Snippets issue spotlights phony donation plea and more ID theft scams: Internet Scambusters #779
Who wouldn't want to make a donation to a campaign they feel really strongly about?
That's the hope of scammers pretending to be running a campaign to save U.S. Social Security payments, as we highlight in this week's Snippets issue.
We'll also tell you about how scammers target veterans with a fake phone number, how crooks have been capturing newly posted mail, and a rumor that just won't die about charges for using the WhatsApp service.
Let's get started...
Donation Plea, Vet Rebate, Latest What's App Scams All Target ID Theft
Heard about the plan to abolish Social Security? No? Probably because, at least as of this writing, there's no such plan.
But that hasn't stopped a group of scammers from soliciting financial support for a phony campaign to fight the plan.
It's a clever trick because the money request arrives in the mail, pretending to be from an advocacy group supposedly newly formed to fight the non-existent proposal.
The letter says the group wants to mail every senior in the United States with a referendum form but it needs a $16 donation to help finance their opposition.
Victims are asked to pay by credit card, which means the crooks behind this scam also get enough information for identity theft. They get their $16 plus the opportunity to max out your card.
If you get one of these letters in the mail, throw it in the trash. And if a time ever comes when Congress does propose such a measure, you can be sure the good old AARP will take up the cudgels.
Phony Rebate Offer to Vets
Here's another way of stealing your credit card details: Instead of asking for your cash, there's nothing like an offer of "free money" to whet the appetite of potential scam victims.
In one of the latest tricks, crooks are targeting veterans with an offer of a rebate for paid medical services.
Again, it's a clever ploy, pretending to come from the genuine Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which allows some vets to use health care providers outside of the VA.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the crooks have set up a phone service with a number similar to the legit one (which, for the record, is 866-606-8198).
The fake number may show up in web searches or be delivered in an email, using genuine VA logos and addresses.
The phony phone has a recorded message that tells callers they're entitled to a rebate if they provide their credit card number.
This kind of trick -- using phone numbers similar to genuine ones -- is a common scam.
Always be sure you have the correct number and never leave your credit card details with a recorded answer service. In fact, don't give out your card number to anyone unless you know for sure they're the genuine article.
Returning to the subject of snail mail, crooks have created a sticky problem for people mailing off letters via public USPS mailboxes in various parts of the United States.
The scammers use a simple trick -- smearing an invisible sticky substance inside mailbox lids.
The sender pops the envelope into the lid and shuts it. How many of us bother to check if the letter has disappeared by reopening the lid?
Well, those who don't run the risk of being caught out by this scam. Letters are then removed by the crooks and checked for information for ID theft, gift cards, and checks that can be cashed fraudulently.
The Postal Service is onto this trick and has been checking and cleaning up. But a repeat could pop up anywhere.
It underlines the importance of checking to be sure your letter has dropped into the box. Or look for post boxes that use a slot rather than a swiveling lid.
WhatsApp Not Charging
For our final Snippet, just the latest in a never-ending stream of rumors about charges for users of social media applications.
This time, the targets are users of the messaging/chat service WhatsApp. But the aim is not just to spread malicious gossip but to trick users into handing over some money and maybe, once again, to steal credit card info.
Victims receive a text message saying something like, "Your WhatsApp subscription has expired."
But the good news, the scammers tell them, is that they can now buy a lifetime renewal subscription for a small fee of 99 cents or so.
There's a link in the text to a fake WhatsApp page, but we have no information on what happens next. Almost certainly, victims would have to provide payment card details.
A long time ago, the service, which claims to have a billion users, did levy a charge after the first year of use.
But they dropped that at the beginning of 2016. However, rumors that the charge was about to be reintroduced have been circulating for most of this year.
Just not true. The only way you could end up paying would be if you ran out of data capacity on your phone and had to buy more so you could carry on using the Internet.
But that, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with WhatsApp. The money goes to your phone service provider.
This rumor looks like it's fated never to die. Each time after WhatsApp denies there's such a plan, a few weeks later the story resurfaces.
Check out the organization's official position on charging in their FAQ.
The bottom line is that the social media world is intensely competitive and any attempt to introduce charges would be suicidal for service providers.
So, for now, you can safely ignore those rumors. They're as fake as a donation request for a "Save our Social Security" campaign.
Alert of the Week
Amid your Christmas planning, watch out for fake holiday jobs ads.
Crooks tell victims they found their names on a well-known job search site and then go on to try one of many types of employment scams that always end up with a request for payment.
One of the legitimate companies whose name is being used for this scam -- FlexJobs -- has published a useful guide on how not to get caught: Beware of This Increasingly Common Job Scam Using FlexJobs’ Name.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!