What’s Up With WhatsApp?

WhatsApp Logo on green backgroundA cybersecurity breach in Facebook’s WhatsApp app last month left users vulnerable to spyware attacks via voice calls. An undetermined number of the 1.5 billion users of the popular messaging app may have had malicious spyware installed on their devices.

Let’s take a closer look at the security breach and the steps you can take to protect yourself, both now and in the future.

What happened?
Security breaches are old news in the app world, but a breach of extremely high magnitude and reach is something new and fairly frightening. The fact that the breach hit WhatsApp is especially alarming. WhatsApp utilizes strong encryption for both voice and text messaging and is used as a communication platform for government and security officials around the world.

Here’s how it went down:
A government-grade intelligence collection tool was employed to target WhatsApp users via voice calls. The spyware has been endowed with the ability to seize control of the affected smartphones and to access any private information stored on the device.

The spyware utilized in the attack was allegedly created by the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber surveillance company that has developed this advanced technology for the express purpose of allowing government agencies to infiltrate terrorist groups and to fight crime. Unfortunately, when the spyware fell into the wrong hands, it helped scammers pull off one of the greatest cybersecurity breaches of all time.

The Financial Times reported that the WhatsApp breach was made possible because of a loophole in the app’s code that allowed hackers to transmit spyware onto smartphones by calling targets through the app. The malicious code could be injected into the device whether the user picked up the call or ignored it.

According to WhatsApp, the cyber breach was first discovered in early May and had been used to target an undisclosed number of WhatsApp users. The Facebook-owned messaging company claimed it briefed human rights organizations about the breach and also asked U.S. law enforcement agencies to assist it in conducting an investigation. When WhatsApp had more definite information, it notified the public about the breach.

Who was affected?
It doesn’t matter what kind of phone you have; the security vulnerability affects both iPhone and Android devices. The good news is that not every version of WhatsApp was affected. To check whether the version you have on your phone was part of those impacted by the breach, check out Facebook’s official advisory confirming the vulnerability, which outlines which versions were affected.

The messaging giant has not confirmed a specific number of targeted victims. Rather, it has only shared that a “select number of users were targeted through this vulnerability by an advanced cyber actor.”

What do I need to do now?
Since the vulnerability that caused the breach lies in the makeup of the app and not in an unsafe or negligent practice in the hands of a user, there is no way you could have prevented your device from being affected. However, now that the facts are on the table, you can take the recommended steps to keep your device safe from this vulnerability.

Since the breach was discovered, WhatsApp engineers have been working hard to close the app’s security vulnerability. The company has started installing a fix to servers and to private customers. It has also created an updated, safer version of the app that it has urged all users to employ on their devices as soon as possible.

Here’s a quick guide for updating your WhatsApp.

  • For iPhone users: Open the App Store, choose updates, select WhatsApp and then click Update.
  • For Android users: Open the Play Store, click the three lines in the upper left-hand corner, choose My Apps & Games, select WhatsApp and then hit Update.

If you haven’t yet updated your device, do it now. It only takes a few seconds of your time to make sure your WhatsApp is operating at its safest level.

You never know when those scammers are going to hit next. Practice safe measures by always using the latest version of any application or operating system, keeping yourself in the know about recent security breaches and never sharing sensitive information online.

Stay safe!

Your Turn:
How do you keep yourself safe from security breaches? Share your tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/consumerwatch-what-you-should-know-about-whatsapp-breach-23607175

https://www.people.com/human-interest/whatsapp-security-breach-update-app/amp/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/05/14/whatsapps-cybersecurity-breach-phones-hit-with-israeli-spyware-over-voice-calls/amp/

Don’t Get Caught In A Pyramid Scheme!

Man in suit looking worriedly at computer screenPyramid schemes are just one of the many ways scammers capitalize on human greed. These business-centered schemes have been around for years, but scammers are still growing rich off victims. Recently, the state of Washington sued LuLaRoe, a massive pyramid operation that had collected millions of dollars from small business owners who believed it to be a legitimate organization.

Pyramid schemes are especially dangerous because they can be difficult to spot. They make every effort to appear legitimate, and are often confused with authentic multi-level marketing (MLM) companies.

Let’s take a look at what constitutes a pyramid scheme and how to avoid falling into their trap.

What is a Pyramid Scheme?
A pyramid scheme is a system in which participating members earn money by recruiting an ever-expanding number of “investors.” The initial promoters of the business stand on top of the pyramid. They will recruit additional investors, who will each also recruit even more investors. At each level, the number of investors multiplies. Investors earn a profit for each new recruit, and pass on some of the profit to their recruiters. The further up on a pyramid an investor is, the more money they will earn.

Sometimes, pyramid schemes involve the sale of a product, but that is usually just an attempt to appear authentic. The product will typically be faulty, and will obviously not be the focus of the business. The main object of all pyramid schemes is to recruit new investors in a never-ending quest for expansion.

It may be difficult to spot the crime here—and pyramid schemes are actually legal in some states. However, there are definitely underhanded tactics you’ll want to be aware of with every pyramid scheme.

First, new investors need to pay a fee for the right to sell a product or service, and to recruit others for monetary reward. This fee can be quite steep. Essentially, the recruiter is paying the salary of their superiors.

Also, as mentioned, if a product is sold, it is likely faulty or damaged and will not sell well. Recruiters might be required to purchase the product themselves. To make it even worse, the company will refuse to take back products that are deemed unsalable.

Finally, every pyramid scheme is set to fail because they are dependent on the ability to recruit more investors. Because there is a limited number of people in any community, every pyramid scheme will eventually collapse, leaving only those at the top with a profit.

What is Multi-Level Marketing?
MLM companies are often confused with pyramid schemes, but there are some distinctions that set them apart.

First, MLM companies work by selling products directly to consumers without a retail store or website. Distributors or salespeople will market the products on their own and will also train and recruit additional distributors. Each distributor earns a commission on each sale, as well as commission on the sales of the distributors they’ve recruited.

You might have unknowingly encountered an MLM business or even purchased their products. Some MLM companies include Avon, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Amway, and Scentsy. These are all completely legitimate businesses, with no devious intent.

The primary difference between MLM companies and pyramid schemes is the reliable line of products or services that stand behind each MLM company. The bulk of the company’s profits come from sales, not from recruiting new investors.

Also, authentic MLM businesses will never leave their distributors with unsold products. They will gladly buy back unsold merchandise, though often at a discounted price.

How Can I Spot a Pyramid Scheme?
Watch out for these red flags which immediately mark a business as a pyramid scheme:

  • High-pressure tactics.
    Pyramid schemes work by ensnaring victims whose judgment is clouded by hopeful ambition and don’t bother to read the fine print.
  • Recruitment-based income.
    If your promised income is completely tied to recruiting more members for the business, you’re looking at a pyramid scheme.
  • Unsubstantiated income claims.
    If you’re promised a 6-digit salary within a year while working a low-skill job that requires no experience at all, opt out.
  • Outrageous products claims.
    Are you being asked to sell a cream that will make wrinkles disappear overnight? Or maybe a pill that makes people drop five pounds in a week? If the product is accompanied by outlandish claims that are hard to prove, you’re being targeted for a pyramid scheme.
  • You need to buy the product to sell it.
    A company that requires its salespeople to purchase its products is a company that is desperate for business. Run the other way and don’t look back.

If you think you’ve been targeted by a pyramid scheme, check your state laws and report the scheme to the authorities if a law has been broken. Also, warn your friends about the circulating scheme so they know to avoid falling into its trap.

Stay alert and stay safe!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a pyramid scheme? Tell us about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.fraud.org/direct_sale_pyramids

https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/pyramid-schemes

https://ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/pyramid-schemes

8 Ways To Spot A Home Improvement Scam

feet sticking down through sheetrock ceiling, electrical light box hangingIt’s home improvement season! Contractors of all kinds, from painters to builders, electricians, roofers and more, are hard at work sprucing up homes across the country.

If you’re hiring anyone to make improvements on your home, be alert! Home improvement scams are more common than you may think. And they can be difficult to spot. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), home improvement scams in 2017 cost Americans more than $600,000 in losses. A contractor can con a homeowner in a number of ways, from doing sloppy work that requires more repair down the line to leaving a job unfinished, or even making off with their pay and doing no work at all.

Don’t let this happen to you! Read on for 8 ways to spot a home improvement scam:

  1. The contractor insists on being paid up front
    While most contractors will ask for a deposit toward their final fee when you hire them, be wary of any contractor who demands you pay more than a third of the total fee up front. This is likely a scammer who is trying to cover their bases in case of shoddy work or even a no-show.
  2. The contractor refuses to supply references
    Never hire a contractor without speaking to someone who’s used their services in the past. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises homeowners to ask past customers detailed questions about a contractor’s work, including the projected and actual project timeline, as well as final cost. If a contractor is in the middle of another job, ask if you can check out their work yourself. If a contractor refuses to furnish names and contact information of previous clients, it may be best to seek a new option.
  3. There’s negative information about the contractor on the BBB site
    Before hiring any small business you’ve never used, it’s a good idea to check them out on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. Once there, you can read reviews and ratings and see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
  4. The contractor demands payment in cash
    The FTC recommends paying contractors with a check or credit card so you can contest the charges if something goes wrong. Cash leaves no trail and makes it easy for a scammer to walk away from a job without doing much (or any) work at all.
  5. The contractor will do the work for an insanely cheap price
    Don’t get conned by a contractor who severely underbids all competitors. You might get lucky and find someone who is just starting out and can still do great work, or you might be dealing with someone who will cut every corner and end up costing you more than you thought you were saving. If you’re offered a bid that is a lot lower than the going price for the work, ask a lot of questions. If you only get evasive answers, look elsewhere.
  6. They show up at your door … uninvited
    The smiling contractor at your door claiming to have recently done work in your neighborhood just happened to notice your home can use some repairs, too. They suggest you hire them to do it for you–all for a great price, of course. Don’t fall for every house call. There’s a small chance you’re looking at a rookie contractor just starting to build a referral base, but it is far more likely that your uninvited visitor is a scammer who will do sloppy work, leave the job half-finished or disappear with your money. If the contractor does seem legit, look them up on the BBB site and ask for references before hiring.
  7. The contractor refuses to put anything in writing
    Never hire anyone to do work on your home without a written contract. The BBB advises homeowners to include as many details as possible in the contract, such as payment terms, a definitive date for the start and completion of the project, warranty information and a clear description of the job.
  8. They try to avoid permits
    A contractor who tries to convince you there’s no need to pull permits is one who wants to avoid the authorities at all costs. You’re likely dealing with an unlicensed worker or who will cut corners wherever possible. The lack of proper permits can also cause you problems down the line when you try to sell your home.

Don’t get ripped off by a scammer! Do your homework well before hiring any contractors this (or any) season. It’s one surefire way to ensure your home improvement project goes smoothly and without unpleasant surprises.

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a home improvement scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/home-improvement.html

https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/the-ultimate-list-of-the-years-worst-scams/

https://www.thespruce.com/common-home-improvement-scams-4163354

8 Ways To Avoid Getting Scammed On Craigslist

woman visibly upset and closing eyes while on the phoneThe arrival of spring and the deep house cleaning it inspires means more people are putting their old furniture, devices, sports equipment and clothing up for sale. That’s why the amount of items like these on sites like Craigslist swells considerably during this season. If you have the time and patience to sift through the offerings, there are wonderful treasures to be found. Conversely, if your own spring cleaning unveils hordes of sellable stuff you don’t use anymore, you can make good money selling them online.

Unfortunately, though, when there’s money to be made, the scammers are never far behind. Craigslist is riddled with scammers looking to make a quick buck off people’s naivety. Stay one step ahead of scammers and keep your money safe by following these eight tips when using Craigslist.

1.) Be familiar with Craigslist and the services it offers
Lots of Craigslist scams can be avoided by knowing basic information about the site. Before using Craigslist, make sure you know the following:

The Craigslist URL is http://www.craigslist.org. Scammers often use fake sites to lure buyers into paying for items that don’t exist. Always check the URL before finalizing a purchase.
Craigslist does not back any transaction on its site. If you receive an email or text trying to sell you purchase protection, you’re looking at a scam.
There is no such thing as a Craigslist voicemail service. If a contact asks you to access or check your “Craigslist voicemails,” you’re dealing with a scammer.

2.) Deal locally.
The “barely used” couch that’s up for sale a couple of states over might be better-priced than the one being sold just a 10-minute drive away, but it’s always safer to deal with locals on Craigslist. According to the site’s advice on avoiding scams on their platform, you’ll avoid 99% of the scams on Craigslist by following this rule.

Keeping your transaction local will enable you to finalize a sale in person. Plus, there’s less of a chance of there being a language barrier blurring the details of the deal.

3.) Examine the product(s) before finalizing a sale.
Never rely solely on pictures to get the full scope on what you’re buying. Ask to look at the item in person. If you’re purchasing an electronic device or something else that needs to work in order to be valuable, ask to try it out as well.

4.) Don’t accept or send a cashier’s check, certified check or money order as payment.
Fraudulent checks can be impossible to fight. Also, a bad check can seem to clear on sight, so you’ll agree to the sale and use the money that’s supposedly in your account. A few days later, though, you’ll realize the check bounced. By that time, the buyer has vanished with your goods, leaving you responsible for covering the funds you used while presuming it cleared.

On the flip side, if you pay for an item with a money order or wire transfer, you’ll have no way of recouping your loss if the seller fails to come through with the goods.

5.) Use cash—safely.
The most secure way to pay or collect funds for a Craigslist transaction is with cold cash. If the idea of handing over a large sum of money to a stranger scares you, you can make the exchange of money and goods in a safe place like your local police station or even at Advantage One.

When accepting cash for a sale, bring along a counterfeit detector pen (which can be found at most office supply stores and online) to be certain you’re not getting scammed with bogus bills. These retail for as little as $5, but they can save you from big losses.

6.) Never share your personal information with a buyer or seller.
As always, when online, keep your personal information to yourself. There’s no reason a buyer or seller needs to know your checking account number, your date of birth or even your mother’s maiden name. If a contact is asking too many questions, back out of the deal.

7.) Be wary of fake escrow service sites.
Escrow services, in which a company holds onto a large sum of money for two parties in the middle of a transaction, can be super-convenient when buying and selling things online. However, they can also be a clever trap for unsuspecting victims. Scammers often create bogus escrow service sites to lure victims into dropping their money right into the scammers’ hands. The site will be a copycat of a reputable escrow service site, with some slight deviations you wouldn’t notice unless you looked for them.

When using an escrow service site, it’s best to find the site yourself instead of following a pop-up ad or a link. Check the site carefully for spelling mistakes and poor syntax. Also, make sure the URL is secure and matches the site of the service you intend to use.

8.) Create a disposable number.
When conducting business on Craigslist, you may need to share a working phone number. You can create a cost-free, disposable number on Google Voice instead of giving out your real number. Your Google Voice number will be untraceable and will expire within 30 days of non-use.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a Craigslist scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.fraudguides.com/internet/craigslist/

https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams

https://www.thestreet.com/amp/personal-finance/craigslist-scams-14707309

https://www.efraudprevention.net/home/templates/?a=96

8 Ways To Spot A Job Scam

Young woman looks at a job sheet while verifying information on her smartphone.If you’re in the market for a new job, or you’re looking for extra part-time work, be careful. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a surge in employment scams of every kind. Victims might have their accounts emptied, their identities stolen, or they may even find themselves facing jail time for money laundering charges.

Protect yourself from employment scams by holding up any job you’re considering against this list of red flags:

1.) The job pays very well for easy work
If a job description offers a high hourly rate for non-skilled work with no experience necessary, you can assume it’s a scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay for work that anyone can do. Carefully read the wording of the job pitch. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2.) The job description is poorly written
Scrutinize every word of the job description. If it’s riddled with typos and spelling mistakes, you’re looking at a scam.

3.) They need to hire you NOW!
If a “business” claims the position needs to be immediately filled and they’re ready for you to start working today, assume it’s a scam. Most legitimate businesses will need time to process your application, properly interview you and determine if you are indeed a good fit.

4.) The business has no traceable street address or real online presence
If you’ve spotted a position on an online job board, your first step should be researching the company. Google the company name to see what the internet has to say about them. If you suspect a scam, search the name with words like “scam” and “fraud” in the search string. Look for a brick-and-mortar address, a phone number and a real online presence. If all you find are help-wanted ads and a P.O. Box, move on to better job leads.

5.) You need to share sensitive information just to apply
Does the “job application” you’re looking at seek sensitive details, like your Social Security number and/or a checking account number? Such information should not be necessary just to submit an application. You might even be innocently asked to share details you think are minor, like your date of birth, name of your hometown, first pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name. Of course, these are all keys to open up access to your passwords and/or PINs.

There’s no surer sign you’re dealing with crooks than being asked to share information that practically guarantees you’ll be scammed.

6.) You need to pay a steep fee to apply
Some legitimate companies charge a nominal application fee for hopeful employees. However, if the fee is absurdly high, or the company asks you to cash a check for them and then refund it, you’re being scammed.

7.) There’s no business email
Some job scammers will impersonate well-known companies to look authentic. For example, you might think you’re applying to an off-site job at Microsoft. You’ll be told to email your resume to JohnSmithMicrosoftHR@gmail.com. Your red flag here is the email address: The domain is generic. If the “recruiter” genuinely represented Microsoft, the email address would be something like JohnSmith@HR.Microsoft.com.

8.) The “recruiter” found your resume on a job board you never use
If the “recruiter” claims they’ve picked up your resume on a job board you don’t remember visiting, it’s not your memory failing you. Job-scammers often scrape victims’ personal details off the internet and then pretend to have received a resume. They’ll know you’re looking for a job, and they’ll know enough about you to convince you they’ve got your resume, but it’s all a scam. If someone contacts you about a position you’ve never applied for, or claims to have found your resume on a job board you’ve never visited, run the other way!

As always, practice caution when online. Keep your browser updated and strengthen the privacy settings on your social media accounts. When engaged in a public forum, don’t share information that can make you vulnerable, like your exact birthdate or employment history. Never wire money to people you don’t know well or agree to cash a stranger’s check in exchange for a commission. Above all, keep your guard up when online and use common sense: When in doubt, opt out!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a job scam? Tell us about it in the comments, below!

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts

https://www.job-hunt.org/onlinejobsearchguide/job-search-scams.shtml

https://www.whatismybrowser.com/guides/how-to-be-safe-online/why-should-i-update-my-web-browser

Simple tips for protecting your parents from financial fraud

daughter helping elderly father check his account onlineAccording to the Federal Trade Commission, older adults are disproportionately affected by fraud.

Whether it’s a phony phone call, phishing scam, or mail fraud, seniors often become targets for scammers who perceive them as easy marks.

While you alone can’t put an end to this shady illegal activity, you can empower you parents with the knowledge to keep themselves—and their finances—safe.

Remind them about “stranger danger”
Your parents probably taught you the concept of “stranger danger” at an early age—and for good reason. Don’t interact with suspicious people. It’s an important lesson that’s relevant to adults as well as children.

If someone you don’t know asks for personal information, it’s probably a scam. Remind your parents to never give out credit card or account information, passwords, or social security numbers unless they can verify the identity of the person or business making the request.

Add their number to the Do Not Call List
When you add your phone number to the The National Do Not Call Registry, the government informs telemarketers not to call you.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous organizations and scammers ignore the registry and may continue to harass your parents, but they should see a reduction in unsolicited calls and text messages from those who abide by the law.

Give them a crash course in online literacy
If your senior parents use technology but aren’t completely familiar with how scams work online, they might not understand what to click and what to avoid.

Spend some time going over how to navigate the internet safely. Most importantly, explain email phishing. Emphasize that they should never click links in unsolicited emails from people or companies they don’t know.

If they use social networks like Facebook, warn them not to share anything too personal as scammers might use this information to impersonate friends or family members online.

Used with permission. © 2019 BALANCE. All rights reserved.

Are P2P Payment Systems Safe?

Close-up of the hands of four people holding smart phonesP2P payment services, like Venmo, Zelle and Square’s Cash App, are aiming to make cash obsolete – and some would contend they’re succeeding! Just a few quick swipes, and you can transfer funds to a friend, pay for an item you bought online or collect money that’s owed to you.

Convenient as they are, P2P payment systems have unfortunately become a breeding ground for scams and hacks. From compromised accounts to fraudulent transactions, using a P2P service opens you to some risk of losing your money to a scammer.

Read on to learn how to better protect yourself from a P2P payment scam.

How do P2P payment scams happen?
There are lots of ways using a P2P payment system can put you at risk, but the following two vulnerabilities are most common:

1.) The bogus buyer
In most cash-transfer apps, when you receive a payment, the money goes into your P2P system balance and stays there until you transfer it to an external account or use it to pay for another transaction. This transfer usually takes one to three business days to clear. Crooked scammers are taking advantage of that “float” in the transfer process to con you out of your money.

Here’s how it works:
A scammer will contact you about an item you’ve put up for sale or tickets to an event. Together, you’ll arrange for an exchange of funds and goods. You may even take precautions against a possible scam by insisting on an in-person meeting for the exchange or refusing to send out the item until you see the money in your P2P account. Things proceed according to plan. You’re notified that the money has been sent to your account and you hand over your item. Sadly, you won’t realize you’ve been ripped off until a few days later when the money transfer does not clear and the contact has disappeared with your goods. Unfortunately, there’s no way you can get your money back, because most P2P providers will not offer compensation for a fraudulent sale. Similarly, your linked financial institution bears no responsibility for the scam and can’t help you recoup the loss.

2.) Publicized payments
PayPal’s Venmo is the only P2P app with a built-in social networking component. This feature has led to a host of privacy issues that have been brought to the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

In short, every Venmo transaction you make is up for public scrutiny. No one can access the payment amounts, but anyone who is interested can track the restaurants where you like to eat, the clothing stores you most frequent and check out when you last filled your gas tank. Creepiness factor aside, all that information going public makes Venmo users super-vulnerable to scammers and identity thieves.

Venmo allows you to tweak your privacy settings to keep your information from going public, but most people are unaware of the issue and/or neglect to take this measure. Recently, the FTC ruled that Venmo must make this detail clearer to users. Venmo has since created a popup tutorial for all new users demonstrating how to adjust your privacy settings to keep your transactions from going public. If you choose to use Venmo, check your settings to be sure your money habits aren’t being broadcast for the world to see.

Protecting yourself
You can keep your money safe and still enjoy the convenience of cash-transfer apps with these simple steps:

  • Only send money to people you know and trust.
  • Never use a P2P service for business-related transactions.
  • When using Venmo, adjust your privacy settings and opt-out of public tracking.
  • Carefully read the terms and conditions of a P2P service before using.
  • Always choose two-factor identification and use a PIN when possible. If your app and phone allows, choose fingerprint recognition and/or touch ID for added protection.
  • Accept any security updates offered by the P2P app you use.
  • Check your recipient’s information carefully before completing a money transfer.
  • Choose to be notified about every transaction.
  • Link an external account instead of keeping your funds in the P2P account.

Your Turn:
Do you think P2P systems are safe? Why, or why not? Share your take with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://triblive.com/business/technology/13358843-74/peer-to-peer-apps-come-with-risks-ftc-warns

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/02/tips-using-peer-peer-payment-systems-and-apps

https://paymentweek.com/2018-3-30-problems-p2p-mobile-payments/

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/2016/10/fintech-series-crowdfunding-peer-peer-payments

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=9efa141a-40d2-4773-b930-bb395111d226

https://www.consumerreports.org/scams-fraud/how-to-protect-yourself-from-p2p-payment-scams/

 

5 Ways To Avoid Credit Fraud

Middle-aged red-haired woman in modern studying credit report witha look of concernkitchenHere are five ways that you can avoid credit fraud.

  • Keep your credit cards safe. Store your cards in a secure wallet or purse. After making a purchase, immediately return your card to that place.
  • Don’t allow websites to “remember” your card number. Only let secure payment portals, like GooglePay and PayPal, remember your card number. An even better practice is to never check the “remember card number” box for any site or portal.
  • Be wary when shopping online. Before using your credit card online, verify the site’s security and that the URL is authentic—there’s an “s” after the “http” in the web address, and a lock icon as well.
  • Report lost or stolen cards immediately. The sooner you report a missing card, the less liability you’ll have for fraudulent charges made with your card.
  • Review your monthly bill. Always look through your monthly statement to check for suspicious account activity.

Your Turn:
How do you avoid credit card fraud? Share your own tips with us in the comments.

Student Loan Scams

Hand holding a small, white, porcelain piggy bank with "student loan" handwritten on the side.Scammers will try anything to fool college students into parting with their money. Don’t get hooked! Here’s what you need to know about three popular student loan scams.

1.) Student loan forgiveness scam

In this scam, a student loan debt company will contact you offering to forgive your student loan for a fee.

Sounds like a dream? Unfortunately, it’s more like a nightmare. No student loan company would completely forgive your loan, even for a fee. You’ve just been targeted by a scam.

This scam attempts authenticity by sounding like Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a legitimate federal government program for public servants with federal student loans. If you fall for the scam, you’ll still need to pay off your loan, plus you’ll lose the money you shelled out for the “fee.”

2) Student loan consolidation scam
In this scenario, a student loan company will promise to consolidate your loans and lower your monthly payments, all for a fee.

Here’s your clue that this is a scam: Though some institutions can refinance student loans, only the federal government has the power to consolidate it. And they’ll do it for free.

If you’re looking to consolidate your student loans, check out Studentloans.gov.

3.) Student loan tax scam
In this con, a scammer will spoof the IRS’s toll-free number, claiming the student owes thousands of dollars for a “federal student loan tax.” The scammer will demand immediate payment upon threat of arrest or a lawsuit. They’ll also insist on a specific method of payment, like a wire transfer.

Here’s the deal on this scam: The “federal student loan tax” does not exist. Also, the IRS will never contact you by phone without first notifying you via mail, and they won’t demand payment over the phone or insist on a specific payment method.

If you’re targeted
If you’re targeted by a student loan scam, don’t engage with the scammer. Hang up as soon as you recognize it and delete any suspicious emails that land in your inbox.

Next, bring the scam to the attention of the authorities. File a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov, alert local law enforcement agencies and report any tax-related scams at IRS.gov.

Finally, be sure to warn your friends about a circulating scam.

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a student loan scam? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://typicalstudent.org/hot/your-money/3-popular-student-loan-scams-2019

https://thecollegeinvestor.com/317/top-student-loan-scams/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/01/21/student-loans-scams/amp/