Online Dating? Cut the Line!

Sure, Internet Dating seems great, quick and efficient, but there is a dark murky side —scam artists.

Scamraiders has recently received enquiries from people who have experienced problems and scams involving online dating services. No matter if you are seeking love in a bottle, or a quick tryst, there are scam artists who use the internet to entice and swindle you through your heart and then to your cash. Many of these swindlers will have the brazen audacity to require your money first just to get started. Many will ask for personal information after making you feel comfortable that they are truly interested in you. These supposed lovers/romance queries are cleverly interspersed with questions about your financial data; so they can size you up. Some of these online dating scoundrels will use your confidential data (that you unwittingly provide) to steal your identity.

There are a number of online services who, after their scammers lure you in, will further enticed you by sending phony photos of handsome men and gorgeous women. Once you pick one that you are attracted to, the real scam begins. You will begin to exchange romantic possibilities. Then soon you will bypass the service and communicate directly via email. The scammer will gain more of your trust. Once the con-artist has “roped you in” and established the fantasy of a genuine relationship, they will begin asking you for money. Either they will ask for airfare so that you can meet and “embrace”, or the scammer will tug at your heart claiming a medical emergency where immediate cash is needed; or they will come up with a bunch of other clever angles to disenfranchise you from your hard-earned cash. These charlatans will even con you to go the airport where you wait for your fantasy “lover” who of course never shows-up —your money gone, heart broken, and disillusioned.

Sadly, most people who get hauled into these online relationships, out of desperation and loneliness, will fork-over untold sums in the hopes of arriving at “Shangrila”, along with the fantasy online lover.

Be alert. DO NOT ever respond to unsolicited email “love letters”. This is yet just another scam. If you answer, the scammer will know you are vulnerable and a “mark”. There is no love to be found out there via strangers from emails. Finding love is more difficult than making money; you really have to work at it, and you will not find it on the internet.

Now that said, Scamraiders is carefully analyzing “on line dating services”. Regretfully most of them are not what they claim to be. The supposed legit sites insist that their users provide VERIFIED profiles. Thereafter, these Sites appear to attempt to match you with others that you can hopefully, fairly, try and develop a meaningful relationship. This is their claim, but who knows? There are even scam claims and negative comments out there about these well-known internet service providers as well. Really, the true answer is—get up and get out—- try your best to meet people “face to face”—at social functions, Church or Temple functions, or through reliable friends. Remember always: IF IT’S TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE—–IT IS!!!

Lotto Scams

If you receive an email, telephone call, letter or fax telling you that you won the Canadian, Nigerian, Irish, French, or Welsh, etc. lottery—delete, hang-up the phone, rip-up the paper, throw out the supposed windfall! Listen up—First you can’t win a lottery that you didn’t buy a ticket for. So when that enticing announcement, or nice well-trained voice on the other end of the phone tells you that to claim your prize you must first wire a few thousand bucks to the lottery “sponsor”— don’t fall for it! Here are some other important facts to remember so that you won’t get ripped-off:

1. No stranger is your friend; and there ain’t no free lunches!

2. In a legitimate lottery, you never have to pay BEFORE you receive the winnings.
Lotteries that are legitimate request that you pay taxes after you receive your money.

3. If you truly win a lottery, first you surely hold a ticket evidencing that you have
entered into the lottery contest. If you win, your lottery number will be posted or
announced, and you must present your winning ticket in order to claim your prize.
Legitimate lotteries usually DO NOT send emails, or letters, or phone you. They will
post or publish the winning ticket numbers on their website or in the newspaper and
the winners are provided with a legitimate email or phone number, or where to appear
with the winning ticket.

4. NEVER EVER give out any personal information to anyone without knowing who you
are giving it to.

5. Beware of anything lottery, coming from outside the USA — they are usually all “hot
spots” for scams.

6. If it’s too good to be true—it is.

You can be sure of this—once you turn your cash over to a scammer, it’s gone forever. Lottery scammers come up with new spins to the same old schemes — to get the money from us suckers. Some of the newer swindles are as follows —

a) BOGUS STATE LOTTERIES

Residents of Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee have recently been receiving emails, phone calls and letters stating that they have won Powerball or other State games. The “winners” are directed to pay up-front fees in order to claim their prize. Don’t do it! Legit State Lotteries never require any up-front money. State lottery winners must notify the State with their winning ticket in hand. You won’t be contacted by the State, you must contact them once you find your entry is posted as the winner on the respective State website or published in the newspaper.

b) UNCLE SAM SHAMS

Another scam— emails supposedly sent by the F.B.I., I.R.S., F.T.C., etc., implying that these Agencies are acting as middlemen awarding the Lottery winnings. These Agencies never act in this manner. Moreover, these scammers also are circulating a virus that can steal your computer’s personal data. So, if you receive one of these bogus messages, these thieves are ready to put their hands in your pocket—DO NOT open it! You will have just avoided a serious scam-rip off!

c) SLICK TALKING CON SCAMS

Some crooks prefer operating through personal contact. If you are approached on the street or in a shop by a stranger claiming to hold a winning State Lottery ticket that they cannot redeem themselves– such as, the ticket holder is not in the U.S. legally— say “NO THANK YOU”! In this con the scammer offers to sell you their jackpot ticket for a few thousand dollars—or split the winnings after you (the patsy) put up your cash as a “good faith” deposit. Then you are told that in exchange for your up-front-money the scammer will give you the ticket so you can redeem it and either keep the winnings or split the sums with this “generous kind person”. You will be left “holding the bag” with a worthless ticket. Or once you gather your “good-faith cash” from your bank, you may be conned into leaving your money with the scammer (in a taxi or car), and asked to go to a coffee shop to buy some donuts and coffee for you and the con artist before heading to the location to claim your jackpot. When you return, coffee in hand, the scammer is long gone on their way, with your cash. Remember what your mother always told you, —–“NEVER SPEAK TO STRANGERS”!

Although this is not a lottery scam, it’s similar and Scamraiders wants to alert you:
One of the most common scams that still hooks unsuspecting naïve people is the plea to help another person who has a problem with cashing a check. NEVER cash a check for a stranger or give them your money for their check! Usually the check is counterfeit and you will be stuck.

If you really want to play a lottery, BUY THE TICKET YOURSELF FROM A STATE-RUN LOTTERY— AND HOPE FOR THE BEST!

PHISHING EXPEDITIONS

Watch out for deepwater fraudsters— prowling like sharks!

Phishing doesn’t use a fishing rod; their “bait” is a set-up to “hook” you. Phishing is no sport, it is a serious and frequent scam involving the use of fraudulent emails and phony copycat websites created to trick you into revealing your confidential personal information such as your bank account, stock, credit cards or Social Security numbers, along with your passwords—–if you bite, you’re cooked!

These con-people go “phishing” to lure their targets with a false sense of security by hijacking the familiar names you know using phony logos of trusted, established companies. Often these scam-artists will send out thousands of emails that appear to come from well-known banks, high profile corporations, financial service providers or internet auction houses. Their bogus emails will ask you to provide confidential information about yourself and/or claim to be verifying data that you previously provided when you started an online account or some other lure-con.

Here are some of the common tactics fraudster phishers use to reel you in:

1. Misuse of legitimate company names and logos in phishing emails.

2. These bogus emails may contain the names of actual personnel that work for the company whose names and graphics are enclosed.

3. The emails can even cleverly contain links to the actual legitimate website of the misused company or to a well “spoofed” website that looks like the real thing.

4. Often the fraudster will use fear to trigger your fast response, such as, “A failure to respond will result in no longer having access to your account”; or, “suspicious activity has been detected on your account”, or that they are implementing new privacy software, or identity theft solutions— All of this is a con to cause you to reveal your confidential information quickly and before you realize you have been conned.

Protect yourself; follow these steps to ensure that neither that you or your accounts will not be “skinned and fried”——–

a) Do not respond to any emails that request personal or financial information, or emails that use any form of pressure tactics. Pick up the phone and call the company, the legitimate company. Look up their phone number in the “phone book”. Do not use any phone numbers listed on the con-artist’s email.

b) If you respond by email, get the correct legitimate email address that belongs to the real company. Never use the email address provided by the fraudster, even if it appears correct.

c) Beef-up your own security. Make sure your computer has the latest security software packages. Watch out for spoofed websites that have all the “padlocks”, etc. Look for the “security certificate” for the site on any suspicious listings.

d) Constantly and thoroughly review your bank, credit cards, and all monthly financial account statements, whether online or as soon as they arrive in the mail. Check all transactions and amounts.

e) Report all phishing emails to the company whose name is misused and also report them to the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center. (www.ic3.gov).

Here are some additional scams alerts to be aware of:

> Slick lenders with bad grammar

> Get rich quick schemes

> Debt Free schemes to eradicate your debts

> Too-good-to-be-true cheap houses that can be bought with nothing down

> Phony job services and offers

> Bogus reconfirmation requests of your online passwords

> IRS refund scams

> Fake letter/email regarding investigations of any kind

> Alluring “Big Check” awards

> Social networking predators — viruses galore!

> You-tube cons— advertising products, services, etc.

Always remember, don’t open any unknown email attachments, no matter how inviting or urgent they seem! On top of the problems you and your accounts can acquire, your computer may receive an infected file. Simple: do not connect with people you don’t actually know; never give out any of your personal information or your email/phone numbers. Finally, stay alert, install the best and latest security software and keep it updated. Again, always remember, if it’s too good to be true, it is; and there are no free lunches, dinners or breakfasts!

NEWS FLASH – Scams Inc will be announcing exciting and major news

We at Scams Inc are proud to advise the public of an important acquisition and merger that will enhance and enlarge the presence of Scams Inc and its affiliate sites worldwide and markedly enlarge the already substantial daily users of all of Scams Inc’s domains. The announcement and details will be forthcoming by Feb. 22, 2012 — stay tuned.

EVIL TWIN ATTACKS: SCAMMING WIRELESS NETWORK USERS

There is a growing new trend in identity and account theft for those who do their business online whether personal and professional. They are referred to as Evil Twin attacks. The colorful name sounds like something right out of a horror movie, which is appropriate since those unlucky enough to fall victim to this scam could easily find themselves living in a nightmare.

Wireless networks, and our growing dependence on their availability, are at the heart of these Evil Twin attacks. If you were out and about and wanted to log onto the internet from a laptop, you’d need to find a wireless network. Initially they were offered for small fees at places like coffee shops, bookstores and hotel lobbies; after paying a nominal fee the user would be provided with a password. Logging in was a breeze and the whole enterprise was safe and secure. Recently, however, the trend is to free wireless hotspots.

Last year saw a dramatic increase in wireless network usage. Wi-Fi Planet recently reported on the growth, noting that inter-city travel venues, such as hotels and airports, saw 28% growth through the end of 2008. The year-on-year growth number for train stations and ferries was a whopping 79%. Wireless connections in public places more than tripled in 2008 with most sessions lasting up to three hours.

In 2009 the numbers are expected to jump exponentially, driven by the growing popularity of next generation telephones, specifically the iphone and its smartphone competitors. Whether connecting to the internet, checking email or playing games, most of the special features on these phones are predicated on data being sent and received via these wireless networks. As their popularity grows, so too does usage of free wireless networks.

Mobile devices using wireless hotspots also grew 79% in the first half of 2009, according to a survey conducted by wireless media company JiWire as reported in iphone.tmcnet.com. Their findings show that in addition to checking emails and surfing the net, 38% make an online purchase during their sessions. Of these users, 40% are in management positions who are business decision makers, and 44% work in small to mid-sized companies.

These numbers point to a growing target for industrious internet scammers, and the Evil Twin attacks are the newest tool they are perfecting.

The way an Evil Twin attack works is pretty simple. The hacker physically sets up shop in an area where free wireless access is provided. It could be a café, airport lounge, student community area or hotel lobby, you name it. Using a laptop and a wireless card, they can create their own access point and make it appear legitimate by giving it a name similar to the establishment where they are located.

Whether the user is on a laptop or smartphone, when accessing a free wireless they are often presented with a list of available networks. Since it’s originating from the hacker’s computer just a few feet away, the Evil Twin network will often be a stronger connection and at the top of the list. Coupled with a legitimate-sounding network name, it’s a natural choice for the victim’s access point.

Once they are using the Evil Twin, all the business they conduct is eavesdropped on. Emails, log on names and passwords, credit card purchases. The con man might as well be standing over the victim’s shoulder and taking notes. They can watch and even re-direct the user to dummy websites without their knowledge.

For example, if you are surfing the internet and go to log into your online bank page, the hacker can have a dummy page set up that looks exactly the same. Even though you accessed the link via your list of favorites, instead of going to chase.com you will unknowingly be re-directed to chase1.com. If you don’t realize and enter your log in information, the hacker now has whatever you enter into any forms.

The number of Evil Twin attacks is rising, but it’s hard to gauge the numbers. Most who offer free wireless hotspots are ignorant of the attacks. Even if they are aware, advertising just how vulnerable their location might be is not good for business, and they choose not to report. Victims often don’t even realize themselves that they have had their information stolen, as the hackers will often wait to utilize the data they’ve gleaned making them nearly impossible to catch.

Stay Alert

The scammers are counting on the fact that you are in a public place and surrounded by the distractions therein to take advantage. They are hoping you aren’t paying the attention to details like you would at home. Here are some ways to stay protected:

Dialog Boxes: Your computer or phone will often let you know if the site you are visiting is unencrypted. Pay attention to these warnings. In the past you might have gotten a similar warning and checked the box saying never remind me again. If you checked that box, you might be at risk and should consider reloading your browser software.

Don’t share your business: Try not to conduct any online business in public that you wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with others. If the idea of perusing your bank account with someone watching over your shoulder bothers you, then the safest bet is to save this business for when you are at home.

Web Only Credit Card: If you find yourself making a lot of online purchases it might be a good idea to apply for and set up a credit card account solely for this purpose. It could be an account you could monitor regularly online, and be prepared to close on short notice if you’ve been hacked.

Wireless Setting: Many laptops and smartphones are set to automatically seek and hook up to the strongest available wireless connection. This is money in the bank to someone trying an Evil Twin attack. Always choose your connection manually and look at the names. If you aren’t sure of the connections authenticity, check with the establishment where you are located. They will know which wireless connections are actually their own and which are not legitimate.

We are living in an exciting new age of information access and personal convenience. As these systems continue growing and evolving, those who utilize them present particularly inviting targets for the most cunning of con artists. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security, because in the majority of cases we really can protect ourselves. As with all scams, awareness of the situation and applying a bit of common sense goes a long way towards avoiding being victimized.

WORK-AT-HOME SCAMS: BIG PROMISES, BIG CON

Times are tough. The unemployment rolls continue to swell. Businesses are cutting back hours and salaries. New jobs just aren’t there. Those unlucky enough to find their lives affected by the economic crisis are looking for new avenues of income. Unfortunately, the current situation is a boon for those looking to exploit the folks who are often in the most desperate of situations. One of the most popular methods for separating the susceptible from what little money they have left – the work-at-home scam.

The FTC recently stated that over 2.4 million individuals fell victim to these schemes in the period studied. This does not include the unreported incidents. Although many of these scams have been around for years, the internet has once again proven to be an expansive new horizon for criminals. The Technology Chronicles noted that between February and March of 2009 spam emails trying to take advantage of those looking for work increased by at least 500%. Yes, five-hundred percent. And there are no signs of this current trend slowing.

While there are legitimate businesses out there offering work-at-home opportunities, they are few and far between. If you find yourself in any of the following situations, realize you are most likely falling victim to some of the most popular work-at-home scams:

Stuffing Envelopes – This one has been around since before the Great Depression, and is currently making a strong comeback. You’ve probably seen the ads online, gotten spam emails, or seen flyers posted around your community. They proclaim something along the lines of, “Earn $500 weekly stuffing envelopes – work only 2 hours a day from home!” When you answer these ads, you will often be asked to pay for instructions that ask you to shell out further money for advertising, materials such as the envelopes you’ll soon be stuffing, and postage. In the end you will find that all you are selling, these envelopes you are stuffing, are simply the very same ad and instructions on the chain scam you answered. The only way to make money is by fleecing others, just as you have been fooled.

Advanced Fee Assembly Business – Another scam that has been around for years. This promises high wages for assembling crafts at home. Of course, before you get started you will need to send the company a lump sum, normally $50 – $100, for a starter kit. You get the kit, assemble the provided materials and send them back to the company and wait for payment. Unfortunately, whatever you send back will not meet the company’s “standards.” They keep the money you sent for the starter kit and move on to the next victim.

Processing Medical Bills – These ads promise large weekly earnings for what sounds like a legitimate business practice, handling the billing for doctors, dentists, and other medical care providers in your area. The start-up fee required is much higher than envelope stuffing or craft assembly, as you are pushed to buy computer software, training sessions and a list of potential local offices in need of your services. Sounds almost like starting a legitimate business, right? Wrong. The list provided is bogus, the information out-of-date or fabricated. In fact, most medical offices do their billing in-house or outsource to large, dedicated processing centers. You are out several hundred dollars.

Make Money With Your Computer – The ads read, “Turn your computer into a money-making machine.” This is just another, up-to-date, variation on the envelope stuffing scam. You pay upfront fees for an information disk that suggests you advertise online and then make of copy of the disk you are currently reading and mail it off to those poor suckers who are duped into answering your ad. You’re out the costs of materials, advertising and postage. The only way to recoup any of your investment is if there are others out there equally gullible.

MLM vs. Pyramid Schemes – When practiced by reputable companies, like AMWAY or Mary Kay, multi-level marketing can be a legitimate way to engage in direct selling from your home. Often times though, there are shady businesses presenting themselves as legit MLMs which are actually plain pyramid schemes. You’ll know the difference because there won’t be any products to sell, or the products for sale will be mentioned in passing, but they will strongly push recruitment. If you are being asked to pay a fee and then expected to recruit more folks who will then pay you, well, that’s a pyramid scheme. After you’ve paid your fee (or bought all of your “promotional” materials) and recruited your friends and family members you quickly find the pyramid falls apart. The only folks who have made any money are the criminals who started the whole illegal endeavor.

Mystery Shopper – The ad recruits you as a “mystery shopper.” The victim is provided with a local store or wire transfer company and then given a task, often a list of items to be purchased and then mailed back to the “employer”. A hefty check is included with the list. The check is supposed to be cashed immediately and then used to cover payment of the requested items, postage and a small fee for the shopper as payment. Of course, after cashing the check and completing the “shopping”, the victim discovers the check was counterfeit. You owe the bank the entire amount plus fees, while the criminal walks with a box of freshly bought items that he can re-sell.

Working for the Criminals – Many criminals are taking advantage of folks looking for work-at-home and will attempt to recruit them as unwitting launderers. Told they are a US-based agent, they are then asked to receive and reship checks, merchandise and even solicit potential victims…never clueing in that its simply a front which leaves little trail back to the actual crooks.

Paying for Lists – Less involved, but still costly, some companies offer lists of potential work-at-home jobs, or offer advice via their telephone hotline. Of course, it’s a 1-900 phone number playing a worthless recording or the list you pay good money for simply directs you to any number of the exact same schemes you just read about above. Save your money and your time.

These are just a few of the scams out there taking money from those who are looking to work-at-home.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following signs of a work-at-home scammer:

They will never offer regular salaried employment.

Promises of huge profits and big part-time earnings.

The use of personal testimonials by unnamed, untraceable sources.
Payment for instructions/merchandise before telling you how the plan operates.

Guaranteed markets and promises of huge demand for your work.

Tell you no experience is necessary.

Be smart. Practice diligence, even if you feel desperate. Times are tough, it’s true. But there is no such thing as quick and easy money, especially when it comes from a spam email or a flyer on a telephone post. Remember, if the promises sound too good to be true, someone’s probably trying to con you.

Helpful Links:

To check on a company with the Better Business Bureau:
http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/

To file a complaint in English or Spanish with the Federal Trade Commission:

https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/

or call 1-877-382-4357

Business-owners beware! Overpayment scammers are targetting YOU!

A small business owner is thrilled at the prospect of a huge sale, the biggest of the year. The cashier’s check for over $50,000 was deposited and everyone was happy. Then the client called asking to cancel a part of the order. The small business owner was happy to refund the client and cut and mailed the check immediately. After all, what’s $7,000 when you’ve just banked $50,000?

About two weeks later the small business owner gets some bad news. The cashier’s check for $50,000 was bogus. The company has now lost forever the “refund” money they forwarded to the scamming client along with any goods provided.

This scam has been making its way through the business world for some time. A large cashier’s or “official bank check” is provided then a refund is requested. Often the amount of the check will be several thousand dollars more than the agreed-upon price, which is where the con derives its name – the Overpayment Scam.

Hotels, business facilities and exposition halls have regularly found themselves victims with the scammer blocking a large number or rooms for events, then calling to cancel a portion of the reservations.

Other’s who are often victim to this scam are event planners and caterers, along with companies that offer high-end products such as sports equipment, vehicles of all types and jewelry.

In an interview with BusinessWeek .com, CEO and President of the Milwaukee Better Business Bureau Randall Hoth took special not that the victims of these overpayment scams shared a common trait.

“The common thread seems to be business that advertise themselves on the internet…it opens up the opportunity to be surfed and scammed.”

If the con artists are viewing the internet as fertile soil for these overpayment scams, then small business are not the only one’s in danger. One only needs to look at the numbers for Craigslist and Ebay to spot another area ripe with potential victims.

Eight million people use Craigslist every month, at more than two billion page views. With pages specifically catered 120 cities and 25 countries, the “For Sale” section is among the site’s top areas. Ebay generated over six billion dollars in yearly business and that number was expected to increase by another billion in twelve months. Ebay has over 222 million registered users.

These sites are a conduit for small business to sell their goods and services, but more often than not they offer an online auction house for every day people who are looking to make some extra cash. These are ideal victims of an overpayment scam.

Along with the sale of goods, there are other services provided by individuals online that are susceptible to these overpayment scams. Those looking to rent apartments, for example, have found themselves falling victim to the con artists.

A Brandeis University message board recently exploded with reports of an overpayment scammer who was targeting locals looking to rent spare rooms and apartment to students. They were contacted by a man claiming to be a prospective student’s uncle who was looking to place her in a safe environment as she was coming from a Russian home where she had been abused.

The check he sent, a full month before the “student” was due to arrive, exceeded the rental fee by several thousand dollars. The “uncle” then requested to have the amount he overpaid wired back to him, after asking the renter to keep half of it as a good faith gesture for keeping an eye on his niece. Of course, the initial check was bogus. The entire story concocted to play on the emotions of the victims, even seeming to reward them for doing a good deed.

The specifics may vary, but the basics of the overpayment scam remain the same. The scammers locate their targets through classified ads or online sites like Craigslist or Ebay. The con artists offer payment for whatever is being advertised, whether goods or services, with either a cashier’s check or money order for more than the amount of the item or service advertised. The victim is then instructed to either cut a check or wire the excess amount to the scammer.

The reasons for the overpayment vary. It could be presented as a mistake, or a bonus for inconvenience or money to be sent to a third party, such as a shipping company (which will actually be bogus front for the con artist.) The crook is counting on the time cushion it will take the victim’s bank to identify that the initial check is a fraud to get cash directly from you, and if they’re especially lucky they’ll have goods shipped to them they can then fence.

Here are some things to keep in mind in order to avoid an overpayment scam:

Know who you are dealing with – confirm the buyer’s name, address and telephone number before doing business with them.

Don’t fall for it – Never accept a check for more than the amount you are selling an item for. If the buyer refuses to pay the correct amount, return the check and do not ship the merchandise.

Don’t wire – Never under any circumstances wire funds back to a purchaser. A legitimate buyer will not make this type of request, and if anything does go wrong, your ability to reclaim funds lost via wire transfer are basically nil.

Take your time – Don’t be pressured into quick action by a buyer. If the offer is good now, it should still be so once the check clears.

Keep it local – Request that any payments made by check be drawn at a local bank or at least a large bank with a local branch. You can then take the check by that location and have it confirmed as legitimate.

Be cautious – Don’t assume the check is legitimate just because your bank accepts it. It can often take weeks before a bank discovers a deposited check was actually counterfeit.

Ultimately, you are on the hook and liable for these monies with your financial institution.
Overpayment scams depend on victim’s to be both trusting and honest. You can still be a decent person without being played for a fool. If you are attempting to sell an item or rent a room and someone tries to overpay for it, take a good long look at the situation. You will probably find another scam artist looking to take you for a ride.

TEXT MESSAGE AND PHONE SCAMS: IN THE NEWS

Recently, a new scam involving text messages has begun to surface, and many people have reported being victims or at least intended victims. There is a text message going around that seems to come from a trusted source – Sears. The message reads: “customer issue. sears card frozen. please call at 786-206-5901”. When the number is called, the customer is asked to enter his or her Sears card number. Sears has addressed the issue saying that it is indeed a scam – a fake text from an illegitimate source, and that customers should never give out their card information.

This text message has alarmed many people. For those who do not have a Sears card there was concern of identity theft – someone else perhaps opening a card in their name. For Sears card holders, given that this is the busiest shopping season of the year, it can easily be mistaken as a legitimate message. Many people do their holiday shopping at Sears, and if you’d just charged a considerable amount to your card, this text would likely send you into a frenzy, which is exactly what the scammers want – people who will act before they think.

The Federal Trade Commission has now disconnected the phone number, so anyone else who calls will hear the message: “This is a message from the FTC. The telephone number you just called has been disconnected because it may be involved in a scam. You might have gotten this phone number from e-mail, text or voice mail message, but no matter how real it seems, that message was a trick.”

There are also several reports of a similar text message that claims to be from a bank, which could be even more damaging if anyone were to give out their bank account information. Authorities urge anyone receiving such a text message to call the customer service number on the back of their bank card to report and inquire.

Another very harmful phone scam currently in operation uses scare tactics to trick unsuspecting people into giving out their personal information. A scammer will call and inform their victim that they failed to report to jury duty, and therefore a warrant for their arrest has been issued. The caller will then claim that in order to clear the matter up, one must provide their social security number, date of birth, and even a credit card number in some cases.

The bottom line here is to NEVER give out your personal information to a stranger. If anyone calls or texts you asking for anything like this, do not respond. Instead, go directly to the source for answers – do not trust these texts and calls that could be coming from anyone.