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A Text Message Mess

Let me set the scene: your friend John is rushing to get his daughter from school and his son to the soccer field, and he still needs to stop at the grocery store because there’s nothing in the fridge. In the midst of this everyday madness, he gets a text message from Google with a verification code.
Let me set the scene: your friend John is rushing to get his daughter from school and his son to the soccer field, and he still needs to stop at the grocery store because there’s nothing in the fridge. In the midst of this everyday madness, he gets a text message from Google with a verification code. He thinks, “That’s weird. Maybe I should log in to my email and see what’s going on.” Before he has a chance, he gets another message. It says:
Google has detected unusual activity on your account. Please reply with the verification code sent to your mobile device to stop unauthorized activity.
What should John do? It’s quite possible that he might reply with the code — especially while he’s distracted, and worried that he might lose access to his email. Unfortunately, if he sends the code, he’ll be giving a hacker access to his email account. Here’s what happened behind the scenes:
  1. A hacker who has John’s email address and mobile number went to the email login screen, clicked “Forgot Password,” and asked for a verification code via text message.
  2. John got the verification code on his phone.
  3. The hacker — pretending to be John’s email provider — sent him a text message and asked for the code.
  4. John forwarded the code to the hacker, and the hacker had everything he needed to complete the login process.
The hacker could gather a lot of information about John while snooping through his email. He also could change John’s settings, so future emails sent to John are forwarded to the hacker. It could be a long time before John notices this change. So, what can you do? Don’t send verification codes to anyone via text or email. Use these codes only on the login page. And if you get a verification code that you didn’t request, let your provider know about it. That could be a sign that someone is tampering with your account. If you suspect that someone has hacked into your email, here’s what to do:
__________________ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the nation’s consumer protection agency. The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace.

Phony Clients Fool Photographers in New Scam

Freelance photographers are getting targeted by a new con. Scammers are posing as potential clients and fooling photographers into paying thousands of dollars. It's a new twist on the classic overpayment scam.

Freelance photographers are getting targeted by a new con. Scammers are posing as potential clients and fooling photographers into paying thousands of dollars. It's a new twist on the classic overpayment scam.  

How the Scam Works:

You are looking online for freelance photography jobs. One post looks particularly promising, a family in your area is hiring a photographer to take family portraits. You send a message to the email provided, but, in their reply, the potential client has some odd requests.   

First, the client doesn't want to meet or talk on the phone. He or she only wants to communicate by email.  Second, the family is amazingly flexible with their time. They give you a huge window in which they are available for photos. Finally, there's the biggest red flag of all. The client wants to send you a check for far more than your fee. You are supposed to deposit it and transfer the difference to an "event planner" or other third party. 

Don't take the job! A version of this scam is targeting freelance photographers across the US and Canada. The exact scenario given may change, but the central scam remains the same. If you deposit a fake check, the money will appear to be in your account. But if you transfer the funds before the bank officially clears the check, you are responsible for the difference.  

How to Spot a Freelance Scam

  • Don't fall for an overpayment scam. No legitimate job would ever overpay a contractor and ask him/her to wire the money elsewhere. This is a common trick used by scammers.
  • Watch out for clients who won't meet in person or talk on the phone. You may be an excellent candidate for a job, but beware of offers made without talking first. Scammers use many excuses to avoid talking, ranging from having surgery, being out of the country or even being hearing impaired. If your "client" will only communicate through email or text message, that's a big red flag.
  • Watch out for bad grammar. Many scams targeting job seekers and freelancers operate overseas. Be wary of help wanted postings and emails written in poor English. 
  • If a job looks suspicious, search for it online. If the result comes up in other cities with the exact same post, it is likely a scam. 

For More Information

Thanks to the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut for their work identifying this scam. Learn more about this scam here.

______________________

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.

Scammers using robocalls to prey on consumers

If you own a phone, chances are that you’ve been on the receiving end of a robocall. Thanks to cheap Internet calling technology, shady marketers and outright scammers are inundating American consumers with billions of phone calls. Many, if not most, of these calls originate from overseas, though the recipient of a robocall may see a local telephone number on the their Caller ID thanks to so-called “spoofing” technology. If you own a phone, chances are that you’ve been on the receiving end of a robocall. Thanks to cheap Internet calling technology, shady marketers and outright scammers are inundating American consumers with billions of phone calls. Many, if not most, of these calls originate from overseas, though the recipient of a robocall may see a local telephone number on the their Caller ID thanks to so-called “spoofing” technology. Millions of consumers have taken advantage of the Federal Trade Commission’s ‘Do Not Call Registry’ to avoid telemarketing calls from legitimate telemarketers. Unfortunately, the companies and individuals that are generating the current spate of robocalls have little, if any incentive to abide by the ‘Do Not Call’ rules. Instead, they blast out millions of calls per day, hawking everything from “free” cruises to medical alert devices, credit card interest rate reduction and even refunds from the FTC itself. While many of the companies involved in these scams have been shut down by law enforcement, the problem continues unabated. The low cost of robocalling and Caller ID spoofing technology means that robocall scammers only need a small fraction of the people they call to respond to the pitch to make money. Even simply responding to the pitch (for example, by pressing “1” to be connected to a live operator) can mark a consumer as someone who may be persuadable by scammers. Lists of “live” numbers (i.e. people who will respond in some way to a robocall) get developed and sold among robocall outfits, which can result in even more robocalls. For more information on how information and money traverses the robocall economy, check out this great infographic from the FTC. For most consumers, the biggest question about robocalls is “how do I stop them?” Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will prevent all robocalls. Some telephone carriers offer call blocking technology, and there are third-party devices and apps that can be attached to your home phone or used with your cell phone. However, none of these are perfect. While they may prevent some unwanted calls from ringing, they could also block legitimate phone calls. Additionally, there may be a cost associated with buying the device or using a particular call-blocking service. For now, the best steps that consumers can take is to get educated about the robocall issue and learn the warning signs to prevent fraud from occurring. Tips include:
  1. If you answer a robocall, hang up immediately. Don’t press “1” or any other keys to speak to a live operator or to have your number removed from the robocallers list. Chances are that the “live operator” is just a marketer who will pitch you on a shady product or service. If you ask to be taken off the robocaller’s list, chances are they won’t do so.
  2. If the caller is offering a “free” good or service, chances are that it’s a scam. A “free,” “no cost,” or “no obligation” offer coming via a robocall is almost certainly meant to lure the call recipient into a scam that could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars.
  3. Be aware that the number or caller information showing up on Caller ID may not be legitimate. Robocallers are adept at making Caller ID show that the call is coming from a local number, or a known organization such as the local police department, a federal agency, or your bank. If you’re concerned that the caller may be legitimate, hang up, look up the phone number of the bank or other organization on your own (such as via the yellow pages, or the customer service number of a bank statement of debit/credit card) and call that number directly.
  4. Do not give sensitive personal information out over the phone. This information could include your full name, mailing address, Social Security Number, bank routing number, credit or debit card number, or other types of information about yourself. If someone on the other end of the line asks for this information, simply hang up.
  5. If you haven’t done so already, add your home and cell phone numbers to the National ‘Do Not Call’ Registry at DoNotCall.gov. If a robocaller sends a sales call to a number that is on the Registry, they’re violating the law.
Report fraudulent robocalls to Fraud.org via our online complaint form or to the Federal Trade Commisison. While every complaint doesn’t lead to a conviction, complaints are critical to helping investigators detect patterns in robocalls and track down the scammers. __________________ Alliance Against Fraud and Fraud.org are projects of the National Consumers League (NCL), a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Fraud.org is the product of more than two decades of consumer education and advocacy related to Internet and telemarketing fraud prevention.

FTC Issues Warning about Scam to Hijack Your Email Account

The FTC has issued a fraud alert to warn consumers about a scam that is designed to hijack their email accounts. If the people behind the scam can determine both your actual email address and your cell phone number, that’s all they need to target you.The FTC has issued a fraud alert to warn consumers about a scam that is designed to hijack their email accounts. If the people behind the scam can determine both your actual email address and your cell phone number, that’s all they need to target you. The scam works like this. Let’s say you have an email address from Google’s Gmail service. The scam artist goes to the Gmail website, put’s your email address into the box to log-in and then clicks on the link provided for people who have forgotten their password and asks that a new password be sent via text message. Then the scammer sends you a text message that appears to come from your email provider…  in our example, Google…  and asks you to respond with the password provided. If you do, then you have just turned over access to your email account to someone else. Anyone receiving text messages like those mentioned above should not respond to them. And anyone who thinks that they may already have been victimized should contact their email provider right away. The FTC has prepared a short video telling consumers what to do if they think they have become a victim of this scam. You’ll find it below. _________________ Jim Malmberg, ACCESS, American Consumer Credit Education Support Services, is a non-profit, tax exempt 501(c)(3) consumer advocacy group whose primary purpose is to disseminate credit education information and assistance to the general public, visit www.GuardMyCreditFile.org