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Weekly Alert  |  February 16, 2022

Warning Signs Your New Job is A Scam — During the last year of the pandemic, one of the scams we hear from victims a lot about concerns fake jobs.  There are different types of scam jobs but most are either an “advance-check” scam or a “stolen merchandise mule” scam. We’ll show you a couple of recent examples below and why these are scams.  One woman’s very recent experience, which she describes below, is typical of the “Personal Assistant” scam.  Read her description from February 9 and count the number of “red flags” that would make you suspicious that this job isn’t legitimate…

“I was offered a position from a person named Andrew Campbell for a job as a personal assistant. He claims to be on the board of several charity based foundations, one of which he names as the Bacchetta Foundation. He talks about duties that will be required. Some of them will be to make financial donations to charitable organizations on his behalf, and things like using Microsoft office, scheduling flights, programs and keeping him up to date with things. Also, acting as an alternative telephone correspondent while he is away. He also mentions The Hilandar Foundation and talks about it and about setting up new offices all across the U.S. The rate of pay he offers is what raised a red flag for me, stating I would be paid $1014 per week and paid every two weeks. That would be great if that were only true, lol.  His next email was to confirm that I had a job, but no offer letter was sent yet. I did receive one phone call from someone saying I had the job. The call was very brief and the man stated I would receive further emails. The next email said he would send me details of errands for me to help with this week, such as pricing out items, pending house bills, flights and hotel bookings.  And that my first pay would come a week after the first assignment was completed. Mr. Campbell claims to be away on a trip and says that all other paperwork will be handled upon his return. 

 

I then received an email from Andrew Campbell requesting flight and hotel price quotes for a flight from Canada to Dubai in February. I looked up some flights and sent him the information, which he thanked me for but did not seem overly interested in what I had found. Then he told me that all expenses will be paid by him and I needed to keep a proper record of funds allocated to me. He will need a report on funds at the end of the month. The donations I make will be made via cash or bank transfer and sometimes via Bitcoin. He talks about a lot of scams out there and that he requires very honest dealings with me. His last email stated that a client had made a donation for his trip and that I will receive a check made out to me that I need to deposit in my bank account. He then gave me the tracking number. I have since received the check but have not made any attempt to deposit it anywhere. He has not asked me for any kind of personal or banking information so I do not know what to do or think about this.”

How many red flags did you count in the woman’s description?  We believe this is an “advance-check” scam and advised the woman NOT to deposit that check.  She should contact both the bank and business whose names are on that check and let them know she has likely received a fraudulent check with their names on it.  Here’s our red flag list…

  1. We looked up both the Bacchetta Foundation and Hilandar Foundation and could not find anyone by the name of Andrew Campbell associated with these charities.  We were even able to get hold of the most recent IRS Form 990’s for both organizations (though admittedly from 2018 and 2019) in which nonprofits are required by the IRS to list their Board of Directors.  No Andrew Campbell to be found.  We also tried to Google the name of each charity, along with Andrew Campbell, and found nothing! Ironically, we did learn of a “Andrew H. Campbell” who was a longtime supporter and Board Chair of another charity. But this “Andrew H. Campbell” passed away a few years ago. 
  2. Did it strike you as odd that the Personal Assistant is being asked to make donations on behalf of Andrew Campbell from her own bank account?  She didn’t say that she was given access to any of his accounts. She was supposed to receive a check to deposit and then send donations from HER ACCOUNT!  This is a MAJOR RED FLAG and typical scam behavior. 
  3. The woman is also told that Mr. Campbell will pay all expenses that she incurs.  This, too, is a MAJOR RED FLAG! No employee should ever be expected to routinely spend her or his own money for job expenses and then wait to be reimbursed. 
  4. Donations made via Bitcoin? According to a December, 2021 Forbes Magazine article, this is possible.  However, we think it is very unusual and highly risky if you consider the volatility of cryptocurrencies.  Bitcoin transfers are often used by scammers because anonymity of money transfers is possible. We think this is suspicious, especially because Mr. Campbell makes no effort to inform the woman about managing any accounts on his behalf. 
  5. If a “client made a donation” to him, why is the woman getting that donation made out to HER as a check?  This is 100% scam behavior! 
  6. Finally, though not described in the paragraphs above, we know that the entire job interview was via texting and email only, with the exception of a brief phone conversation with a man after the woman was hired. Scammers do NOT want people to see them and will rarely agree to video chat.  This woman was hired after a brief exchange of texts and emails.  This, too, is a MAJOR RED FLAG!

Not long ago, we heard from a man about another suspicious job offer. He received the following email from Ann Schmitz of “INTER STAR GMBH USA LLC” who explained what he was being hired to do for Inter Star GMBH USA.  Any typos, capitalization, grammar or spelling errors in Ann’s email are hers…

=================================================

Hello [NAME REDACTED],

a normal assignment consists of the following:

you get the money from our company, the list of the items you need to buy, addresses of the stores, you will make a purchase of 5 Macbooks for example and then you will ship them by Fedex, UPS or USPS to our reshipment point in the USA.

This position is responsible for generation of purchase orders using company’s money, compilation of reports, preparation of shipping, and other administrative duties. These goods can be purchased in the nearest retail stores or directly from distributors of your state / city and can be exported without any additional permit.

Your  probation period is paid a normal monthly salary and commission. Once the probationary period is over, you will receive your commission as well as your salary by check or by direct deposit to your bank account within one week.

Procurement Manager’s main responsibilities:

  • find items
  • negotiate prices and discounts with distributors
  • confirm the prices and delivery terms
  • pack the goods (if needed)
  • organize the shipment

The type of goods can be different (sport equipment, kitchenware, digital items, electronic devices such as phones, laptops etc.). During the probationary period (training period), your supervisor will guide you. The supervisor provides list of goods, quantity, description, price, vendorcontact  information as needed. The

purchasing manager must be ready for short trips in the local area. Usually, you can spend 1-2 hours of your spare time to make a purchase and to ship the merchandise. During the three-week period you can perform 2-3 assignments per week.

If you wish to be considered for this position, please fill out the application form at our website: https://www.inter-star-gmbh.com/apply/ If the link does not work, please copy and paste it into the address bar of your web browser. If you have any problems filling out the application form online, please let us know by email. We will send you the application form as a file. You will have to print it out, fill out all the information and send us the scanned copy.

Best wishes,

Ann Schmitz
INTER STAR GMBH USA LLC
Toll Free US: +1.844.336.0504
866 United Nations Plaza, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10017

===============================================

What makes this scam a bit more interesting is that Inter Star GMBH USA LLC has a website, if you want to call it that.  It’s incredibly lame, even for scammers.  According to them, they are a “world class import-export company.” Their website claims that they have been in business since 2001.  If that’s true, why does a WHOIS lookup tell us that their domain, inter-star-gmbh.com, was registered anonymously in November, 2020?

How many red flags did you count in Ann Schmitz’s email?  We believe this is also an “advance-check” scam! Here’s our red flag list…

  1. Ms. Schmitz’s email was littered with capitalization errors and doesn’t come close to any level of professional presentation that we can imagine.  There are other grammatical errors as well.  We know seventh graders who can write a better email than this!

  2. Ms. Schmitz says “make a purchase of 5 Macbooks for example and then you will ship them by Fedex, UPS or USPS to our reshipment point in the USA.”  This is a MAJOR RED FLAG and a complete fraud! Why would any business expect an employee to purchase computers and reship them?  The norm is for a business to purchase computers directly from sellers and have them shipped where needed.

  3. If you were to Google this 21 year old company, you would find absolutely NOTHING about it online.  Except the website itself.  For a company more than 20 years old, that LACK of information is very informative. Scam! When we Googled the company last October, the 2nd link led to Scam-Detector.com, inviting us to evaluate the website as legitimate or not. 

    It took us very little time to locate several complaints about this “company” on Scampulse.com.  Some of the complaints reported this company was an advance-check scam, though they didn’t use that term.  ‘Nuf said! 

    What is a job seeker to do? 

    Most importantly…. VERIFY, VERIFY, VERIFY!  If you can’t find any information about a company, then be suspicious.  If you can’t have a video interview or video conversation with anyone from the company, then RUN AWAY!  And if you are told right at the start that you’ll be receiving checks from which you are expected to pay for things up front, STEP AWAY FROM THAT LEDGE!  These are not how legitimate companies routinely operate, but they sure are standard scam practices!

      Dating Scams Strike 1 in 4! So many pet selling scam sites and so little time! In last week’s newsletter we told readers about dog/puppy-selling scam websites that steal your money.  At the time of publication we had found about 9 fraudulent or suspicious dog-selling websites.  That number has risen to 21 sites, with another 5 suspicious sites waiting until we have the time to explore them!  That is an insane amount of fraud.  Moreover, based on similar designs, domains used and common site themes, we believe that one person or one group is responsible for the majority of these scam websites!  Want to catch up on our growing list? Visit our feature article Fake & Suspicious Dog Selling Websites.

      In today’s day and age, single men and women typically turn to the Internet and dating apps to look for their new person-of-interest.  Would it surprise you to learn that one of every four dating app users has reported to Scamadviser.com a scam date? Scamadviser’s article reveals a great deal about the online dating world. Who do you think gets scammed more, men or women?  What about age group? Younger or older? What do you think is the average financial loss?  One person got scammed for more than a million US dollars!  Check out their article: 1 out of 4 Users of Dating Platforms Report Being Scammed. 

      Here is a VERY recent example of a dating scam that targeted a young man just a few days ago… In our December 8, 2021 newsletter, we told readers about the “Underage Girl” sext scam rising again after being silent for many months. The recent victim told us…

      “I met this ‘girl’ on Hily [A dating app]. Her name was Amber on this dating app. She then proceeded to ask for my number and I felt like I was being forced to say exactly what they wanted to hear. And then she sends me a sext photo. Then I get a voicemail from a detective and call him. As that guy was calling me back, I was looking up you guys [and your articles about this scam.] Soon as I found out it was a scam I hung up and blocked their numbers. The detective left me this voice message. Thanks for making this scam known. If not [for you] this would [have] destroyed me mentally and financially.”

      Amber’s cell#: 760-463-0925    Detective Alexander Scott’s cell#: 415-310-4119

      IMPORTANT TO NOTE: 

      • The name “Amber” is the name most often selected by the criminals who are running this scam. All communication is disinhibited and using texts. There were no voice or video calls.
      • Like all dating apps, Hily states that users must be 18 years or older to use their app.  Therefore, the victim has no reason to think he is communicating with a minor.
      • We have cut out the use of the victim’s name at the start of the scammer’s message. 
      • “Detective Scott” claims to be with the ICAC Task Force.  This is the “Internet Crimes Against Children” task force and is often cited by these criminals. A Google search tells us there have been at least two Detectives named Alexander Scott. One was real and on the Chicago Police Force in 2007. The other was the fictional character in the 1965-1968 TV Series called “I Spy” and played by Bill Cosby. Perhaps the scammer, who is very likely in a S. Carolina jail and using an illegally smuggled phone according to this 2018 article, is trying to channel Bill Cosby’s character!

      Speaking of love scams, in our January 5 newsletter, we reported the deluge of bogus emails that a young man was getting from various unknown women who wanted to connect with him.  He is STILL getting these emails!  Here is one of his latest emails.  As with all of these emails, it is clear that the sender drops “her” message into the signature location with Gmail, indicating that each email isn’t personally typed to the few recipients.  

      We hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with joy, love and without any scams!

      Amazon Invoice, Xfinity Account One of our readers sent us this short email that came from another personal Gmail account, and not Amazon.com. It contained an attached pdf stating that she had made the purchase of an Apple iPhone 11 for nearly $600 and that it was being shipped to the wrong address.  Of course, none of this was true! It was all meant to manipulate her to call that scam number 858-726-9933.  By the way, Amazon doesn’t send pdf attachments to their emails like this.

      Here’s another short and sweet but smelly phish that a reader sent us.  She also noticed that it came from a personal Gmail account! By the way, Xfinity (which is a consumer cable television, internet, telephone, and wireless service by Comcast) doesn’t send emails like this announcing a voice message!  We visited that link anyway to discover a phishing page meant to capture your login credentials.

      Finally, to round out our barrel of smelly phish this week, here are two more bogus emails, inviting the victims to call the scammers at 877-351-4080 or 805-221-0323.  Feel free to call these numbers, scream at the scammers in your loudest voice possible, and then hang up and feel good!

      Is it Time for a Healthier You? And a UPS Survey Reward! – Malicious clickbait comes in all varieties. In less than 24 hours, we recently saw deadly bear trap emails with subject lines: Cardiovascular & Stroke Risk Screenings, 25 Amazing Finds You Have to See, The Highest Customer Rated Drone on The Internet, 18 Discounts for All Seniors, and an Army Veteran Shocks and Fixes His Tinnitus.

      Let’s take a closer look at one of these with the subject line “A Simple Screening Can Be Worth a Lifetime…” It was created by the infamous Hyphen-Poopy cybercriminal gang as evidenced by the hyphenated words “befitting-blase” shown in the link at the bottom of the email.  Though this email appears to be associated with a service called “Life Line Screening” it is not.  It came from the crap, and poorly spelled domain mahrjohnly[.]com. Cybercriminal gangs routinely steal content from legitimate services and websites and send it to people as clickbait.  And if you choose to open these emails on a smartphone, it is extremely difficult to see through their fraud unless you take additional steps.  A WHOIS service tells us that this bogus domain was registered through Namecheap in Iceland in early November, 2021.  This is THE favorite Registrar and registration location of the Hyphen-Poopy gang!  By the way, when we Googled that phone number used in the email, the only thing we found is a related malicious email pointing to a crap domain called exilatrop[.]com that was also registered in Iceland through Namecheap in March, 2021.

      Any time you mouse-over a link (WITHOUT CLICKING!) and see a set of numbers at the start in the lower left corner of your window, (This is called an IP Address) you should DELETE that email!  Seeing an IP Address instead of a name means one of two things. Either the Domain Name System is not working properly for that area of the Internet or cybercriminals are trying to hide the destination of your click. WHICH DO YOU THINK IS MORE LIKELY? Yeah, we thought so.  Here’s a perfect example… A longtime reader sent us this “UPS Survey Reward” in which she was invited to redeem for $90. But, of course, it didn’t come from ups.com! Mousing over any link in the email revealed that they point to IP Address: 62.72.186.23IPLocation.net tells us that clicking this link would send us to a server in Amman, Jordan, otherwise known as the “other” central headquarters for the United States Postal Service! Deeeeleeeeete!

      LUNGE for Delete If You See Email From Consultant.com! –Nigerian 419 Scammers LOVE to use official-sounding email accounts that are completely meaningless. The perfect example is “consultant[.]com.” Like dozens of other generic accounts, it is a free email service.  So when someone contacts you claiming to represent JP Morgan Chase Bank, and uses the email address chabank @ consultant.com LUNGE for the delete key! (Many thanks to Professional Scam-Baiter Rob for sharing this with us!)

      In the Bullseye of Cybercriminals –In case it wasn’t already obvious, cybercriminals don’t like us or our team of dedicated people with whom we work. This has sometimes meant that our family members have been targeted by these low-life scumbags who make their living by sucking the blood out of anyone who falls into their traps.  They don’t care if you are young, old, sick or healthy, rich or poor. They just want to suck whatever they can get from you and turn it into money.  It’s sad, actually, to understand that they think this is an OK way to make a living. We’ve seen firsthand the damage and pain they cause to people.  We mention this because one of our relatives is being personally targeted via email and texts.  We’re not worried because we train our family REALLY WELL how to recognize and avoid these attacks. Here are a couple of recent text examples that included the city where the family member lives. The links in both texts are 100% malicious.

      Until next week, surf safely!

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