The $1,000 Best Buy Gift Card Scam

The $1,000 Best Buy Gift Card Scam

You have WON a Best Buy Gift Card for $1000! Click on the link below and enter the code #8675309

If you received a text message telling you that you’ve won a Best Buy Gift Card… don’t get so excited. The sad truth is it’s a fraud, and the only thing you’ve won is a spam text message that’s looking to take you for a ride. And not the good kind that ends with you on a beach with a fancy drink in your hand that has a giant piece of fruit on the side.

Gift card scams are nothing new, but using SMS text messages to phish for victims, known as “smishing“, is something that’s gaining more ground, especially as more and more people begin to rely on their smartphones to consume their online habits like shopping, social media, and more. Smishing usually happens around holidays like Christmas or special shopping times like Black Friday, but the truth of the matter is that a smisher can easily send out their texts at any time to virtually anyone.

Here are some red flags to look out for if you receive a text claiming that you’ve won a gift card:

  • Asking for a PIN or other personal information:

    You should never be asked for any personally identifiable information by a site like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc. The only time you might be is if you’re on their shopping cart, on their server, and if the site is verified as a secure site. Even then, they won’t ask for your banking PIN, which is a clear indication that you’re being scammed. Stay secure online, and don’t submit your personal information to shady sites.

  • Text/email that mentions a contest entry you never submitted:

    This is a big one because if you didn’t enter, how can you win? Simple: You can’t. I get emails all the time (and text messages every now and then) which claim that I entered this contest or that, but I know they’re all scammers because I don’t, as a rule, enter contests. And if you’re not sure if you entered your name, it’s usually safer to just ignore the text anyhow.

  • You’re required to sign up for a “free” service:

    More often than not, that free service you’re required to sign up for to receive your gift card has some kind of kicker to it, like after 30 days you start paying $9.99/month, or something like that. And they may even tell you that they only need your credit card to verify your age, or that you can cancel any time before the service starts, but it’s all a ploy to get your bank info. Stay safe and steer clear.

Just like with unsubscribe links on a spam email, don’t be tempted to try to opt out of the text message either, because once you do the scammers have confirmation that they sent the text to a live, active phone number, email address, etc. Just ignore, delete, and move on with your day.

Have you or a friend or family member ever received a text message claiming you’ve won a gift card from Best Buy, Target, Walmart, or anywhere else? Let us know what happened below in the comments.

Additional Resources

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The Number One Rule For Students Using Social Media

The Number One Rule For Students Using Social Media

I know a lot of students of all age ranges including neighbors, children of friends, my own kids, etc. When we talk the topic of conversation often navigates to social media with all of them. Most of the discussions center around a funny cat picture on Pinterest, the best Auto-Correct Fail screenshots, or things of that nature. These talks have given me some insight into how these students use social media, and I’ve learned over the years how they act (and react) online is often different from how they would in a real-life situation.

My very unscientific research on social media usage by students thus far has broken things down into something like this:

  • Facebook is for close friends and they talk about anything and everything, often in great detail. There’s very little personal filtering here.
  • Twitter is a free-for-all, and they’ll follow anyone who doesn’t look like a spammer or act like a creep. Details are often less personally identifiable.
  • Pinterest and everything else is generally a lot more for the aforementioned funny cat pictures and “likes” or “faves” versus anything of any real substance.

Cat pictures aside, something that captures my attention every single time is how anyone — students, friends, family, whomever — seems to become more active online. Normally introverted people speak up more, normally extroverted people kick it up a notch, and everyone likes to give their opinion on whatever topic is at hand. And that’s great, but sometimes the online conversations can get a little out of hand.

Since anything posted on the Internet is (for all intents and purposes) forever, this means that anyone equipped with Google and some free time can go through your entire online history and cherry pick the most embarrassing points and use them against you. This includes potential dates and future bosses, both of whom are looking for good reasons to not choose you. Students in high school and college would do well to remember these things when posting online:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The easiest way to successfully creating a drama-free social media presence is to be respectful to everyone you meet online. Family, co-workers, that weird friend who keeps “Poking” you on Facebook but never says anything… Keeping your interactions on an even keel will be a big help in keeping the peace.

Easy On The Swears

A lot of people are turned off by swearing, especially if it’s excessive. It’s advisable to keep as PG as possible and don’t whip up a tapestry of obscenities like a sailor on leave. I know, because I used to be a sailor on leave, and nobody wants to hear or read all of that online. 🙂

Take A Deep Breath

It’s easy to make snap judgments, fire off an incendiary email, or comment on a topic that you may not have the full story on. Being a hot head online, or worse yet purposefully trolling blog posts and forums, can quickly give you a bad reputation.

Social Media Can Make Or Break A Career

Job seekers, beware! Managers, HR groups, and potential employers are using social media more and more to learn about both potential hires as well as current employees. Depending on which study you look at, somewhere between 30-90% of interviewers check on an interviewees’ social media profiles at some point before they make a job offer. Even at the low-end, the chances are pretty good that someone will be checking how you conduct yourself online. Avoid posting your “Oh man, I was über wasted at this party!” pictures, because that might be the one thing a potential boss could see and make a snap decision on.

Things Sound Different When Read Vs. When Said

Emails and other written/typed conversations always sound a little more harsh than they are intended. There’s a lot to be said for the inflection of a voice in a face-to-face conversation, so give people the benefit of the doubt. And if you’re unsure, ask them in person if you can.

Having said all of the above, the number one rule I’d give students engaging in social media is this: Don’t jeopardize your future with a poor choice in the present. Once something is posted online — a blog, a picture, a comment, or anything really — it’s there forever. There are no tap-backs. There are no do overs. What you post online can get archived onto servers, captured by screenshots, and forwarded to friends… and enemies. Be mindful of what you post, and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief.

Image courtesy of heza

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Phone Bill Cram Scam: Avoiding Unauthorized Charges

Phone Bill Cram Scam: Avoiding Unauthorized Charges

Update: “FTC Files Its First Case Against Mobile Phone Cramming

Is your phone bill creeping up higher and higher in cost per month? If so, you could be the victim of a telephone billing scam know as cramming, which has bilked millions of dollars out of phone customers for years.

Unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills, whether a land line or a wireless phone, are often referred to as “cramming“, and this scam has been featured more and more in the news recently. Cramming itself is nothing new, and at one point was one of the leading profit points for the mob. It’s often hard to find cramming right away because the added charges are usually low, and most people don’t read their phone bills closely enough to see it.

Examples of unauthorized charges on your phone bill include: club memberships, ringtones, voice mail, “service fees”, web hosting, “minimum usage fees”, entertainment calls, and anything else that sounds generic or unfamiliar. Here are some tips to avoid, or at least get rid of, phone cramming:

  • Read your monthly statement:Look for unusual and unauthorized charges. Read your phone bill carefully, because the fees associated with cramming are often small (somewhere in the $2-$5 range isn’t unusual) and easy to miss.
  • Block third party charges:Your phone carrier should have the option to block all third-party charges from your phone.
  • Don’t back down:If you suspect a false charge, call the service provider and have them explain the charge. If you still don’t recall authorizing it, get them to stop billing. You also shouldn’t need to pay them. Your phone service cannot be disconnected for not paying the third-party portion of your phone bill.

A good way to avoid cramming is to steer clear of where the crammers are looking for victims. Stay away from entering contests by phone, joining clubs or memberships to non-mainstream groups over the phone, and definitely stay away from 900-numbers and entertainment calls like psychic hotlines and joke/humor services.

If you find charges on your bill that you didn’t ask for or approve, call your phone company to find out how they got there and how to get rid of them. The FCC recommends that you call the company doing the billing and ask them to explain the charges. And if you can’t get any resolution with your phone company, try filing a complaint with the FTC.

Image courtesy of Damian Gadal

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Avoiding FDA & DEA Prescription Drug Scams Online

Avoiding FDA & DEA Prescription Drug Scams Online

The number of scams involving prescription drugs online has blown up in recent years, with scam artists posing as DEA and FDA agents and using an extortion scam in an attempt to get a “fine” out of online pharmacy customers.

With prescription drug prices at an all-time high, it’s no surprise that millions of people across the globe are looking online for the best prices for their medication. But where there’s opportunity, scammers can’t be far behind. The typical scam sequence goes something like this:

The Rx scam artists call their victims, who usually have purchased drugs online at some point, and claim to be either an FDA or DEA agent. During the conversation they tell their intended victim that buying their prescription drugs on the Internet is illegal and that a fine must be paid; generally ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, but even six-figure numbers have been reported. Side note: While most victims have only had phone interactions with the extortionists, at least one victim in Fort Worth, Texas has claimed that people came to their home claiming to be agents.

The truth of the matter is that this fine is actually a thinly veiled attempt at extortion, and the money they demand is usually sent via wire transfer. If you refuse to send money, they threaten you and your family with arrest, search and seizure of property, and even deportation or physical harm. Basically they’ll say anything to get you to comply with their extortion attempt.

Take caution when using online pharmacies. Since the pharmacists and their wares are all dealt with virtually instead of physically, the risk of succumbing to extortion, blackmail, and fraud increases exponentially.

You can protect yourself against extortion by adopting the following precautions when purchasing prescriptions and other drugs on the Internet:

  • No Prescription Required:

    If the online pharmacy claims that no prescription is required, that’s a huge red flag. Your best bet is to find another Internet pharmacy.

  • No FDA Approval:

    If you’re offered drugs that aren’t approved by the FDA then keep away from them. No FDA approval means there’s been no formal testing of the medications they’re selling.

  • Unsealed Prescriptions:

    If your prescriptions come to you unsealed, opened, or altered in any fashion, do not use them! Better to be out a few dollars than to take meds that have been tampered with.

  • No US Contact Info:

    If there’s only contact information for the Dominican Republic (where most of the Rx scams seem to be coming from), or some other foreign country, or even if there’s no contact info at all, avoid buying from that online pharmacy.

  • Call the DEA and FDA:

    If you suspect you’re being targeted by scammers in an attempt at extortion, call the DEA at 1-877-792-2873, or the FDA at 1-877-792-2873, and speak with a real agent or other representative.

Image courtesy of lifementalhealthpics

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7 Common Work From Home Scams To Avoid

7 Common Work From Home Scams To Avoid

With the current state of the world economy, it’s no wonder that many people are looking for ways to supplement their income. The problem is that taking on another full-time or even part-time job usually involves added expenses for child care, gas to and from work, and even less quality time with loved ones. Because of this, many people look to find ways to make money with a home-based business.

Working from the convenience of your home is a popular notion. So popular, in fact, that there are reportedly 300 new ones started every hour, and there are an estimated 38 million home-based businesses in the US. Part of what makes them attractive (besides the extra money) is the idea of setting your own hours, creating a better work/life balance, and the fact that many home-based businesses have a very low start-up cost.

But as with anything, there are risks involved, and in this case, the risk goes beyond not being able to pull in enough cash to make ends meet. Identity theft, lost money, compromised personally identifiable information, and more are all on the table when you invite the wrong company or people into your life.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a home based business, here are 7 of the most common work at home scams to avoid:

  1. Mystery Shopping:
    It’s the easiest job in the world: Visit a series of stores in your area and give the mystery shopper company a review of your purchases and experience. All you have to do is pay out a registration fee to get your training materials, your list of stores to visit, and some may even require you to become “certified”, which of course the scammers can do for another fee.
  2. Assembly Work:
    You’ve probably seen this in your local paper: Earn money in your spare time by putting together crafts, small pieces of equipment, or similar things. Of course you need to pay a nominal amount to get the boxes. Or maybe it’s the training materials. Regardless, you’re required to pay a little up front to make so much more later one.
  3. Data Entry:
    If you can type, you can make money online. At least that’s what the ad says. Not surprisingly, you have to pay to play based on some cockamamie requirement: training, materials, a list of sites, whatever. The end result is that you’re left in the cold and out of cash.
  4. Survey Scam:
    Many of these scams involve you setting up a profile on a site, and then you can get to work. Your profile may include things like your name (first and last, naturally), home address, some likes or preferences (favorite color, favorite food, TV shows, etc.), and possibly your social security number. You know, for tax purposes. Then you’re directed to a number of sites where you can get a cash reward for filling out more information. All the while the scammers are scraping your valuable info to sell to someone else, and at the end of the day you find out that there are so many restrictions on getting paid (sometimes including you being required to purchase something) that you’re never going to see that money.
  5. Envelope Stuffing:
    This one has been around forever, but people seem to keep falling for it. For a small fee (this is a common trend for home-based business scams) you’re supposed to receive regularly scheduled boxes of papers and their associated envelopes and, well, you get to stuffing envelopes. Simple, right? The problem is that those boxes never come, and you’re out the “small fee.”
  6. Pre-screened Job Lists:
    This one is often a scam within a scam, making it particularly nasty. Pay to join a site that has compiled a list of pre-screened work-at-home jobs so you don’t have to get fleeced by those other bad scammers. Right. These are probably the same crooks on the other sites, they just found a way to get you to pay twice. You may even get access to a large list of sites with work-at-home jobs listed, but all kinds of things can happen: You could lose your account for some made-up violation of site policies, the jobs on those other sites are bogus, or there are so many restrictions or requirements to the jobs that you’re never going to be qualified for a decent job.
  7. Rebate Processing:
    Process other people’s rebates for companies that are overwhelmed and you can earn a boatload of cash. Here’s another scam involving training kits to become certified or registered with their service.

Those most likely to be exploited by these work at home opportunities are those who may have more trouble finding a job: The elderly, people drowning in debt, the disabled, single parents, high school and college students, and the unemployed… but anyone can be fooled by the right con artist. If you want to avoid the majority of work-at-home scams out there, just remember the following:

  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If they make you pay to play, it’s probably a scam.
  • Check the BBB to make sure that the company is on the up-and-up.

Filtering out work at home opportunities with those 3 tips will save you endless headaches, keep your cash in your pocket, and maybe even find a few gems to choose from because work at home jobs do exist! But they tend to be hard to come by and are very competitive. Do you have any experience with home-based businesses, good or bad? Let us know in the comments below.

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If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.

StopSign Internet Security Now Powered by GFI Software’s VIPRE Client SDK

eAcceleration® Corp., makers of StopSign® Internet Security software, and GFI Software™, have entered into a licensing agreement to further enhance the StopSign web protection software suite using the VIPRE® Client SDK.

eAcceleration had been looking to update its software to improve their customers’ protection against the rise of malware, and in the end GFI’s software was the clear winner. Leading the software team to evaluate all options, Josh Lizon, Director of Software Development at eAcceleration said,

We evaluated several threat engines using a standardized criteria and found that the GFI engine provides the best balance of detection and removal of threats combined with a small memory footprint and lightning fast scan speeds.

Ed Ahrens, eAcceleration CFO, said this about the licensing agreement between GFI Software and eAcceleration Corp.:

We are extremely pleased to announce our new alliance with GFI Software to utilize their award-winning threat scanner. With this major upgrade to StopSign, it will be hard to find a more effective and robust security product.

We understand the vital role that anti-malware plays in this particular era of cyber security, and with the latest version of our SDK we offer the most cutting-edge security technologies we have to companies like eAcceleration so they can make the security of their software automatic, effective and also provide peace of mind to their customers.

Said Julian Waits, vice president of GFI Software’s Advanced Technology Group.

About eAcceleration Corp.
eAcceleration Corp. has developed and distributed innovative computer software for business and personal computers since 1987. The company started in Silicon Valley, California as an SCSI Device software company. The company’s SCSI Device Management System (SDMS), purchased by NCR® Corporation/AT&T®, became the standard SCSI Device Management System used in computers around the world. eAcceleration also developed a unique set of accelerator tools for CD-ROM and hard drive applications including “dTime”, “SuperFassst!”, “Webcelerator”, and “Windrenalin HD”.
Today, eAcceleration Corp. is headquartered in Poulsbo, Washington and is the developer of StopSign Internet Security, an online subscription service featuring award-winning computer protection in an easy-to-use interface.

About StopSign Internet Security
StopSign Internet Security software has been at the forefront of anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection since it first launched in 2001. Boasting a world-class, 100% US-based call center, StopSign technical support is available via email, online chat, and phone. StopSign virus protection software has been downloaded by over 6 million people worldwide.

About GFI
GFI Software provides web and mail security, archiving and fax, networking and security software and hosted IT solutions for small to medium-sized businesses (SMB) via an extensive global partner community. GFI products are available either as on-premise solutions, in the cloud or as a hybrid of both delivery models. With award-winning technology, a competitive pricing strategy, and a strong focus on the unique requirements of SMBs, GFI satisfies the IT needs of organizations on a global scale. The company has offices in the United States, UK, Austria, Australia, Malta, Hong Kong, Philippines and Romania, which together support hundreds of thousands of installations worldwide. GFI is a channel-focused company with thousands of partners throughout the world and is also a Microsoft Gold ISV Partner.

If you're looking for great anti-virus software that won't break the bank, try StopSign. You don't pay extra for tech support for difficult malware, and our web protection software just works. Download & install StopSign to find out why our members choose us over the other options.