Online scammers have gotten more sinister during the COVID-19 era. (Photo: Getty Images)
We know that scams are rampant, but so many Americans still fall for them. Think you’re immune? Take Google’s scam spotter quiz and see if you can pass it.
You may have noticed that the number of robocalls slowed down when the pandemic hit. As call centers reopen around the world, robocalls are increasing. Tap or click here for proven ways to stop annoying robocalls for good.
Scammers have gotten more sinister. Here are five scams that are spreading now:
Scammers arise during disasters and crises and it’s no different during the ongoing pandemic. Be wary of COVID-19 scams on computers and smartphones.
Get $1,000 in COVID-19 relief
Many Facebook users have reported getting messages offering “COVID-19 relief grants.” The scammers pose as familiar contacts or relatives, offering the grants worth upwards of $1,000. If you take the bait, the scammers demand an upfront processing fee to send you the money.
Once you send the fee, the conversation either ends with the money you sent gone for good or the scammer requests even more fees. You may even get offers of additional grants. Scammers typically use either hacked or duplicated accounts created with stolen images and personal details.
Clicking the wrong links can send you straight to a malware mess. Here are the warning signs your phone or tablet has a virus.
If you are looking for COVID-19-related programs, go straight to the source or the official USA.gov page.
If you’re a victim of a COVID-19 scam, here’s how to report it:
• Report the scam post and fake profile on Facebook.
• Call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or email [email protected]
• If you have lost money online, submit your complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Scammers: People told they’re fired or may have COVID-19
The puppy is so dang cute
Many people want a pandemic puppy or kitten to ease the stress of current events. Scammers pose as individuals or breeders and post photos of the animals on social media, Craigslist, or dedicated pet websites.
You spot your new fur baby and reach out. The scammers ask questions via email or chat to pre-qualify you as an excellent potential adoptive family. The interview’s real reason is the scammers want you to get emotionally vested and attached to the animal.
Sorry, the animals don’t exist. The scammers use photos they stole online. Do a reverse image search to spot the fakes.
When you want a new pet, visit Petfinder and The Shelter Pet Project.
If you’re a victim of a pet scam, here’s how to report it:
• Petscams only investigates scams that are using their own website.
• You can report the scam posts and profiles on Facebook. There’s also a dedicated Puppy Scams page.
• You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
If you have lost money online in a pet scam, submit your complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
There’s porn in your cloud account
Say you get a phone call from Apple’s Special Investigations Unit. The bogus official-sounding investigator tells you that child pornography has been found in your online cloud account. He explains in great detail that someone likely planted child pornography on your computer and it’s being backed up to the cloud. Their forensic team needs complete access to your computer to find the child pornography and remove it.
Lucky you, Apple’s Special Investigations Unit accepts Amazon gift cards for payment. Just send them the gift card numbers and activation details.
A recent caller to my national radio show fell for this scam and sent the scammers over $90,000! Multiple red flags spell scam. Namely, Apple (or any other tech company) will not call you if there is child pornography on your computer. Law enforcement and the feds will knock on your door with warrants in hand.
Furthermore, no tech company will accept retail store gift cards for payment. When you get an unsolicited phone call from a big tech company that needs complete remote access to your computer, hang up.
If you are a victim of a telephone scam, here’s how to report it:
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
• Perhaps you fell for this scam because the caller ID was spoofed. Report this online with the Federal Communications Commission.
• Every state has a consumer protection office that can assist, too.
Need tech help?Use the Komando Community where you can leave your questions and get help.
I don’t remember ordering this
Have you gotten a mysterious package in the mail containing jewelry, kitchen utensils, or small toys? If so, you’re the victim of a bizarre “brushing scam” that involves packages originating from China. Sketchy online sellers try to bolster the number of positive reviews on Amazon and other shopping sites.
It’s actually a lot of work. Online sellers in China find addresses in the United States, where they can ship inexpensive packages. Afterward, they create a fake account on the shopping site using the address where they shipped the product. That address is only being used to let them create fake reviews.
Over the past few months, there was a wave of seeds received from China. Amazon has since banned the sale of all foreign plants and seeds on its site.
If you are a victim of a brushing scam, here’s what you need to do:
• File a complaint on Amazon as a security issue.
• For good measure, change your password at the shopping site.
By the way, according to the Federal Trade Commission, you are allowed to keep any products you receive as part of a brushing scam.
How can you tell good products from the junk online with fake reviews floating around? Tap or click for some online shopping know-how.
The CEO emailed me
With so much information available online on sites from Crunchbase to LinkedIn, along with state corporation records, it’s fairly easy to know who’s who in a company. These searches open the door to a breed of sneaky phishing email called BEC, short for “Business Email Compromise.”
You get an email that appears to be from your manager, co-worker, department head (HR is a favorite), or even the CEO. The return address looks legitimate and says it’s from @yourcompanyname.
The stories vary. Maybe you need to pay an invoice, check a budget, or complete a form. Don’t dilly dally. You have to do it now!
There is a file attached to the email. Open the attachment and you’ve got a keylogger on your system or worse. Recently, a BEC was spreading that contained a link that redirected you to a Microsoft SharePoint page for you to download the file. This roundabout method prevents email defenses from marking the message and attachment as spam.
If you just opened an attachment to a BEC, here’s what you need to do:
• Notify your company’s IT department and manager.
• Run a complete system scan for any viruses and malware. Here are some free online tools.
• Change your passwords to everything. Yes, it’s a total pain. These tips can make it easier.
If you or your company lost money in a BEC, here’s what you need to do:
• Notify your company’s IT department and your manager.
• Someone should notify your financial institution and have them contact the financial institution where you sent the money.
• Report the crime to your local FBI field office.
Since you lost money online, submit your complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Those are just five of the many scams circulating online. Trust me, by the time you’ve finished reading this, there will be more. Use your best judgment and remember, there’s always someone out there trying to fool you out of your money.
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
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