The MyChargeBack Blog

A Treacherous Twitter Password Hack Leaves the Social Media Company in Disarray

The Latest Twitter Password Hack Has Left the Social Media Company in a Panic

The Twitter password hack caught the social media giant surprisingly off guard. Twitter execs are scrambling for answers following what arguably may be the gravest social media security breach to date.

Hackers hijacked Twitter accounts belonging to a long list of  high-profile public figures and corporations. They include Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Kanye West, and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Apple, CashApp, Wendy’s and Uber are a few of the firms that were targets.

That was bad enough, of course. But the hackers then tweeted deceptive messages they crafted to millions of followers. Their tweets asked the public to deposit bitcoin into a bitcoin e-wallet. In return, the tweets claimed that the celebrity or company would double that amount and transfer it back. This magnanimous act of generosity was supposedly a way to aid the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, it was just a scam. And a typical cryptocurrency scam at that. Victims lost a total of 12.5 bitcoins. That was equivalent to $121,000.  

Twitter confirmed the hacking more than six hours after the initial breach. According to the company,  the hack was a “coordinated social engineering attack.” It confirmed that hackers accessed employees’ “internal systems and tools.” 

Immediately afterwards, Twitter took the unprecedented step of preventing any and all tweets from being sent from any and all accounts. Most accounts were restored within a few hours. But the company warned that it “may take further actions.” Twitter also locked the compromised accounts and limited “access to internal systems and tools.”

A Historic Hack But a Common Scam

This historic Twitter password hack was bold and unprecedented. Nevertheless, the scam the hackers pulled off is typical in the world of cybercrime. It’s not uncommon for scammers to hack into a high-profile account to coax followers to part with their assets. 

It remains unknown exactly how the account breach took place. An investigation, led by the FBI, is underway. According to security researchers, the hackers managed to fully infiltrate the victims’ accounts. That makes it difficult for the real account holders to regain access.

The Aftermath

In the immediate future, Twitter will no doubt conduct serious damage control. The company, along with everyone else, has to await the results of the criminal investigation. Only then will it understand how it happened and how it can prevent a security breach with far more disastrous consequences. In the meanwhile, it is no doubt reviewing its internal security procedures.

The public also has a right to know. One question, for example, is whether the hackers had ulterior motives. Or was it greed alone that motivated them?

If you are the victim of identity theft or cybercrime, contact MyChargeBack today for a free consultation. We are an American fund recovery firm with a global reach. Working with over 700 banks, we have assisted clients on every continent recover millions of dollars in assets that they thought they lost for good.

What Do Banks Call Chargebacks?

The credit card companies themselves call them “chargebacks.” Their relevant rules and regulations are collectively known as “chargeback guidelines.” Your bank is empowered by the credit card companies to issue you their credit cards (and debit cards) but may not call them that. So we checked the websites of a number of leading financial institutions. What do banks call chargebacks anyway?

What Do Banks Call a Chargeback in North America? 

JPMorganChase uses the word “chargeback.” But also euphemisms like “disputed charge” and “disputed claim.” Citibank elects for “cardholder dispute” and “dispute charge.” Bank of America prefers “credit card dispute” and “dispute a transaction.” And Wells Fargo opts for “unauthorized transaction,” “claims process” and “submitting your claim.”

North of the border, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) does call them “chargebacks.” Toronto Dominion (TD), on the other hands, uses the terms “dispute a transaction” and “disputing a transaction.” Scotiabank prefers “dispute resolution” and “commercial card dispute processing.” The Bank of Montreal (BMO) elected to go with “dispute the transaction charge,” “dispute a transaction” and “dispute process.”

What about Down Under? 

In Australia, Westpac uses a triad of “chargebacks,” “unauthorized transaction” and “fraudulent transaction.” But “unauthorized transaction” and “fraudulent transaction” mean the same thing. Both are synonyms for fraud. Chargebacks, however, are not just a remedy for fraud. They are also available for authorized transactions, including scams. Other leading Australian financial institutions do not seem to exclude that. The National Australia Bank (NAB), for example, uses the all-encompassing terms “transaction disputes” and “lodge a dispute.” Commonwealth Bank (CommBank) actually uses the word “chargeback.” It also uses the term “dispute a credit transaction.” And ANZ similarly uses “chargeback,” together with “dispute a card transaction.”  

Across the Tasman Sea, ANZ New Zealand has a different formulation. Its terms are “dispute a transaction,” “dispute a credit card transaction” and “transaction dispute.” ASB Bank uses “dispute a credit card transaction.” The Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) prefers “dispute a transaction” alone. Westpac  New Zealand goes with “credit card transactions disputes” and “dispute a transaction.”

Asia? 

So what do banks call chargebacks in Asia?

Malaysia’s Maybank is unique. Its preferred term, “chargeback reversal transaction,” is repetitive. After all, a chargeback is, by definition, a reversal. CIMB Bank goes with “disputed charge” and “disputed transaction. Public Bank Berhad chose “dispute” and “adverse claim.” RHB bank opts for “chargeback,” “dispute” and “fraud debit card transaction.” Of course, fraud can also be committed using a credit card.

In west Asia, the United Arab Emirates is a major international financial hub. Emirates NDB uses the term “dispute a transaction.” Mashreq Bank employs both “credit card dispute” and “fraudulent transaction.” First Abu Dhabi Bank doesn’t refer to chargebacks at all. Instead, it provides a link to a Mastercard site that does. Dubai Islamic Bank makes no mention of chargebacks.  

Europe? 

Switzerland is another major international banking hub. ZKB makes no mention of chargebacks on its website. In contrast, UBS elected to use the term “challenge a transaction.” Credit Suisse selected “unjustified debit” and “disputed transaction.” Raiffeisen mentions “disputing transactions.”

Sweden’s Svenska Handelsbanken opts for the all-encompassing term “disputed card transactions.” Nordea prefers both the neutral “dispute” and “unauthorised transactions.” SEB uses “credit card dispute” (although debit card disputes are also eligible for chargebacks) and “dispute resolution.” For its part, Swedbank covers all possibilities. It speaks of a “chargeback,” a “cardholder dispute” and “card fraud.”

Africa? 

The largest bank in Africa’s largest country, Nigeria, is Zenith Bank. It has come up with the most original ─ and, perhaps, most accurate ─ terminology anywhere. Its customers are asked if “your account has been debited but you have not received value for the transaction.” If so, they are told to “effect a reversal.” GTBank Nigeria suffices with “dispute.” First Bank Nigeria does use the word “chargeback,” as well as “disputed transaction.” Ecobank simply prefers “dispute a transaction.”

Finally, let’s check South Africa. ABSA refers to “unauthorised debit order” and “debit order reversal” instead of chargebacks. But debit orders are not credit card transactions, which, of course, also enjoy chargeback protection. Neither Standard Bank nor FNB mentions chargebacks on their sites. A search of Nedbank’s website reveals only a couple of references to chargebacks, but only for purchases of tickets issued by a certain airline that closed down. 

Why Is It Important What Banks Call a Chargeback?

If and when you need to apply for a chargeback, you will have to follow your bank’s instructions. But what if you don’t know what term your bank uses for a chargeback? In that case, you will have to dig for it. And once you find it you will then have to search for the instructions. Assuming they are posted online. 

MyChargeBack, therefore, advises cardholders to ask their banks for this information when they apply for their credit cards or debit cards. The chargeback process can be bureaucratic enough. You have a right to know in advance.  

Celebrity Coronavirus Scams are Popping Up Like Crazy

Most world-famous personalities are very active online. Especially on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter. Unfortunately, that makes them particularly useful as subjects of celebrity coronavirus scams.

Way back when a coronavirus caused an epidemic in China. At first, some people worried about the possibility of it spreading to other parts of the world. Fast forward just a couple months and those innocent days seem like a lifetime ago. The worldwide disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic threw every human endeavor into disarray. And that proved to be an irresistible opportunity for every kind of scammer under the sun.

Why? First, the pandemic forced millions of people to months of confinement indoors.  And many of them lost a reliable source of income. They worried about their health, their families and their financial future. It was only natural that the reassuring face or voice of a trusted and known person — a celebrity — was what it took to help them find the comfort and trust that they needed to make what they hoped were the right decisions.

Celebrities Can Also Be Victims of Celebrity Coronavirus Scams

And in far too many cases, unscrupulous people have taken advantage of that trust. Sometimes the scammers have been the celebrities themselves. But more often it’s some anonymous criminal hiding behind the famous face. In a few cases, celebrities are also victims of celebrity coronavirus scams.

Some social media celebrities are barely known to the outside world, but are highly influential within their particular niche. These “influencers” may come from the world of fashion, music, finance, or almost anything else. One example is Jeffree Star, a woman who runs a major cosmetics company. She also maintains a significant YouTube presence as part of her business strategy. Star recently ran a promotional money giveaway that hackers targeted.  Scammers then sent out phishing messages ostensibly from Star. But it was just a plot to enable them to steal her fans’ money.

Different Sorts of Celebrities

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a very different sort of celebrity. The pandemic forced every government in the world to scramble to keep its economy functioning amid financial uncertainty. In contrast, under Kim’s enigmatic leadership, the secretive communist state took a unique approach. According to reports, Kim used his shadowy technology agencies to engage in a flood of cybercrime. In particular, a rash of bitcoin theft.

The worst kinds of celebrity scams, however, con innocent fans out of their money or personal information.  And they do that by forging celebrity endorsements or promotions. Over the past few months, for example, Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, Presidents Trump and Obama, and many others have had their names and identities attached to phony campaigns designed to scam fans and followers.

Celebrity Coronavirus Conspiracies 

It’s particularly disappointing, however, when real celebrities knowingly promote scams. Some their names to celebrity coronavirus scams for personal gain. Others do it out of a misguided belief that it’s all legitimate. An example of the latter is the wild conspiracy theory that 5G networks spread the coronavirus. That’s preposterous, but it’s an idea that got a boost from none other than actor Woody Harrelson. More insidious is the case of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker selling a phony COVID-19 remedy.

MyChargeBack, an American fund recovery firm, has been seeing a huge uptick in inquiries regarding scams and refunds inlight of the coronavirus pandemic. If you are having trouble getting your money back, contact us today for a free consultation.

re Class Action Lawsuits the Best Way to Get University Tuition Refunds?

Are Class Action Lawsuits the Best Way to Get University Tuition Refunds?

As the COVID-19 outbreak of 2019 became a global pandemic in the spring of 2020, not a single industry or other human endeavor was left unaffected. Not to say devastated. The world of higher education was, if anything, hit even harder than most. That, in turn, led to a spike in demand for university tuition refunds.

MyChargeBack has been dealing with an unprecedented number of cases related to university tuition refunds. Not to mention numerous other coronavirus-related financial disputes.

University campuses around the world have shut their doors. But many of them created — on the fly — alternate arrangements to effectively provide for the instruction of their students. In most cases this involves online classes. It should go without saying that the quality of the educational experience has suffered despite the universities’ best efforts.

Is Distance Learning an Adequate Substitute?

There’s simply no comparing the real live classroom setting to Zoom, with all due respect to the latter. And that’s not even including seminars, not to mention laboratory hours. Add in the social aspect, the intellectual debate, and so much more. When you do, it becomes clear why distance learning has always been so much cheaper, as well as so much less popular. But for the time being, it’s the only option.

Students report that it’s not so bad when the Zoom classes approximate the real thing. “Not great, but not bad,” is what we hear. But at some universities students complain that they have no opportunity to interact with their professors and classmates during lectures. Why? Because many of those lectures are pre-recorded.

The Big Money Is in Tuition

The bottom line is that thousands of students, in America and around the world, feel they deserve university tuition refunds. Many of them report being appalled at the insufficient, insignificant, or even non-existent refunds they have been offered. Something is better than nothing. Nevertheless, it usually amounts to no more than a prorated discount on food and housing. But the big money is in tuition.  And the answer students increasingly hear is the same: Online education is equal to the classroom experience. And the cost will be the same as what they initially signed up for.

In response, more and more students — with the help of expensive high-profile law firms — choose the judicial route.  Generally, that means class action lawsuits to recover the money they claim they are owed. Among the defendants are many of the top public and private universities in the nation. These include Duke, Emory, Penn State, UC Berkeley, and at least 20 others. The list will only grow.

It’s easy to have sympathy and feel the pain on both sides of this dispute. The disruption caused by the pandemic has spared few enough. But the bottom line is that it is unfair and unreasonable to expect students to pay a premium price for a discount product.

The Legal Process Is Expensive and Slow

At the same time, it’s worth asking whether the one-size-fits-all solution of the class action lawsuit is the best strategy in every case. Certainly, professional guidance and assistance is far preferable to navigating the treacherous bureaucracy and entrenched inertia alone. The law firms taking these cases, however, are expensive. And the judicial process may be glacially slow.

That is why parents and students turn to a fund recovery firm like MyChargeBack for assistance. Fund recovery firms occupy the perfect middle ground. They are faster, more agile and far cheaper than the alternative, without sacrificing professionalism and skill.

Depending on the details of your case, MyChargeBack may have a solution for you. A free no-commitment consultation will determine if it does.

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COVID-19 Travel Refunds, Continued

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

In our previous article we examined some of the challenges customers are facing in trying to obtain COVID-19 travel refunds. We saw some of the tactics airlines are employing to delay and avoid paying back their customers for their cancelled flights. That’s pretty bad, but it gets worse. Not to worry, though. Spoiler: there’s a happy ending.

First, the Bad News

There is a mass of customers clamoring for well-deserved COVID-19 travel refunds. Unfortunately, many refunds are rejected. That, in turn,  created an opening for scammers. There are numerous reports around the globe of spam emails promising to help obtain refunds for cancelled flights. What happens, however, is that these emails steal the recipient’s personal data when the victims open them.

MyChargeBack advises, therefore, to double check the authenticity and reliability of any company you deal with before clicking any links or parting with any sensitive information.

Another disturbing trend involves stranded travelers in the middle of a trip far from home. There are instances when they face what amounts to extortion. One American couple stuck in Europe had no alternative other than pay $1,800 for tickets home. That was because the  airline refused to fly to the original destination. It cited a lack of screening at that particular airport. Now the airline says it “will try” to process a refund at some point in the future. When they get around to it.

Another American couple became ill, possibly with coronavirus, during a cruise in South America. They planned ahead for any contingency, however, by purchasing travel insurance with medical evacuation coverage. When push came to shove, however, it didn’t matter. They were shocked and disappointed to discover that the insurance company offered every excuse it could think up. It refused to evacuate the couple or do anything else to help them.

No, an Online Travel Agency Won’t Necessarily Help

All the challenges and complications of getting a refund are multiplied if you booked your trip through an online travel agency. After all, it doesn’t even have your money any more. To do that it first has to get your money back from all the companies it paid (airlines, hotels, shuttles, etc.).

The bottom line is that there may be many hurdles for the ordinary passenger to overcome. Thankfully, some airlines and travel and leisure companies are quite forthcoming in refunding the cost of cancelled trips. Many others will not. Consumers who are unsatisfied do have other avenues.

COVID-19 Travel Refunds: Can Anyone Help?

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that airlines must provide refunds, not vouchers, to purchasers of tickets on flights cancelled due to COVID-19. In Israel, a major law firm filed a class action lawsuit against a number of American and European airlines for failing to issue timely refunds.

It remains to be seen if either the government or the courts will be effective or efficient at getting people’s money back in their pockets. What you really need is a professional to look out for your interests. MyChargeBack‘s expertise and experience have allowed our clients all over the world to recover millions dollars that they feared were gone forever. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Coronavirus Refunds from Airlines

The world’s economy ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And few sectors have been hit harder than travel, hospitality and tourism. The industry’s responses to the crisis are as many as the number of tickets. In many cases, travelers are frustrated because of the apparent inability to obtain coronavirus refunds from airlines and insurance companies.

Consumers like you are not giant corporations like the airlines. But  you’re also facing economic  hardship. Relatively speaking, the price you are paying may even be higher.  The travel plans you made became impossible to implement overnight. Maybe it was a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation. Or a wedding, or some other family event.  Whatever the case, it’s no longer going to take place when you thought. And if it ever does, you have no idea if you’ll then be available.

And what about your money? You paid in advance of course. So why can’t you get coronavirus refunds from airlines? Is that money all gone? We readily understand the difficult position the companies are in. But that’s no reason for you not to get your money back. You didn’t do anything wrong. So what’s going on out there?

Insurance May Not Cover It

A recent report by the BBC addressed the possibility that you might get your money back if you took out travel insurance. Is that possible?

The bottom line is that the chances of success depend on a few factors. First and foremost is the fine print of your policy. Second is the reason why you could not travel. If the government prohibited it, your odds improve. If you decided it’s too dangerous, your odds are minimal.

Moreover, the fine print may differentiate between a hotel that’s been closed and an open hotel in an area where travel is not recommended. And of course, timelines matter. There will be a deadline to apply. But you may not be able to file immediately. You might have to wait until close to the original date of departure. And save your receipts and contracts! Without them there is no way to obtain coronavirus refunds from airlines, from insurance companies or from anyone else.

Can You Get Coronavirus Refunds from Airlines?

The best case scenario at this point would be to get all your money back directly from the airline. Don’t be surprised, however, to learn that this may be easier said than done. Another BBC article warns that refunds are difficult at best given the delays and byzantine bureaucracy.  In particular, many travelers complain that while they could book their flights online, and even get vouchers for cancelled flights, they have to request a refund over the phone. And that entails interminable waits and numerous calls. After all, the system is now simply overwhelmed . And don’t forget: If you’re skipping a flight that was not cancelled — even for the most justifiable of reasons —  you may not be entitled to a refund at all.

Chargebacks: Your Last Chance to Obtain Coronavirus Refunds from Airlines

Not surprisingly, many travelers report that they finally requested chargebacks from the bank that issued them the credit card or debit card they used to pay for their tickets. If you opt to ask your bank to raise a dispute, however, be sure to request a refund directly from the travel agency or airline beforehand. Your bank will want to know if you tried to resolve the dispute with the merchant  before initiating a chargeback. That is because a chargeback is your final option, not your first.

There are several conditions that could give you the right to a chargeback. Aside from fraudulent transactions, where the card was used without your knowledge, other cases include not receiving what you paid for, receiving goods or services that were not as described, and being charged the wrong amount.

If your travel was cancelled and the merchant is refusing to refund you, a chargeback may be an attractive alternative to losing your money. Be aware, however, that some experts have warned that the banks and credit card companies may, in the current crisis, lean towards denying chargebacks more than approving them. Your best bet, therefore, is to have a professional behind the scenes preparing your case for you. Someone with a deep and broad understanding of all the relevant laws, regulations, and company policies, but who’s on your side. Now who might that be?

Your Bottom Line

There is no reason why a global catastrophe needs to sweep your hard earned money away. You do not deserve to be another victim. If you are finding all doors closed to helping you, consider MyChargeBack. We are an American fund recovery firm with clients around the world, and we have helped people like you recover millions of dollars. Reach out to us for a free consultation today.

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COVID-19 Shopping Scams Are Heartless but Ingenious

The novel coronavirus outbreak has, from late 2019 through spring 2020, moved from a local problem to international crisis to global catastrophe. But there’s one group of people for whom the pandemic has not been catastrophic. There are people who thrive in periods of panic and uncertainty: scammers. And they’re now running COVID-19 shopping scams.

For the most part, the COVID-19 scams are nothing more than re-purposed versions of classic con games. Take for example the “good” old-fashioned shopping scam. There have always been criminals out there selling counterfeit or poor quality merchandise — or just taking your money in exchange for nothing at all. But now, not only are the stakes higher, but the potential victims are often easier to fool, due to their increased levels of stress, urgency, and uncertainty.

If you’re like millions of other people, you have at least thought about buying a face mask or other PPE (personal protective equipment). If you’re lucky, some local chain might have some in stock at wildly inflated prices, but at least you know what you’re getting.

On the other hand, maybe all the local stores and trusted online retailers are sold out. Or perhaps you want to buy a lot in bulk. You may even need to, if you’re procuring on behalf of a hospital or other large institution. In that case, you are likely to find that the suppliers are overseas, specifically almost always in China. What could go wrong?

COVID-19 Shopping Scams: Sellers Who Are Thieves

The most obvious case is when the merchant takes your money and gives you nothing in return. It’s straightforward theft, and it’s becoming far more common. A common tactic among these criminals to lure victims into their trap is to offer their non-existent wares at prices far lower than legitimate sellers.

COVID-19 Shopping Scams: Resellers With No Stock

Many folks pretending to be online retailers are nothing more than resellers. Not all of them are compete thieves, but they’re not what we’d call honest merchants either. Their idea, or hope, is to batch enough orders to be able to fulfill them eventually by buying bulk stock from a legitimate manufacturer or wholesaler. This hope is not always realistic, and many customers have been left holding the bag.

Quality Issues

You will hopefully not be shocked to learn that many shady online retailers exaggerate the quality of their merchandise. But during the crisis, promising one thing and shipping another can literally be a matter of life and death. Countless victims have received face masks that fail to meet basic medical standards, or are even second hand! And others have bought COVID-19 testing kits that didn’t work at all. These are now classic COVID-19 shopping scams.

Get Help

Did you fall victim to a coronavirus  shopping scam? There is no reason why a global catastrophe needs to sweep your hard earned money away. You do not deserve to be another victim. If you are having a hard time getting your money back, consider MyChargeBack. We are an American fund recovery firm with clients around the world. And we have helped people like you recover millions of dollars. Reach out to us for a free consultation today.

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Tax Season Is Here: Ready, Set, Scam!

Yes, it’s that time again. Tax season is here. It’s one of those inconveniences in life that need to get done, as agonizing as it is. You may file your taxes on your own or hire a professional, but either way, as a law abiding citizen, it’s something that you have to do. Which makes you a perfect target for tax scammers.

In short, tax season is here and tax scammers are here too. Crafty criminals are hard at work figuring out new ways to steal your money. This year is no different. The IRS already issued warnings to U.S. citizens to keep an eye out for any red flags. They expect to receive something like 150 million tax returns this season, which runs through April 15.

Below is a summarized list of the most popular scams to look out for, and how to stay safe:

IRS Phone Scams

The Problem: A common scam that crops up every year involves scammers calling taxpayers claiming to represent the IRS (or equivalent tax authority in your own country if you are not a U.S. resident). Imitating an IRS telephone number, the scammer uses various intimidation techniques to force the victim into making an instant payment. Threats of imprisonment if the victim does not immediately comply is a common tactic that is used.

The Solution: The IRS will never make a phone call or make a house visit to demand an outstanding payment. They will also never ask you to make a payment via bank wire or gift card. If an ‘IRS employee’ becomes abusive and threatening, that is a red flag for a scam.

Fake Tax Form Scams

The Problem: In this scam, criminals start by securing their victims’ personal information and Social Security numbers. The scammer proceeds to fill out a fraudulent tax form with the victim’s personal details. The scammer then calls the victim posing as an IRS employee to demand payment for the “illegally obtained” funds.

The Solution: An unexpected invoice, refund or communication from the IRS regarding multiple filed returns should alert you that this may be a scam. Contact the IRS directly to confirm what your current tax status is.

Social Security Number Scam

The Problem: Threatening calls are made advising that Social Security numbers will be suspended or cancelled unless overdue taxes are settled. Don’t be fooled into believing this is a legitimate call, even if the caller has your personal information. These details could have been captured at some point and you should write this off as a total scam.

The Solution: Don’t believe anyone who threatens to suspend or cancel your Social Security number. If you find yourself in that position, hang up the phone immediately. You can report the incident by clicking here and sending an e-mail to [email protected].

Tax Phishing Scam

Over the years, phishing scams have evolved into a highly sophisticated method of defrauding unsuspecting people. Traditional phishing scams via email have now extended to text and social media messaging. Phishing scams will send messages that appear authentic from a credible source only to convince victims into sharing sensitive information.

The Solution: Keep note of the fact that the IRS will never reach out to request sensitive personal or financial information. If you receive any communication similar to this, ignore and report it to the IRS.

Tax Season Is Here: Remain Vigilant

Taxpayers need to remain vigilant to safeguard against tax scams that are very prevalent this time of year. Criminals prey on the anxiety and urgency of taxpayers to file their tax return in time. If you follow the above suggestions and keep your wits about you, you won’t get caught out.

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Love Need Not be Blind: Stay Away From Valentine’s Day Scams

Love is a complicated emotion. And if you fall for a romance scam it will be a losing proposition.  When Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, Valentine’s Day scams move into high gear.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, romance scams of all types increased sharply over the last few years. The statistics show that in the United States alone, victims reported more than 21,000 romance scams to the authorities in 2018. This is a sharp increase from 2017, when the figure stood at 16,900. Over this period, reported losses rose from $88 million to $143 million. Results for 2019 are still unavailable but if the trend continues, you can bet that things will only get worse.

Don’t Trust What They Tell You

Romance scammers generally source their victims online through dating sites, apps and social media. They misrepresent themselves by using fake names, fake photos and fake profiles. Scammers slowly build trust with their victims over a period of time. Once victims fall in love with the scammer, they’ll be willing to comply with any request. At this stage, the scammer moves for the kill and requests money through wire transfers, gift cards or cryptocurrencies.

The lead up to Valentine’s Day provides the perfect cover for cybercriminals to set the trap. By hiding out among the many legitimate dating websites, scammers conceal their true intentions and make their move.

Other Examples of Valentine’s Day Scams

Flower Delivery Scams

On or just before Valentine’s Day the victim receives an email or phone call from a supposed florist. The fake florist will then ask the victim to provide a little bit of information to assist with a flower delivery from a secret admirer. Using sophisticated techniques the scammer is able to obtain personal or financial information for fraud and identification theft.

Fake eCards

Scammer often send an innocent looking Valentine’s Day eCard to victims. The victims, in their excitement, will open the eCard without thinking of what might happen next. The eCard, however, will include malware or links to dodgy websites designed to steal your personal information.

Tough Love – How to Avoid Falling for a Valentine’s Day Scam

The best advice to avoid becoming a victim of Valentine’s Day scams is to trust your instincts. We all have a built-in system to detect a threat. If it sounds too good to be true, don’t ignore your internal warning signals. Below are a few points to keep from getting scammed when looking for love on Valentine’s Day.

  • Stay away from stories that are designed to pull at your heart strings sent by strangers requesting money
  • Never share your personal information such as usernames, passwords, bank account details, or credit card numbers with strangers
  • Don’t send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person
  • When conversing online, take your time to evaluate the people you speak with; evaluate responses and look out for inconsistencies in their stories
  • Call to verify a request from someone you know; don’t rely on social media messages
  • If you suspect a romance scam, immediately cut off contact and notify the site
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Cashing in on the Coronavirus

The world’s attention has turned to the latest pandemic coming out of China. The coronavirus is causing panic and concern. The World Health Organization is working with global experts and governments in an attempt to diagnose and contain the Coronavirus. But what it cannot stop are scammers who are cashing in on the Coronavirus.

News of the epidemic first made headlines in early December 2019. The death toll is slowly approaching 500. Estimates are that infections are in the region of 24,500 and growing.

Needless to say, scammers never miss an opportunity to cash in on a major crisis or tragedy. This incident is no different. Each day, more reports of scams that attempt to cash in on fear of the Coronavirus continue to stream in.

Cashing in on the Coronavirus with Phishing Scams 

Always beware of emails sent to individuals and businesses with an appealing subject line to draw you in. Claiming to represent a reputable organization, the scammer offers links to exclusive information and content based on trending news headlines. Links then direct the unsuspecting user to malicious websites where credit card and identity theft occurs.

This approach is now popular with Coronavirus scammers. One example is a phishing email doing the rounds that purports to come from a professional virologist. The email consists of articles and links claiming to contain information on how to best protect yourself from the virus.

Cashing in on the Coronavirus with Online Retail Scams

As international concern regarding the virus increases, the demand for face masks to help reduce the risk of exposure is rising.

While some healthcare professionals debate the effectiveness of such masks, consumers continue to purchase large numbers of them online. That’s an open invitation for scammers to rush in with websites of their own and take advantage of the demand. There are scammers who are hawking defective face masks. For that reason, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning to consumers regarding possible resale scams involving these products.

Therefore, consumers should keep a close eye out for fake websites. Ignore sponsored advertisements, deceptive posts and links on social media sites, which are known to be venues for scammers intent on cashing in on the Coronavirus.

How to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus Scams

Scammers are criminals. They have no moral inhibitions about taking advantage of a global pandemic in order to steal money from people overcome by uncertainty.  Nonetheless, there are a number of ways in which you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of scammers who are cashing in on the Coronavirus.

Phishing Scams

  • Look at the sender’s email address. If it is from an unknown user or looks suspicious in any other way, delete it.
  • Don’t click on any links received in an email from an unknown or suspicious sender.
  • If you receive an email from a known source, hover over the link with your mouse before clicking to confirm its destination.
  • Look out for red flags, such as words like “exclusive,” “sensational” and/or “shocking.” They are widely used by scammers.

Online Retail Scams

  • If the retailer does not provide a physical address and contact information, consider it a scam unless you can prove otherwise.
  • Use a credit card to make online purchases.
  • Do your research on the product and market prices to ensure that the amount you are paying is not exorbitant.
  • Avoid online marketplaces such as Craigslist, which is a popular site for scammers to operate.

Scammers understand that in unpredictable times, people become desperate for information, comfort and security. They know all too well how to play on consumers’ emotions and take advantage of their vulnerabilities. Trust your instincts and ensure you make sound decisions based on the facts, rather than emotion.