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National Consumer Protection Week

This week marks the 17th National Consumer Protection Week. The partnership highlights the collaboration of 89 agencies and non-profits that provide consumer education resources to help stop fraud in its tracks. National Consumer Protection Week is spearheaded by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. As a leading consumer advocate, FraudAvengers shares in this growing effort to empower consumers to take charge and become a strong first line of defense against fraud in their communities. Consumer protection extends from online safety to avoidance of identity theft. The FTC’s Consumer Complaints Report for 2014 shows the ever increasing nature of fraud against consumers. For instance, identity theft topped the list nationally for the 15th year in a row, accounting for 13% of all consumer complaints. Debt collection schemes are still pulled out of criminals’ bags of tricks all too often, accounting for 11% of all scams reported. They are tied with “imposter” scams, which nearly doubled last year from 6% to 11%. “Imposters” call and troll online or in-person representing themselves as someone with a connection to a consumer, such as:
  • A long-lost family member in need of assistance.
  • A lottery official offering fake winnings.
  • A bank official making a report about activity on your account.
  • An IRS official inquiring about your tax return information.
  • An internet or phone service provider offering new savings and services.
  • A charity or agency official after a regional disaster.
Last year, imposters fooled a reported 276,662 U.S. consumers. Become an Advocate: Consumers can gain access to tools that can help protect themselves, their families, friends, and neighbors. You can host a forum, blog about it, send a press release to your local media and tell all your friends. You can get free information to learn how to recognize scams, more effectively manage your money, and stay safe online. This includes videos you can post on social media, handouts for public gatherings, and other materials that you can use for consumer education, such as local and regional agency, family or neighborhood association events. You can learn about online “consumer” review schemes and such topics as debit and credit card practices that can cost you money. And, you can join in the national conversation to talk about the scams you see in your community. Follow @FTC on twitter at: #NCPW15 to join the conversation on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time. If you spot a scam, file a complaint with the FTC. You can find a list of phone numbers and online complaint links for your state here. If you’ve already responded to a scam, end all further communication and refer to our tools to minimize further damage. To Lessen Your Exposure:
  • Limit the personal information you publish on social networking sites.
  • Use caution with storing and sending sensitive documents.
  • Update browsers, virus and malware protection.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year.
Additional Resources:

It's Back! Survey Scam Strikes Again

It's one of those scams that just keeps reappearing... each time with a new twist. The customer survey scam is back, this time as a phishing email that tries to trick you into collecting reward points.

It's one of those scams that just keeps reappearing... each time with a new twist. The customer survey scam is back, this time as a phishing email that tries to trick you into collecting reward points.

How the Scam Works:

You receive an email with a version of this subject line: "Your Reward Points are Expiring. Claim Now!" or "Your eBalance Points are Expiring Soon!" The email uses the name of a well-known store. Many brands, from Macy's to Walgreens, have been impersonated. 

You are a frequent shopper at the store, so you click to open the message. The email says that you've been selected to complete a survey about your recent customer experience. Finish the questionnaire, says the email, and you will receive $100 or more in "bonus-points."

It sounds easy, but don't click the link! These survey scams have a variety of tricks. The link may lead to a real survey, which upon completion, prompts you to purchase spammy products such as diet pills and wrinkle cream. In other versions, the form is actually a phishing scam that requests banking and credit card information. Finally, the link may also download malware to your computer. 

How to Spot a Scam Email

In general, it's best not to click on links that come in unsolicited emails. Here are some more ways to spot a malicious email just in case your spam filter doesn't catch it. 

  1. The email claims to have information about you, but you never signed up for it. Scams often pretend to be personalized for you, but they are actually blast emails. Don't fall for this! If you never signed up for emails from a company, you shouldn't be receiving them.
  2. Pushes you to act immediately: Scammers typically try to push you into action before you have had time to think. Always be wary of emails urging you to act immediately or face a consequence. 
  3. Watch for typos, strange phrasing and bad grammar. Scammers can easily copy a brand's logo and email format, but awkward wording and poor grammar are typically a give away that the message is a scam. 
  4. Hover over URLs to reveal their true destination. Typically, the hyperlinked text will say one thing, but the link will point somewhere else. Make sure the links actually lead to the business' official website, not a variation of the domain name. 
_________________ The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.  

What is a Remote Administration Tool (RAT)?

Ever felt like your computer was possessed? Or that you aren’t the only one using your tablet? I think I smell a rat. Literally, a RAT.Ever felt like your computer was possessed? Or that you aren’t the only one using your tablet? I think I smell a rat. Literally, a RAT. A RAT or remote administration tool, is software that gives a person full control a tech device, remotely. The RAT gives the user access to your system, just as if they had physical access to your device. With this access, the person can access your files, use your camera, and even turn on/off your device. RATs can be used legitimately. For example, when you have a technical problem on your work computer, sometimes your corporate IT guys will use a RAT to access your computer and fix the issue. Unfortunately, usually the people who use RATs  are hackers (or rats) trying to do harm to your device or gain access to your information for malicious purposes. These type of RATs are also called remote access   as they are often downloaded invisibly without your knowledge, with a legitimate  program you requested—such as a game. Once the RAT is installed on your device, the hacker  can wreak havoc. They could steal your sensitive information, block your keyboard so you can’t type, install other malware, and even render your devices useless. They  could also A well-designed RAT will allow the hacker the ability to do anything that they could do with physical access to the device. So remember, just like you don’t want your home infested by rats, you also don’t want a RAT on your device. Here are some tips on how you can avoid  a RAT.
  • Be careful what links you click and what you download. Often times RATs are installed unknowingly by you after you’ve opened an email attachment or visited an software in the background.
  • Beware of P2P file-sharing. Not only is a lot the content in these files pirated, criminals love to sneak in a few malware surprises in there too.
  • Use comprehensive security software on all your devices. Make sure you install a security suite like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, which protects your data and identity on all your PCs, Macs, tablets and smartphones.
Keep your devices RAT free! _________________ Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

Work-at-Home Scam Targets College Students

A new twist on the classic work-from-home scheme is targeting college students. Don't let the promise of easy money lure you into this con.

A new twist on the classic work-from-home scheme is targeting college students. Don't let the promise of easy money lure you into this con. 

How the Scam Works:

You receive an email to your school account offering you a job in a company's payroll or human resources department. The work is simple. All you need to do is receive a "payroll deposit" from the company to your personal bank account. Then, you transfer the money to other accounts. It seems like an easy job for a busy student, and you are tempted to accept the offer. 

Don't do it! Not only is this "job" not what is seems, it's actually a crime. If you take the position, you will be assisting cyber criminals in transferring stolen money. If you participate, your bank account will be flagged for criminal activity, and you could be prosecuted. 

How to Spot a Job Scam: 

  • Watch out for these phrases: Scam ads or emails often contain the phrases "Teleworking OK," "Immediate Start" and "No Experience Needed." Watch out for ads that urge you to apply immediately.
  • Be very cautious of any job that asks you to share personal banking information. Scammers will often request banking info under the guise of running a credit check, setting up direct deposit or, in this case, using your bank account to transfer funds.
  • Some positions are more likely to be scams: Always be wary of work from home, secret shopper positions or any job with a generic title, such as admin assistant or customer service representative. These often don't require special training or licensing, so they appeal to a wide range of applicants.
  • If a job looks suspicious, search for it online. If the result comes up in many other cities with the exact same job post, it is likely a scam. Also, check the company's job page to make sure the position is posted there. 
  • Watch out for on-the-spot job offers. You may be an excellent candidate for the job, but beware of offers made without an interview. A real company will want to talk to a candidate before hiring him or her. 

 _________________

The BBB is dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers in the U.S. and Canada, instilling consumer confidence and contributing to a trustworthy marketplace for all.