Cruel obituary pirate publishing heads up latest scams for 2022: Internet Scambusters #996
We're only a couple of weeks into 2022 and scammers are already busy.
In this week's Snippets issue, we highlight some of the scams that are active right now.
They include the extraordinary activity by some websites and individuals to cash in on bereavement by republishing death notices -- a practice known as obituary piracy.
Let's get started…
5 Painful Scams: Obituary Pirates, LGBTQ+ Extortion & More
It's been described as a "morbid, online war." And it's true; obituary pirates exploit other people's grief for financial gain. It's happening right now.
When a family loses a loved one, they often turn to the pages of traditional media -- newspapers -- to print their tributes and memories in obituary notices.
And when the publications post them online, or even when individuals publish them on social media and personal sites, the pirates turn up.
They cut and paste these notices onto their own sites alongside money-grabbing ads, perhaps selling floral tributes, memorial candles, or even direct appeals for cash "toward funeral costs."
Other times, the scammers just harvest the data and sell lists to undertakers, florists, and anyone else who might want this information.
It's hard to imagine a more despicable trick than trying to make money out of someone's death. But, as we know, crooks don't care about that.
In recent years, there have been a couple of famous cases of companies being sued by relatives after republishing or even rewriting -- to avoid copyright laws -- obits for this purpose. In one case, a Canadian company was ordered to pay $20 million to victims in a class action suit.
And according to a recent report from tech site Wired, the tragic death toll from the pandemic has only made things worse.
Furthermore, even when they don't make money directly, some websites have been repeating obituaries that have an interesting or unusual angle simply to drive web search traffic to their sites. Even on newspapers' online pages, obituaries get twice as many readers as other parts.
There's not a great deal a victim can do about this scam, especially if the wording has been changed to avoid copyright infringement. But if you learn about one that affects you personally, you can ask for it to be removed. Failing that, you can consider legal action if it is either incorrect or a copy-and-paste job.
But if you're simply an acquaintance wanting to show your support to a bereaved person, contact their undertaker or the person themselves to learn how best to do this.
Read our earlier reports about other obituary scams: Latest Scam Weapons: Obituaries, Surveys and Text Alerts and Latest Scam Weapons: Obituaries, Surveys and Text Alerts.
LGBTQ+ Community Targeted
The LGBTQ+ community is the latest to be targeted by online dating scammers.
But as the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently reported, this is not a traditional "I love you; please send money" romance scam. It's even meaner.
People who belong to these diverse gender groups are being tricked into sending photos and other details about themselves to the fakers who then blackmail them.
In some cases, the victims have not come "out" to others about their gender preferences; in others, the photos may be explicit or even altered by photo editing software. Either way, they're ripe for an extortion scam.
The best way to avoid this type of scam -- whether you're LGBTQ+ or not -- is to make sure you truly know who you're talking to on dating sites. If they send you a photo, do a reverse image search to check their identity. (See Is It Genuine? Check That Photo with Reverse Image Search for how to do this.) Likewise, until you've confirmed their identity, don't provide photos or personal details about yourself.
And finally, we advise against paying a blackmail demand. The crooks will just keep coming back for more. Tell the police. You can also call the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative for help and advice at 844-878-2274.
Here's a nasty variation of those tricks where you unknowingly take out a recurring subscription and then find it hard to cancel.
In this scam you don't even need to have bought one. Instead, scammers are making random calls to people warning that a subscription they have will repeat unless they cancel it.
Victims are asked to phone a call center, where they'll be told how to cancel. But the crooks are really on the end of this line.
They ask for credit card details and advise victims to follow a set of steps on their PC so their card won't be charged.
But what they're actually doing is gaining access to the machines to install malware or steal data -- plus, of course, harvesting card numbers.
Be skeptical of these types of calls -- most firms, even legit ones, would be unlikely to call you to offer a cancellation. Why would they? And they certainly wouldn't need access to your PC.
If you think you've already been scammed, disconnect your computer from the Internet and run a virus scan.
Not A Riot
Working for a top name digital games company would be a dream come true for some would-be programmers.
And because they're generally quite young and unfamiliar with employment practices, they're easily taken in by an unsolicited job offer seemingly from one of the top firms in this field -- Riot Games.
The scammers trick victims into paying for an expensive Apple computer on the promise that they'll be reimbursed. But, of course, there's no computer and no reimbursement. And no Riot job.
The scam includes a very convincing job offer letter, complete with genuine-looking logos. Riot Games is planning legal action against the alleged scammers.
Student Loan Repayments
The payment pause for student loans, which was to have ended this month, has now been extended to May, but many young borrowers may not have heard of this.
So, scammers are turning up the volume of phony help offers to those thinking payment resumes at the end of January, including the most common trick of pretending they can cancel loans or reduce payments.
They often charge a fee for this supposed service and may steal important information like a victim's Federal Student Aid ID.
If you're a student or know one, spread the word on this scam. Never pay upfront or give away confidential ID information in return for this supposed offer. All the true information you need is on the programs' official website at StudentAid.gov.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!