Snippets issue highlights "organic mattress" claims: Internet Scambusters #796
The word "organic" is both widely misunderstood and misused in the retailing world, even when it comes to beds.
In this week's Snippets issue, we highlight dubious claims about "organic" mattresses and sound another warning about the use of this term.
We also have news of a sneaky Amazon phishing trick that uses a review request as a lure, a despicable scam targeting recently bereaved families and friends, and an advance payment scam aimed at musicians.
Let's get started...
Snippets: Deceptive "Organic" Claims, Amazon Phishing, Fake Funeral Extras and Gig Scams
We've written a couple of times in the past about the dubious attachment of the word "organic" to food products -- but whoever heard of an organic mattress?
Apparently, it is a thing. For example, a bedding product made from organic cotton likely would qualify. But it's not clear whether a whole mattress could ever meet the requirements of honest use of the term. What about the springs, for instance?
But that hasn't prevented some vendors from labeling their mattresses as organic.
In one recent case, a manufacturer was called out after describing one of its mattresses "organic," and another as "a safe, organic alternative to traditional crib mattresses."
Investigators found these claims to be unfounded. And, just for good measure, they discovered the seller had invented a safety-type of certification that it thoughtfully awarded itself.
The experience underlines the importance of doing your research when buying a product that's labeled as "organic." Sadly, the term is bandied about so much these days that it has become almost meaningless.
Before buying, check out product claims, logos, and certifications online -- plus the reputation of the company.
You'll find more information about use of the "organic" label in this FTC article: Shopping Green.
Amazon Review Request is a Phishing Trick
Another word that frequently ends up in scams is the name of the online retailing giant Amazon.
In the latest trick, scammers send out messages that seem to come from Amazon thanking recipients for making a purchase and offering to reward them with $50 for reviewing the product.
The messages are sent out at random but since millions of people buy from Amazon every week, there's a good chance one of these emails will land in the inbox of a genuine buyer, who might therefore have no reason to suspect a scam.
But this is just a cheap and simple phishing trick -- the link to where victims are supposed to post their reviews is nothing more than the gateway to a fake Amazon page where sign-on details will be stolen and used mercilessly to buy and ship items to either a vacant house or an intermediary for onward shipment.
As always, we recommend that you should never click on links in this type of email. Go directly to Amazon.com or wherever the message is supposed to have originated and check things out from there.
Now for a nasty variation on the well-known imposter scam -- in which crooks pretend to be someone they're not, usually a friend or relative in trouble, in order to steal a victim's money.
In this new version, they monitor obituary announcements and then track down family members and friends of the recently deceased.
They pose as employees of the funeral home, claiming there are insufficient funds to meet the funeral costs. They ask their victims to make a contribution.
In some cases, they actually contact the spouse or other immediate family members claiming that there are some elements of the funeral that are still to be paid for.
The giveaway, of course, is that they want their victims to wire these supposed extra payments -- a procedure that most if not all funeral homes would never use.
The trick works well because close family members are often in a fragile state of mind after a bereavement and are more likely to fall for the scam.
Just make it a rule not to ever wire money as a solicited payment to anyone unless, and until, you know for sure who you're dealing with.
Finally, news of an advanced payment scam targeting musicians looking for work.
Unless they're entertainment headliners, most musicians have to scour venues and calendars looking for work. And it's these people, who actually number in their tens of thousands, whom the scammers have in their sights.
The tricksters search online sites used by musicians looking for work, then contact their victims offering them a lucrative gig at a wedding or other type of family celebration, or even an overseas festival.
The location is often some distance away from wherever the musician is based.
If the victim takes the bait, the scammers then send a check, usually for several thousands of dollars and sent by a delivery service like FedEx, with the usual advance fee request that he/she forwards part of the money to whoever will make the travel arrangements.
Of course, the travel agent is really the scammer, hoping the victim will wire the money before the check turns out to be a fake.
The rule here is simple: Never forward a cash balance to a supposed third party in a contract. It's nearly always a fraud.
Alert of the Week
Are you unknowingly giving away the answers to some of your security questions?
According to a new Facebook warning, scammers are posting innocent-looking items that ask users questions from their past -- like the names of school teachers or first cars.
These are also the type of subjects that crop up in many security questions and crooks are believed to be trying to harvest answers through these Facebook posts.
So, watch out. Keep your personal memories to yourself.
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!