#AceNewsReport – June.11: Scammers may say your tax returns must be done differently because of a name change — and they need your Social Security number to fix it. For recently married people, or someone going through gender reassignment and a name change, the excuses scammers use might make sense. But wait right there. Scammers are just phishing for personal information they can use to steal your identity or take your money:
SCAM ALERT: How to spot a government impersonator scam: For Pride Month, the FTC wants the LGBTQ+ community to know about government imposter scams and how to avoid them: Government imposters may call to “verify your Social Security number,” or say your Social Security number or Medicare benefits have been “suspended” due to a mix-up.
June 9, 2021by
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
So how do you spot it and stop it? Here’s what to know:
Scammers call, email, or text you for money or information. But the government won’t. Anyone who calls, emails, or texts, asking for money or personal information and claims to be from the government is a scammer. Hang up and don’t respond to messages.
Scammers tell you how to pay — usually by wiring money, cryptocurrency, or gift card. Nobody legit will ever tell you to pay in any of those ways. If they call, hang up the phone. If they email, text, or message you, don’t click on any links. It’s a scam.
Even if your caller ID says it’s from the government, it could be a scam. Caller ID can be faked. Even if it shows the government agency’s real phone number, or even if it says something like “Social Security Administration,” it could be anyone calling from anywhere in the world. Don’t trust it.
#AceNewsReport – May.29: But some activities might require you to show that you’ve been vaccinated or had a recent negative #COVID19 test. How you do that may depend on the activity and where you live.
FTC SCAM ALERT: Scammers cash in on confusion over vaccine verification methods: Right now, there’s no standard way to prove you’ve been vaccinated or tested negative. Sure, there are those CDC #COVID19 vaccination cards people get when they get their vaccine.
May 28, 2021by
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
But they were never designed to prove your vaccination status and they may not be enough. Some states, companies, colleges, and other organizations are creating their own verification products and services, including apps and digital passports or certificates. Some connect to state immunization databases while others rely on individual self-report. The patchwork approach gives scammers an opportunity to cash in on the confusion.
Besides not sharing your COVID-19 vaccination card online because of the risk for identity theft, here are a few other ways to help stay ahead of the scammers.
Be skeptical of anyone contacting you from the federal government. Right now, there are no official plans to create a national vaccine verification app or certificate or passport. If you get a call, email, or text from someone saying they’re from the federal government, and asking you for personal information or money to get a national vaccine certificate or passport, that’s a scam.
Check with airlines, cruise lines, and event venues about their requirements. Don’t rely on information from someone who calls, texts, or emails you out of the blue.
Contact your state governmentabout its vaccine verification plans and requirements.
Don’t share your information with just anyone. Scammers often set up real-looking websites to sell fake goods and services, so why not vaccine verification certificates or passports? Before you share any information online, check out who’s asking for it. Search online for the company or organization’s name with words like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” Think long and hard before you share personal information, like your Social Security, Medicare, credit card, or bank account numbers. Scammers can steal your information to commit fraud and identity theft.
If you know about a COVID-19 vaccine scam, tell the FTC about it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Or, file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general at consumerresources.org, the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.
#AceNewsReport – May.26: You receive a fraudulent text claiming to be from a trusted organisation or individual being impersonated by criminals, including the following:
Your bank, informing you that there is a ‘problem with your account’ such as irregular activity or lack of funds.
A retailer, offering ‘vouchers’ or ‘gift cards’.
A technology provider such as Apple or Google, notifying that you ‘need to validate an account’.
A parcel delivery company, notifying you that you need to ‘confirm that you want a parcel to be delivered’.
HMRC, informing you that you are ‘due a tax refund’.
SCAM ALERT: #Smishing Report: In common with both phishing, which uses email as an initial approach, and vishing, which uses phone calls, smishing uses your mobile phone (either a smartphone or traditional non-internet connected handset). Like the other methods mentioned, it manipulates innocent people into taking various actions which lead to being defrauded:
What all smishing messages have in common is: This list is not exhaustive.
They instruct you to either go to a website or make a phone call to a specified number.
They play on your basic human emotions and needs, such as trust, safety, fear of losing money, getting something for nothing, eagerness to find a bargain or desire to find love or popularity/status.
They generally state or imply the need for your urgent action to either avoid an issue or take advantage of an offer.
Websites you visit via smishing messages generally either request confidential details or cause your internet-connected mobile device to be infected with malware. Phone calls you make in response can either result in confidential details being requested, or be to a premium rate number resulting in exorbitant charges being added to your phone bill.
How to avoid becoming a victim of smishing:
Do not click on links in text messages unless you are 100% certain that they are genuine and well-intentioned.
Take time to consider your actions before responding to text messages.
Ask yourself if the sender, if genuine, would really contact you via this text.
Recognise threats of financial issues or offers that seem too good to be true, for what they really are.
If in doubt, call the correct number of the organisation or individual from whom the text claims to have been sent, to check its authenticity.
Remember that even if the text message seems to come from someone you trust, their number may have been hacked or spoofed.
Do not respond to the text message. Doing so could result in your details being added to a ‘suckers’ list’ and you will be inundated with similar messages.
Dial 7726 (or for Vodafone subscribers, 87726). This will enable your mobile network provider to take early action to block numbers that are generating spam – including scam texts – on their networks, and report them to the regulators.
Report spam text messages directly to your mobile phone provider free of charge by forwarding them to 7726 from the device they are received on.
‘Which’ also operates an online reporting service for scam texts and phone calls, here: www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-deal-with-spam-text-messages.
If you have lost money as a result of a smishing text, or via any other fraudulent activity
Report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk. If you are in Scotland, contact Police Scotland on 101.
#AceNewsReport – May.25: The men were arrested in Birmingham, Coventry, London and Colchester, Essex, a specialist unit of the City of London and Metropolitan Police said:
U.K. …Eight arrests in Royal Mail text scam investigation: ‘The suspects were allegedly involved in sending fake messages, primarily posing as Royal Mail and asking people to pay a fee to retrieve a parcel’ Such messages, known as “smishing” texts, steal a victim’s personal and bank details by getting them to follow a link to a fake version of a trusted website.
20 hours ago
A man from London was charged with three offences and the others were released under investigation.
The charged man, from Enfield, will appear at Inner London Crown Court on 21 June.
He faces charges of fraud by false representation; possession of articles for use in fraud; possession of criminal property (money laundering), a spokeswoman for the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) said.
The unit added the arrests were made as part of a week of action against scam messages.
Det Ch Insp Gary Robinson, head of the DCPCU, said it was working with Royal Mail, the financial services sector and mobile phone networks to fight the crime.
“Ongoing investigations are now under way and we will continue to work together to bring those committing smishing scams to justice,” he said.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.
#AceNewsReport – May.22: “ The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will vigorously pursue and prosecute fraudsters who prey on others through international telemarketing schemes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Consumer Protection Branch, working alongside the Postal Inspection Service and our U.S. Attorney’s Office partners, will bring to justice those who threaten and defraud consumers, including immigrants who may be vulnerable to schemes that involve false threats to their liberty and ability to remain in the United States.”
CALIFORNIA: A Californian man has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for partnering with call centers in Peru that defrauded Spanish-speaking U.S. residents through lies and threats: According to court documents, Angel Armando Adrianzen, 46, partnered with a series of Peruvian call centers that contacted U.S. consumers, many of whom were vulnerable recent immigrants, using internet-based telephone calls’
Those callers claimed to be attorneys or government representatives, and falsely told victims that they had failed to pay for or receive delivery of products. The callers also falsely threatened victims with court proceedings, negative marks on their credit reports, imprisonment, or immigration consequences if they did not immediately pay for the purportedly delivered products and settlement fees. Many victims made payments based on these baseless threats. Adrianzen received the victims’ payments and shipped products to the victims for these call centers, knowing that the call centers used fraudulent and extortionate means to extract money from vulnerable victims. Adrianzen was also convicted of and sentenced for two counts of possession of child pornography, found on his laptop computer and cell phone when search warrants were executed upon those devices.
As part of his guilty plea, Adrianzen admitted that from April 2011 until at least September 2019, he was the owner and operator of AAD Learning Center (AAD). Adrianzen operated and oversaw AAD from California and worked in partnership with call centers in Peru to contact Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States, including in the Southern District of Florida. At AAD, Adrianzen participated in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme that offered various products to Spanish-speaking consumers in the United States to obtain payments from vulnerable victims.
“Today’s sentence serves not only as just punishment for this defendant, but also as notice to others who may prey on vulnerable victims,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “The Justice Department and its partners will aggressively investigate such criminal activity. We will find you and ensure you are held accountable for your crimes.”
“In this international telemarketing scheme, deceptive scare tactics were used to threaten thousands of vulnerable U.S. consumers into purchasing undelivered products by falsely purporting to use America’s legal system against them and coercing them out of millions of dollars,” stated Inspector in Charge Joseph Cronin of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Miami Division. “Today’s sentencing hopefully brings relief to U.S. residents and immigrants who were victimized by this transnational fraudulent scheme. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, are committed to holding individuals who use the U.S. Mail to defraud consumers accountable.”
In pleading guilty, Adrianzen admitted that he assisted his co-conspirators in Peru in setting up and staffing call centers that contacted victims in the United States and, at times, provided the call centers with lists of consumers to contact and call scripts to use when doing so. The scripts incorporated various false statements, including directing callers to falsely claim to be attorneys with the U.S. Department of Education. In other scripts, the callers were directed to falsely claim to be associated with Spanish language television channels, radio stations, or toothpaste companies.
Adrianzen further admittd that his co-conspirators falsely claimed that they were lawyers, sometimes calling from a “legal department” of a company, or from a supposed “minor crimes court.” Adrianzen’s co-conspirators falsely threatened to have victims deported, arrested, and charged with crimes, and to have negative marks placed on their credit reports if they failed to pay the hundreds of dollars of demanded fees. Ultimately, Adrianzen processed over $3,500,000 in payments as part of the scheme.
Adrianzen was sentenced to serve 121 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr., to be followed by fifteen years’ supervised release. He was also ordered to make restitution payments to victims of his offenses. Adrianzen was arrested on Sept. 16, 2019, and has remained incarcerated. On Nov. 21, 2019, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Miami Division and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Phil Toomajian and Joshua Rothman of the Consumer Protection Branch prosecuted the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bertila Fernandez of the Southern District of Florida assisted with the prosecution of the child pornography charges.
#AceNewsReport – May.14: Some of the most common unwanted calls the FTC sees currently include pretend Social Security Administration, Medicare, and IRS calls, fake Amazon or Apple Computer support calls, and fake auto warranty and credit card calls.
AMERICA: SCAM ALERT: Unwanted calls: Just block ’em and report ’em ……..So this week, as part of Older Americans Month, we’re talking about how to block unwanted calls — for yourself, and for your friends and family. To get started, check out this video:
May 12, 2021by
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
But no matter what type of unwanted calls you get (and everyone is getting them) your best defense is a good offense. Here are three universal truths to live by:
Don’t trust your caller ID
Hang up on robocalls
Use call blocking
Visit FTC.gov/calls to learn to block calls on your cell phone and home phone.
The FTC continues to go after the companies and scammers behind these calls, so please report unwanted calls at donotcall.gov. If you’ve lost money to a scam call, tell us at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your reports help us take action against scammers and illegal robocallers — just like we did in Operation Call It Quits. In this law enforcement sweep, the FTC and its state and federal partners brought 94 actions against illegal robocallers. But there’s more: we also take the phone numbers you report and release them publicly each business day. That helps phone carriers and other partners that are working on call-blocking and call-labeling solutions.
So share these videos and this call blocking news with your friends and family. Sharing will help protect someone you care about from a scam — and it’ll help them get fewer unwanted calls, too!
#AceNewsReport – Apr.01: According to court documents, Cody Allen Easterday, 49, of Mesa, used his company, Easterday Ranches Inc., to enter into a series of agreements with Tyson and Company 1 under which Easterday Ranches agreed to purchase and feed cattle on behalf of Tyson and Company 1. Per the agreements, Tyson and Company 1 would advance Easterday Ranches the costs of buying and raising the cattle. Once the cattle were slaughtered and sold at market price, Easterday Ranches would repay the costs advanced (plus interest and certain other costs), retaining as profit the amount by which the sale price exceeded the sum repaid to Tyson and Company 1.
‘A Washington man pleaded guilty today to defrauding Tyson Foods Inc. (Tyson) and another company (Company 1) out of more than $244 million by charging them under various agreements for the purported costs of purchasing and feeding hundreds of thousands of cattle that did not actually exist’ Beginning in approximately 2016 and continuing through November 2020, Easterday submitted and caused others to submit false and fraudulent invoices and other information to Tyson and Company 1.
These false and fraudulent invoices sought and obtained reimbursement from the victim companies for the purported costs of purchasing and growing hundreds of thousands of cattle that neither Easterday nor Easterday Ranches ever purchased, and that did not actually exist. As a result of the scheme, Tyson and Company 1 paid Easterday Ranches over $244 million for the purported costs of purchasing and feeding these ghost cattle.
Easterday used the fraud proceeds for his personal use and benefit, and for the benefit of Easterday Ranches, including to cover approximately $200 million in commodity futures contracts trading losses that Easterday had incurred on behalf of Easterday Ranches. In connection with his commodity futures trading, Easterday also defrauded the CME Group Inc. (CME), which operates the world’s largest financial derivatives exchange. On two separate occasions, Easterday submitted falsified paperwork to the CME that resulted in the CME exempting Easterday Ranches from otherwise-applicable position limits in live cattle futures contracts.
“For years, Cody Easterday perpetrated a fraud scheme on a massive scale, increasing the cost of producing food for American families,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division’s prosecutors are committed to swiftly and thoroughly prosecuting frauds affecting our nation’s agricultural and other commodities markets, whether in the heartland or on Wall Street.”
“I commend the agents with the Federal Deposit Insurance Company Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their dedication to investigating this case and tenacity in ferreting out the fraudulent activity to which the defendant has pleaded guilty,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Harrington for the Eastern District of Washington.
“Today’s guilty plea holds the defendant responsible for his extensive and coordinated fraud over many years, resulting in more than $240 million of illicit gains,” said Inspector General Jay N. Lerner of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation – Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG). “The defendant submitted false and fraudulent documentation, and then brazenly used the proceeds to cover his losses and for his personal benefit. This scheme was unraveled through rigorous and diligent investigative work with our law enforcement partners, and the FDIC-OIG remains committed to helping preserve the integrity of the banking sector.”
“Producing and providing false invoices and information on goods and services never delivered, were the fundamental key in defrauding an American multinational company out of hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Inspector in Charge Delany De León-Colón of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Criminal Investigations Group. “This case highlights the collaborative investigative work undertaken by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and its law enforcement partners to protect consumers and businesses from duplicitous practices. Anyone who engages in these fraudulent and deceptive activities will be brought to justice.”
Easterday pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and agreed to repay $244,031,132 in restitution. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 4 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating the case.
Acting Principal Assistant Chief Avi Perry and Trial Attorney John “Fritz” Scanlon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell E. Smoot of the Eastern District of Washington are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section plays a pivotal role in the Justice Department’s fight against white collar crime around the country and is the national leader in prosecuting fraud and manipulation in the U.S. commodity markets.