Even Frosty Can Get Scammed

Even Frosty Can Get Scammed

2024 is already looking like a doozy on the winter storm chaos-meter. We are barely two weeks into the new year and winter storms are wreaking havoc across the country. No surprise that utility scammers and unlicensed contractors are targeting those affected.

Although utility imposter scams have been around for years, fraudsters are getting extra crafty at finding new ways to take your well-earned cash. New technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made it easier for them to impersonate people and companies you trust. Here are some tips to keep the fakers off your doorstep and out of your inbox after a storm:

– Understand that government agencies and utility companies will not contact you to ask for account information. If anyone contacts you, ask to see their identification and credentials.

– Contact your insurance company for next steps in assessing property damage.

– If any work needs to be completed, hire only licensed and insured contractors and get contracts in writing. Only pay after the work is completed and you are completely satisfied.

Other winter tips: keep your pantry stocked (with non-perishable foods/meals that can be prepped without water and heat), extra blankets close by and your devices charged as much as possible. Stay safe and hoping that some great packing snow for Frosty falls from the sky!

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827 (GUARD).

Photo courtesy credit: Peter Zhang via Unsplash

 

 

Consumers Lost Nearly $8.8 Billion to Scams in 2022

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently released data showing that consumers lost over $8 billion to scams in 2022. This massive loss is an increase of more than 30% compared to 2021.

The majority of the crimes came from investment scams ($3.8 billion) and imposter scams ($2.6 billion). Online shopping scams were more commonly reported of the 2.4 million fraud reports from consumers. The FTC also noted that the highest reported losses came from social media, and then followed by phone calls with the highest per person median loss of $1,400. Learn more HERE.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to protect you, your family, and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827.

 

The Top Scams of 2022

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is a United States federal agency that works to prevent deceptive, fraudulent and unfair business practices. Their first objective is to identify fraud that cause the greatest consumer injury. Their second objective is to stop the fraud, deception and unfair practices through law enforcement. Finally, their third objective is to prevent consumer injury from happening in the first place through education.

Every year the FTC reports the top scam highlights of the previous year. This is how 2022 stacked up:

– Investment scams had the largest losses at $3.8 billion. Investment scams promise that you will make a lot of money quickly, easily and with low risk. The FTC reported that these scams involve the investment in financial or real estate markets. Learn how to research investment opportunities HERE.

– Impersonator scams were, once again, the most reported scam. Losses from these scams total $2.6 billion for 2022. The FTC reported that the major difference in this type of scam from the previous year is that there were higher losses to business imposters to the tune of $660 million in comparison to last year’s $453 million. Scams in this category include social security, IRS, romance, caregiver, family emergency, tech support and grandchild scams. Learn how to identify a scam happening to you or a loved one by viewing the short videos HERE.

How were scams identified and processed? Some losses were through bank transfers. Others started on social media and phone calls. Young adults in their 20s reported losses more often than seniors in their 70s. Unfortunately, the seniors lost more money than any other age group.

The FTC has a PDF available for download with a visual snapshot of the top frauds of 2022. Click HERE to learn about the rest of 2022’s top scams and view the PDF.

Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to protect you, your family and your employees from the damages of identity theft. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services team immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.4827.

Hurricane Ian Scams: Protecting Yourself from Charity and Disaster Fraud

Hurricane Ian Scams: Protecting Yourself from Charity and Disaster Fraud

On September 28th, Ian, the fifth strongest hurricane on record in the United States, slammed into Florida as a category four. Devastation, flooding, loss of life and significant property damage along the rest of Ian’s path occurred in multiple states over the next few days. Following natural disasters like Ian, charity and disaster schemes from scammers quickly come to surface to those who were directly impacted and others that want to help.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has sent out reminders and tips on how to avoid falling victim to charity and disaster fraud.

– All government officials are required to carry official identification and show it if requested. If you are hesitant to believe them, contact the FBI directly to confirm their identity.

– All Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and assistant agencies will not ask for money to apply for assistance and they will not ask you for any financial information. If someone comes door-to-door, calls, texts or emails you, do not immediately give out your personal identifying information (PII), such as your social security number or bank account information, without first confirming their identity as legitimate and not a scammer.

– If you would like to donate to the many charities that are assisting survivors, understand that there are some fake charities out there. Unless you are giving to a charitable agency that you know and trust, go online and research the reviews and ratings as established by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If you do donate, use a credit card. Gift cards and wire transfers are highly discouraged. Also remember that no legitimate agency is going to pressure you to donate.

We would like to remind you to not click on links from sources you do not know. The FBI suggests to manually type out the links instead of clicking them to prevent attempts to download viruses on your cell or laptop/computer.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns or suspect that you or a family member has been a victim of fraud, please contact Member Services immediately. We are open and always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827).

 

Photo credit: NASA under license via unsplash.com.

How to Avoid Disaster-Related Scams

How to Avoid Disaster-Related Scams

Dealing with the aftermath of a disaster is always difficult. Unfortunately, scammers will jump at the chance to take advantage of those who are trying to assess and recover from the tremendous damage that weather-related events, such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornados, along with pandemic-related COVID-19 can cause.

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests a few ways to help avoid common post-disaster scams:

 

Be skeptical of anyone promising immediate clean-up and debris removal. Some fake vendors will quote sky-high prices and demand payment up-front.

 

Do a background check on them. Before you pay anything, ask for identification, licenses along with proof of insurance in writing.

 

Never pay in cryptocurrency, wire transfer, cash or via a gift card. Only make the final payment until the work is completed satisfactorily.

 

Always guard your personal identifying information (PII). “Only scammers will say they’re a government official and then demand money or your credit card, bank account or social security number.”

 

Understand that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will never ask for an application fee. FEMA has provided over $1 billion to more than 165,000 people to assist with COVID-19-related funeral costs for deaths occurring on or after January. “If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, that’s probably a scam.”

 

Spot and report disaster-related charity scams. If you are fortunate enough to be able to help others, visit this link for advice on how to donate wisely and avoid charity scams.

 

For more information and other tips, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/dealing-weather-emergencies

 

Be vigilant. Be strong. Stay in the know. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our Member Services immediately. We are always available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827).

 

Photo courtesy credit to Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com.

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

Many of us have been experiencing much more free time on our hands, which is great if you enjoy the sport of fishing, have a pile of books to read or Netflix shows to catch up on. Unless you are on the front line, life, as we know it during this pandemic, has forced the majority of us to slow down.

 

Our ‘new normal’ environment is a breeding ground for scammers to take advantage of you and your identity. Last month we wrote several blogs that specifically discussed the various types of coronavirus scams we had been witnessing. Check out Coronavirus Scams Are on the Rise, And More Coronavirus Scams, and Working From Home Cybersecurity Tips if interested in a quick refresher course or two.

 

Over the last two weeks we have seen a 70% increase in email phishing scams during this pandemic, which has undoubtedly touched every facet of our lives. These phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are even creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments. Don’t fall for any of it … but, in case you do, we suggest that you read our blog from October 2019 Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What?.

 

Today our advice is very simple: If you are not 100% certain of the origin of the email and/or link that you are being asked to click on … DO NOT CLICK. If for some reason you accidentally do click, there are some imperative steps to take to alleviate harm to you and/or the network you may be connected with:

 

– Try not to panic. This happens to everyone. Antivirus and anti-malware will come into play and you will need to have a full system scan. But first …

 

– End the session immediately by turning off Wi-Fi, unplugging from an ethernet cable or completely shutting down all of your devices.

 

– Initiate a back up of your files. Since you won’t be connected to the internet at this point, you won’t be able to accomplish this to the cloud. Having an external drive, DVD or thumb drive are always nice to have on hand during times like these.

 

– Change your login/password to email account(s) and enable two-factor authentication if this hasn’t already occurred.

 

– If you are employed by a company or organization, reference your manual and let your network administrator know of the potential issue.

 

– After all is said and done, check your antivirus/anti-malware software and run a full scan.

 

Being informed of what steps you may need to take before a slip up happens can help ease the potential damage (and your stress level) if it does. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and [email protected].

Small Business Owners Targeted by Coronavirus Loan Scams

Small Business Owners Targeted by Coronavirus Loan Scams

We understand that this is a very confusing time when anxiety levels are extremely high. New programs are being launched and the details might not be completely understood at first. As of today, federal disaster loan assistance is now available for businesses, private nonprofits, homeowners, and renters negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

If you are a small business owner, keep in mind that you may receive unsolicited calls, letters or emails. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is urging small business owners to keep an eye out for coronavirus-related loan scams as many of their members have received multiple loan scam emails and phone calls in the past few days. What do you do if you aren’t sure if an offer is legitimate or a scam? Understand that:

– No one should be charging an application fee to apply for the coronavirus disaster relief loan.

– You should not release any personal identifying information (PII), such as Social Security numbers, your date of birth, credit card information, or financial institution account data, in response to an unsolicited call, letter or email.

– The Better Business Bureau is available for more information on a company before you commit to anything.

– If ever in doubt, contact your state’s Attorney General’s office. You can search for that contact information HERE.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and [email protected].

 

 

Visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ for more information on federal disaster loans.