Virtual Kidnapping: The Latest Fear-by-Phone Hoax

It sounds like something out of Hollywood, but it’s hitting homes across the country: “virtual kidnapping,” where fraudsters try to extort money by claiming that a family member has been taken hostage. This fear-provoking fraud isn’t new; there was a nationwide wave of similar calls two years ago in which swindlers usually claimed a loved one was being held after causing a traffic accident and refusing to pay for damages. But in recent weeks, the scam has exploded — and this …

New Tool to Help Victims Recover From Identity Theft

Identity theft has become so prevalent that some regulators say it’s not a matter of if you’ll become a victim, but when. Last year alone, the Federal Trade Commission received 490,000 complaints of identity theft from consumers, a 47 percent increase over the year before. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. An estimated 17.6 million consumers’ identities were stolen in 2014, according to the Department of Justice. Ways to save, expert investment advice, scam alerts and more! — AARP …

5 Tips for Charity Donations That Count, Not Con

With Americans donating at least $358 billion to charities last year, we certainly give with our hearts, but unfortunately, not so much with our heads, according to the latest AARP research. A survey of 800 adults by our Fraud Watch Network reveals that despite having the best intentions, the majority of wallet-opening donors continue to make key mistakes that add to their risk of being taken in a charity scam, along with other holiday hoaxes. Among the findings: 70 percent …

Ransomware: $18 Million and Counting … in Only 15 Months

Catherine Heslep was logging off Gmail when her computer was hijacked, another victim of ransomware. “Your files have been encrypted,” the message on the screen proclaimed. “You will not be able to access them without an encryption code.” “The cost for the code was 60 bitcoin, which translates to $700,” she says. Getting no response, the cybercriminals issued another ominous warning the next day: “If you don’t believe us, pick five files and we’ll decrypt them to prove it. You …

4 Valentine’s Scams to Avoid

Libelula Roja was looking for love… She thought she found it on Match.com, which quickly moved to Instant Messenger. “He said he was an engineer living in Florida, with his own business, and the father of a son. He wrote perfectly — no ‘scammer grammar.’ He seemed ideal.” Within two weeks, “Robert Miller” had hooked Roja, a hospice worker in California, with declarations of love, promises of a life together and a request for money to help secure a job contract in Cairo. …

‘Serial’: Still Time to Catch Up on This Audio Whodunit

Baltimore. 1999. A girl is murdered and her body buried in a shallow grave in a city park. Her former boyfriend is convicted of the crime based on the testimony of his classmate and friend. A reporter, plagued by questions, revisits the case. There are two things you should know about the story: 1. It really happened. 2. Serial, a weekly podcast – or audio series – based on the story might well mark a breakthrough for the 10-year-old medium that you listen …