Tag Archives: scams

Tax Season 2017 -Who’s Doing Your Taxes?

Courtesy of Stuart Miles

Tax season is scam season and the cyber crooks are trying every possible trick to get your money. African-Americans, people of color, senior citizens and immigrants are especially targeted. Why? Because we are not educating ourselves. Tax scams targeting black people in the past included a scheme for slavery reparations. Immigrants are vulnerable because they do not always understand the American tax system and can be easily intimidated with threats of deportation. Seniors are also easily threatened. According to a study by Home Instead Senior Care nearly one in 10 seniors reported being victimized by a phone scam. These scams usually involve someone posing as an IRS official demanding immediate payment of taxes.

Scams, phishing attacks and social engineering are the most common tools used to rip people off. So what can you do? First of all be aware of how the IRS works. Second, be aware of how the crooks work. Simply put, educate yourself. The AACR is here to help

Lets talk about tax preparers. If someone else is doing your taxes there is a a way to find out if this person is legitimate. Check the IRS tax preparer directory. You can search for a tax professional or discover if you are dealing with a crook.

Anyone can claim to be a tax preparer. Only four states have mandated requirements for tax professionals, California, Maryland, New York and Oregon. In all the other states anyone can claim to be a tax preparer and charge for their services. There is no standard or requirement to meet any minimum educational competency or training.

Here are a few tips to spot them.

  • All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. The only way to get a PTIN is to register with the IRS.  And the PTIN should be included on your tax return. 
  • Don’t ever sign a partially completed tax return!  A legitimate tax professional will never ask you to do this regardless of how complicated your return may be.
  • Your tax preparer should ask for all documentation of your income. Be suspicious if you are not asked for your W-2 or other documentation of earnings, deductions or credits.
  •  Don’t ever agree to false documentation or deductions. Remember you are ultimately responsible for what is on you tax return. And fines, penalties and even prison is a definite possibility.
  • Your preparation fee should not be based on a percentage of your refund. This may cause a disreputable preparer to inflate deductions or credits.
  • Never pay your taxes or penalties to your preparer. These go directly to the IRS. If they don’t get there its on you.
  • Avoid any tax preparer who claims to have secret method to lower your tax bill that the IRS doesn’t want you to know about.
  • Be alert to all unprofessional behaviors like someone who does taxes from their home or have no set office.
  • Provide only copies of your documents. You keep the originals. 
  • Make sure your preparer is easy to contact and responds promptly.
  • If you spot any of these red flags report the preparer to the IRS using Form 14157. Also file a complaint at Fraud.org.

Tax season is scam season. Educate yourself to the scam, traps and tricks!

SCAM ALERT! $200 Nordstrom Gift Cards – SCAM ALERT!

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Fake Nordstrom Gift card offer

Users of Facebook and other social media sites have been sharing various versions of a fake Nordstrom gift card offer. The ad claims that Nordstrom was offering a $200 gift card to Facebook users who “referred three friends” to the promotion. Its a scam.

Social media users encouraged to click on the ad that takes the victim to a fake Nordstrom website that uses a web address variation on nordstrom.egiftcards.co. Here’s a tip; web users need to be aware that duplicate websites that actually belongs to cyber criminals are a common tactic. These websites are often perfectly counterfeited.

Instructions in the ad are as follows; 

To Celebrate Valentines Day Get a Nordstrom $200 Gift Card

Simply Invite 3 Friends to Get Your Gift Card
After 3 Friends Click Your Link.
Get Your Gift Card Instantly!

Although the fake webpage in question doesn’t look like other popular Facebook coupon scams it did display a rapidly decreasing number of “available gift cards.” Here’s another tip; cyber criminals often use tactics that increase urgency in the victim. Making you believe that you may lose out on a good deal causes you to act quickly. 

Facebook is a hotbed for coupon and gift card scams. Popular retailers impersonated on the social media website include Kohl’sCostco, Home Depot, Lowe’sKroger, Best Buy, Macy’s, Olive Garden, Publix, Target, Wegmans, and Walmart.

Nordstrom is aware of the scam and offered this statement; “You’re correct, this is a fraudulent promotion as it is not affiliated with Nordstrom and we are not sponsoring any giveaways of gift cards. We recommend not clicking the link or entering any personal information. Our team is actively working to make customers aware of the situation and apologize for any confusion.”

In 2014 the Better Business Bureau published an article advising social media users on how to avoid survey and coupon scams. The BBB warns;

  1. Your eyes will deceive you. Cyber criminals know how to impersonate websites perfectly. Scammers can also make links look like they lead to legitimate websites and emails appear to come from a different sender. This is called spoofing. Use your cursor and hover over links and carefully examine the address that pops up. These are often very clever. www.nordstrom.com is easily confused with www.nordstrom.ru.
  2. Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information on customer surveys. If they do ask for personal information, like an address or email, be sure to carefully examine privacy policy. Do not provide anyone else’s email or personal information. You could be providing more victims.
  3. Do your homework. If the offer is a scam, you may find alerts or complaints or warnings from other consumers and retailers online. The organization’s real website may have further information. Also there are plenty of legitimate coupon sites you can search for good deals and gift cards.
  4. If it sounds to good to be true then it probably is. Always keep that in mind.

Online Holiday Shopping 2015 – Fake Charities

canstockphoto31830688Now that the holiday season is in full swing you maybe feeling the Christmas spirit. And part of the holiday season is giving to charities. And the crooks know it!

Holiday charity giving can be as much as 75% of the yearly donations most legitimate charities receive. But be on the look out for phony online charities, those collecting door-to-door and on street corners. Tis the season for the rip-off.

One of the hottest and most profitable holiday scams involves soliciting for homeless veterans. Many of these scams originate on your telephone so be aware when someone calls.

To avoid this phone charity scam check with the local Veterans Administration office. Ask if they have a list of legitimate charities for veterans. Give directly to the causes you know and choose to support. The words that should alert you are “I’m collecting on behalf of…” Don’t give money based on a heart breaking story someone on the phone tells you. Research and investigate charities and use Charity Navigator or other organizations that monitor the legitimacy of individual charities.

ScamBusters.org has a list of common veterans scams you should be aware of. The FBI also offers a list of tips to avoid charity fraud.  Another service you should know is the Wise Giving Alliance.

But holiday scammers come at you from every angle and the Internet is no exception. Cyber criminals are masters of the online holiday scams.

Twitter , Facebook and other social media websites provide tools for donating to nonprofits, and crowd funding sites like GoFundMe and Indiegogo Life provide a way to donate directly to individuals and families, as well as organizations. But keep in mind that crowd funding fraud is a real problem. The crowd funding industry is under regulated and scammers are exploiting every possible loophole.

Another holiday scam is the race based holiday scam. African-American, Latinos and other minorities are routinely targeted for holiday scams that claim to help people of color. These scams include phony coupons, job offers and package forwarding as an easy way to make money.  Some scammers play on religious beliefs and sympathies and still others prey on recent immigrants.

The elderly are also prime targets for holiday scam artists. Make sure the senior citizens in your family understand the dangers of telephone based holiday scams. Many elderly fall prey to heartbreaking stories or high pressure tactics. Another prime holiday scam preys on elderly people who may be lonely. Lonely hearts are especially vulnerable during the holidays and scam artists will use this against the elderly.  Make sure your parents or grandparents do not give their personal or financial information out to strangers.

Some of the top holiday email scams include the ‘new chip card scam.’ Scam artist will email victims with notices that look like they are from their credit card company and request the victim to click on the link to provide information to get the new chip card. Credit card companies and banks never send emails that ask you to click on a link and fill out personal information.

Another scam involves package delivery. This scam works because many people are expecting packages from online retailers or distant friends or family members. An email will arrive in your inbox regarding an important notice about your package. Don’t click on links or attachments in that email.  You will probably download malware or ransomware. Go to the delivery service webpage instead. If the package is a surprise or you don’t know who it is from ignore it. The worse that could happen is that it is returned to sender.

Social media is a hot bed for holiday scams. ‘ Secret Sister’ is a gift exchange scam making the rounds on social media.  This scam works by promising victims as many as 36 gifts in return for sending out just one gift.  Be aware and don’t fall for scams on social media.

Now you know.

Newest Social Media Scams

Social media is where a lot of black people hangout online. Its the place to be online. But African-Americans need to understand that social media is the heart of scam country.The newest social media scams are constantly evolving and becoming either more sophisticated or more irresistible. You need to know what the latest scams are and how they work. CSO has published a slide show of the newest social media scams and how they work. After reviewing the list I found that a lot of them are really very typical and play on a person’s greed and desire to get something for nothing. Many work by urging the victim to act quickly. Please remember that if you think you’re gonna get something for nothing its you who may be left with nothing. There is no software that can spot a scam. Why? Because scammers work on the person and their weaknesses and not the technology. So no anti-virus, no anti-malware, no spam blocker is going to protect you. You need to know what to look for and control your desire to get something for nothing.

Now you know.

CSO 10 New Social Media Scams to Watch Out for.

Banks Pay Up; Don’t Bother to Investigate Cybercrime

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Courtesy or ddpavumba

A recent study of online banks and merchants by Kaspersky Labs indicate that banks pay up but don’t bother to investigate cybrecrime. These banks would rather pay off the claim rather than secure their systems.

Even with the skyrocketing rate of information theft banks and merchants are simply compensating their customers for fraudulent charges. More than half of financial institutions, 52%, pay off their customers claim without conducting any kind of investigation whatsoever. The rate of pay off  in Western Europe is 54%.

Kaspersky Labs joined with B2B International to conduct the study. The results show almost a third of institutions believe that the price of implementing an effective security systems is more expensive than simply repaying the customer’s loss due to Internet fraud.

It seems that the concept of paying off a claim is common among organizations that manage online payments. The study showed that 28% of representatives of financial institutions and 32% of employees of online stores who responded to the study believe that the cost of  cybercrime, including the repayment of stolen money, is cheaper than implementing effective security in their payment systems.

Only 19% of banks and 7% of online merchants point to the cost of paying customer’s claims as one of the top three most serious consequences of online payment fraud.

And the situation is getting worse. Kaspersky Security Network reported that almost four million users of its products in 2013 have been affected by financial malware used to steal their money. This is an increase of 18.6% compared to 2012. In December of 2013 a group of U.S. banks reported losing more than $200 million due to the theft of customer’s personal information or their credit card data. Losses may be higher than reported due to the continued growth of cybercrime. Some experts believe that the situation will eventually get to the point where the costs of refunds these institutions pay out will exceed the budgets for customer compensation. 

Breaking It Down

This is the Ford Pinto all over again. Remember Ford thought it cheaper to pay off lawsuits resulting from car fires rather than fix the problem. Well here we go again.

It seems banks and online merchants simply don’t care. Black people don’t play with our money. (Yeah, I said it again.) But the banks seem to be playing a game with a lot of people’s money. They feel like as long as its cheaper to pay off the loss rather than fix the system they are winning.

But these banks and financial institutions fail to realize one thing. They are not alone on an island. What they do affects a lot of people all over the world.  Where is the stolen money going? It may be going to terrorist. It may be going to sleazy foreign governments. It could be used to buy weapons for private armies in some third world country.  The money may be used to buy guns and drugs that permeate the inner city killing children, black children. The bottom line is that these banks are not only complicit in the crime they ignore, they perpetuate it.

African-Americans are consumers. We use the banks, credit cards and buy billions of dollars of goods every year. We also seem to suffer disproportionately when the economy starts to drag. We were victimized way beyond the national average in the housing market collapse. So we see this situation coming to a head. And we see we will get burned worse than others when banks begin to collapse from cybercrime.

By refusing to invest in secure systems these money changers destroy the trust that all people, not just African-Americans, have in the financial system. As black people we are not trusting of these institutions to begin with. So we are looking at this situation knowing that it can’t go on forever. Somebody has to pay and too often its the economic underclass which we make up a big part of.

We are heading for a world where people simply hide their money in the mattress and use cash for everything. What then? Well we could see another depression when there is no money in the banks for lending and credit dries up. When credit dries up so does economic development and you know we are going to get the worst of it. It is a situation that must be dealt with before something really bad happens. I need not go into that…do I?

 

Summer Scams

This is just a warning to black people. The definition of social engineering can be found here. Read it then come back to this blog post.

Welcome back. Now that you know the definition of social engineering I’m gonna tell you again that the ability of cyber criminals to talk you into bad decisions and releasing information is professional grade. So never let your guard down. The best advice I can give you is when you encounter someone calling you on the phone asking for information or offering you something or telling you something is wrong with your bank account or credit card is to immediately go into interrogation mode. Don’t answer questions ask them”

Anything in your email giving away a gift, money, trips whatever, is more than likely what the bull left in the field. Delete that email and don’t click on the link and don’t forward it to anybody. And if someone forwarded it to you delete it and let them know you don’t appreciate it.

Another thing you need to quit doing is forwarding jokes, prayers, touching stories, heartbreaking stories or pictures of kittens, puppies, birds, whatever. You read it then delete it. Why? because that is how your email address ends up getting spammed! And don’t open any attachments unless you know who sent it and why. I said that once already

The latest summer scams are making the rounds. Black people need to be alert. You are a target and the only defense you have is knowledge. And remember don’t forget cyber security even when on vacation. Don’t put on your Facebook page that you are going to the Bahamas for a week. Crooks don’t take vacations but they do read Facebook pages.

Here is a list scams you need to be aware of. Do your homework and be safe and secure this summer.

Watch Out For Online Summer Vacation Rental Scams

Summer Concert Ticket Scams

Summer Job Scams

Now you know.

Amazingly Sneaky Phishing Scam Hits Netflix Customers

One of the sneakiest phishing scams ever has been hitting Netflix customers. The scam allows the criminal to rummage around inside your computer and steal files while you are on the phone with them. Its amazing and elaborate but customers have been hit. If you are a Netflix customer you need to check this out.