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Scammers Uncovered

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  • Anne Hutchins
  • May 04, 2013 03:39:36 AM

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Our website features news, information and resources for reporting fraud and text spam, as well as links to other websites determined to fight fraud. Let us know if you've encountered fraud either via email or through snail mail. Share your text spam and scam stories with us so that we can expose their shenanigans to the world.

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An infestation of coronavirus / COVID-19 scams to watch out for

When it comes to making money from tragedy, scammers know no bounds. Even in the midst of a dangerous worldwide pandemic, their scummy minds are busy concocting nefarious schemes to...

When it comes to making money from tragedy, scammers know no bounds. Even in the midst of a dangerous worldwide pandemic, their scummy minds are busy concocting nefarious schemes to take advantage of peoples’ fears in order to add to their own coffers. But armed with the right information, you can stop these schemes in their deadly tracks.

Many scams involve text messages, emails, and phone calls — and even some impressive looking mailings. These messages and phone calls might advertise a (bogus) cure or offers to be tested for coronavirus. Whatever you do, DO NOT click on any link within such emails or text messages since they are likely to lead to malware and spyware payloads. Data mining and phishing is usually their goal — and that’s likely to be in the form of sensitive information such as passwords to your financial accounts. If you need to crosscheck for facts, check for the most updated information.

From the FCC website regarding COVID-19 scams:

Some text scams are impersonating government agencies. The FCC recently learned of a text scam claiming to be from the “FCC Financial Care Center” and offering $30,000 in COVID-19 relief. There is no FCC program to provide relief funds to consumers. The text is likely a phishing attempt to get banking or other personal information from victims. The BBB is also warning of a text message scam impersonating the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services informs recipients that they must take a “mandatory online COVID-19 test” using the included link.

The modus operandi of most scammers is to impersonate government agencies. This particular epidemic is no exception. They are pretending to represent FEMA, the IRS, and even the World Health Organization. You might even receive a text message that sounds as if it came from a next door neighbor. According to to the National Security Council, these messages are quite fake. Such messages will announce rumors and conspiracy theories in order to entice you to respond. FEMA is currently tracking these rumors — and they can get pretty creative.

And, of course, there are the ubiquitous robocalls. Obviously, some of the “tells” are bad grammar and the use of text-to-speech software. Do not respond to ANY phone number listed in a robocall message. You will likely be connected with someone who intends to extract banking information and possibly your Social Security Number (for identity theft). Understand that government agencies will NEVER call you. So, delete and block those phone numbers!

Some of these messages are targeting high risk individuals with diabetes, offering free COVID-19 test kits with a “free” diabetic monitor thrown it. Other “offers” are for fake cures and HVAC duct cleaning which is “supposed” to “protect” your home environment from the virus. Scammers are also taking advantage of people who are unemployed due to coronavirus and are desperate for income. These involve work-from-home opportunities, student loan repayment plans, and debt consolidation offers. Even small businesses are being targeted with these schemes — usually for funding or loans and online listing verification.

The FCC offers these tips to help you in avoiding these scams:

• Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
• Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
• Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
• Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering or responding.  Remember that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money.
• Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
• Always check on a charity (for example, by calling or looking at its actual website) before donating. (Learn more about charity scams.)

Also, beware of mailings that look suspicious. Some people have received what appears to be a stimulus check, but turns out to be a check with some serious bounce. Always verify any such mailings directly with the proper agency. This also means that prior to receiving your stimulus check you should exercise extreme caution. Please note that the Treasury Department will never contact you (particularly via phone, text message, and email) to verify banking information or even your mailing address. This information should ONLY be provided DIRECTLY to the IRS website after registration.

So, as you’re practicing “social distancing,” also practice scam distancing. Get your facts from reputed sources and don’t succumb to rumor, conspiracy theories and innuendo. Stay safe, everyone!

“Print at home” scam still going around

Just like a bad penny, print at home scams are making a comeback. It’s a variation of the Nigerian 419 “Advance Fee” scam, which seems to mutate into many forms...

Just like a bad penny, print at home scams are making a comeback. It’s a variation of the Nigerian 419 “Advance Fee” scam, which seems to mutate into many forms like a nasty, persistent virus. And in this case, a virus which attacks and exploits your economic vulnerability as if your bank account were a weakened immune system. As the economy continues to limp along, these scams will continue to nip at your heels. As with all scams, this one fails the “if it sounds too good to be true, then it IS too good to be true” rule and therefore this scam should be avoided at all costs (no pun intended). Here’s a detailed breakdown of what this particular scam encompasses.

I hadn’t thought about this particular scam in years, but encountering the following ad in Craigslist (click the image for a larger view), I decided to expose this virulent bug once again.

print_scammersBecause most people aren’t always going to come to the scammers, the scammers must come to you. All you need do is post an ad for a job anywhere online and it’s akin to chumming for sharks. It doesn’t matter if you’re seeking a job as a computer analyst or a dishwasher, these scumbags will answer your ad with an “offer” they hope will entice you to take their bait. As you can see from the above Craigslist ad, this person received various “offers” of the same stripe, but all carrying the stench of a scam.

Never be so desperate for a job that you’ll throw caution and logic to the wind. These fraudsters are counting on that desperation to fill their coffers.


Scammers are conning HR personnel into providing access to employees’ W2s

Scammers have found yet another angle in illegally obtaining sensitive personal information. Rather than simply targeting random people and harassing them with robocalls posing as the IRS, fraudsters have decided...

Scammers have found yet another angle in illegally obtaining sensitive personal information. Rather than simply targeting random people and harassing them with robocalls posing as the IRS, fraudsters have decided that contacting the human resource personnel of large companies — often using company stationery and signing off with the names of company CEOs and CFOs — is far more lucrative. Apparently, they’re focusing on the “scare factor” by intimidating such personnel into handing over all manner of employee information, including W2 records. Afraid to verify the authority of these requests, the HR personnel give these scammers what they want. It’s believed by authorities that these requests are most likely are being sent by Eastern European hacker groups planning to sell the information or claim fraudulent tax refunds. Welcome to the latest great tax season scam!

Two companies which have been attacked have been Seagate Technology and Snapchat — no doubt there are others, but they aren’t eager to expose their individual HR departments’ naivete. It is, after all, rather embarrassing to admit to such security protocol breaches, and according to this article employers are trying to perform damage control by offering “free credit monitoring” for compromised employees. Too little, too late.

The scam, which involved fake emails purportedly sent by top company officials, convinced the companies involved to send out W-2 tax forms that are ideal for identity theft. For instance, W-2 data can easily be used to file bogus tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds.

The embarrassing breakdowns have prompted employers to apologize and offer free credit monitoring to employees. Such measures, however, won’t necessarily shield unwitting victims from the headaches that typically follow identity theft.

“This mistake was caused by human error and lack of vigilance, and could have been prevented,” Seagate’s chief financial officer, Dave Morton, wrote in a March 4 email to the company’s employees about the breach.

The swindlers behind the tax scam are exploiting human gullibility rather than weaknesses in computer or Internet security. They have targeted company payroll and personnel departments, in many instances with emails claiming to be requests from the company CEO asking for copies of worker W-2s.
The schemes are so widespread that the IRS sent a March 1 notice alerting employers’ payroll departments of the spoofing emails. The IRS said it’s seen a 400 percent increase in phishing and computer malware incidents this tax-filing season.

The agency said the scheme has so far claimed “several victims,” but declined to disclose how many other employers had reported releasing W-2s to unauthorized parties.

Apparently, it’s not always that scammers are targeting clueless people, it’s that they themselves are becoming more bold, wily and creative. And it’s almost impossible to stay one step ahead of them when this happens. Question authority, even if it means you risk losing your job. That’s a tough call.

New phishing scam emails target Apple users

We’ve all received those bogus phishing emails that begin with “Some limitations have been placed on your account…”, right? They’re mostly for PayPal and every bank imaginable, whether you have...

We’ve all received those bogus phishing emails that begin with “Some limitations have been placed on your account…”, right? They’re mostly for PayPal and every bank imaginable, whether you have an account with those institutions or not — and whether or not they’re linked to the specific email address mail box they landed in. Hopefully you’re deleting every one of them.

Well, now these spamming scumbags are targeting anyone with an Apple ID account, which can include anyone owning a Mac computer, iPhone, iPad or any other Apple device — particularly if you want to purchase anything from the iTunes app store. According to MacObserver, you’ll receive an email which looks somewhat legit:

apple_id_phishing_emailIt’s anything but legit, despite the dearth of grammatical and syntax errors usually found in most phishing emails. According to the article, all is not what it seems:

The threat, spotted by Comodo Antispam Labs, targets potential victims with an email claiming their account has been “limited.” It goes on to say that providing personal information will fix the problem, and includes a link to a website that looks surprisingly legit. Once there, you’re asked to enter your Apple ID, name, birthdate, address, social security number, and credit card information.

If you aren’t paying close attention, the email sounds legit, and the website looks like something Apple would design. The easy tells for the scam, however, are in the email message.

Eventually, the text devolves into a desperate plea for your Apple ID login information — and the grammar and syntax devolves as expected, revealing these shysters for the scam artists that they are. Whatever you do, DO NOT click any links within the content of the email. If you have any concerns that your account is amiss, go DIRECTLY to Apple’s website instead:

If you get an email telling you there’s a problem with your Apple ID and you think there’s a chance it’s legit (hint: it probably isn’t), don’t click the links in the message. Instead, go to Apple’s website where you can manage your Apple ID yourself. The URL Apple uses for managing Apple IDs is

If you think you’ve been tricked into giving up your Apple ID, go to the Apple ID management webpage and change your password. Also contact your bank in case the credit card linked to your Apple ID has been compromised.

Actually, this is sound advice for ANY phishing email that you receive, regardless of the institution or company ‘represented.’ If you have any concerns at all, go directly to the source (aka the OFFICIAL company website) and log into your account. Never, EVER click a link in any of these emails. Reputable companies always instruct you to go directly to their website and never include direct links. These scammers prey on your anxiety — don’t let them fool you into revealing your secure information.

Microsoft sues tech support firm for bogus support

Microsoft, the software behemoth, usually doesn’t bother with small potato tech firms. Unless they start pimping themselves as Microsoft tech support and using Microsoft’s logo, defrauding consumers in the name...

Microsoft, the software behemoth, usually doesn’t bother with small potato tech firms. Unless they start pimping themselves as Microsoft tech support and using Microsoft’s logo, defrauding consumers in the name of Microsoft and to the tune of major ill-gotten lucre. That’s when the operating system titan goes after you with a ginormous lawsuit. Such is the case with a company called Omnitech Support.

So what did Omnitech Support do to deserve the wrath of Microsoft? Oh, tell potential customers that their computers were infected…when they weren’t. And to “prove” it, Omnitech deliberately infected PCs with all manner of malware, spyware and the usual backdoor viruses. Then charged those unwitting PC users for “removal” of the nasty bugs. But they apparently didn’t remove everything, leaving keylogging spyware behind — all the better to plumb those PCs for passwords and other sensitive information.

So how do you avoid being scammed thusly? According to this article, here are some pointers (which are pretty obvious):

Microsoft recommends users to refuse paying for support when someone contacts them directly and to avoid paying for any software or services.

In most of the cases, scammers are also asking for a fee or subscription that comes with the service, so the company says that it’s better to hang up. Never, but never give access to your computer to someone who claims to be a representative of Microsoft or any other tech support company, and try to write down information provided by the caller to report them to authorities.

Obviously, you should also avoid disclosing personal information and credit card details to someone who calls you offering support services in exchange for any fee.

Of course, these particular scumbags were targeting people with Windows-based PCs — but Mac users shouldn’t smirk. I’m sure that there are bogus tech support firms pulling the same scam on unsuspecting Mac owners. Don’t forget those MacSweeper pop-ups claiming to “clean up” your Mac’s hard drive…and, of course, they’ll leave a nasty little surprise behind. There may be few Mac viruses in the wild, but there are plenty of spyware/malware that can easily find their way into your Mac’s innards. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll hear of Apple clobbering some tech support fraudster with a lawsuit for the same offense.

Scammers are now targeting web designers and other creatives

One of the most important warning signs when encountering a possible scam is the “If it’s too good to be true, it most likely IS too good to be true”...

One of the most important warning signs when encountering a possible scam is the “If it’s too good to be true, it most likely IS too good to be true” rule. If you’re a freelance web designer/developer or a graphic designer,  you’re always promoting your business through social media, ads and word of mouth recommendations. With these promotional tactics you eventually draw potential clients who contact you directly, whether via email or phone call. And, with the economy still only limping along, you’ve probably lowered your rates considerably. So, when you receive an email from a potential client with a generous budget, you hope that it’s for real. But this is when you must go into “Caution Mode” or risk losing money instead of earning money.

There’s a new take on the Nigerian-style “I’ll send you money through my (stolen) credit card, and you’ll send a portion of it back to me via wire transfer” scheme. No longer content to target senior citizens and random people, this particular breed of fraudster is targeting web designers/developers, graphic designers and other creatives. Rather bold to target people who are computer literate enough to perform web searches to check out their story, but I reckon these scammers are more desperate than bold.

I’m a web developer and recently received the following email from a “Jason Hernandez” (email address

Good Day, Am Jason Hernandez i will like to know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you do you accept credit cards ?? kindly get back to me asap so i can send you the job details.
Jason ..

I’ve had non-native English-speaking clients in the past and they were indeed legitimate, so I responded:


I develop websites in WordPress almost exclusively now. I only accept payment via PayPal.

I see that you’re in New Jersey. How did you hear about me?

The reason I mentioned New Jersey is that there was also this Reply-To address: I visited the website with its old-school postage-stamp layout, complete with a (horrors!) Flash header. What’s hilarious is the Flash-animated header boasts “Cutting Edge Technologies” — sure, if this were…oh…2003, maybe. According to their Contact page, they’re based in New Jersey. Anyway, I’m hoping that Maple Web Design is innocent and has nothing to do with this particular scammer. I’m hoping.

Klaxon bells started going off when I received the reply, however:

Thanks for your swift response

I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in TX and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Bitter cola and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it that will catch customer heart whenever they get logged on on our website.And i do believe you can be able to have a perfect job done for me ?. so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible The site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant handle my text content and the logos for the site.

1. I want the same number of pages with the ones i higlighted on the site i gave you .
2. I want only English language
3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be providing the images,logos and content for the site.
6.i want the site up and running before ending of next month.
7. My budget is $3000 to $6000

Kindly get back to me with:
(1) Your estimate within the range i undermentioned
(2) your cell phone number
(3) And will like to know if you are the owner ?

The first tip-off that this might be a potential scam is the budget. Now, in the old days of the web I could make that kind of lucre on a website, but with the avalanche of cut-rate dirt cheap offshore developers many of us have had to reduce our rates considerably. There are design firms that still get the big bucks for building websites and branding, but they’re able to snare clients with deep pockets. Also, nowadays, most potential clients aren’t going to tell you what their budget is (unless it’s under $1000) — they’re hoping to coax you into low-balling your quote. This is a win-win for the client.

The second tip-off is that they’re specifically asking for a “cell phone number” and “if you are the owner.” As a scam hunter, this really caught my attention — enough to do a web search. I started with “” and found out immediately that this is, in fact, a scam. I didn’t play along, but another designer did. Here is the reply he received (from a different scammer, and with a different trope):

Thanks for your response, I am okay with the estimate everything sound good and  i’m  ready to make payment now with my credit card, I understand the content for this site would be needed so work can start asap but i will need a Little favor from you and the favor is that I will  send you my credit card to charge for the sum of $6,450.00 plus 3% Cc company charges, You will deduct $3,250.00 as deposit for the design of the website plus extra $200.00 as a tip for handling perfect work for me and you will send the remaining  $3,000.00 to the project consultant that has the text content and the logo for my website  so once he receive the $3,000.00 he would send the text content and logo needed for my website to you so work can start asap,Sending of funds would be after money clears into  your account and You will be charging my card for remaining balance upon completion of   work.

Kindly get back to me so we can proceed with payment asap


Witney wharf 

I’m pretty sure that “Jason Hernandez” would have replied with the same text, word for word. Again, these scumbags are hoping that you’ll be desperate and greedy enough to accept a full payment (which will be bogus, of course) and send half of it (with your money) to their “project consultant.” And of course you’ll eventually be notified by your bank that the payment sent by the fraudsters was returned and your now-overdrawn bank account has been drained of $3000 (which you will never see again). Yes, a kerfuffle of MAJOR proportions.

I couldn’t resist replying, using my email address:

Well, well, well. It looks like I discovered a scammer. This is a new one for me, trying to scam a web developer with project bait. Oh, lucky you — you stumbled on a scam hunter. Yep, I run a blog,, and I ALWAYS check out too-good-to-be-true “opportunities”. As soon as I received this reply, I smelled the stench of a scam. And sure enough, looky what I found after a search of “”: Almost word-for-word, with only a few edits…man, you fraudsters are just soooo lazy.

And guess what? I’m going to feature this on! Today!

Bye-bye and TaTa, scammer scum!

I doubt I’ll receive an acknowledgment of sorts from “Mr. Hernandez,” but if I do I’ll be sure to pass along to him the URL to this article. After all, I do keep my promises.


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