Category: Warning

The Amazon Brushing Scam

This is a strange scam as it starts with unexpected packages being delivered to you, typically from Amazon but could be from other suppliers.

The fraud starts with a the scammer creating an account on Amazon using a real stranger’s name and address. Then the scammer orders products and they are delivered to the stranger’s home address, which is a surprise for the recipient.

Q. Why would anyone do this?

It’s all about getting good reviews. The scammers use the account they’ve set up to post fake ‘verified reviews’ on Amazon (or another service) that are positive about the products the scammers want to push or may be negative about competitor’s products. The scammers may be the sellers of the products or may be paid to specifically create these fake reviews, or to damage a sellers reputation.

Investigators believe it is largely third-party sellers on Amazon that are buying their own products in order to leave a  five-star review, and using stranger’s  names and addresses to appear as independent customers.

The recipients of the products may be very surprised at goods turning up on their doorstep but they are not charged for the items in questions, so it is theft as such.

Where the problems arise for the recipients is that they may not be able to turn off the deliveries and getting the account cancelled will be difficult as only the scammers know the passwords etc.

There is also a bigger worry – how did the scammers get their details in order to create the account?

If the scammers have that information about you then they may use it to carry out more damaging forms of identity theft.

If you receive packages from businesses such as Amazon that you did not order, then do contact the supplier and change any relevant logins and passwords.

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HMRC Arrest Warrant Scam

Lots of scammers impersonate HMRC to call or text or email with messages about your needing to make instant payment against the amount you owe HMRC in unpaid taxes.

This new version of the scam involves automated calling systems, cloning of phone numbers and a call centre of criminals.

E.g. You receive an automated call (or maybe its recorded on your answer phone)

The message states that an arrest warrant had been issued under your name and you should press “1” to speak to the case officer or maybe the message directs you to call a specific number.

If you press or call the number you are put through to a call centre of scammers and you will be pressurised to make immediate payment to avoid being arrested.

The payment is likely to be iTunes vouchers. This may seem an odd choice, but once purchased – you just need to tell them the ID number for the vouchers and they can make use of them.

Obviously HMRC do not really accept payment in vouchers so this should warn any potential victims, but some people do pay up without thinking or checking.

The number is usually displayed on a person’s phone as 0300 2003300 – the official number of HMRC. On some phones, when the call comes through “HMRC” appears on their screen as if that is the genuine caller.

However, while the number appears to be a genuine it is in fact from fraudsters looking to trick unsuspecting victims out of their money.

Don’t assume anyone who has contacted you is who they say they are. If an email, phone call or text message asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, verify whether it’s real or just a clever scam.

How to Stay Safe Against These Scams

  1. Recognise the signs – Genuine organisations, such as banks and HMRC, will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, password or bank details
  2. Do not give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in emails you weren’t expecting
  3. Forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk and texts to 60599, or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to report any suspicious calls or use its online fraud reporting tool

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Browser Hijackers

A browser hijacker is software that modifies your web browser’s settings without permission. The result is usually unwanted advertising in the browser, and sometimes the hijacker replaces the home page setting or search engine page with their own page. Making you unintentionally visit certain websites gives the hijacker higher advertising revenue. Browser hijackers may also contain spyware to obtain banking information and other confidential data.

Browser hijackers infect computers usually through shareware, freeware, and advertisement support applications deployed through web browser add-ons. Adware and spyware infections can also result in browser hijackers, as does exploitation of certain browser vulnerabilities.

The malware can be an email attachment or website accessed from a link in a message. Torrents can also be used for infecting a computer with the malware.

Symptoms of Browser Hijacking

  • Your search engine has been replaced by
  • Endless pop-up advertisements
  • Much slower than usual for loading webpages
  • Extra toolbars on the web browser that you didn’t install

Examples of well-known browser hijackers include Ask Toolbar, GoSave, Coupon Server, CoollWebSearch and RocketTab.

Sometimes when you want to download a piece of software, there is a custom downloading tool that leads you through the process and often these will install browser addons or other malware without your permission. The screens may be designed to trick you into accepting installation of software that you don’t want.

The browser hijackers benefit from their hijack as follows:-

  • Display persistent advertising that pays the hijacker
  • Steal confidential information
  • Spy on users

If your computer suffers a browser hijacking, you may be able to uninstall it in your browser settings or your anti-virus or anti-malware software may be able to remove it. Otherwise there are specialist removal tools on the Internet.

How to Protect Your Systems from Browser Hijacking

Also, try to avoid running freeware programs, which upon installation may unpack software you’re unaware of. And be sure you check the download settings of any software you intend to install to reduce the chances of unwanted applications making their way onto your computer.

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Stupid Automated Comments

Anyone with a website that allows people to make comments, is likely to be familiar with comments appearing that make no sense.

May be these are from people struggling with a second language or maybe from idiots, but quite often they are from automated systems that churn out comments from sets of standard phrases and try to load them on websites against old blog posts, articles etc.

Why do they do this?

Mostly to try to get web links onto Internet sites – maybe to their own website or blog or to one they are being paid to get links for. People pay only a few dollars for hundreds of back links so it cannot be a careful process and the comments must be mass produced and automated.

Here’s a few examples from recent stupid comments.

  • It’s not my first time to pay a quick visit this web site, i am browsing this site dailly and get nice facts
    from here daily.
  • This slot game has 5 reels and a massive 20
  • I need to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly loved every little bitof it. I’ve got you bookmarked to check out new things you pos
  • I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already  Cheers!
  • I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back in the future. All the best
  • Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my Facebookgroup? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really  appreciate your  Please let me know. Cheers

The comments are always against old posts as they know that Google will largely ignore comments against new blog posts so as to stop people over populating their own posts with comments.

The comments are anything the scammer thinks will be accepted. But never accept such comments or you may find your site is deluged by random meaningless comments and that will annoy any genuine readers.

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Eric and the Fake Job

Eric was a smart guy – retired from working in technology and looking for a part-time job working from home but earning some serious money if possible.

Searching on the Internet he found a website for a Swiss company offering jobs to retired people with a professional background and he took the ‘opportunity’.

The work was straightforward – mostly about buying APPLE devices in Walmarts and sending them on to an address in California.

The Swiss company paid his credit card bill for the first few weeks then the payments stopped and the credit card company told him there was fraud involved and the previous payments to his card were fake and had been cancelled.

Eric now found himself owing tens of thousands of dollars to the credit card company and the scammers had disappeared – the website was gone, the phone lines were no longer answered.

It was a nasty lesson for Eric but it can be a warning to others to beware high paying jobs offered by people you’ve never met.

This is a complex scam as the scammers set-up fake websites and call centres, fake legal documents and more to trap the unwary. They use stolen bank accounts and credit cards to pay bills initially then vanish leaving innocent people in huge debt with no redress and possible legal action against them if they have been shipping stolen goods.

Stay safe.

If you have any experiences with scammers, spammers or time-waster do let me know, by email.

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