Coronavirus PPE Warning + Bar Code Swap, Lottery and Giveaway Scams

Snippets issue highlights bar code swap scam, new lottery, and trust fund tricks — plus latest Coronavirus update: Internet Scambusters #908

Most current consumer frauds center on the Coronavirus, but not all — code swap scammers, for example,

While we worry about going grocery shopping, they could be inside your local supermarket tampering with gift cards.

In this week’s issue, we’ll tell you how their latest trick works and how to avoid it — together with the latest news on Coronavirus scams.

Let’s get started…


Coronavirus PPE Warning + Bar Code Swap, Lottery and Giveaway Scams


Coronavirus Supplies Scam Warning

Not all coronavirus scams arrive by email, text, or phone. There’s also a chance they might turn up in your regular mailbox. Which is why the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has stepped into the battle against the crooks.

The agency has launched a website section devoted to virus-related tricks online and offline. The site has a couple of useful public service videos explaining actions the agency is taking and providing more tips on how to protect yourself from falling victim.

USPIS is also highlighting the surge we’re now seeing in personal protective equipment (PPE) fraud, warning: “Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks and disinfectant wipes.

“When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, the fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.

“Only purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) or other medical supplies from reputable websites and vendors. Research the vendor and website for complaints before purchasing.”

Meanwhile, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stepped up its battle against misleading and false claims about products and treatments for dealing with Coronavirus.

It has sent out letters to more than 20 firms it accuses of making unsubstantiated claims about preventing or treating the illness. It’s the third batch of warnings issued to firms in the past few weeks.

You can see the list of the alleged culprits in thisĀ  article: FTC Sends 21 Letters Warning Marketers to Stop Making Unsupported Claims That Their Products and Therapies Can Effectively Treat Coronavirus.

Remember, at this time, there’s no cure or vaccine for Coronavirus. Promising treatments are being tested but that’s all. To get reliable news on progress, visit the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Now, on to this week’s Snippets issue:

Code Swappers Join Shoppers

We may be seeing fewer people in our grocery stores, but the scammers are still active, meddling with codes on gift cards.

Stores have clamped down on their old tricks of exposing and reading card codes, which they then used once a card has been bought.

So now the crooks have taken to stealing cards, removing the activation codes, then returning to the store and placing the bar code on new cards, covering the genuine code.

When the new card is charged with a specific value and swiped at the checkout, the money goes onto the criminal’s card.

“So, when you as a consumer go and load that card with money, you’re actually loading their activated gift card,” explains Brian Corrado, a police department spokesman in Colorado, where the scam has recently surfaced.

“They’re managing those gift cards online or through an application, like a mobile app, and they’ll get an alert when that gift card has been activated and money has been loaded onto it.”

The best defense against this scam is to carefully check a card you’re planning to buy.

There’s usually a little slice in the back of the card, with a peel-back strip. If it looks like it’s been peeled back a little, or the card seems thicker in the barcode area, it’s likely been tampered with.

Second Place Ruse

Crooks have also been trying to find a way around another previously successful scam — lottery fraud.

Many of us are aware of fake lottery-win messages, so they’ve come up with a clever ruse — you didn’t win; you got second place.

Now, to some, that might lower the defensive skepticism. You didn’t land the million-dollar first prize, but there’s a half million waiting for you, they say. If it was a scam, the thinking goes, surely they would have pitched the first prize.

As with all lottery scams, the aim is to get victims to pay upfront for all manner of supposed processing and tax changes. It’s still the same old trick.

Avoiding this is simple. Never pay upfront to receive winnings. It’s always a scam.

Phone Trust Fund

Finally, a warning for Facebook users who are told they are in line to receive cash from a trust fund.

It starts with an invitation to follow someone on the social media site. Sometimes it’s in the name of a well-known media figure, whose reputation is trusted.

The fake media celebrity than asks the victim if they’ve heard of a trust fund that entitles them to receive a big, no-strings financial gift.

The supposed donor is not a Nigerian prince this time but an organization that’s supposedly devoted to giving back to society — where from, we’re never told.

It’s a simple phishing trick. Anyone who falls for it is asked to provide bank details so the money can be paid direct. The money never arrives but the victim’s bank account is drained.

Don’t be impressed by follow requests from supposed famous people. Unless you’re famous yourself, the blunt truth is that it’s more than likely a con trick.

Privacy PS

It’s not a scam, but we’re passing on a warning to people who use dating sites about the likelihood that their details may be sold to advertisers without their consent.

A Norwegian consumer organization says it has uncovered evidence about the way these sites, which are well-known and widely used in the US, are passing on confidential information.

There’s an English language summary of the report here: New study: The advertising industry is systematically breaking the law, including a link to the original report from security firm mnemonic. Makes for shocking reading about the vulnerability of your personal data.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!