What Fraudsters Are Up To Now

Every time I think I have a good understanding of what to look for in avoiding scams I find out something new. And why wouldn’t that be the case, right? Scammers always have to stay ahead of the authorities, be creative and disruptive in their work, like any good business person, in order to generate new business.

In spite of what I thought in reading a new article in the AARP Bulletin I found brand new things I didn’t know and that I think are helpful for you to know to protect yourself.

So what are they up to now?

  • Check Cooking

Last year, the big thing was check washing, where thieves stole paper checks from postal boxes, mailboxes or even carriers and then washed the checks with chemicals, keeping the signature but erasing the amount and the payee so they could fill in a new name and amount. But now, they’ve discovered a less messy way to steal. In check cooking, thieves take a digital picture of a stolen check and then use commercially available software to alter it. Criminals can print a new phony check or else just deposit the altered image using a bank’s mobile app.

How to stay safe- Consider using a safer payment method, such as a credit card. But if you choose to write paper instead of putting the check in a mailbox, drop it off directly at the nearest post office. And continually monitor your checking account and watch for any suspicious transactions.

  • Voiceprint Scams

Thanks to technological advances, it’s possible for thieves to capture a recording of your voice and then use a software program to generate an imitation “deepfake” version that can be used to impersonate you. That voiceprint can be used to access your insurance or your financial institution or apply for a driver’s license. Financial advisors must always be vigilant to call a client to confirm that a request they have received for withdrawals is legitimate by confirming with the client themselves.

How to stay safe- To prevent your voice from being duplicated, don’t answer the phone. If someone needs to get hold of you, they can text you. Even is cautious about answering calls that appear to be from people on your contact list, since the call could be coming from a phone that’s been stolen or had its Sim card cloned.

  • Delayed-action sweepstakes scam

Scammers who call or write to say that you’ve won a fabulous fortune, have been around for ages. But now instead of trying to get you to pay taxes or other fees in advance to collect the nonexistent prize, the scammers will ask for personal information so that they can validate you and set up the payout. They’ll say, just give us your banking information and your Social Security number, and we’ll file with the IRS and we’ll take care of everything, These scammers may play a long game. They’ll write small checks on your account to see whether you notice the fraudulent activity. If you don’t, they’ll continue to use the account to obtain credit cards and lines of credit in your name that they can siphon off, giving them a potentially bigger payday down the road.

How to stay safe- As with previous variations of the sweepstakes scam, remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you get a call from someone claiming that you’ve won a huge prize, the safest bet is to just hang up. And never, ever provide any personal information.

  • Multistage grandparent scam

This is a new, more sophisticated version of the old granddparent scam in which crooks call and pretend to be a grandchild who’s been arrested and needs bail money to get out of a nonexistent legal jam. Today they often set up call centers staffed with young people who are paid a few bucks for every grandparent that they can connect with. After posing as grandchildren whose been jailed after a car accident, they’ll provide a case number and instruct the target to call their defense attorney or the local prosecutor. When you call they say, ‘Oh, do you have the case number?’ It’s actually a subtle psychological trick to see whether the grandparent is compliant and will follow their instructions to send thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.

How to stay safe- If you get a call from an unfamiliar number from a family member claiming to be in trouble, don’t panic. Instead, after you’ve finished talking — and certainly before sending money — the Federal Communications Commission recommends that you call or text the person at his or her usual number and check to see whether the family member is actually in trouble. If they don’t answer, contact other family members or friends if you have any concern that the emergency could be real. Scammers plead with you to keep the situation a secret precisely so you won’t try to confirm it.

  • Paris Olympics scams

Criminals try to find ways to exploit big events that are in the news. we may start seeing a revival of the fake emergency scam, which bears similarities to the grandparent scam but is slightly different. It could work something like this: A scammer hacks someone’s email account, and shortly after, all of that person’s contacts will receive the same message — something to the effect of, “Hey guys, I’m over in Paris and my wallet got stolen! Can anyone please help me out by sending gift cards or a Venmo deposit?” To the recipients, it’s a potentially convincing ruse. “You’re thinking very quickly, well, Amy was in Paris two years ago, and she loves the Olympics, so it all makes sense.” And Olympics officials are warning ticket seekers  to avoid bogus ticketing sites and scam emails purporting to be from Paris 2024 (the official website for the games) or the Olympic committee.

How to stay safe-

Resist the urge to react immediately if you hear from a friend in Paris needing cash. Instead, follow the Federal Trade Commission’s advice and try another way to contact the person who supposedly is in need, such as calling them on the phone. Alternatively, reach out to a trusted source who knows the person and would be aware of whether or not they went on a trip to Paris.

If you’re intending to go to Paris and receive emails regarding tickets to the games, the official website for Paris 2024 notes, “You will never be asked for the login details for your ticketing account (ID and password)” or “banking details.” Check the sender’s email address; scammers will often change one letter or number, or use .com rather than .org, hoping recipients will mistake the fake address for the legitimate one.