everything in between. This is only one of the many great Identity Theft resources available from the FTC.

Talk to your local insurance agent about whether your homeowners policy covers identity theft and if not, have a talk about identity theft insurance. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a good primer on ID Theft Insurance.

shredding-infographic