Scammers Beware, The FBI Is Out To Get You

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Scammers Beware, The FBI Is Out To Get You

The FBI Is On Full Alert

The FBI, in an alert to investors, says that binary options fraud is a growing problem. Well no #$%&. Binary options fraud has been the name of the game since the game was first introduced. I’m not saying that the entire industry is a fraud because its not. Trading binary options is perfectly fine, it’s a great way to speculate the market and easy way to have a little fun with the chance to make some money, if you find a good broker. That is the hard part and that is what, hopefully, the FBI and other international regulatory agencies are going to do. Help us all understand who is legal and where, who can trade there and what and keep all the money safe while we are doing it.

The CFTC laid a good foundation when they allowed binary to begin, the trouble is all the scam artists that hide behind their websites using VPN’s and other hi-tech computer wizardry to make people think they are a legit broker. The Internet makes it too easy, all you have to do is pay for hosting services, buy a URL, hook up with a white label platform provider, set up an offshore business, bank account and payment processor and you’re in business. The best brokers really are in the business of binary options, the worst are only in business to rip people off and in-between are the ones who could be legit, if they weren’t trying so hard to keep people trading and losing money.

This is where regulation comes into play and why the FBI’s new proclamation could turn out to be important. The basic message is nothing we haven’t heard before; most binary options brokers operating in the US/(insert your country here) are not legally operating or registered with appropriate authorities. The twist is that this time someone is using the words international and cooperation together with binary options regulation.

The FBI organized an international summit in January, located at the Hague, to discuss the growing problem. While there many European nations revealed that binary fraud accounted for as much as 25% of all complaints and the estimate may be low. The purpose of the summit was to establish what the risks were and where they were coming from and how to combat them going forward.

Special Agent Milan Kosanovich, which was one of the FBI’s representatives at this event, said: “The summit gave all of us the chance to sit down and talk about what we’ve discovered through our respective binary options fraud investigations, where the challenges are, and how we can all work together. . . So the key to addressing this type of fraud,” he went on, “is national and international coordination between regulatory agencies, law enforcement, and the financial industry.”

Based on actions being taken in Europe it looks like focus is splitting and intensifying on two fronts. On one side is tighter regulation, on the other is a crack-down on 3rd party services and marketing, where most of the scams come from anyway. For now, NADEX is the only US CFTC broker worth trading.

How to Keep Yourself Safe From Coronavirus Scams and Fake Health Products

The Secret Service, FBI, and the FTC are warning Americans about scams capitalizing on fear surrounding COVID-19.

  • As scammers target families concerned about COVID-19, the FBI, FTC, and the Secret Service are warning Americans to safeguard their information and money.
  • Most scammers are using phishing emails, which could entice you to click harmful links or downloads, or to share your personal information under false pretenses.
  • Others are peddling faulty health products or simply promising to deliver things that never arrive.

While families are concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus in their communities, online scammers are taking advantage of the understandable panic to peddle useless products to online shoppers. Or, even worse, they’re stealing information via phishing scams that are designed to target your personal information or device, according to multiple governmental agencies who are monitoring the situation.

So far, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are aware of cybercriminals impersonating officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, as well as communication teams from health organizations in Ukraine, Italy, and Vietnam, according to a report from NBC. And officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have already served a few cease-and-desist letters to retailers who are trying to profit from fake or misbranded products claiming to combat the COVID-19 disease directly.

The FBI & @LASDHQ seek info regarding the party responsible for posting a false document online suggesting coronavirus is present in #Carson, CA. @lapublichealth has declared document to be fake. Have info? Please contact the FBI at 3104776565 or LASD at https://t.co/tISMu6J02C pic.twitter.com/gw7XCuOBgU

The FBI is not the only governmental body responding to claims that Americans are getting scammed: Officials at the U.S. Secret Service are reporting that fraudulent emails are being sent that purportedly contain “new information” about the virus, often requiring people to share sensitive information in order to gain access to these fake updates. Some emails have gone as far as claiming new findings about vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. And other emails may tug on readers’ heartstrings, informing people about potential fundraisers or ways that they could help those affected — before asking you to donate money to a faux cause.

Some hackers could steal your information or invade your privacy simply by getting you to click on a link, which then runs a download that could install malware (bad software) onto your computer. Rachel Rothman, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s chief technologist and director of engineering, says to never respond to an email or click on a link within one if you have even just a tiny bit of doubt. “It’s better for you to type in a known web address yourself or to pick up the phone and call a known number — for the bank, for example — to inquire and follow up,” she says.

But what other advice should you be aware of in the coming weeks, when many Americans are hunkering down in their homes to socially-distance themselves or self-quarantine? And what about health products that you may come across in the search for preventative care? Leading technology and health experts help explain why instructions coming from the FBI, FTC, and the Secret Service are so crucial for you to follow in order to keep yourself safe during this challenging time.

How you can avoid phishing scams:

You may already have received plenty of emails about the spread of COVID-19 in the last few weeks: From employers, your children’s schools and universities, or businesses and services that you know well. This makes it easier for phishing emails to go unnoticed, even by someone with a trained eye, especially as most phishing emails are made to look very official with logos or other branding elements. The WHO has already issued a statement about the faux email in its name that’s been going around since February; the organization says it would never require you share any personal information to gain access to updated guidance, and officials at the Secret Service say most other public entities operate in the same way.

“Coronavirus is a prime opportunity for enterprising criminals because it plays on one of the basic human conditions — fear,” says officials at the Secret Service in a statement. “Fear can cause normally scrupulous individuals to let their guard down and fall victim to [various types of] scams.”

Paul Bischoff, a consumer privacy advocate with Comparitech, a research and review firm for digital privacy products, says there’s three things you should ask yourself before opening an email from an unknown source:

  1. Does this email make me skeptical? If it’s coming from someone you don’t know, can you verify if it is on behalf of an institution or an organization that you know well — such as your bank? If so, you might be better off giving them a call to verify the information you’re receiving (or any requests for information).
  2. Is it directing me to “click out”? You shouldn’t click on links or attachments, as these can lead to phishing sites or malware downloads immediately, Bischoff says. One way to see where a link may bring you is to hover your mouse over any hyperlinks: Often, your email software should allow you to preview the URL associated with this hyperlink — is this for a site you recognize, or one that resembles another website but is deliberately misspelled? If the latter, you should flag the email as spam and delete it, if possible.
  3. Does this email feel too urgent? “Scammers often try to instill a sense of urgency in victims so they don’t have enough time to think things through,” Bischoff explains. “If you feel rushed, that’s often a sign that you’re being scammed.” This is especially true if the email is asking you to donate to a cause or support a charity fund: “If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it,” the FTC’s site says.

Also keep these tips in mind from the officials at the Secret Service:

  • Avoid opening any attachment or links in emails from senders that you don’t recognize.
  • Be wary of emails (or phone calls!) requesting account information or to verify an account, as most businesses would never call you or email you directly to ask for your security credentials.
  • Always verify that requests for information comes from a legitimate source. And when in doubt, put a website’s domain into a browser yourself: Since most legitimate businesses use encryption known as Secure Socket Layer (SSL), “certificate errors” can be a warning sign that the website isn’t valid.

Report suspicious emails: If you feel that you’ve come across a bogus email, you can report it to the FBI at www.ic3.gov.

How to avoid commerce scams:

Cybercriminals may take advantage of your need to self-quarantine to scam you out of your money. Most scams are “related to safety products and hard-to-find household goods,” says Michael Lai, CEO of consumer-advocacy review service SiteJabber.com, which was initially funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Currently, most of the complaints being submitted by shoppers to SiteJabber revolve around the travel industry, as people are discovering that travel insurance claims from certain providers may not be applicable for people who are stuck overseas or may need to cancel upcoming travel plans.

“We are starting to see some consumer complaints about sites selling emergency preparedness materials where credit cards are charged, but nothing is delivered,” Lai shares. “We are also seeing a lot of complaints of price gouging as desperate consumers are resorting to unknown businesses to purchase things they can no longer find in local stores or even on Amazon.” In particular, items like face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves are being called out in these reviews, Lai says.

If you’re shopping online, there may be certain advertisements in your inbox or in your social media feed that could be targeting you, Bischoff says. “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is,” he explains, adding that unusually low prices and extraordinary claims are tip offs that an unknown retailer may not be reliable. Follow these tips to ensure your purchase is as legitimate as possible:

  • Look for ‘HTTPS’: The lack of this established URL domain descriptor may be a signal that the site you are shopping on is compromised, Bischoff says, although some advanced scammers may use sites with ‘https’ as well.
  • Look for spelling errors: This is the most common sign that something is amiss. “Missing contact information is also another red flag, and no ‘about’ pages can be signs that you’re browsing a scam site,” Bischoff says. Always inspect the URL itself for misspelled words, which could be a dead giveaway.
  • Look for subdomains: As an example, amazon.store.com is much different than amazon.com, Bischoff explains. Always check the domain in your browser’s URL, as most reputable retailers usually do not have an elaborate subdomain in their web address.
  • Look for merchant reviews: Many retailers will have an official review system for customers to use on their sites, and you should be able to access product reviews or merchant feedback ratings before checking out. “If you’re purchasing something on a marketplace like Amazon or eBay, never contact sellers or make payments outside of those marketplaces’ official channels,” Bischoff says.

Beware of fake health advertising and products:

Both the FTC and the Food and Drug Administration have sent formal warnings to seven different companies that are selling products being advertised as a cure or an effective mode of prevention for COVID-19. The products in question include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver, with some merchants selling their products directly on their website, or via social media ads and Facebook pages, according to the FTC’s announcement. “These products are unapproved drugs that pose significant risks to patient health and violate federal law,” it reads.

Currently, the FTC says there are no legitimate products that can cure you or prevent you from developing COVID-19 directly. “Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2020 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.” It doesn’t mean that a vaccine won’t eventually become available: The National Institutes of Health are currently funding an earlier trial to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Associated Press.

With that in mind, some wellness products may be marketed as aiding your holistic health, or more specifically, boosting your immune system. While it’s true that certain supplements or vitamins may be able to help keep your body in good health (alongside proper diet and exercise), Birnur Aral, the director of the Health, Beauty, and Environmental Sciences Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, says that it’s best to consult your doctor to verify any claims made by supplements or health products before regularly incorporating them into your routine.

The best way to avoid faux health products, Aral says, is to not buy options that are sold by independent merchants on sites like Amazon — especially if they contain no information about ingredients used in the product itself. “I would be wary about products that are sold on the web as a disinfectant, for example, and have no [readily available] ingredient information in English,” Aral shares. Any product that has claims to be a one-size-fits-all solution may also be worrisome, she says.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is not true,” Aral says. Products that claim to provide personal health protection against the novel coronavirus (or just “coronavirus” in general) may be completely bogus, or simply based on outdated information as COVID-19 is a brand new strain of the coronavirus itself. “If a product claims to work on coronavirus, in the best case scenario, it is referring to the older strain(s) and/or is making false claims.”

For helpful resources regarding coronavirus, visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus Disease 2020 fact page and The National Association of County and City Health Officials’ directory of local health departments.

How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams

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How to Recognize Phishing

Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information. They may try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could gain access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center reported that people lost $57 million to phishing schemes in one year.

Scammers often update their tactics, but there are some signs that will help you recognize a phishing email or text message.

Phishing emails and text messages may look like they’re from a company you know or trust. They may look like they’re from a bank, a credit card company, a social networking site, an online payment website or app, or an online store.

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. They may

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts
  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information
  • say you must confirm some personal information
  • include a fake invoice
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund
  • offer a coupon for free stuff

Here’s a real world example of a phishing email.

Imagine you saw this in your inbox. Do you see any signs that it’s a scam? Let’s take a look.

  • The email looks like it’s from a company you may know and trust: Netflix. It even uses a Netflix logo and header.
  • The email says your account is on hold because of a billing problem.
  • The email has a generic greeting, “Hi Dear.” If you have an account with the business, it probably wouldn’t use a generic greeting like this.
  • The email invites you to click on a link to update your payment details.

While, at a glance, this email might look real, it’s not. The scammers who send emails like this one do not have anything to do with the companies they pretend to be. Phishing emails can have real consequences for people who give scammers their information. And they can harm the reputation of the companies they’re spoofing.

How to Protect Yourself From Phishing Attacks

Your email spam filters may keep many phishing emails out of your inbox. But scammers are always trying to outsmart spam filters, so it’s a good idea to add extra layers of protection. Here are four steps you can take today to protect yourself from phishing attacks.

Four Steps to Protect Yourself From Phishing

1. Protect your computer by using security software. Set the software to update automatically so it can deal with any new security threats.

2. Protect your mobile phone by setting software to update automatically. These updates could give you critical protection against security threats.

3. Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication. Some accounts offer extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. This is called multi-factor authentication. The additional credentials you need to log in to your account fall into two categories:

  • Something you have — like a passcode you get via text message or an authentication app.
  • Something you are — like a scan of your fingerprint, your retina, or your face.

Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.

4. Protect your data by backing it up. Back up your data and make sure those backups aren’t connected to your home network. You can copy your computer files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up the data on your phone, too.

What to Do If You Suspect a Phishing Attack

If you get an email or a text message that asks you to click on a link or open an attachment, answer this question: Do I have an account with the company or know the person that contacted me?

If the answer is “No,” it could be a phishing scam. Go back and review the tips in How to recognize phishing and look for signs of a phishing scam. If you see them, report the message and then delete it.

If the answer is “Yes,” contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real. Not the information in the email. Attachments and links can install harmful malware.

What to Do If You Responded to a Phishing Email

If you think a scammer has your information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, go to IdentityTheft.gov. There you’ll see the specific steps to take based on the information that you lost.

If you think you clicked on a link or opened an attachment that downloaded harmful software, update your computer’s security software. Then run a scan.

How to Report Phishing

If you got a phishing email or text message, report it. The information you give can help fight the scammers.

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