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Fraud Alerts
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Fake Funeral Notice Scam

Scam artists are forever trying to trick people into clicking on links that will download malware to their computers. But the latest scam takes the tricks to a new low. Scammers are sending bogus emails with the subject line "funeral notification." The message appears to be from a legitimate funeral home, offers condolences, and invites you to click on a link for more information about the upcoming "celebration of your friend’s life service." But instead of sending you to the funeral home's website, the link sends you to a foreign domain where the scammers download malware to your computer.

Malware, short for “malicious software," includes viruses and spyware that get installed on your computer without your consent. These programs can cause your device to crash and can be used to monitor and control your online activity. Criminals use malware to steal personal information, send spam, and commit fraud.

If you get an email about a friend or loved one’s passing, the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, says hit Delete. Don’t click on the link. You may then want to contact the funeral home or family directly to verify the information.


"One-ring" Cell Phone Scam

Who’s calling now? That number doesn’t ring a bell. Hold the phone, says the Federal Trade Commission. You could be a potential victim of the growing "one-ring” cell phone scam.

Here’s how it works: Scammers are using auto-dialers to call cell phone numbers across the country. Scammers let the phone ring once — just enough for a missed call message to pop up.

The scammers hope you’ll call back, either because you believe a legitimate call was cut off, or you will be curious about who called. If you do, chances are you’ll hear something like, “Hello. You’ve reached the operator, please hold.” All the while, you’re getting slammed with some hefty charges — a per-minute charge on top of an international rate. The calls are from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that look like they’re from inside the U.S., but actually are associated with international phone numbers — often in the Caribbean. The area codes include: 268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849 and 876.

If you get a call like this, don’t pick it up and don’t call the number back. There’s no danger in getting the call: the danger is in calling back and racking up a whopping bill.

If you're tempted to call back, do yourself a favor and check the number through online directories first. They can tell you where the phone number is registered.

New Target Scam

If you've been following the news this holiday season, you've probably heard that Target shoppers may have been affected by the recent data breach.  Target notified their customers of the breach via email.

Unfortunately, scammers follow the news, too. Scam artists may send out phony “Target” emails pretending to help, but they actually want to trick you into giving them your personal information. And they are skilled at making the emails look real. If you get an email that says it's from Target, here's what to look out for to make sure you don't get scammed.

*If any email asks for your personal or financial information, it's most likely a scam. Say the email asks for your credit card number to check whether your card was compromised by the breach. What do you do? Don't reply. No legitimate business will ask for your personal information through unsecure methods like email.

*If there are links in the email, don't click on them, even if they seem legit at first glance. Scammers can easily create links and sites that look like the real deal, but can install viruses to your device or direct you to spoof sites that exist to steal your information. Hovering over a link can reveal a deliberately misspelled web address, or a completely different destination. Your best bet is to type the URL directly into your browser.

During the holidays, scammers may send emails promising a free gift card, a new tablet or computer, or even a seasonal job in exchange for your financial information. Even though these offers may sound tempting, delete the message and keep your information to yourself.

If you think you've received a fake email, forward it to, and delete the message from your inbox.

For more scam updates check out this website from the Federal Trade Commission;


























                             Cyber Monday and Online Shopping Season:
                               What you Need to know to Protect Yourself
Online holiday shopping continues to grow in popularity. According to American Express, for the first time, more people are expected to shop online on Cyber Monday than visit brick and mortar stores on Black Friday.  Shoppers are expected to spend nearly $62 billion online throughout the holiday season this year, up more than 15% from 2012. The use of mobile devices for online shopping (mcommerce) is projected to reach almost $10 billion for the 2013 holiday season, as more consumers are using these devices to compare prices, research products, locate stores, and make purchases to a larger degree than ever before.
Whether you'll be conducting transactions from your desktop, laptop or mobile device, keep these tips in mind to help protect yourself from identity theft and other malicious activity on Cyber Monday, and throughout the year:

  • Secure your computer and mobile devices.  Be sure your computer and mobile devices are current with all operating system and application software updates. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software should be installed, running, and receiving automatic updates. Ensure you use a strong password and unique password, which is not used for any other accounts. Set a timeout that requires authentication after a period of inactivity.
  • Use mobile applications with caution. As devices such as smartphones and tablets, continue to gain popularity for online shopping, so too will the volume of attacks against them.  Malware could be downloaded onto the device from seemingly legitimate shopping apps that can steal credit card and other sensitive information for transmission to cyber criminals. Update all apps when notified and disable Bluetooth and Near Field Communications when not in use to reduce the risk of your data-such as credit card number-being intercepted by a nearby device.
  • Know your online merchants.  Limit online shopping to merchants you know and trust. Only go to sites by directly typing the URL in the address bar. If you are unsure about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission.  Confirm the online seller's contact information in case you have questions or problems.
  • Consider using an online payment system or credit card.  Where available, you may want to use online payment services, which keep your credit card information stored on a secure server, and then let you make purchases online without revealing your credit card details to retailers.  If you do pay online directly to the retailer, use a credit, not debit card.  Credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may reduce your liability if your information is used improperly.
  • Look for “https” before you click “Purchase.” Before you submit your online transaction, make sure that the webpage address begins with “https.” The “s” stands for secure, and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.  A padlock or key icon in the browser's status bar is another indicator.  Also, make sure your browser is current and up-to-date. 
  • Do not respond to pop-ups.  When a window pops up promising you cash, bargains, or gift cards in exchange for your response to a survey or other questions, close it by pressing Control + F4 on Windows devices, or Command + W for Macs.
  • Do not use public computers or public wireless access for your online shopping.  Public computers and Wi-Fi hotspots are potentially insecure. Criminals may be intercepting traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other sensitive information. Care should be taken that the settings on your computer or device prevent it from automatically connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Secure your home Wi-Fi.  Make sure you control who has administrative access, and that any users on your network authenticate with a strong password. Encryption settings should be enabled and strong - using WPA2 is recommended.
  • Be alert for potential charity donation scams. Cyber criminals try to take advantage of people's generosity during the holiday season and can use fake charity requests as a means to gain access to your information or computer/device. Think before clicking on emails requesting donations. Don't give your financial or personal information over email or text.   Contribute by navigating to the trusted address of the charity, never through a link in an email.  To check if an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions, visit the IRS website.
Contact the seller or the site operator directly to resolve any issues. You may also contact the following: 
For More Information:
For additional information about safe online shopping, please visit the following sites:
·         US-CERT
·         OnGuard Online
·         Microsoft
·         Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
·         Internet Crime Complaint Center
          Internal Revenue Service


Cyber Criminals using photo-sharing programs to compromise computers!

The FBI has seen an increase in cyber criminals who use online photo-sharing programs to perpetrate scams and harm victims' computers. These criminals advertise vehicles online but will not provide pictures in the advertisement. They will send photos on request. Sometimes the photo is a single file sent as an e-mail attachment, and sometimes the victim receives a link to an online photo gallery.

The photos can/often contain malicious software that infects the victims” computer, directing them to fake websites that look nearly identical to the real site where they originally saw the advertisement. The cyber criminals run all aspects of these fake websites, including “tech support” or “live chat support,” and any “recommended” escrow services. After the victim agrees to purchase the item and makes the payment, the criminals stop responding to correspondence. The victims never receive any merchandise.

The FBI urges consumers to protect themselves when shopping online. Here are a few tips for staying safe:

  • Be cautious if you are on an auction site and lose an auction and the seller contacts you later saying the original bidder fell through.
  • Make sure websites are secure and authenticated before you purchase an item online. Use only well-known escrow services.
  • Research to determine if a car dealership is real and how long it has been in business.
  • Be wary if the price for the item you'd like to buy is severely undervalued; if it is, the item is likely fraudulent.
  • Scan files before downloading them to your computer.
  • Keep your computer software, including the operating system, updated with the latest patches.
  • Ensure your anti-virus software and firewalls are current – they can help prevent malware infections.

If you have fallen victim to this type of scam, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center,





















If your password is on this list, or is a close variation of these passwords it's really important to take action now.  Fixing your password problem can be simple.  Remember long is strong; the longer the password, the more difficult it will be for someone to try and figure out.  Instead of a single word, try a string of words.  Use a line from your favorite poem or song.

  • password
  • 123456
  • 12345678
  • abc123
  • qwerty
  • monkey
  • letmein
  • dragon
  • 111111
  • baseball
  • iloveyou
  • trustno1
  • 1234567
  • sunshine
  • master
  • 123123
  • welcome
  • shadow
  • ashley
  • football
  • jesus
  • michael
  • ninja
  • mustang
  • password1






















 Common Scams
Don't be fooled by these 6 popular scams.

     1 - Fake Check Scam
No matter the circumstances, don't agree to deposit a check from a stranger and wire money back.  If the check bounces, you'll owe the bank any money you withdrew.
          The Bait:
You get a response to your ad or online auction posting, offering to pay with a cashier's, personal, or corporate check.  At the last minute, the so-called buyer comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price, and asks you to wire back the difference after you deposit the check.
           The Catch:
If you deposit the check, you lose.  Typically, the checks are counterfeit, but they're good enough to foo unsuspecting bank tellers and increase the balance in your bank account - for a few days.  But when the check eventually bounces, you are liable for the entire amount.
           What You Can Do:
Never accept a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting the plea or convincing the story.  If the buyer sends the incorrect amount, return the check, and don't send the merchandise.  Consider using an online payment service instead; they often offer more protection for both you and the buyer.  If you choose to accept checks, ask for a check drawn on a bank with a local branch.  That way, you can visit personally to make sure the check is valid.  If that's not possible, call the bank the check was drawn on (don't use a phone number given to you by the person who gave you the check). Ask if the check is valid.

     2 - Work-at-Home Scams
If you are considering a work-at-home opportunity, ask questions and do some research before committing any money.
            The Bait:
Ads often promise a steady income for home-based work, typically in medical claims processing, online searching, international shipping, rebate processing, envelope-stuffing, or assembling crafts and other items.  The ads use variations on these themes:
    - Be part of one of America's fastest growing industries.
    - Be your own boss.
    - Earn thousands of dollars every month from your own home.
             The Catch:    
The ads don't say you may have to spend your own money to fulfill the terms of the assignment; placing newspaper ads, making copies of documents, or buying supplies, software, or equipment to the job.  They probably don't say you won't be paid for all the hours you put in, either.  It's hard to find a promoter of home-based businesses who will pay you for all the time and money you spend.
               What You Can Do:   
Legitimate home-based promoters should tell you in writing exactly what's involved in the program they're selling.  Before you commit any money to a home-based business, ask:
    - What tasks will you have to do?
    - Will you be paid a salary or will you work on commission?
    - Who will pay you?
    - When will you get your first paycheck; how much will it be?
    - How much will you have to pay for the program?

     3 - Mystery Shopper Scam
There are plenty of legitimate mystery shopping opportunities out there, but legitimate companies won't ask you to pay an application fee, nor will they ask you to deposit a check and wire money to someone else.
             The Bait:  
You're hired to be a mystery shopper, and for your first assignment you're asked to evaluate the customer service of a money transfer company, like Western union or Money Gram.  You get a check to deposit in your bank account and instructions to withdraw the amount in cash and wire it - often to Canada or another country - using the service.  You're told to fill out a report about your experience and send it back, and you'll get to keep a portion of the money as payment.
              The Catch:         
When the check turn out to be fake, you'll owe the bank the money you withdrew.  By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within days, but it can take weeks to uncover a fake check.  It may seem that the check has cleared and the money is in your account, but sooner or later the bank will be contacting you to get their money back.   
              What You Can Do:
Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don't know and then wire money back.  The check Will bounce, and you will owe your bank the money you withdrew.
Don't pay upfront fees to a mystery shopper.  Instead, search the internet for companies that are accepting mystery shopper applications.  Legitimate companies don't charge an application fee.    

    4 - Lotteries and Sweepstakes Scams
Scam artist often use the promise of a valuable prize or award to entice people to send money.
            The Bait:
You get a letter or an email message that claims you've already won a foreign lottery or an online sweepstakes.  The letter may be from a government agency, a bank, a well-known national company, or a company you never heard of.  Regardless of the return address, the only thing between you and your winnings: a check or wire transfer from you to cover taxes, fees, shipping costs, or insurance. 
             The Catch:
It's illegal to play a foreign lottery.  Any letter or email from a lottery or sweepstakes that ask you to pay taxes, fees, shipping, or insurance to claim your prize is a scam. 
Some scammers ask you to send the money through a wire transfer.  That's because wire transfers are efficient: your money is transfered and available for pick up very quickly.  Once it's transfered, it's gone.  Others ask you to send a check or pay for your supposed winnings with a credit card.  The reason: they use your bank account numbers to withdraw funds without your approval, or your credit card Numbers to run up charges.
             What You Can Do:
An offer to play a foreign lottery can be tempting and fun, but it's also illegal.  If a sweepstakes run by an American company is legitimate, you won't have to pay to enter or to win.  That's the law.  No federal government agency runs or supervises a lottery; regardless, if you have to pay, it's a purchase, not a prize.

     5 - Pay-in-Advance Credit Offers
Don't pay for a promise.  Legitimate lenders never "guarantee" a credit card or loan before you apply.
                 The Bait:
You get the "good" news that you've been "pre-qualified" to get a low interest loan or credit card, or repair your bad credit even though banks have turned you down.  To take advantage of the offer, you have to ante up a processing fee of several hundred dollars.
                 The Catch:
A legitimate "pre-qualified" offer means you've been selected to apply for a credit card or loan.  You still have to complete an application, and you can still be turned down.  If you paid a fee in advance for the promise of a loan or credit card, you've been hustled.  You might get a list of lenders, but there is no loan, and the person you've paid has taken your money.  It's very unlikely you'll be able to depend on that loan.
                  What You Can Do:
Legitimate lenders never "guarantee" a card or loan before you apply.  They may require that you pay application, appraisal, or credit report fees, but these fees rarely are required before the lender is identified and the application is complete.  In addition you're generally required to pay the fees to the lender, not to the broker or person who supposedly arranged the "guaranteed" loan.

     6 - Tech Support Scams
In a recent twist, scam artist are using the phone to try to break into your computer.  They call, claiming to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft.  They say that they've detected viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don't need.
These scammers take advantage of your reasonable concerns about viruses and other threats.  They know that computer users have heard time and time again that it's important to install security software.  But the purpose behind their elaborate scheme isn't to protect your computer; it's to make money.+
            How Tech Support Scams Work:
Scammers have been peddling bogus security software for years.  They set up fake websites, offer free "security" scans, and send alarming messages to try to convince you that your computer is infected.  Then, they try to sell you software to fix the problem.  At best, the software is worthless or available elsewhere for free.  At worst, it could be malware - software designed to give criminals access to your computer and your personal information.

The latest version of the scam begins with a phone call.  Scammers can get your name and other basic information form public directories.  They might even guess what computer software you're using.  Once they have you on the phone, they often try to gain your trust by pretending to be associated with well-known companies or confusing you with a barrage of technical terms.  They may ask you to go to your computer and perform a series of complex tasks.  Sometimes they target legitimate computer files and claim they have viruses.  There tactics are designed to scare you into believing they can help fix your "problem."

Once they have gained your trust, they may:

  • ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable.
  • try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program.
  • ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services-or services you could get elsewhere for free.
  • trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords.
  • direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information

Regardless of the tactics they use, they have one purpose: to make money.

     If You Get a Call:
If you get a call from someone who claims to be a tech support person, hang up and call the company yourself on a phone number you know to be genuine.  A caller who creates a sense of urgency or uses high pressure tactics is probably a scam artist.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Don't give control of your computer to a third party who calls you out of the blue.
  • Do not rely on caller ID alone to authenticate a caller.  Criminals spoof caller ID numbers.
  • Never provide your credit card or financial information to someone who call and claims to be from tech support.
  • Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, and then report illegal calls.