Saturday, June 13, 2020

Hang up on tech support calls

The "tech support scam" has been around a long time—ever since humans started using Internet-connected computers.

I've posted about this previously but thought this might be a good time for a reminder. With the world news spiraling out of control lately, scammers are keen to take advantage of vulnerability arising from our fear and uncertainty.

If you receive a pop-up on your computer or a telephone call saying there is something wrong with your computer that needs to be urgently fixed, it is a scam perpetrated by imposters who often claim to represent Microsoft.

In April 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) posted a brief but helpful consumer alert entitled Hang up on tech support calls at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/04/hang-tech-support-calls?utm_source=govdelivery.

Meanwhile, keep these tips in mind:

  • Do not respond to unknown callers. Just hang up.
  • Do not let any stranger or unverified caller take remote control of your computer.
  • Never share your password with any caller, ever.
  • Do not provide sensitive information (SSN, bank account number, date of birth, etc.) to any unknown caller. 
  • If you do get a call, file a complaint with the FTC at ttps://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post on social media.

For additional information, see the Microsoft support page at https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4013405/windows-protect-from-tech-support-scams.

Monday, May 25, 2020

You are at very high risk of getting 'phished' right now

This morning there was an unexpected message in my personal email inbox to click a link and sign in to my new "health portal." It was from a healthcare outfit I'd never heard of, and the sender name displayed was "eCW Patient Portal." There was no doctor's name or healthcare group/facility listed anywhere in the message. So I deleted it.

Perhaps it was legit. If so, I don't really care. The last thing I need is another website login. If one of my healthcare providers truly needs me to log in to their patient portal, I'm sure I'll be informed sooner or later by the trusted source.

Right now, with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the associated new rules that go with it, scammers are having a field day with phishing emails, websites and phone calls. Don't fall for these. Seeing information online (in any form, including video) does not make it real.

There is more fake news, misinformation, and disinformation online than we would like to believe. And it spreads rapidly across social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Check out this Wired magazine article about Internet deception (December 2019): https://www.wired.com/story/internet-deception-stay-what-do-now/.

Avoid falling for phishing scams by scrutinizing the sender information as well as the content. Do not click links or open attachments unless you have validated they are safe. When in doubt, contact the sender via an alternate communication channel to validate the message is real.

Even if you know and trust the sender, if anything seems just a tiny bit "off" about the message, trust your instinct and don't click. Every week at work I see at least 10 emails come in from hacked accounts, trying to fool our employees with phishing messages. We train them not to click.

It really is that simple: stop clicking.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Ignore child pornography scares

Hackers will do anything to get your attention, including making threats against you based on fraudulent claims you've been watching child pornography on your computer.

While most of us are a bit on edge right now, as we attempt to adjust to an uncertain new world amidst COVID-19 fears, we need to maintain good sense and not let our fears get the best of us.

Security expert Brian Krebs warns of a new email scam suggesting that someone using your unique IP address or network interface card address ("MAC") has been caught viewing child pornography. The sender name is fraudulently displayed as "Microsoft Support," and the message indicates that your Windows license will be suspended unless you call a particular number to reinstate it.

This story is so far out there that some of you may wonder how people can possibly fall for this scam. But the truth is, given the right state of mind and circumstances, any one of us can fall victim to a social engineering attack. And the elderly and mentally challenged are prime targets for a scam like this.

Always be skeptical of any email containing a threat or false accusation.

For the full article, go to https://krebsonsecurity.com/2020/05/tech-support-scam-uses-child-porn-warning/.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

COVID-19 insurance scams

This week at work I found another great site that informs the public about the latest scams. It is the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud at https://www.insurancefraud.org/index.htm.

According to the coalition, the top five COVID-19 insurance scams are:

  • Fake "corona" insurance.
  • Cancelled health insurance.
  • Corona medicines, tests.
  • Senior scams.
  • Bogus travel insurance. 


To download this infographic and others, visit https://www.insurancefraud.org/Infographic.htm.


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Beware COVID-19 scams

There are dozens of COVID-19 related scams running rampant right now. The best way to stay up-to-date on those scams is to subscribe to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) blog. To do this, navigate to https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog in your browser and click the blue Get Email Updates button.

Here is a summary of how scammers are exploiting our fears surrounding Coronavirus: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing, along with these tips on avoiding scams today and well into the future:
  • Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government. The details are still coming together.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There are no products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
  • Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information. And don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
Don't fall for anyone trying to sell you masks or other medical equipment. Hang up on "tech support" callers. Don't provide personal or sensitive information to callers or emailers. Avoid clicking links and opening attachments in email. Give only to charities that you are familiar with. Be smart and don't click. 

Report scams to the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Avoiding SSA scams during COVID-19

During the world pandemic, new scams are popping up right and left. The FTC has posted a number of tricks to watch out for, including Social Security Administration (SSA) impersonations.

Two key things to remember:

  • The SSA will never call you or email you with threats of losing benefits or suspending your Social Security Number (SSN). 
  • Never give your SSN out to any unexpected caller or in response to an email. 

Here is the succinct article telling you exactly what to look out for: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/04/avoiding-ssa-scams-during-covid-19?utm_source=govdelivery

Tell your family and friends about these hacks. The only way we can beat the bad guys is to share information with each other.

And remember, to protect your identity you need to freeze your credit. Assume that your SSN is already for sale on the dark web. See frozenpii.com for more information. Don't forget to freeze credit for your underage children as well.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Grandparents: be aware of new twist on old scam

Several years ago, the "family emergency" scams--also known as the "grandparents" scam based on the use of elderly targets, started making the rounds and creating significant monetary loss for our old folks. The grandparents would receive a call from someone claiming to be a grandchild; the caller then set them up with a dramatic story about being in trouble with the law and needing upwards of $3,000 cash wired right away to pay legal fees.

One of my mom's neighbors fell for this a few years ago and lost $2,800. Once the money is wired, you can never get it back. For more information on the original scam, see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams.

Today, with the world coronavirus pandemic in play, there's a new twist on the old scam: The imposter "grandchild" caller urgently claims that he/she is sick and/or stuck overseas and needs money wired immediately to get healthcare or transport home.

Here is the full story on the Federal Trade Commission web site https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/04/grandparent-scams-age-coronavirus?utm_source=govdelivery.

Here are some tips from the FTC to know about in case you receive a panicked phone call, email or text from a purported family member claiming to be in a dire situation and needing cash fast:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
  • Call a phone number for your this "family member" that you know to be genuine.
  • Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Do not wire money; do not send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
  • Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.