FBI outlines retooled scams to avoid
By Kevin Graham, Times Staff Writer
Published Wednesday, September 16, 2009
TAMPA — The FBI has generated a list of the latest scams and ways people can protect against becoming victims.
Special Agent Dave Couvertier, a spokesman for the FBI Tampa Field Division, said there are "literally thousands" of scams making their way through cyberspace.
"Some old. Some that have evolved or been retooled," Couvertier said. "People have to understand that scams nowadays are nothing more than tricks that are devised to steal money from individuals or companies, which result in a profit for the scam artist."
Here's the latest Top 5 scams identified by the FBI:
• Extortion scam targeting ethnic business owners.
Minority business owners receive a phone call involving threats if the owner doesn't meet the scammer's financial demands. Often times, Couvertier said, the business owner is threatened with a violation or hefty fine that the caller claims to be able to eliminate for a fee. Threats can also come via e-mail. Most of the calls involving this scam appear to originate from foreign countries, Couvertier said.
• Fraudulent U.S. Customs and Border Protection e-mail.
This scam alleges that border patrol agents have stopped a diplomat carrying a consignment for the e-mail recipient, which contains millions of dollars. Couvertier said it's a phishing attempt to get a reply from the recipient and obtain personal information.
• Fraudulent Oprah Winfrey Show e-mail.
This e-mail tells recipients they've been nominated for "Oprah's Millionaire Contest Show." It requests that basic information be sent through mail to the show, but no mailing address is provided. Without thinking, people who fall for this scam reply to the message with their personal data, Couvertier said. A second e-mail is then sent verifying the individual is a contestant and must now complete a contest form filled with personal questions.
• Internet vehicle sales scam.
Ads for this scam are typically found on classified advertising sites for vehicles. They alert consumers to a third-party vehicle protection program for purchasing a vehicle. It requests partial or full payment, but no car is ever delivered.
• Work from home scam.
The unemployed are the most vulnerable targets here, Couvertier said. The scheme offers to hire people to process payments, transfer funds or reship products. Victims receive and cash fraudulent checks, which are eventually flagged by that person's bank. The employee has good faith in the scammer and turns over personal information so he can be paid. Once the scammer is done, the victim's identity has been stolen and he or she is left to face consequences of fraudulent bank transactions.
The FBI recommends that consumers educate themselves about an offer before turning over personal information, clicking on links in e-mails from unknown recipients or downloading attachments.