Memorial Day Hacks and Hamburgers

Memorial Day Hacks and Hamburgers

Memorial Day is a special time of year to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U. S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Visit History.com for more information.

Always the last Monday in May, this holiday also marks the unofficial beginning of summer fun … pool season, popsicles, and plenty of barbeques. Americans have traditionally observed Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades. This year the weekend activities will likely look a bit different while social distancing, but we will continue to reflect on the sacrifices our soldiers made for us while lighting up our grills. Speaking of, take a visit to Chowhound.com for some amazing tips for the most perfect hamburger ever (80/20 lean to fat ratio ground chuck always!) and clever grilling hacks. Did you know you can use a spare a cooler as an insulated warmer to keep food hot and juicy right off the grill? One tip you won’t see there is a favorite of mine … folding a dollop of mayo into each burger patty for optimal juiciness before they even go on the grill. Try it. You’ll love it!

Sadly, with the holiday, come the crooks that feed on our gratitude. Watch out for Memorial Day scams where hackers use a patriotic or military approach when contacting service members for money. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests to be on the lookout for five specific scams during this time of remembrance:

Fake military charities. Scammers will send out emails, phone calls, direct mailers and send texts using the same outreach practices as well-known legitimate nonprofits. Be wary of messages that contain words like “disabled,” “heroes,” and “warriors” and always double-check the exact name and spelling of the charity.

Fake rental properties. Scammers take out classified ads and will use photos from legitimate rental properties that promise military discounts or other incentives.

High-priced military loans. No legitimate lender will guarantee a loan as being instantly approved. Watch for ads that may also say no credit check is required. If this is the case, the loan will likely come with hidden fees as well as outrageously high interest rates.

Veterans’ benefits buyout plans. These plans offer an attractive cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash payment is typically only 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to receive.

Misleading car sales. Some websites post ads that contain false discounts for those in the military. There is also an increase of ads that claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their autos quickly due to deployment.

Stay safe this weekend and please reach out to us if needed. Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family and your employees from the damages of identity theft. We are available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and [email protected].

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Financial Tips for 2024 Grads

Financial Tips for 2024 Grads

It’s that exciting time of year! Cap and gowns are coming in and Pomp and Circumstance is running through your head as you prepare for the big event. If you’re a parent of a soon-to-be high school graduate, dollar signs may be running through your head as well, along with advice … and lots of it!

If you’re a grad, get ready to hear life experience stories from your graduation speaker and many others. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some advice for you as well. Learn how to recognize financial scams. Younger people report losing money to fraud more often than older generations. According to Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC, 43% of those who reported fraud were in their 20s, while only 15% were in their 70s. During the first six months of 2023, social media was the point of contact in 38% of fraud losses for people in their 20s. For those 18-19 years old, the figure was 47%.

What can you do to help avoid financial fraud?

Never give out money or any personal identifying information (PII) in response to an unexpected request. Be wary of texts, phone calls and emails. Scammers commonly pretend to be someone you trust.

Do your research. Be smart with your online searches and use terms like “complaint,” “scam” or “alert” along with the company name when you search.

Understand that there’s no such thing as truthful caller ID anymore.

Don’t wire money. Government and legitimate companies will not require you to pay for products or services with a re-loadable gift card. Even using cards like iTunes and Google Play are risky.

Recognize that robocalls are illegal and should be reported to the FTC. If you mistakenly answer one of these calls, hang up immediately.

Looking for a job after graduation can be quite stressful especially if you’re supporting yourself for the first time.

Check out job placement firms closely. These companies should not be charging high fees in advance for any type of service without a guarantee of placement.

Keep in mind that the promise of a job isn’t the same thing as job. If you have to pay for that promise, it’s likely a scam. Read More

Realize that there are many fake jobs listed on social media. Google the company name and visit their website along with the search term “career.” If jobs are not listed on their website and nothing comes up on Google, those are red flags.

Don’t give out any credit or bank account information over the phone to a company unless they have hired you and have agreed to pay you something.

Get job details in writing and take time to go over the small print. A legitimate company won’t pressure you into making an on-the-spot decision regarding your career.

CNN recently reported some smart money moves for graduates, such as aiming to live within your means and knowing what your means actually are. Check out their tips HERE.

Congratulations and make sure you enjoy your special day. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

For more information, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov.

Photo courtesy Jonathon Daniels via unsplash.com.

ALERT: Toll Smishing Text Scam – Do Not Click!

ALERT: Toll Smishing Text Scam – Do Not Click!

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, the FBI and SunPass are warning drivers of a text message smishing scam that requests payment for unpaid tolls. The FBI is recommending that if you receive a message like the one shown below, to take the following actions:

– Do not click the link in the text.

– Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, also known as IC3, at www.ic3.gov, and include the phone number the text came from and the website listed within the text.

– If you have an EZ-Pass or SunPass account, check it via their legitimate website and let them know about the text.

– Delete the smishing text you received.

– If for any reason you accidentally clicked the link in the text and made a payment, contact your financial institution immediately to help secure your personal information and financial accounts. Contact our Member Services team at 1.888.966.4827 (GUARD) or email [email protected].

Screenshot image of a sample scam on an iphone

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 occur. Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family and your employees from the damages of identity theft. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help or have any questions or concerns. We are available for you 24/7/365 at 1.888.966.4827 (GUARD) and [email protected].

AI Voice Cloning is on the Rise

AI Voice Cloning is on the Rise

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a tool that can be used for beneficial purposes but it is also used to harm by scammers. Approximately one in ten adults have been targeted with a robocall claiming a family emergency and that a loved one needs money. These types of calls are set up through voice cloning and are also known as AI scam calls. All a scammer needs to do is find an audio clip of someone’s voice online and then upload it into a program that will replicate the voice.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends the following course of action if you get a concerning call from a loved one in trouble.

– Call the person who supposedly called you back at their regular phone number and verify the story.

– If you can’t reach the person, try to get in touch with them through family members or mutual friends.

– If the caller asks for money through channels that are hard to trace, such as cryptocurrency, gift cards and wiring, recognize that is a sign of a scam and end the call immediately.

– If you spot a scam, report it HERE.

We suggest that you consider setting up a safe word with your loved ones that can be used in the event that a real emergency occurs. 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).

Image courtesy credit: Israel Palacio via Unsplash.com

Consumer Fraud Losses Top $10 Billion

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released data showing that consumers reported losing more than $10 billion to fraud in 2023. This marks a 14% increase over reported losses in 2022. Fraud data came from 2.6 million consumers last year, nearly the same as 2022. Consumers reported to the FTC that they lost more money to investment scams – more than $4.6 billion – than any other category in 2023. The second highest loss category was imposter scams with losses of nearly $2.7 billion.

The following is a breakdown of the top frauds reported:

– Imposter scams (in business and government impersonators)

– Online shopping scams

– Prizes, sweepstakes and lottery scams

– Investment scams

– Business and job opportunity scams

The method scammers reportedly used to reach consumers most commonly was via email, which has displaced text messages. Phone calls are now the second most reported contact method. LEARN MORE

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).

 

Keeping Kids Safe from Recruitment Scams

Keeping Kids Safe from Recruitment Scams

More than half of all workers worldwide are actively searching for another job or watching for openings. Are you one of them? Although it can be an exciting time to find a new career or income stream, the job search process can be very stressful, time-consuming and possibly full of disappointment. Scammers are taking advantage of these confusing feelings and are continuously creating recruitment scams. Unfortunately, they aren’t just targeting adults.

If you have children, they may be looking for their first ideal job, especially with summer approaching. In 2023, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the youth labor force grew by 2.2 million (10.4%) over the previous year with a labor force participation rate for all youth being 60.2% in July, 2023. The number of individuals in the youth labor force, defined as 16-24 year olds, who are actively looking for work grows sharply between April and July each year when large numbers of high school and college students search for summer jobs and many graduates enter the labor market for permanent employment. LEARN MORE

As with all scams, the best weapon against recruitment scams is awareness and education. Scammers advertise jobs the same way honest employers do: online on job boards, social media, ads, radio and TV. Teens and adults are being targeted with work-from-home scams that include reshipping and/or reselling merchandise, mystery shopping and being a nanny. Adult caregiver and personal virtual assistant job scams are plentiful as well.

If you or a loved one is job searching, the Federal Trade Commission suggests to start with reliable resources:

– Search online for the name of the company or person who’s trying to hire you with the words “scam” “review” or “complaint.”

– Talk to someone you trust. Describe the offer and ask for their opinion.

– Never pay for the promise of a job. Honest placement firms do not typically charge a fee to job candidates. It is the hiring company that pays them a fee to find qualified candidates.

USAJobs.gov is the federal government’s official site with job openings nationwide.

CareerOneStop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and lists hundreds of thousands of jobs and links to employment and training programs in each state.

USA.gov is a website that finds local government websites which lists any open positions they may have.

Recruitment scams are now a global concern that span across all industries. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has been targeted by scammers and has repeatedly been the victim of recruitment scams. The only official and legitimate domain for KIND is @supportkind.org. If you receive any communication concerning employment opportunities with the organization but it comes from an email domain other than @supportkind.org, the communication is not authorized by the KIND organization. LEARN MORE

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).

Image courtesy credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.

Help Spread the Word: Identity Theft Awareness Week

Help Spread the Word: Identity Theft Awareness Week

Welcome to Identity Theft Awareness Week. January 29th to February 2nd, otherwise known as #IDTheftWeek, exists to spread resources so you and your loved ones can stay ahead of identity thieves. Whether you’re a business owner, a young adult, a service member, an older adult or someone caring for a senior, understand that knowledge is power and identity theft knows no boundaries.

With tax season right around the corner, it is especially important to know that one of the biggest signs of identity theft is when you are unable to file your tax return because someone else has already filed one using your personal identifying information (PII). Other signs of identity theft include seeing unfamiliar transactions on one of your accounts and/or seeing new accounts you didn’t open on one of your credit report checks.

Here are five tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help protect your identity:

– Read your credit card and bank statements carefully. If there is something that you don’t recognize, check into it. Even though you might have dreamed about a Louis Vuitton handbag, chances are you would know if you purchased one and certainly wouldn’t be footing the bill if you didn’t.

– Know your payment due dates. If a bill you pay regularly, such as your electric or water bill, doesn’t appear in your mailbox (or inbox), contact the provider immediately. The last thing you want is to have anything shut off in the dead of winter or an energy bill that is three times what you were expecting.

– Shred any documents that contain your PII, medical or financial information. Many national chains provide shredding services if you don’t own a personal shredder. Check out your local UPS store or FedEx Office for options.

– Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. Visit our credit report check for more information.

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).

 

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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

 

 

Holiday Rental Scams are Not on Your Wish List

Holiday Rental Scams are Not on Your Wish List

There is expected to be over 115 million people traveling this holiday season. If you and your family are in the same boat (or plane or car or train), please be aware that holiday rental scams are abundant and there isn’t any hope that they are going away anytime soon.

If you are renting a vehicle and/or housing for the holidays, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

– A legitimate rental company will not ask you to prepay for a rental with a gift card or prepaid debit card. Research the rental company’s name along with terms such as ‘scam’ ‘reviews’ and ‘complaints.’

– Be aware that rental listings can be hijacked and fake. The contact information can be changed and the listing could be re-posted on many different sites and occasionally list properties that don’t actually exist. Search online for the actual rental location’s address along with the name of the property owner or rental company. If other ads come up for the same address, the listing has most likely been hijacked. If your request to check out the property first before agreeing to rent is met with the owner or rental company saying they are “not available” or “out of the country,” and they insist on you paying an application fee and deposit first, check around for a new place to spend the holidays.

– Do not consider paying by a payment app, such as Venmo or PayPal. Instead, pay by credit card which will give you the best protection and make it easier for you to get your money back if it is a scam.

For more information on how to keep your holidays happy and fraud-free, check out this blog.

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).

Source: AAA and Federal Trade Commission

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Scammers are Impersonating FTC Inspector General Katsaros

Scammers are Impersonating FTC Inspector General Katsaros

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released that scammers are using the names of their employees, including the Inspector General Andrew Katsaros to trick people into sending money or giving up their personal identifying information (PII).

What you need to know:

The FTC won’t threaten you or demand a payment. If you receive a phone call or mail with the name of the FTC Commissioner or staff member that threatens some dire consequence if you don’t pay immediately, it’s a scam. Don’t pay.

The FTC doesn’t give out prizes. If someone contacts you claiming that you need to pay to get your prize, it’s a scam. Don’t pay.

FTC employees won’t identify themselves with a badge number. If someone claiming to work for the FTC gives you a badge number, it’s a scam. Don’t fall for it and keep your PII safe!

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).

Source: Federal Trade Commission

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