iTunes Gift Cards the Latest Go-To Tool in Many Gotchas

The song remains the same: You owe back taxes and now face arrest or a lawsuit. Your grandkids are in trouble. Your computer has a dangerous virus. You owe a debt, missed mandatory jury duty or didn’t pay your utility bill. But there’s a new chorus in these and other scams: “Now pay me…with an iTunes gift card.” Why? Like other swindler-preferred payment methods (wire transfers and prepaid debit cards),  iTunes gift cards are a fast, easy and virtually untraceable …

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 …

Don’t Pay for Your ‘Missing’ Money

You may be entitled to a portion of the billions of dollars in “unclaimed property” that sits in state treasuries — money from forgotten bank accounts, insurance policies and safe deposit boxes; uncashed paychecks and stock dividends; never-returned security deposits paid to utility companies; and the like. But you certainly don’t have to pay to claim it. It costs nothing, and takes only minutes, to check for yourself if any money is owed to you. Just visit www.MissingMoney.com or www.Unclaimed.org, …

10 Tips to Avoid Rental Scams

Counting the days until summer vacation, downsizing, or are the kids heading off to college? Count on attempted rental rip-offs, which have earned perennial placement on many Top Scam lists throughout this decade. In the classic ruse, fraudsters simply steal photos and descriptions of properties from real estate, hotel or vacation rental websites and clone those ads — but with a bargain rental price. These phony ads are usually found on Craigslist, but also on newspaper websites, online chat boards …

Tax Day Isn’t Relax Day: New Post-Filing Ploys Emerge

The end of tax season doesn’t mean an end to tax scams; rather, a new wave starts with the deadline for filing tax returns (typically April 15 but this year extended three days so Emancipation Day can be celebrated today). Now come the emails, phone calls and text messages supposedly from the IRS or other tax collectors that usually tout refunds, warn of audits or incomplete filings, or seek to verify personal information. Most phish for identity theft intel, but …

What to Shred and When

April showers? With spring cleaning and the end of tax-filing season, what really “reigns” this month are free shredding events held across the country — including dozens hosted by our Fraud Watch Network and AARP Foundation — to safely destroy unneeded paperwork that could help crooks steal your identity. Granted, shredding shouldn’t be your sole defense. ID theft is more likely to result from data breaches, computer malware, a lost or stolen wallet and other devious methods, including thieves buying sensitive …