Students the Latest Target of IRS Scammers

College students and others who have student loans are the latest target of IRS impersonators. In this iteration of the ongoing, widespread scam, fraudsters threaten arrest and other penalties unless a nonexistent “federal student tax” is paid immediately. Sound familiar? For years, con artists posing as IRS agents have telephoned citizens, claiming they owe back taxes and making similar threats of impending arrest, deportation and seizure of property unless the alleged debt is paid immediately with untraceable prepaid debit cards …

New Threats in Ransomware

Ransomware is on a rampage, seizing control of personal computers and institution-wide networks and encrypting files to make them inaccessible until a ransom is paid to release them. In just the first three months of 2016, reported attacks have increased tenfold over all of 2015, when the FBI received about 2,500 ransomware complaints about incidents that cost victims $24 million. And the $209 million paid to cybercrooks from January to March is likely only a fraction of actual losses, as …

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 Twist to the Tech Support Scam

After seven long years, the tech support scam continues as a reigning rip-off, generating more reports nationwide to the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline (877-908-3360) than any scheme except the IRS impostor ruse. Microsoft estimates that another 3.3 million Americans will fall victim in 2015, losing an estimated $1.5 billion to fraudsters posing as its or other tech company employees. The typical scenario is scary enough: Callers (sometimes from overseas boiler rooms) claim that your computer is infected with a dangerous …

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 …

Can You Pick Out the Online Dating Scammer?

No matter how happy and confident we singles feel about ourselves and dating, there’s a part inside that leaves us all feeling vulnerable. One of my more serious concerns is being bamboozled. Human scammers and bots — short for online robots, though it’s actually software pretending to be human — lurk on dating sites searching for unsuspecting romantics. I am committed to not being victimized, and you owe the same to yourself. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center reported in …