Baker Fraud Report 5/21/20

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Secret Service warns Nigerian gangs are running massive fraud to steal state  unemployment benefits; losses may be hundreds of millions

  • Use stolen identities of law enforcement, teachers, others to apply
  • Money goes into money mule accounts, often in other states
  • Many of the accounts opened by romance fraud victims
  • Biggest problems found so far are Washington State, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Florida

ID theft victims can’t get benefits
Nigerian fraud gang Scattered Canary involved
Here is my study on how romance fraud victims are used as mules

Three big US credit report agencies now let people get one free every week for the rest of the year

FTC launches new dashboard that allows searches of international scam transaction;

Coronavirus

Full report here

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Good news on virus

Virus Data

People are totally freaked out by the virus, and it is reshaping lives and the future in often unpleasant ways.  We know that there is a risk, but we also want to know just how big that risk is. We all want accurate scientific data, but despite a flood of information out there, it is difficult to find really reliable information that is not colored by politics.  So here is one piece of information people may find useful.

How do we know if we’re making good progress against the virus?  It turn out it is hard to find out.  Several of the public metrics that are almost always used are less than useful. 

New virus tests:  Testing is expanding rapidly, and most of those tested turn out negative.  But of course if you test more people you are going to find more that test positive.  So it is hard to see trends from that data.

Total hospitalizations: This is also a common feature for graphs, but since those hospitalized may be there for a long period, they are a poor way to show trends.

Deaths:  Again, those who die may be hospitalized for a long period.  Thus even if the virus magically disappeared tomorrow there would still be deaths in the days to come.

New daily virus hospitalizations:  In my view, this is a great indicator for trends. It shows those people that have the virus and are really sick, and it can readily be tracked over time.  Unfortunately, many states don’t seem to report this rate, so I was only able to find it for New York City. But that is the hardest hit place in the U.S.

The graph below is from Monday, May 11.  But it clearly shows that new virus hospitalizations have gone down rapidly, suggesting that the worst of the problem may be gone. https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data.page

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Baker Fraud Report May 13, 2020

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YouTube filmmakers reach out to IRS impersonator in India; interview him; raise money to help him get an honest job; scammer says they know when police are going to raid them

New York AG settles with Zoom over privacy issues during shut down

Coronavirus

Full report here

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Baker Fraud Report May 7, 2020

Thought of the week:  Why is it so hard to get accurate information about Covid19?  At the FTC the philosophy is that given good information people overall make good decisions. They will do OK.

Coronavirus

Virus shutdown fuels pet scams (My BBB study on pet scams here)

Tip of the week: Online shopping, counterfeits and fraud. With so many stores closed people are increasingly shopping online for common goods.  But a large part of those are actually counterfeit.  In fact, over half the goods sold on Amazon are by “third party sellers” that ship directly to victims and not from Amazon; usually from China. Huge numbers of complaints to the FTC and BBB are from people who shopped online, paid with a credit card, and never received anything at all.  So make sure goods you receive are authentic, and call your credit card company and dispute the charge if they are counterfeit or never arrive.  And see my BBB study on counterfeit goods fraud

Prediction:  Bankruptcy! We are almost certainly coming up on a flood of individuals and businesses that can’t pay rent, mortgages, credit card bills, etc.  So expect a large wave of people in financial distress.  And the scammers will be out there to take advantage. Watch for scam debt collectors, mortgage, student loan and credit card debt and other financial relief frauds.

BBB studies: They can all be found here. There are links below to several topic areas, and there are also studies on puppy fraud,  tech support fraud, romance fraud money mules, and rental fraud

full report here

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Baker Fraud Report 4/30/20

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Coronavirus — Masks

Coronavirus – Other scams

Full report here

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Baker Fraud Report 4/23/20

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Hackers stole Facebook information on 267 million people; database for sale on dark web for $600; researchers set up site to check if yours stolen

Your rights if you’ve canceled an airline flight because of the virus

BBB releases update two years after study on free trial offer/subscription trap study; Visa and MasterCard adopt new policies; more FTC lawsuits

VISA announces new policies to fight free trial offers scams: “Specifically, cardholders will benefit from receiving the following — via email or text — from the seller they initiated a trial or introductory offer subscription with:

  • immediate confirmation of the terms of the agreement
  • proactive notification of any future payments at the end of the trial period
  • instructions on how to initiate a cancellation”

FTC tips on stimulus check fraud

  • Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never in response to a call, text, or email.
  • The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media with information about your stimulus payment, or to ask you for your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number. Anyone who does is a scammer phishing for your information.
  • You don’t have to pay to get your stimulus money.
  • The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.

Coronavirus

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Baker Fraud Report 4/16/20

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Please send us press releases!  The Fraud Report wants to keep everyone up to date on fraud issues. The media attention now is all about virus issues, so they may not report arrests or prosecutions. Send them along and we’ll include them here.

FTC releases data on international scams reported to econsumer.gov, fraud reporting site that shares complaints with 35 countries

  • Can take complaints in many languages
  • 2019 received 40,432 complaints
  • Losses of $151.3 million
  • Top complaints about products sold online, goods paid for but never received goods

Germany has to end small business loans because criminal gangs set up dozens of fake web sites to apply and get government money

Coronavirus

Tip of the week:  Counterfeit goods. With so many people shopping online right now there is an increasing danger of buying goods that are counterfeit, including of course things like masks and cleansers.  Be extra careful with third party sellers on Amazon. Check out 1 star reviews, where people often report that goods are not what they claim to be. And call to get a full refund on your credit card if you’re ripped off.  Here is the BBB study on counterfeits.

Full report here

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Baker Fraud Report 4/9/20

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Volunteer group identifies scam sites for masks and protective gear sold online but never delivered

  • Perhaps the largest category of virus complaints we’re seeing now are scammers taking money for masks and protective gear and not delivering them
  • Scam.directory has located over 300 such sites operating around the world
  • This is by a volunteer group that also operates petscams.com
  • Most scams are operated by the same gangs in Cameroon that run puppy frauds; here is BBB study on pets
  • Many of the sites are registered in the U.S.
  • They don’t just rip off individuals.Here is an article on a Greek pharmacy losing their money
  • [email protected]

Scam email by a BEC scammer
A contact just got an email he thought came from a friend. It reads:
Thank you XXX. I should have called you to explain further but still can’t access my mobile phone. I  need you to kindly purchase 5pcs x $100 of either eBay or Target or Amazon gift cards which totals $500 as donation for the purchase of preventive items from Corona Disease (COVID 19) due to the vulnerability of Veterans at Hospice & Palliative Care .I will be liable for reimbursement.
 You can purchase them online as (e-gift card) or at any Kohl’s, CVS, Kwik, Macy’s, Walmart, or Walgreen’s Store. Due to the time frame of the pledge, I will be glad if you get them early enough today.
E-mail me immediately you buy them for instructions how to get them across. Let me know if a check will be fine for reimbursement. Thank you.
 Coronavirus 

Tip of the week: Scams continue and will go after big money from the government There is no reason at all to think that scams are down right now; in fact I suspect they are up with so many people at home.  The courts have limited their schedules, so there may be fewer prosecutions, and the news media is currently covering very little that is not virus related.  But if anything scammers are surely redoubling their efforts. 
After previous disasters I’ve seen price gouging, bogus charities, and other scams during and immediately after they happen, but the really big losses come later with crooked/incompetent contractors or people inappropriately getting insurance or government benefits.  For example, we saw Nigerian scammers defrauding FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.  So get ready to deal with scammers looking for money from stimulus checks, business loans, and other assistance.  There lie the big bucks.

Full report here

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Baker Fraud Report 4/2/20

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April 2, 2020
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As you’d imagine, scams or warning about possible scams related to virus issues have just exploded.  It is often hard to tell how many of these are wide- spread and organized fraud efforts. But complaints to BBB and law enforcement have gone up significantly, and patterns are emerging.  Scammers are continuing unabated.  Obviously this is a priority area right now for enforcers and other fraud fighters.
 
Because so many alerts and press reports right now are of doubtful assistance it would not be useful to have all of these included in the Fraud Report.  So I’ll try to include the most important and relevant news from around the world.
 
Coronavirus Police in Turkey arrest five, seize 1 million counterfeit masksUK’s Action Fraud says virus scam complaints went up 400% in March; explains scams they are seeingCanadian prime minister warns of scams exploiting emergency government benefitsSocial Security warns letters are going out, supposedly from SSA, threatening to suspend benefits; has victims call a number, often asks them to buy gift cardsFormer federal prosecutor says DOJ hasn’t taken financial fraud seriously; not prepared to deal with coronavirus scamsMichigan Attorney General sends cease and desist letter to company selling patch to prevent virusSouthern California district attorneys set up task forces, scam hotlines, to deal with virus fraudCrooks hijacking routers, redirecting web traffic to coronavirus scam sites; most common in the U.S., France, and German; use sites to infect readers with malware 
Two tips of the week: 1) Reports are that lots of complaints and problems are coming up from canceled travel and events with people looking for refunds, and 2) Those who address price gouging should know that with lots of scientific research demand for eggs the price of those is going up rapidly, and 3) My friend and former colleague at the FTC, John Singer, has developed a powerpoint on coronavirus scams he wants to share. Contact John at:  [email protected]
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Baker Fraud Report 3/26/20

March 26, 2020
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Thanks to everyone who keep things going while many us work from home.  Grocery stores, gas stations, power companies, truck drivers, police and everyone else, many of who don’t make that much money

Coronavirus 

Read the full issue here

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