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Hi all, With many states within the U.S. easing COVID-19 restrictions as new cases & deaths diminish many people have the urge to travel for a much needed vacation or to see loved ones. Because of this people are increasingly using booking sites to get the best deal on an airline ticket. Scammers have also taken notice of this uptick in activity to these sites. The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning stating that scammers are spoofing legitimate sites with look-alike copies or are using fraudulent customer support/service numbers. Here's what the BBB had to say on this recent, alarmingly increasing, criminal activity. How the scam works: BBB Scam Tracker is receiving reports of con artists creating fake airline ticket booking sites or customer service numbers. If you are buying airfare, use caution and double check the URL or phone number before providing your credit card information. While doing an online search for cheap flights, you come across what seems like a great deal with a major airline. You book the flight—either through the website or by calling a customer support number—and receive a confirmation message. However, when you look more closely at the email, you notice that you never actually received your ticket. In another version of this scam, you book a flight on a travel website offering deals on airfare. You pay with your credit card like normal. But shortly after making the payment, you receive a call from the company saying that there's been a sudden price increase or an extra charge to finalize your booking. This is something a legitimate company would never do! In either case, you call the airline to follow up about your flight. After talking to an agent, you find that they have no record of your booking. It turns out you accidentally purchased tickets through a scam website or a phony customer service number. One victim told BBB Scam Tracker: "I received a phone call right after [I booked the flight] stating that they wanted $100 per passenger to finalize my flight." Then, after calling the airline to complain, the victim discovered that "the flight wasn't available to begin with. The flight was never booked... this company just charged my card." How to Avoid Travel Scams: Do your research. If you come across a company you haven’t dealt with before, research it before making any purchases. Look on BBB.org https://bbb.org/ for reviews and feedback from previous customers. Double check the URL before you enter personal and payment information. It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing. Before you enter any sensitive information, double check that you are on the right website and that the link is secure. (Secure links start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase page. Be wary of third-party websites. Some websites appear to offer a legitimate service but are only fronts for a scam. Be suspicious of websites with no working customer service number and no physical address. Typos and grammatical errors can be indications of a scammer’s handiwork, too. Make online purchases with your credit card. Fraudulent charges made on a credit card can usually be disputed, whereas that might not be the case with other payment methods. Unfortunately, there is no way to get back the personal information you may have shared. For More Information: To learn more about planning a getaway during COVID-19, check out this tip from BBB. For ways to protect yourself from travel scams, go to BBB.org/TravelScam. https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/16913-bbb-tip-5-top-vacation-scams-to-watch-when-making-travel-plans Read more about customer service number scams. Stay one step ahead of scammers by subscribing to BBB's weekly Scam Alert emails at this link. https://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin?v=00196SK7jbUtroqhxOlPMyQySrJnhMSucQH8wVtD9Mr0eo4Hbe6y2tvOesXAb2OO219f6RQzT6ZVsyCWVkCJ1NWv15CyVNyYs4NYfc2hPxtfNYHPfs5zQJ7JWN65hO6jHN0FKJZ0-w-oLbrfE9KbDiTmrwiI_tcRpa0XRKD7Pl5gzHi5MaiT3cpeyw1_PbdV_Ezs0kS2fj0VPD3e-Jbkm0e6v4otALFFcCG If you’ve been a victim of an airline ticket or other travel scam, please report your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker. https://bbb.org/scamtracker By doing so you can help others to avoid falling prey to scammers.
A couple of times this month I received a recorded phone call allegedly from an Amazon employee stating that they have detected possibly fraudulent activity with my account. I was then prompted to press 1 for more info. "I immediately knew this was a 'scam call' for the simple reason that I don't have an Amazon account!" After that I decided to do some investigation into this. "Amazon is aware of this scam and is advising it's customers if you do receive one of these scam calls don't fall for it, just hang up & 'definitely don't press any numbers' when prompted!" You can always check your Amazon on-line account yourself if you have any concerns and then contact Amazon customer service directly if you have questions. These Amazon scammers have also been using hacked email accounts. If you receive an email with similar content just delete it without clicking on any links or attachments included. You're also encouraged to report these calls or email to the Better Business Bureau, https://www.bbb.org/ and the Federal Trade Commission. https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/ Not a bad idea to also report this activity to your state's Attorneys General office. Regards, Ritchie...
With the pandemic raging out of control 'many' people have opted to use the video conferencing Zoom app to stay in touch with relatives, friends & co-workers remotely. The Black Hats have taken notice of this since the apps' popularity has risen dramatically too. The most recent scam that I've heard of is to send you either an email or text message stating that your Zoom account has been deactivated/disabled and to click on the link provided to correct the issue with Zoom. Of course if you click on that link you're only going to get arbitrary code being executed and installed on your device instead. This malware will try to steal log-in information and/or other personal data & possibly install additional spyware/malware on your system. There was an instance not long ago where hackers gained access to a grade school using Zoom for remote learning and sent the children pornographic content instead! That's just "too low!" Here's an informative article by the Better Business Bureau that outlines how Zoom is also being used in a very recent phishing scam as well. https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/23421-bbb-scam-alert-that-zoom-invite-is-really-a-phishing-scam
The Department of Homeland Security issued a rare public warning urging on-line shoppers to use a great deal of vigilance this holiday season! Black Friday's on-line sales was at a record high of about 4.1 billion dollars spent, I'm sure the bad guys have taken notice of this, and Cyber Monday is right around the corner too. Cyber crime always increases during the holiday season but there has been an "alarmingly noticeable increase" of reported incidents compared to last year. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of cyber crime. First of all it's not a bad idea to update your Antivirus software & run a malware scan of your Operating System drive before doing any holiday shopping. Then make sure your AV is kept up to date while doing your on-line shopping. If you have access to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) definitely use it whenever you do any on-line banking or shopping regardless of the time of year. When holiday shopping on-line make sure you don't end up on a bogus site that resembles the real thing. Fake websites are on the rise this year. Apple, Amazon, and Target are currently the most impersonated. Other big names in the same situation are Tiffany, Sony, Samsung, and Microsoft. Always look for the secure "HTTPS" URL header with the shopping site's Domain name. Almost all legitimate on-line retailers use these secure encryption protocols that protects your personal data that's being sent from your browser. Also look for Domain names for popular brands that have spelling errors or mistakes, even if using the HTTPS protocols or not (HTTP) these are not genuine. Consider using a major credit card for payment such as Visa or MasterCard, etc... instead of a bank debit card. If using a debit card your savings or checking account could be drained and, unless the criminals are actually caught, there's nothing much can be done about that. Most major credit card company's offer some form of reimbursement if it's discovered that you were a victim of scamming. Plus the big card company's have methods to detect & react to possible fraudulent use of your card number. Still check your card's account often for any unauthorized purchases and contact the card issuer right away if you suspect something is amiss. Another option would be to use PayPal or a similar secure web based payment service if the retailer accepts these types of payment methods. Email is also being used for phishing attempts, malware using attachments as an attack vector or to re-direct you to a malicious drive-by download site. Avoid opening any links or attachments that come from any unsolicited entity. Especially if it comes from a company or charity you never heard of or never done business with. Be very wary of so-called free giveaways, discounts or gift cards delivered to your in-box this holiday season. When in doubt, just delete them. Social media sites are also being targeted with possible malicious/phishing links offering such holiday themed giveaways, gift cards or discounts. So be wary of any links you click on while visiting social media sites as well. A little common sense can go a long way to keep you safe too. "If you see a bargain that seems too good to be true it probably is!" Best wishes, Ritchie...