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Don’t click December: feds warn of three most common scams


The FBI, US Attorney’s Office, Police, and other US authorities are alerting the public to common online fraud schemes. Common among them are the “package can’t be delivered,” “account subscription,” and “phantom hacker” scams. Consumers will receive updates and advice during the Don’t Click December campaign.

“Last year, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 800,944 complaints about suspected internet crimes. That’s more than 2,000 complaints every single day,” said David Bodily, Supervisory Special Agent of the Salt Lake City FBI’s Boise Resident Agency. “As cyber scams continue to increase in scope and sophistication, it’s important that law enforcement and the public work together to stay ahead of the risks.”

Just three schemes cause billions of dollars of losses each year, a joint advisory warns:

“Package can’t be delivered” scam: Fraudsters target individuals through text messages or emails, claiming that a package cannot be delivered unless they click the provided link and enter their personal information or pay a redelivery fee.

Often, the scammer wants you to click a link to steal your money and information. Don’t click it. Instead, contact the delivery service or seller directly using a verified number or website,” the advice reads.

“Account subscription” scam: Scammers send emails or text messages indicating that a subscription has been renewed for another year. The message encourages clicking a link to verify, unsubscribe, or receive a receipt for the subscription.

“The criminals on the other end could be posing as a subscription service you participate in or as one you do not actively have. If you receive an unsolicited message asking you to click a subscription link, don’t click it,” authorities warn.

Users are advised to report and delete any messages about auto-renewals claiming to be from a company where they don’t have a subscription. When the message appears to be from a subscription that the user has, a good rule of thumb is to check the email address to verify it is from the service provider.

“Phantom hacker” scam: Criminals send unsolicited messages by phone, email, text, or pop-up pretending to be “tech support” and asking you to provide access to your computer so the software can be updated to “thwart hackers.”

“But those reaching out are actually the hackers, and once they gain access to your computer, they can install software to steal your financial information. Sometimes, the scammers even pretend to be the government or law enforcement and send messages that your money is still unsafe and needs to be moved to a new “alias” account,” the advisory warns.

Users getting such a request shouldn’t ever click. Government entities and legitimate businesses won’t send unsolicited messages to ask for access to a personal computer.

These aren’t the only scam techniques, and new schemes are always arising.

“Exercise skepticism and caution when receiving unsolicited online, email, pop-up, or text communications from unknown or unverified sources. If there is any doubt about a link, message, or attachment, law enforcement cautions: “Don’t click it.”

The consumer protection campaign “Don’t Click December” will include a public service announcement each week in December leading up to Christmas.

“Scammers use secrecy, urgency, and fear to manipulate victims. If, at any time, you are being pressured, told to keep transactions secret, or even lie to loved ones and authorities to complete a transaction, it's very likely a scam. We encourage all scam victims to know they are not alone, and they should call police for help,” said Boise Police Detective Brad Thorne.

There’s no shame in falling victim to online scam schemes operated by professional groups of sophisticated criminals that test their methods repeatedly across the country, the US Attorney assures.

To take action against scammers, you can report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at IC3.gov or by contacting your local law enforcement agency.


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