Scammers use a variety of tactics to make their “offers” seem legitimate, including phony emails containing malicious links.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine reports that consumers receiving legitimate-looking emails with subject lines such as “Funeral Notification” or “Passing of Your Friend.” The emails appear to originate from a funeral home. Once the consumer clicks on the link to view the obituary, the link installs malicious software called “malware” onto his or her computer. Malware allows scammers to scan hard drives for personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and credit and debit card numbers.
In other variations of the scam, the subject line may read something along the lines of “Urgent Court Notice” or “Eviction Notice.”
Scammers also use phone scams to obtain personal information from consumers. They may text consumers, pretending to be a cellular phone provider. The consumer may respond to the text with private account information or go to a legitimate-looking website via a link provided in the text and enter his or her account information. However, the texts and websites are fake, and they lead consumers to disclose their account information. This, in turn, can be used to rack up charges.
Reports to the IRS Inspector General suggest that scammers are contacting unsuspecting consumers via phone calls and posing as IRS agents. The scammer claims the consumer owes taxes and threatens arrest, loss of a driver’s license, or deportation if payment isn’t immediately provided via wire transfer or prepaid card. Consumers who receive such a phone call should hang up immediately.
Attorney General DeWine offers these tips for steering clear of scams:
• Delete any suspicious emails without clicking on attachments or links. If you need to find out about a matter such as the possible loss of a friend, contact the family or a funeral home at a phone number you know is legitimate. • Similarly, if you receive an unexpected phone call from a business or government agency requesting personal information or payment, hang up. Call the organization using a number you know is legitimate. Keep in mind that scammers can use a tactic called “spoofing” to disguise the number displayed on your caller ID.
• Maintain your anti-virus program by installing updates. These updates could include security patches developed to help keep your information safe.
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.