Snippets issue highlights latest variation of newspaper subscription scam: Internet Scambusters #629
We have an interesting new variation on the well-known newspaper/magazine subscription scam in this week's issue: you actually get your subscription but pay through the nose for it.
It's a Snippets issue, so we also have a warning about doorstep scammers apparently soliciting food donations.
And, for a pleasant change, we have two pieces of good news about moves that could help in the battle to beat the scammers.
Now, here we go...
New Food Donation and Subscription Scams --
Plus Some Good News
A huge magazine and newspaper subscription scam is sweeping the country, prompting a series of alerts from publishers and consumer protection agencies.
To make things worse, the scam seems to be completely legal, as we explain below.
We also have another important scam alert concerning doorstep soliciting of food donations, and, for a change, a couple of good news Snippets.
First, let's take a look at that newspaper payment con trick.
This trick relies on fooling recipients into believing they've received a legitimate bill for renewing a subscription to a newspaper or a well-known magazine. Actually, it's mainly focused on local newspapers in the vicinity of the victims.
It's not clear how the scammers find out the names of subscribers or whether they simply send out a spam snail mail letter to everyone with the knowledge that some recipients will be subscribers.
It looks like a genuine bill and victims who pay do indeed seem to get their subscription. The trouble is they pay around a 20% premium, which ends up in the pockets of the scammers.
Plus, of course, they'll also get another fake notice when renewal time comes around.
How is this legal? Buried in the small print is a disclaimer, saying that the notification is, indeed, a solicitation and not a bill.
So the con artists take their cut and then pass on the subscription request and payment to the publisher.
We've reported on subscription scams before in Scammers Send Fake Renewal Notices for Magazine Subscriptions but previously they've been of the type where victims are totally conned and never receive the publication.
This one is in the gray area of legal.
Action: Here's hard evidence that you should always read the small print, especially in anything that looks like a bill.
Food Donation Scam
Thank goodness for the American spirit of giving. Every month, hundreds of thousands of us donate to food pantries that help feed the poor and disadvantaged.
What a pity, though, that crooks are exploiting that generosity by using it as a trick to gain entry into victims' homes.
They claim to represent a local food bank and may carry branded food bank bags and even bogus identification, as well as timing their visits to coincide with genuine donation drives.
What are they after? Well, they could be after free food, which they could sell or trade, but in several cases they've offered free carpet cleaning in exchange for a donation, which would get them into the homes they visit.
Apart from the security aspect, the worry is that fears about the scam could actually stop people from making donations.
Action: Food bank officials say if you're concerned about doorstep collections, you should take your donations straight to the distribution depot or contact the charity to check identities.
Certainly, you shouldn't fall for a false deal like a free carpet cleaning. That's just not going to happen.
Now for the Good News
We love it when we can report good news instead of gloomy scam alerts, so here are a couple of issues you may like to know about.
First, you may have read recently about a warning that Amazon accounts could be hacked via certain free ebooks downloaded onto its Kindle readers.
According to several security sites, the problem has now been fixed.
The doctored books, which were generally available only on "pirate" sites (so you shouldn't have been downloading them anyway!), not on Amazon itself, contained lines of code that installed malware onto the Kindle and, through that, accessed user accounts.
But, apparently, no more.
Second, a major new step to make bogus online pharmacies easier to spot is due to be introduced about now.
This is the use of the top-level domain name suffix ".pharmacy."
We've previously written in Using Online Pharmacies: Recommended Practices and How to Spot Fakes about how illegal or unlicensed pharmacies operate on the Internet and the risks that users face.
Now, one of the organizations leading the campaign against these crooks (the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy) has been granted permission to control the allocation and use of the new ".pharmacy" name, ensuring only legitimate operators can have it.
In the year ahead, expect to see more and more legitimate pharmacies using this at the end of their Internet address, till we reach a point where we can say if it doesn't have that ".pharmacy" beware!
And don't forget, be on the alert for that newspaper subscription scam.
Alert of the Week
Have you received a threatening email that seems to come from eBay and, specifically, a member called Asley88?
The message looks genuine and even includes your real name with the regular eBay message, "Your registered name is included to show this message originated from eBay."
But it didn't.
The message, which implies you have failed to answer earlier communications, threatens to report you to eBay and the FBI.
But if you click on the link for the item you're supposed to have purchased (sometimes, ironically, a fishing lure) you'll be taken to a bogus sign-on page which aims to phish for your eBay credentials.
If you get a message you don't recognize from eBay, never click the links. Instead, go to the auction site independently, sign on, and click on "My eBay." From the drop-down menu, select "Messages."
If there's no copy of the message there, it's a scam!
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.