Would You Buy From These Liquor Stores? We Hope Not! — One of our longtime readers has a fine taste for specialty liquors, especially tequila. We’ll call this man Stan. On September 7, Stan used Google to search the best price for a bottle of Fortaleza Tequila Añejo, 0.7 L. This quality bottle of tequila usually costs between $200 – $300 per bottle but Stan spotted it for just $112 on a website called CityBottles.us and placed an order. Almost immediately, a chat window opened on the site with a message from a salesperson at CityBottles.us. The conversation didn’t go well. As you can guess, CityBottles.us is a bogus scammer’s website, tricking people into sending money for seemingly cheap specialty liquors. This scam is then followed by a shipping scam as well. Moreover, information found on CityBottles.us enabled us to locate four more fake websites pretending to sell speciality liquors. But we also fell headfirst into Alice’s rabbit hole, for sure! During our investigation, we uncovered related scam websites selling birds, dogs and even fake nursing licenses! But nevermind those things, anyone care for a nice shot of quality tequila? Join us on Stan’s journey…
The salesperson at the other end of the chat started the conversation with “Hello, Stan. We’re reaching out to you regarding the order you’ve place on our website. (1) Fortaleza Reposado Winter Blend $112, Shipping: $50 Total: $162 To be ship to address: [ADDRESS REDACTED] Can we start processing your package for delivery?” Stan’s was thrilled, as you might guess, and told the sales person that his site’s prices were incredible! He asked “how do you do it?” but got no response. Oddly, the sales person asked Stan if he “should sent you my Venmo so you make the payment” Stan then asked why shipping was so expensive, adding “usually it’s a flat rate of $30 for most places I order from.” As we all know, sometimes it pays to ask for a discount because immediately he got this response… “Ok I’ll do it for you for $30 Means total is : $142
Can I send you the Venmo for the payment. is it possible for you to make the payment with PayPal?”
Stan thought this was odd and even asked the salesperson “Are you a liquor store or just an individual? PayPal is OK.” Stan should have listened “to his gut” and asked more questions like where is the store located? He should also have done a WHOIS lookup of their domain, citybottles.us! Had he done the latter, he would have seen something VERY strange. CityBottles.us was registered to a business that sells dogs! And had he looked up the address of this dog-selling business listed in the WHOIS, he would have discovered NO SUCH BUSINESS at the San Francisco address posted for it. (REMEMBER: Verify, Verify, Verify!)
But even more peculiar was the salesperson’s response that followed. She/he said “it’s a liquor store PayPal: email@example.com Marysella joseph. Make the payment under the option of family and friends so we can start processing your package for delivery.” Stan was starting to feel that something was not right about this purchase. He replied with “Great! Can you send me a photo of the bottles? Then we’ll do PayPal right away. But I can’t do friends and family. Is that a deal- breaker?” To which the salesman replied “I only accept payment as family and friends. That’s my personal account” and Stan countered with “Yes, but if I choose that one, I am not protected if the bottle breaks en route.” [We hope our readers are seeing the many warning signs that something was very wrong about this specialty liquor store!]
The sales person confidently replied with “Your package will arrive without any issues I promise.” Now Stan started pushing back…”But what if something happens? The only protection between you and me is PayPal. Otherwise, you could not send the bottles at all. I am not trying to be rude, just telling you what I am thinking. I don’t want to waste your time, but do you understand my perspective? I want the bottles.” Not even acknowledging Stan’s point, the response was “Yeah, you’re going to receive your package. Delivery will takes 24hrs maximum will have it ship with UPS, is that ok” Stan then took a leap of faith in accepting the sales person’s response and sent his $142 payment via PayPal to Marysella Joseph. The sales person responded with “when your items have been registered for delivery, I’ll have your tracking information send to you.”
Stan failed to see several MAJOR RED FLAGS strongly suggesting that CityBottles.us was NOT a legitimate online store! Late that night, Stan asked “Shall I expect the information tomorrow?” through the chat window and got a curt reply “yes.” The following evening, in the same chat session, Stan asked “We’ll, how’s it going?” and the sales person replied with “I’ll have your tracking information send to you shortly” and and hour later said “Tracking number: USPS026975820918USPS Tracking link: uspsglobaldelivery.com that is your tracking information check if it’s alright. You will have to pay an insurance fees of $70 which is refundable once you’ve received your package send the $70 into my PayPal account so I can pay the agency.”
Stan was done! Now he strongly suspected that this sale was fraudulent and he had likely been scammed. He sharply replied “Nope You can refund my order please. I was worried that this operation was not 100% legitimate. Asking me to send PayPal not to the company, lots of red flags. Now asking for another $70 in insurance is unacceptable. I order from all over the country and have never been asked post-sale to provide more money. Therefore, I have determined you are not a legitimate business. Please Cancel My Order Immediately.” The scammer at the other end of the chat window, still pretending to be a salesman, now doubled-down. She/he said “You cannot send alcohol through the US Mail” and then nothing!
Just after noon the next day, Stan typed into the same chat window “Please confirm that I am canceling my order. Thank you.” More than two hours later, the following reply came back to him… “Do pay for your insurance fees so your package can be delivered to you.” But as Stan pointed out, there had never been any discussion of insurance and if that was necessary, the salesperson should have reported it BEFORE the sale! But the salesperson simply responded with “Sorry for the inconveniences, please do make the payment of $70 for the insurance so your package can be delivered.” adding… “PayPal info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name: Elizabeth kinyanjui Make the payment with the family and friends option, so the agency can update your package for delivery so it can get to you on Tuesday.”
By this point, Stan wasn’t accepting any of it and knew he had been scammed. When he suggested this, the salesperson said “that is my wife PayPal account when you have it send she will be the one to go pay for the insurance fees I’ve told you already that you don’t need to be worried because a lot of people order from us, I’m sorry if i didn’t tell you about the insurance.” Stan was now blunt… “You are saying I should send $70 to another person I don’t know, give up the PayPal protections of business and send it friends and family, and then I should expect to get my order AND the money back? That is really, really hard to believe. And so is the USPSglobal website, with its many, many spelling and grammatical errors. [NOTE: See screenshot below for a good laugh!] I think you are trying to scam me, please refund my $$!” Stan never got another response from the salesperson at CityBottles.us, though he tried several times over the next few days to speak with them. Fortunately, his loss of $142 was small. But if you multiply that number by just 100 people who might have fallen prey to this scam site during the last 9 months means that the criminals behind CityBottles.us AND USPSGlobalDelivery.com stole more than $14,000!
We have just published a new feature article about this fraud, and the many related scam websites we discovered as a result. As of September 25, we’ve found 9 fraudulent websites related to this scam. Don’t make any purchases from the following websites. They are all 100% fraudulent! To learn more about these scams, and other sites, visit our feature article!
Classic Winery Shop: https://classicwineryshop.com/
City Bottles: https://citybottles.us/
My Whiskey Shop: https://mywhiskeyshop.com
Pappy Van Winkle: https://buypappyvanwinkleonline.com/
Spirits and Whiskey: https://www.spiritsandwhiskey.com/
Birds Market: https://birdsmarket.us
(The website to illegally purchase nursing licenses has, thankfully, been taken down!)
Heard About the UK Energy Bill Support for Citizens? Scammers Have! – Scammers have been exploiting the British government’s recently announced Energy Bills Support Scheme by sending out highly convincing phishing text messages. Protect yourself using this FREE, all-in-one tool! Click below to read more security tips:
A Victim of Identity Theft, or is he? – Last month, Professional Scam-Baiter Rob received a phone call from someone claiming to be part of a Social Security administration investigation of him! (We have the full recording below.) The investigator identified himself as Mr. Richard Newby. He told Rob that his name and personal information were associated with money laundering and drug trafficking at the Texas border! Oh dear! But fortunately, Mr. Richard Newby explained to Rob that he thinks Rob is not directly involved, and that someone else may be using Rob’s personal information in this fraud. Therefore, Mr Newby is willing to help him. Thank goodness! What a nice man, right? [Please, please, please… NEVER give ANY personal information to a stranger WHO CALLS YOU, especially your social security number and date of birth! If they called you, where’s the proof they are who they claim to be? Did you know that SS# and Date of Birth are 2 critical pieces of information that are needed for identity theft? Rob is a professional and is not giving this scammer any real information. All the information he provided is fake so he can play with the scammer, except for his phone number, which we have cut out of the recording.
As you listen to this 32 minute phone call, you’ll hear that the scammer repeatedly asks Rob for more and more personal information, including information about his bank accounts! The second “officer” who gets on the line claims to be Officer Mark Davis from the “DEA” (US Drug and Enforcement Administration), followed later by “Mr. Joseph Martinez” who claims to be another DEA officer. The narrative these scammers spin starts off as credible, and then gets crazier and crazier! Mr. Martinez tells Rob that as many as 9 bank accounts have been opened in his name and are being used to illegally transfer money out of the country, for as much as a million dollars in one transfer! At about minute 21 of the first phone call you’ll hear Mr. Martinez ask Rob to keep this investigation confidential and NOT to tell anyone about it! This is done, of course, to reduce the chances that any friends or family might learn about these conversations and tell the victim that they are scams! Notice that all the men speaking to Rob have foreign accents AND you can always hear chatter in the background. This chatter is coming from other scammers at the scammer’s call center somewhere overseas. [NYTimes article about scam call centers in India.]
The most skilled scammer in this conversation is clearly the one who calls himself Mr. Joseph Martiniz! He is a fast talking man (with a very subtle accent) who explains to Rob why they will need to terminate Rob’s social security number AND shut down all the bank accounts with Rob’s name on them, including Rob’s two real bank accounts! This scam is very clever. You’ll hear Rob ask if HE should go close his own bank account because his personal information is used by criminals. Mr. Martinez tells him that the US Treasury Department will close the account for him, and open a new account for him to use for his personal funds. THIS STORY IS A COMPLETE FRAUD intended to steal a victim’s money! The entire scam call is just a fabricated story that gives the scammers an excuse to trick Rob into moving his money out of his bank and send it to the scammer! Mr. Martinez even tries to coach Rob on what to say to his bank when he goes to withdraw a large amount of cash! But Rob, of course, knows this is all a scam. Enjoy Rob’s effort to expose these scam call centers! Part 1 is a 32 minute conversation and Part 2 is a 3 minute conversation consisting of two quick calls with Mr. Martinez.
We want to report two recent experiences that failed to pass the “smell test.” The first targeted us at The Daily Scam and came as an email from a woman named Lily Allen. She claimed to represent a digital marketing agency but never named the agency or provided a link to it. She used a generic free Gmail account and asked us to provide her with information via a free Google form. Where’s the proof she truly represents a marketing agency? No thanks!
The second incident was bizarre and reported to us by a reader. She received a letter in the mail from France with no return address or other markings on the envelope. Inside was a printed letter from Mr. Pascal Tomberg, who claimed to be a financial consultant and using a website called Pato Wealth Management, at patowmgmt.eu (In Brussels, part of the European Union.) Apparently, a long lost relative of the woman’s had died, leaving nearly 10 million Euros behind! Hmmmm…. A paper letter from France? Can you say “Nigerian Prince” three times fast?
(An interesting, though sad, article about cyberscamming was published by Propublica.org on September 13. It is titled Human Trafficking’s Newest Abuse: Forcing Victims Into Cyberscamming)
The Best Phishing Scam We’ve Ever Seen! – It takes a lot to impress us. We’ve seen and heard it all during our ten years. When one of our longtime readers sent us this email from Paypal, we almost dismissed it and responded with “you are mistaken, this is legitimate.” But then a few small details caught our eyes and we started digging. Sure enough, this was a VERY clever scam! How is it that WE almost missed it? Let’s start with the fact that this email correctly came from email@example.com AND the primary link for “View and Pay Invoice” also correctly pointed to paypal.com! We even dug into the coding of the link to look for a buried redirect to somewhere else. No redirect. Even our security services said it legitimately led back to Paypal! So how is this a scam? Here we go….
This email invoice says it came from Tether (USDT), a cryptocurrency company. And yet, when we used Google to search for the phone number on the invoice, (888) 407-6421, we couldn’t connect it to Tether! BUT a Reddit User named Metanoia29 actually posted about this same scam and phone number back in March, 2022! And then we looked carefully at the NOTES field in the email. Can you spot any English errors in these notes? We spotted 3, plus a format discrepancy that is unusual for Paypal. (Scammers read our newsletters so we would rather NOT tell you exactly what these errors and formatting discrepancy are.)
Given the fact that the link appeared to legitimately point to Paypal and our security services all gave us a thumbs up, we clicked and found ourselves on Paypal.com, looking at a invoice containing very few details. This is where we KNEW this was a clever phishing scam! Notice that the “Bill to” section contained ONLY an email address of the recipient. No name or physical address! Also, the purchased item wasn’t identified! Finally, there is a capitalization error on the invoice that a REAL company would never make! This was a very clever scam!
Most phishing scams disguised as Paypal emails are like this one that came from a personal Gmail account. Guess what? You bought $669.40 worth of Bitcoin. If you want to refute this charge, call the scammers at 818-824-6070 and scream loudly into their ears!
You Made Money! Lots of It! – The column is called “your money” so we guess it’s time for you to make some! Let’s start with this awesome deal from the website called OffshoresCoins.com. If you invest a minimum of $2000 into cryptocurrencies through them, they promise to give you up to an 80% return on your investment in just 1 day! That’s right, 24 hours! They say that they are a registered business in the UK. What could possibly be wrong with that? Like the fact that we checked two online UK Registries of UK businesses, using several variations of the name Offshores Coin LTD, and could not find them registered at all! CAVEAT EMPTOR!
One of our readers is a very lucky fellow! He received this text from Andrew Boswart (954-274-5727) telling that his email was randomly selected to win the Facebook (Meta) Lottery! Isn’t that exciting! The fellow was asked to visit the free form site at ZohoPublic and enter personal information into a form belonging to an account called marymarie1788. Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg had a few personal questions to ask the winner before handing over the $600,000. Sounds plausible to us! We’re hoping the new winner will treat us to dinner.
View File Securely –There seem to be an unlimited number of ways for criminals to try to trick you into installing malware on your computers/devices. Here’s another one we’ve not seen in a long while. It’s an email that was sent from a crazy mixed up domain name informing you that your invoice for $3,180.20 is due. The invoice appears to be a PDF file. However, when clicked, the invoice is completely blurred out and the entire document was a VERY DANGEROUS clickable link!
You Have a Loyalty Reward! – What’s up with malicious texts about loyalty rewards lately? Several different people sent us samples of malicious texts that came from different phone numbers and nearly all of them had to do with loyalty rewards! And then we also saw a similar post from a Reddit User (shown at the bottom). We’re certain that ALL of these texts about loyalty rewards were created by the same criminal gang! How do we know that? Because after hitting your device with malware, each link will forward you to the same webpage on the T-Mobile website. Don’t believe this crap!
Until next week, surf safely!
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