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].

Photo courtesy Justin Casey via unsplash.com

 

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.

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).

 

Photo courtesy credit: Dylan Gillis via Unsplash.com

 

Cryptocurrency: Deposits with No Returns

Cryptocurrency: Deposits with No Returns

Cryptocurrency is not a topic that many people know about or understand. Crypto, such as bitcoin and Ether, is a type of digital currency that in most cases exists only electronically in a digital wallet. You are able to buy it using your device, computer or a cryptocurrency ATM. But why would you? People buy it as an investment, to quickly pay for things and to avoid transaction fees that a traditional bank would charge. Another advantage of paying with crypto is because it offers some degree of anonymity. Crypto can also be earned through a complicated process called mining.

Scammers are banking on the fact that the general population doesn’t know much about this topic and crypto-related scams are popping up quickly. The Federal Trade Commission offers several tips on how you can avoid such a scam:

– Don’t trust companies who make big promises or guarantees. Only scammers guarantee big money in crypto with no risk.

– Do your homework. Research the company or specific type of crypto platform by using search engine terms such as “scam,” “complaint,” “review” and “news.”

– Understand that crypto accounts are NOT backed by the government like traditional Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) bank accounts are.

– Learn as much as you can about cryptocurrency and scams so you can recognize the red flags when they pop up.

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 credit courtesy: John Tuesday via unsplash.com

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.

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.

And More Coronavirus Scams …

And More Coronavirus Scams …

We are monitoring updates surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic around the clock. This environment is a breeding ground for scams to take advantage of you and your identity. Rest assured that we are here to help and will communicate with you every step of the way.

 

The following is the latest information that we know of regarding coronavirus scams:

 

– The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to seven sellers of scam coronavirus treatments. The FTC reported that “So far all of the companies have made big changes to their advertising to remove unsupported claims.” That is good news. But, scammers never take a break.

 

– Anyone can set up an e-commerce site and claim they have in-demand products. Be on the lookout for online ads that tout cleaning, household and health/medical supplies. Just because they have a website and you pay money doesn’t mean that you will receive any goods in return. The FTC suggests that you check out any seller by searching online for the person or company name, phone number and email address along with keywords such as “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”

 

– Anyone can also set up a fake charity to take advantage of a major health crisis. These scammers take advantage of your generosity and have names that are extremely close to the names of real charities. The FTC remarked that “Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need.” We suggest that you visit http://www.ftc.gov/charity to help you research charities. Also, if/when you do give, pay safely by credit card and never by gift card or wire transfer.

 

– As well, anyone can pretend to be someone you know. “Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information – like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords.” If you accidentally click on a link, they can get access to your computer, network and/or install ransomware and other programs on your equipment that can lock you out. Please protect your smart phone and computer by keeping your software up to date and using multi-factor authentication. Backing up your data on a regular basis is also recommended.

 

– Surprisingly robocalls “pitching everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes” are still in full force. Do not answer unless the call shows up as a contact in your phone. Let voicemail filter your messages. For more information on robocalls, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls.

 

We understand that all of this is indeed nerve-wracking. One of the great things about our business is that we are always working in the moment … situations such as the coronavirus do not rattle our operations and team members. Not only do we have a team at a centralized location, but we have also always worked remotely. We will continue to be available for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We hope that this gives you some peace of mind knowing that we are on top of this crisis and will continue to communicate any dangerous scams related to the outbreak as soon as possible.

 

As always, please contact us immediately if you have any concerns at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or [email protected].

 

 

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

COVID-19 is a breeding ground for scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has alerted consumers that scammers are taking advantage of the panic and fear surrounding the global pandemic. “They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information,” remarked Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC. There are also malicious apps being developed, one of which is an Android tracker app that supposedly allows users to keep an eye on the spread of the virus, but locks victims’ phone and demands money to unlock it.

 

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 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 it.

 

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

– Do not click on any links from sources you do not know. Doing so could download a virus on your equipment.

– Be on the lookout for phishing emails that appear to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC will not email you. The World Health Organization (WHO) will not email you either.

– Ignore offers for vaccinations. Many ads exist touting prevention, treatment, and cure claims. They are not legitimate.

– Do not donate cash, purchase gift cards, or wire money without investigating the request in full. See the FTC’s article “How to Donate Wisely and Avoid Charity Scams” for more information.

– The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning about false “investment opportunities.” Be aware of online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

 

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].

Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

Did you know that there are at least 48 different types of identity theft and the number of scams involved in each is growing daily? Romance scams, residence scams, utility scams, employment scams, telephone scams, email scams, charity scams, Apple care scams, AirBNB scams, PayPal scams, census scams, ticket scams, government scams, medical scams, insurance scams, real estate scams, investment scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams … there really isn’t one facet of our lives that isn’t ‘scam-able.’ As the weather turns colder, it kind of makes you want to curl up under an electric blanket and hibernate for a bit doesn’t it!

 

Although everyone with a social security number is at risk for identity theft, there are two groups that are targeted more often: children and seniors. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has studied why. They explain, “Children are targeted to establish a ‘clean slate.’ Seniors are targeted over the telephone and through phishing scams. Some studies suggest that people become more trusting as they age, which helps to explain why it’s more difficult for older adults to detect fraudsters.”

 

The next high-risk group that follows children and seniors are the military mostly due to deployment, which impacts their ability to respond to a threat in a timely manner. According to the Federal Trade Commission, military consumers are most affected by credit card and bank fraud. Another high-risk group is identity theft repeat victims. As reported in Consumer Affairs, “people who have previously been affected by identity theft are at a greater risk for future identity theft and fraud.” According to the Center for Victim Research, “7-10% of the U.S. population are victims of identity fraud each year and 21% of those experience multiple incidents of identity theft.”

 

Lastly, the deceased are targeted. Stealing a dead person’s identity, commonly known as “ghosting,” will often go unnoticed by surviving family for months or years. A report dating from 2012 stated that 2.5 million deceased American identities are stolen each year. Of those 2.5 million stolen identities, 800,000 were used to open lines of credit or get a mobile phone plan.

 

Fraudsters oftentimes repeat their favorite most lucrative scams, which are driven by major financial life moments, such as taxes and holiday shopping. Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year, and, guess what … the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, is seeing a huge increase in fake Amazon.com order cancellation scams. If you receive an email about an order cancellation from Amazon, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. Click on links in the email and you could unintentionally download malware onto your device. Or you might be sent to a site that aims to collect your Amazon account information, like your username and password. If you receive such an email and recently placed an order, go to Amazon.com directly to check your order status.

 

Most of our blogs offer tips to help protect yourself and your family from identity theft. There is one tip in this blog: Remain aware of scams and that they can touch every facet of your life. By staying in-the-know, you can help every month be National Cybersecurity Awareness month … not just October.

 

If you suspect that you or a loved one has suffered identity theft, please reach out to us as soon as possible. Our Guard Well member services team is available around the clock, every day of the year. Email [email protected] or call 888.966.GUARD (4827) for help.