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Every day, scores of people across the United States fall victim to predators that seek to take advantage of the vulnerable. Unfortunately some in Suffolk County have fallen victim to some of these scam artists. In the following area you will find some of the more common scams that are reported to the Police Department. More importantly you will find those prevention tips to help keep you from becoming a victim.

SCAM ALERT

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in partnership with the National White Collar Crime Center, operates the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 acts as a reporting platform where citizens who feel that they have been a victim of an online scam can report the incident. After reviewing the circumstances reported by victims and determining the proper agency/jurisdiction to handle the investigation of the incident, the incident is forwarded to that agency for appropriate action. The IC3 website also provides a listing of preventative measures that you can take to keep you from becoming a victim of a scam artist.The site contains manyof the current scams being seen throughout the country. The website for the IC3 is www.IC3.gov.

"THIS IS PSE&G . WE WILL SHUT OFF YOUR SERVICE" SCAM

PSEG Long Island is warning its customers to be on alert for phone and email payment scams, and thieves posing as utility workers, which could put their financial and personal security at risk. As reported in various news outlets, burglars are posing as utility workers, contractors and surveyors. These imposters are distracting homeowners while an accomplice steals items from the home. The phone and email scam, which is plaguing utilities across the country, involves individuals misrepresenting themselves as utility collections representatives threatening to turn off electric service if payment is not made to them that day via a Green Dot MoneyPak.

PSEG Long Island employees have photo identification badges that must be displayed at all times. If you are not sure of an employee’s identity or have difficulty with the badges when someone comes to your home, call PSEG Long Island’s customer service center at 1-800-490-0025. A customer service representative can verify that an employee has been dispatched to your premises.

When PSEG Long Island makes an outbound phone call to customers, the representative will ask to speak to the Customer of Record. If that person is available, the PSEG Long Island representative will explain why they are calling and will share information that includes the account name, address and current balance. If customers do not receive this correct information, they likely are not speaking with a PSEG Long Island representative. Additionally, if the Customer of Record is not available, the PSEG Long Island representative will not discuss the account at all.

If you have doubts about the legitimacy of a call or someone trying to get inside your home that is representing PSEG Long Island, especially one in which payment is requested, please call PSEG Long Island directly at 1-800-490-0025. For the latest information about how to identify PSEG Long Island employees and information about the scam, please visit www.psegliny.com/scam.

“THIS IS THE IRS. YOU OWE & WE ARE COMING FOR YOU” SCAM

Logo of the Internal Revenue Service
Some residents of Suffolk County have reported being contacted by a person who claims to be a representative of the Internal Revenue Service. The caller often claims their role with the IRS is a senior auditor or investigator. Generally, the caller starts off with a polite “suggestion” that the IRS has uncovered some discrepancies with your filings and that you owe the IRS money. If you do not initially cave to their scheme, the callers have a history of amping up the pressure, becoming more accusatory, and in some cases claiming that a warrant has been issued for your arrest and that agents are on their way to arrest you. DO NOT provide these individuals with ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION, BANKING INFORMATION, CREDIT/DEBIT CARDS NUMBERS OR SEND THEM MONEY VIA ELECTRONIC WIRE. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, the IRS recommends the following:
  • If you know, or believe, that you owe taxes, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
  • If you know that you do not owe taxes and believe that the call was a scam attempt, please call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.

For a News12 report on this very scam, please click: http://longisland.news12.com/news/police-warn-suffolk-residents-of-irs-phone-scam-1.8414640

The IRS website contains a section pertaining to Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Scams-Consumer-Alerts

KIDNAP – EXTORTION SCAM

image of someone extorting money

The Suffolk County Police Department has received complaints where members of the public reported receiving a telephone call from an unknown person and the caller attempts to extort the complainant.   In this scam, the caller contacts an unsuspecting person and says that a relative of the prospective victim was in a car accident with the caller and that they are holding the relative hostage until a sum of money is paid to the caller.  If the payment is not made, or the police are called, the caller says he will kill or seriously hurt the relative.  In the incidents that we have seen here in Suffolk County, the caller asks the prospective victim to wire the money from a local shopping center or supermarket and claims that they are watching you.  While the Department has seen a few variations of this scam, the premise is generally the same.  If you should receive a call of this nature, try to independently verify the threatened relative’s whereabouts and do not give out any personal information to the caller.  We also ask that you notify the Suffolk County Police Department so that the matter can be investigated.

  • One such variation of this scam is the caller who claims that a relative of yours is in custody by police in a foreign country for a serious crime. The subject may ask that you post bail for your loved one by using your credit card or providing bank information for an electronic withdrawal. Most times contacting the relative that the caller claims is in custody will show that the relative has not travelled to that location and is safe and sound.

Smartphone Users Beware of Malware Targeting Mobile Devices

The FBI and the IC3 have announced the discovery of various malware attacks on the Android mobile device operating systems.  Some of the newest versions of this type of malware are Loozfon and FinFisher. Loozfon is an information-stealing piece of malware. Like many of the scams that we see in the County and across the Nation, the criminals tactics to lure victims vary. In today’s economic environment, criminals often turn to the “easy payday” or “quick payday” scams.  One version announced by the IC3 is a work-at-home “opportunity” that promises a profitable payday just for sending out e-mail. A link within these advertisements leads to a website that is designed to push Loozfon on the user’s device. The malicious application then steals the contact details from the user’s contact list or address book.
FinFisher is spyware that is capable of  “commandeering” the components of a mobile device. Once FinFisher is active on an infected device, the mobile device can be remotely controlled and monitored no matter where the Target is located. FinFisher can be easily transmitted to a smartphone when the user visits a specific web link or opens a text message masquerading as a system update.
The IC3 release warning about this scam, and what you can do to protect yourself against this vulnerability, can be found at:   http://www.ic3.gov/media/2012/121012.aspx.

 

FBI SCAM ALERT ISSUED 8/7/2012 – The FBI released an alert titled “Citadel Malware Continues to Deliver Reveton Ransomware in Attempts to Extort Money”. To read this, and other cyber scam alerts, please visit the FBI website at http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams. In addition to the scams listed, there are several tips to assist you in protecting yourself from these predators.

SCAMS SEEN IN SUFFOLK

UNITED NATIONS FUND BENEFICIARY LETTER – The Computer Crimes Unit has seen incidents where residents of Suffolk County have been contacted via e-mail and advised that they were beneficiaries of a fund being monitored by the United Nations. In order to recoup these funds, they were advised to respond to the e-mail with personal identifying information. By responding to this e-mail and providing this information, you are giving them the tools or “items of information” that will likely make you a victim of identity theft. While this particular scam involves the criminals trying to mask their scheme by using the United Nations, there are a few versions (the use of different organizations) of this type of scam being perpetrated throughout the world.

HOUSING RENTAL SCAMS


The Computer Crimes Unit has received a number of inquiries from homeowners and real estate professionals who stated that their listing for a rental has appeared on Craig’s List or other real estate based websites, but the contact information, e-mail address, and phone numbers are not their own. The scammer’s listing, or follow-up e-mail correspondences, usually contain “indicators” that should raise a red flag to potential renters. These include:

  • The e-mail may contain numerous spelling and/or grammatical errors.
  • There may be an excessive use of capital letters.
  • The e-mail address listed is from a “fee-free” e-mail service provider (i.e. gmail, yahoo, hotmail, etc.). Because these providers are free, the scam artist will generate e-mail address that appear to be from the owner of the property (i.e. if publicly available records indicate that 123 Main Street is owned by John J. Smythe, a variation of the fake e-mail address may be jjsmythe@yahoo.com).
  • The e-mail or listing may say that the owner is a missionary that is overseas or an entrepreneur who got called overseas for a business opportunity and therefore they would like to conduct business through use of e-mail, telephone, money orders, and/or cashier’s check.
  • The e-mail or listing may contain references to “God”, looking for “God fearing tenants”, or some other indicator that they are looking for tenants who “will do the right thing”.
  • There are references to amounts with the dollar sign to the right rather than to the left of the amount (i.e. $2,500 will be listed in the ad or e-mail as 2,500$).
  • The scammer may ask potential renters to complete an “application” and return it by e-mail. They will sometimes say that this is because they need to know who they are sending the keys to. It is likely to be used as an additional way to victimize (i.e. identity theft).
  • The listing may indicate the rental amount that is often far below market value.

While these are just some of the indicators of potential scams, there are other variations that will use other means to lure potential victims.

There are many legitimate rental listings on Craig’s List and other similar sites. Potential renters should heed the warnings posted on Craig’s List itself. These can be found at http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams. Be especially leery of transactions that ask you to use money orders.

CRAIGS LIST SCAMS – Realizing the potential for victimization on its site, Craig’s List has taken the proactive step to include a section on their website that deals with scams. It provides the user guidelines on “how not to become a victim”. Unfortunately, all too often, users of Craig’s List and other similar sites gloss over or do not read these warnings.

  1. The Fake Cashier’s Check – You are advertising an item for sale or an apartment for rent. You receive an inquiry from a potential buyer who wants to purchase/rent and they are going to send you a cashier’s check (in total/as a deposit). When you receive the check you realize that it is far more than you expected. The potential purchaser e-mails/calls you asking that you send the excess amount back to them via a money transfer service (i.e. Western Union). The bank will cash the official looking cashier’s check, when it is determined that it is a fraudulent check, the bank comes to you looking for its money. Since you wired the “overpayment” to the potential buyer, you are out that money.
  2. Bait Item Scam – You respond to an advertisement for a rental apartment. The listing advertises an apartment in a desirable area, with amenities that seem almost too good to be true. The “owner” says that he is overseas in a church mission helping children. You inquire about the ad and he e-mails you that because he is overseas, he can’t get back to show you this one of a kind gem at an unbelievable price. He will do you a favor and hold the apartment for you if you can wire him a good faith deposit. You wire him a deposit and you wonder why you never hear from him again. You went for the bait and are now a victim of a scam. This scam can be for any high value item. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

NOTE: If you should choose to meet someone from an auction/resale site in person, do so in a public place, in view of a number of other people, and if at night, in a well-lighted area. Consider bringing another adult with you when you meet an unknown party. These considerations are recommended for both “buyers” and “sellers”.

YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED” SCAMS – Have you received an e-mail or a “pop-up” stating that you have been selected to receive a high value item for “free”? Many variations of this type of scam are circulating the internet and can be in the form of “pop-ups”, unsolicited e-mails, or posting on social media sites. They offer items like the newest I-Phone, I-Pad, or any of a number of highly desirable or newly released items. By clicking on the link contained within the web or e-mail content, you are directed to an “online survey” or to a page where you are asked for personal information to allow the delivery of the item you have “won”. When completing the fields, you are providing all the information necessary for the criminal to victimize you. As is the case in one recent scam, the cell phone number you have provided in the “survey” may have enrolled you in a “text message service scam” where every text message you send from that point forward will result in exorbitant fees. REMEMBER, if it sounds too good to be true, it often is.

**** TELEPHONE CON-ARTISTS - Persons responsible for this scam call and claim that the potential victim has won a prize ranging from I-pads, vehicles, and a number of other highly desirable items. During the telephone call the caller offers to arrange delivery of the item if he/she pays the “tax” or “handling fee” using a credit card. The caller will continue with high pressure tactics and will often state that this is a one-time offer that must be completed during the call.

If you are asked to pay in order to claim an item that you have “won” or is “free”, you are likely the potential victim of a scam.

What to do if you are “cold called” about winning a desirable item:

  • Do not provide any financial or personal information. The scammer can use this information to make you a victim of identity theft.
  • Do not provide any credit/debit card information to the caller.
  • Do not wire money. The callers might ask you to use a money transfer service (i.e. Western Union) if you are afraid to give a credit card. Using this type of service is just like sending cash, and once you send it there is little chance that you can recoup it.
  • Do not trust the caller ID. Advances in technology allow scammers to disguise their area code to make it look like they are calling from a local number. They use this “spoofing” technology to mask the fact that they are actually calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Report this information to the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or report the incident to the Suffolk County Police.



DIVERSION SCAM TO COMMIT BURGLARY/THEFT – This type of scam generally targets the elderly, but can also be attempted on any unsuspecting resident. The “diversion burglary” usually involves an attempt to lure a resident from his/her house or apartment by using a ruse. The ruse can involve a wide variety of tactics such as pretending to be with a public utility and requesting that you help them investigate an issue on the property, asking for assistance in “jumping their car” which broke down near the house or using your portable phone, pretending to be conducting a survey and asking you to step outside, and any other scheme to get the resident outside. After stepping outside, and while your attention is diverted, a second person slips into the residence through an unlocked door or window. Once inside, the thief grabs valuables and leaves before you return to the residence. Sometimes victims are not even aware the theft has occurred until they go to the jewelry box to wear a particular pair of earrings and realize their entire collection of jewelry is missing. During the spring and summer months, beware of strangers that engage you outside of your residence (i.e. while performing yard work) as all they need to do is distract you while their counterpart sneaks in the door that you likely left unlocked.

TO PROTECT YOURSELF from becoming a victim of this type of scam:

  • If someone knocks on your door saying they are with a public utility, ask them for identification, what section or office they work for, and telephone that agency to verify his/her identity before having any further interaction.
  • If someone you do not know knocks and asks you to step outside, lock the door and tell them that you are not interested. If they are asking your assistance like the use of your phone, do not open the door and lock it. If you wish to help them ask them for the number, you place the call and relay the message to the person they were looking to contact.
  • If something does not feel right, call 911. Try to take note of the person’s physical description, the direction they go when they leave the property, and if you see them get into a car, the description of the car.

IMPORTANCE OF PASSWORD SECURITY EFFORTS
Hackers like to brag about their exploits!  In today’s “connected” world, their bragging does not occur with the spoken word, but by posting the posting of their exploitation efforts in various locations on the web.  A recent report by splashdata.com covered their review of hackers’ online posts and the frequency that the passwords in the “hacked” or compromised accounts appeared in these posts.  Below is a listing of the most frequently compromised passwords.  If you use one of these passwords, or any other easily “crackable” password, please review the tips listed in the section below.  These tips will assist you in locking down your cyber identity and other important information stored on your devices. 

This is an image of examples frequently compromised passwords.

INTERNET TIPS - The internet is a great tool for a great number of activities. Legitimate uses of the internet include banking, keeping in touch with friends/family, sharing photographs, learning, gaming, and many other activities. Unfortunately some criminals use this tool to defraud unsuspecting users of the internet. Here are a few tips that you can use to protect yourself online.

  • Passwords – Protect yourself by using strong passwords. When creating a password, it is suggested that you consider using the following tactics.
    • Length of password – 8 or more characters long
    • Make it complex – Use a combination of letters, punctuation, symbols, and numbers. For letters use a combination of upper and lower case letters. Do not use words that can be found in the dictionary.
    • Change passwords often – Establish a set schedule for changing passwords (i.e. once every three months).
    • Variety – Do not use the same password for multiple accounts.
      • An example of a strong password using these techniques: Fh7r#Qp2
    • Protect your passwords – Never give your password to anyone. If you think your password has been compromised, change the password immediately!
  • Anti-Virus Protection – The use of an anti-virus program is one of the main components necessary to protect yourself and your information. Without an antivirus program you are vulnerable to infection from a virus/worm that:
    • Is hidden in an e-mail/e-mail attachment
    • Is “spyware” – this tactic may include keyloggers (to capture user names/passwords), unknowingly giving another control of your computer, and the ability of the “scammer” to monitor each and every move you make on the computer.
    • Is contained on a corrupt webpage.
      • Potential vulnerabilities:
        • Identity Theft
        • Access to personal information (Usernames/Passwords, account balances, account numbers, etc.)
        • Slowing of computer performance or total incapacitation of the computer/device
    • Purchasing anti-virus software – There are a number of vendors offering quality anti-virus software. The products that these vendors offer contain different features. Review the options and pick the one that suits your needs best. Be wary of ads on the Internet that offer downloadable anti-spyware. In some cases, these products may be fake or may contain spyware or other malware. When purchasing anti-virus software it is best to shop at a store you trust. Whatever product you choose, it is important to keep the product up-to-date. Many of the commercially offered products contain a feature to allow for automatic program updates and system scans.
  • E-mails - While the use of e-mail is a great tool for e-commerce, keeping in touch with friends, and other legitimate reasons, e-mail is not used without risk. To better protect yourself:
    • Do not open an e-mail from someone you do not know.
    • Do not reply to SPAM E-MAILS. By responding to a spam e-mail you are letting a potential scammer know that your e-mail is a valid e-mail address.
    • Always use caution when you send an e-mail. Do not include personal information (i.e. social security numbers, banking account numbers, physical address, etc.).

DISCLAIMER


While the Suffolk County Police Department believes the information contained above is reliable, human or mechanical error remains a possibility. The Suffolk County Police Department does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or sequencing of information contained within the preceding sections. The Suffolk County Police Department shall not be responsible for errors or omissions, or for the use of, or results obtained from the use of, the information contained herein.


Updated: 04/10/2016

 
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