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Security & privacy

2 new scams Komando readers emailed to tell me about

Everyone hates scammers, but we have to give them credit for the effort. You can only fool people for so long with the same old tech support and phishing scams, which is why creative new scams deserve extra attention and scrutiny.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, some scammers are going as far as threatening to infect their victims with the virus if they don’t play ball. Tap or click here to see how this bizarre extortion scam works.

If you’re not experienced with scams, it can be difficult to tell if a scheme is real or not. That’s why we’re walking you through two clever new scams shared with us by readers. Once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to spot these scams before they trick you.

Facebook accounts for cash

Not every country has access to Facebook, which is why some foreign residents may rely on VPN services or proxies to create accounts. If someone offers to pay you to create an account for them, that’s a red flag for a strange new scam targeting Facebook users.

Here’s how it works. Potential victims receive a message from the scammer claiming they cannot create an account due to a national firewall or censorship issue. They’ll offer to pay you in exchange for creating a Facebook account and request banking information so they can send you funds by wire transfer.

The scammer won’t actually send a payment but will pay themselves using the victim’s bank account. Wire transfers are difficult to reverse, which makes this scam tricky to fight.

If you get a message from someone about creating a Facebook account, keep these tips in mind to protect yourself:

  • Ignore any requests to create a social media account in exchange for money. This is a red flag for scams.
  • Never share bank account information or payment details online with unknown people.
  • If Facebook is illegal for someone to use in another country, helping them create an account means you’re helping them break the law. It’s not worth the trouble, even if the request was legitimate.
  • China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea are the only countries with continuous bans on Facebook. China, North Korea and Iran have an extensive history of conducting cyberattacks on U.S. businesses, individuals and government entities.

Tap or click here to see how Iran attempted to interfere in the 2020 election.

Kicking pet owners at their lowest point

Owners of lost pets will often post listings to sites like to see if anyone can help with their search. Scammers are now targeting these listings with false claims that they found missing pets to trick victims into sharing personal data.

Before agreeing to meet with the pet owner, the scammer will ask for a six-digit verification code to prove the owner’s identity. This code is actually a Google Voice verification that scammers use to steal a victim’s phone number. They may also ask for other personally-identifying information.

Once the scammer completes the verification, they stop communicating with the victim any further. They’ll then use the victim’s phone number for scam calls and other illegal activities.

People with missing pets are already suffering from loss, and taking advantage of their pain is a new low even for thieves. Remember these tips if you’re asking for help with finding a lost pet.

  • If someone finds your lost pet, there is no need to ask for a phone code to verify your identity. Anyone who asks you for this does not have your missing pet or your best interests in mind.
  • You can confirm if someone has actually found your missing pet by requesting a photo. If they refuse to cooperate, they may be trying to scam you out of data or reward money.
  • You can protect your pet and make it easier to locate by having them implanted with a microchip containing information. A veterinarian or animal shelter worker can scan the chip and find your phone number if your lost pet turns up. Ask your pet’s vet for more information.
  • Watch out for overly enthusiastic or emotional messages about your pet from scammers. They may be trying to play on your vulnerability by tugging at your heartstrings.

Online fraud is accelerating in 2020, and the two scams above are only the tip of the iceberg. If you’re not careful, getting duped by an online scam can cost you thousands of dollars. Check out our guide on some of the most damaging scams below for even more tips to protect yourself.

Tap or click here to see 5 scams that could cost you thousands of dollars.

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