New info on Facebook scams, danger texts, robocalls and podcasts: Internet Scambusters #876
Some scams just won't die because they're too easy to use to dupe victims.
Facebook Gold is one such trick. It's been around for years but has popped up again, asking potential victims to cough up $10 for this coveted membership, which actually doesn't exist.
We'll explain the details in this week's Snippets issue -- together with a renewed warning about the Social Security suspension scam.
Let's get started...
Facebook Gold or Facebook Platinum? No Such Things!
What could be better for social media fans than an active Facebook account? How about a Facebook Gold account?
Let's get straight to the point: There is no such thing as a Facebook Gold membership.
But that doesn't stop scammers claiming there is. You can even find fake Facebook Gold logos and related artwork online.
This scam has, in fact, been around for many years. It had been dormant for quite a while but has suddenly sprung to life again.
There are several variations of the scam, which may also use the title Facebook Platinum.
Usually, the aim is to extract a "Gold Membership" fee of around $10, and the invitation may come either through an online ad or email.
Sometimes, the scams suggest Gold Membership offers higher levels of privacy and security. In other cases, victims are told their existing Facebook account has been suspended and they must now apply for the gold version.
Another variation involves using the fake logo or artwork with a social media or forum post, to suggest that users can only view the post or photo if they're gold members. Or it might be used just to add an air of credibility to a dubious post.
Mostly, this is just a mischievous prank, but, in theory, it could be used as a link to trick people into downloading malware.
So, let's just restate: There is no such thing as a Facebook Gold or Platinum membership.
New Robocall Data
US consumers received more than 26 billion robocalls last year and, despite efforts to halt or block them, the scammers and spammers are still hard at it.
For them, it's a numbers game. Let's say, for example, that one in ten thousand call recipients fall for the trick and lose money: that's 2.6 million victims!
Robocalls -- automated recordings either selling to or threatening victims -- are the number one source of complaints received by the US Federal Trade Commission FTC).
The Commission has just launched a new online section packed with info relating to the Do Not Call (DNC) registry, which is supposed to stop solicitors from phoning registered numbers.
Although the registry generally doesn't stop scammers, it does allow consumers to search for information on robocalls by state and county.
There's also a list, updated quarterly, showing the most common telemarketing call complaints. For instance, at the time of this writing, the section shows that debt reduction robocalls are the number one scam complaint, followed by medical/prescription calls, and then imposters.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently said that phone companies should do more to counter the scammers by blocking their calls by default.
It's early days yet, but there's been little or no effect so far. For now, it's down to us as consumers to block the calls where we can -- and continue to complain to the FCC and FTC about them.
Don't know how to block them? On your cell phone it's quite easy. Simply switch on the Do Not Disturb function in settings and then enter the genuine numbers you want to let through as "exceptions." It may not stop spoofed calls, but it should significantly cut the number of others.
Staying on the cellphone theme, a new scare recently appeared, showing how receiving a simple text message can be used to give hackers access to your device.
Fortunately, the vulnerability was demonstrated by a Google researcher at a "good" hackers' conference. She showed how certain texts using Apple's iMessage client could be misinterpreted by devices.
"These can be turned into the sort of bugs that will execute code and be able to eventually be used for weaponized things like accessing your data," Natalie Silvanovich warned. "So, the worst-case scenario is that these bugs are used to harm users."
She said, in July, that Apple had already corrected several of the problems but others remained. Overall, she added, iMessage is extremely secure, so hackers would have to search hard for bugs before they could be activated.
As these bugs are constantly being fixed, the best way to protect yourself is to keep your phone and operating system up to date.
New Scam Podcast
Are you interested in improving your knowledge of scams?
The first thing we recommend (of course) is through regular reading of the weekly Scambusters newsletters. Count on us to bring you details on the latest and most common scams every week.
Second, you might be interested in a weekly podcast from AARP, the retired folks organization.
It's not so much a news report as a series of stories about scams, plus tips on how to avoid them. Start here: https://www.aarp.org/podcasts/the-perfect-scam/
Alert of The Week
Although we reported on it a few weeks back, the "suspended Social Security account" scam is still gathering pace.
It's simple: You receive a call or email saying your account or Social Security number has been suspended. Various reasons, such as a security issue, are cited, and the crooks ask for money or confidential information to reactivate it.
Not true! The Social Security Administration DOES NOT suspend accounts or numbers, period. Nor does it phone or email people about their accounts without sending a letter first.
If you get one of these messages, you can safely ignore it.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.