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Watch out for scholarship scams

Graduation season means optimism about a bright future ahead. Unfortunately, scam artist know how stressful paying for college can be and they’ve tailored a fraud to separate eager students and their families from their money: scholarship scams. As millions of college graduates don their caps and gowns this spring, advocates are warning them of the signs of too-good-to-be-true aid offers.Graduation season means optimism about a bright future ahead. Unfortunately, scam artist know how stressful paying for college can be and they’ve tailored a fraud to separate eager students and their families from their money: scholarship scams. As millions of college graduates don their caps and gowns this spring, advocates are warning them of the signs of too-good-to-be-true aid offers. Congratulations, graduates! Prospective college students often look to scholarships as a way to lessen the financial burden on parents and to avoid taking out student loans. Unfortunately, scam artist know how stressful paying for college can be and they’ve tailored a fraud to separate eager students and their families from their money – scholarship scams. Scholarship scams prey on consumers’ eagerness to find ways to pay for higher education. They come in a variety of guises, but a common thread is that usually there is need for the victim to pay money or provide a credit or debit card number up front before a supposed scholarship or grant is awarded. A good rule of thumb is that if you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam. Other red flags when it comes to scholarship scams are offers that promise “guaranteed” scholarships or pressure to act quickly in order to secure money. Consumers should also be wary of services that offer to match grant seekers with scholarships (sometimes known as financial aid advice services), especially if they offer to apply for you or require a big fee. Some scholarship scams ask you to pay money for information you can get for free, such as the federal FAFSA form. There are any number of free sources of financial aid information, including school counselors, state education agencies, the U.S. Department of Education and the Federal Student Aid Information Center. Be careful, too, when you receive unsolicited offers to help with financial aid from people or organizations you’ve never heard of or can’t find reliable information about.

Resources

For more information about scholarship scams and other resources you can use, visit StudentAid.Ed.gov, the U.S. Department of Education's site for free information on preparing for and funding education beyond high school. You can complete the FAFSA here, and learn about other FAFSA filing options here. You also can call 1-800-4-FED-AID.

If you think you’ve been scammed, file a report via:

__________________ 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.

Fake Gov. Emails Have Arrest Warrant Attached

Don't let this email scam scare you into downloading a malware-infected attachment. The Federal Trade Commission is warning about fake emails that claim to be from the made-up "Bureau of Defaulters," with an attached "arrest warrant" that is really malware.

Don't let this email scam scare you into downloading a malware-infected attachment. The Federal Trade Commission is warning about fake emails that claim to be from the made-up "Bureau of Defaulters," with an attached "arrest warrant" that is really malware. 

How the Scam Works: 

You get an email that appears to come from a government agency called the "Bureau of Defaulters." It says you've ignored previous attempts to contact you. Now, the federal government has placed your Social Security number on hold, and you'll be prosecuted for fraud.

Want to fight the charges? Your "arrest warrant" is attached, and you've got just 24 hours to respond. If you don't reply, you will be prosecuted, found guilty and fined. 

You may be very tempted to download the "warrant," but don't do it! There is no "Bureau of Defaulters," and you aren't under arrest. These emails are just a way to get you to download malware that can then hunt for personal financial information and passwords stored on your computer. 

How to Spot a Government Imposter Scam

In general, it's best not to click on links that come in unsolicited emails. Here are some more ways to spot someone posing as a government agency.  

  1. Don't trust a name or number. Con artists use official-sounding names or mask their area codes to make you trust them. Don't fall for it.
  2. Be wary if you are being asked 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. Don't wire money or use a prepaid debit card: Scammers often pressure people into wiring money or putting cash on a prepaid debit card. Why? It's like sending cash: once it's gone, you can't trace it or get it back. But government agencies do not typically ask for money using these forms of payment, so consider that a "red flag."
  4. Watch for typos, strange phrasing and bad grammar. Scammers can easily copy a government seal, but awkward wording and poor grammar are typically a give away that the message is a scam. 
  5. When in doubt, contact the agency yourself.  If you're not sure whether an email is real, you can always look up a phone number yourself and contact the court or government agency the email claims to be from.

For More Information

Learn more about this scam on the FTC blog and read the FTC's tips for dealing with government impostors. To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam).

__________________

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.

Section 8 scammers cheat people seeking housing

If you’re looking for Section 8 housing assistance, here’s something you need to know: scammers have made websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries. If you pay a fee or give your personal information, the scammers will take it. And you still won’t be on a real Section 8 waiting list. In fact, there is no fee to register for a Section 8 waiting list.If you’re looking for Section 8 housing assistance, here’s something you need to know: scammers have made websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries. If you pay a fee or give your personal information, the scammers will take it. And you still won’t be on a real Section 8 waiting list. In fact, there is no fee to register for a Section 8 waiting list. If you search online for the Section 8 voucher waiting list, the top search results often are bogus sites. The sites look very real: their names may say “Section 8,” and they might show an Equal Housing Opportunity logo. They ask for fees and your personal information, like your Social Security number, but they won’t do anything for you. The scammers will keep your money and disappear. They also may give your personal information to identity thieves. Here’s the real way things work: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 8 program gives funding to local government housing authorities. The local authorities issue housing choice vouchers to help people find housing in privately-owned rental units. To get on the waiting list for a voucher, find your local housing authority and call or email them. Ask how to sign up for the Section 8 waiting list lottery in your area. As I said, there is no fee to register. In another twist, some fake sites list Section 8 properties that supposedly are available. They promise you can rent one, if you pay the first month’s rent via wire transfer or a prepaid card. The properties might exist, but the ads are fakes placed by scammers. If you pay, you just lose your money. People have lost money and personal information to scammers – but they’ve also lost the chance to be in the actual lottery. Most people don’t realize they’ve been scammed until after the waiting list is closed. Keep these tips in mind to avoid a Section 8 lottery scam:
  • Contact your local housing authority to find out how to register for the Section 8 waiting list lottery. You’ll find their email and phone number on the HUD site. Follow their instructions to sign up.
  • Housing authorities do not charge fees, and they won’t reach out to you by phone or email to suggest that you join a waiting list. A housing authority also will never ask you to wire money or pay with a prepaid card. Those are sure signs of a scam.
  • Treat your Social Security number and other personal information (say, credit card numbers), like cash. Don’t give them out on a website you find through a search.
  • Have you seen this kind of scam? File a complaint with the FTC and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Some people have gotten help from the Better Business Bureau, so you also can file a complaint there.
___________________ 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.

Trusting too much brings Trouble

There will always be the person who lives on the Equator to whom you can sell an electric heater. As they say, there is a sucker born every minute. 12DThis is why cyber criminals will always have a field day, like the crook who posed as a tax man who got an elderly couple to send $100,000 to an offshore bank account after he tricked them.There will always be the person who lives on the Equator to whom you can sell an electric heater. As they say, there is a sucker born every minute. This is why cyber criminals will always have a field day, like the crook who posed as a tax man who got an elderly couple to send $100,000 to an offshore bank account after he tricked them. This was a fear-based scam. The other two categories are compassion and self-interest. And just because a person can’t be frightened doesn’t mean that their heart strings can’t be tugged by a charity scam. Elderly people and those with low income are more likely to be tricked. Other people…well, you just have to wonder what’s between their ears. For example, the popular Microsoft scam involves a person calling the victim to tell them that their computer has a virus. The caller is a crook who wants to convince the victim to allow him remote access to the computer. Don’t the victims ever wonder how the heck Microsoft would even know their computer had a virus? Red flag, anyone? Some say ask the caller for their number so you can call back–they’ll probably hang up. Probably. The scammer may have a number in place just to cover this possibility. Really, just hang up. It’s a scam. Some people will just keep giving money out, again and again, to the same scammer; it’s not always a flash-in-the-pan payout. What compels them to behave this way? Perhaps it’s to continually convince themselves that they’re not dumb enough to be scammed. Another way cons trap people is by asking for small amounts of money first; this lowers the victim’s guard. More Popular Scams
  • Charity. These can range from natural disaster relief to donations for made-up charities, or those with names very similar to well-known ones.
  • Rental. The crook sends the landlord an overpayment by check of the first month’s rent before living there, then tells the landlord to wire back the difference. The check bounces.
  • IRS: Always hang up on callers identifying themselves as tax people claiming you underpaid or are owed a refund, even if the caller ID says “IRS.”
___________________ Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.