Scammers Targeting Small Businesses

Scammer #1
A man named “Ed” wanted a landscaping quote for a paver driveway. He contacted a business by phone and said he would text the address, so that they could go out to the property and provide a free quote.

The homeowner tells the business that he wasn’t going to be at the property, but instead provided pictures of sample pavers that he wanted to use. He then asks the business to send the quote by email. The business sends over the quote (over $40k) and the “homeowner” says he wants to book them for the job.

When the business discusses the contract and deposit that was needed before they could start the work, the scammer says that he was out of town and having treatment for lung cancer. He requested to pay the deposit remotely. The business informs the scammer that he could email everything and pay using PayPal or through their accounting services invoicing.

“Ed” tells the business that he had filed disuptes with both PayPal and Square, so his account was locked. He then asks the business for the name of their bank or if they had a credit card terminal that they could manually enter the credit card information, which thankfully they declined to give out.

You can probably sense where this is going. But keep reading, because it gets better.

Scammer #2
The same night, the exact same business is finalizing a second quote for “Ronald” who also lives in the area. This guy gives the business his address, so that they can go over and look at the property and provide a quote. The quote comes back at $13,000 worth of landscaping.

When the business calls the scammer, he answered the phone and says he got held up at work. But, he wants to proceed with the work. When the business tries to setup a meeting to sign the contract “Ronald” says he is out of town due to his wife being sick with “lung cancer.” He also requests the contract be emailed. And also says he has been locked out of his PayPal account.

These red flags prompted the business to look up the addresses online. And sure enough, both properties were listed for sale on the MLS website. Neither had been purchased and neither were in contract. So the business contacted the listing agents on both properties only to find out that neither “Ed” or “Ronald” were the owners of the properties.

This is reminder to never give out your bank information to anyone. Screen potential clients as carefully as possible and pay attention to your sixth sense. If something seems off, it probably is.

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Your Information is VITAL to a Scammer

Scammers target people in many different ways. Most of them find you through the mail, phony emails, text messages, phone calls, or even come to your house and show up at your door.

  • Never be pressured to send money to anyone!
  • If a stranger asks you to wire money or make a transfer, don’t do it.
  • Don’t buy gift cards or provide PIN numbers or give codes to strangers.
  • Be careful with Wi-Fi on the go (airports, hotels, and mall’s)
  • Don’t be fooled into a threat from scammer who says they’ll send the police to arrest you.
  • If you authorize a transfer or send money to a scammer, there’s not much that can be done to get your money back.

Scammers live off your information. The more secure you are, the more insecure they will be.

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Obituaries are prime hunting ground for scammers

Scammers have no shame. They will try to cash in during your bereavement any way they can. It’s hard enough losing a loved one such as a spouse, parent, or child. Sadly, obituaries are prime hunting ground for scammers, who learn the names of vulnerable widows, and yes, even children, or grandchildren.

There have been many cases where a scammer calls a person’s home within just a couple of days of a death in the family. They say that they are very sorry for your loss and might even sound compassionate. BUT, they definitely don’t care.

They then go on to say that there is a problem with a credit card or your bank account. Or even that someone is trying to open a new credit card in the deceased person’s name. So, people sadly end up giving out bank account information and other personal details.

Don’t be pressured. Don’t be fooled.

Especially when a scammer calls or reaches out to you by email identifying themselves as a phony insurance company stating that they are able to reinstate expired life insurance. That won’t happen. They just want your money. They want to steal your identity and try to gain access to your information and that of the deceased relative.

Be smart about how much information you divulge in an obituary.

Scammers are paying attention. They are lurking and hoping you provide so many personal facts that it will be easy for them to rip you off.

  • Only list your loved ones age. Their birth year isn’t necessary to post.
  • NEVER list your home address
  • NEVER list the birth place of the deceased
  • Leave out the mother’s maiden name.
  • Be cautious about listing the names of family survivors. Listing just a first name is a better option than the full names.

In this difficult time of grief it might be wise to enlist the help of a trusted family member or friend to help get you through all the days ahead. Particularly when it comes to your financial future and protecting your online identity. Protect yourself and take your time.

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Be Aware of New COVID-19 Scams!

Scammers are continuing to take advantage of the current environment to try and obtain your personal financial information.

Here are the top COVID-19 scams to be aware of:

Vaccine scams: Be alert when requested to send information or money for a promise to receive a vaccine. Scammers claim to be able to provide a vaccine sooner than expected for a fee.

Stimulus scams: You will never be asked to provide personal information in order to receive stimulus funds. Scammers ask for personal and financial information claiming it is needed to send you your stimulus payment.

Imposter scams: Don’t click on links from unknown sources. Scammers send phishing emails pretending to be an official organization such as the CDC and WHO. Clicking on links may download malware or allow access to information on your device.

Charity scams: Before donating, do your research. Scammers will reach out asking you to donate to a charity, but the charity is fake. Make sure you validate the request prior to sending money.

Employment scams: Scammers will make employment opportunities attractive by sending a fake check to purchase job-related supplies, often asking for funds to be returned.

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Recognize Fraud BEFORE it Happens

Sophisticated scammers. Yep – they exist! They are getting smarter and continually looking for ways to get you to trust them.

Scammers want access

No matter what any scammer says on the phone, no matter what any scammer texts, and no matter how much time a scammer gives you – all they really want is access. Access to YOUR money. And access to your personal information.

Pay attention to red flags and follow these tips to recognize fraud before it happens.

  • Never let anyone pressure you into sending money
  • If a scammer tells you to purchase gift cards as payment, don’t do it.
  • Scammers will try to threaten to send law enforcement to your house – never true.
  • Don’t wire or transfer money or send a check as payment to anyone you don’t know.
  • Never trust a buyer or seller who refuses to talk on the phone or in person.
  • If you don’t remember entering a contest, but you get notified by text or email that you won, it’s too good to be true. Use common sense and just ignore it. Don’t click any links!

Monitor all your accounts frequently and use automated alerts, so that you get notified about any suspicious activity.

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Have you been Pwned?

With so many of us working remotely from home, and kids doing online schooling, the need to extend online security encompasses all of us.

We practice good hand washing habits and use hand sanitizer to help protect us from germs and diseases. So, why not practice good online habits to keep us safe?

Here are three common mistakes that can compromise your information:

1. Don’t reuse passwords! Especially if the password was leaked in a data breach. Use this site to see if any of your accounts have been involved in data breaches: https://haveibeenpwned.com/.


2. Be cautious when using FREE pubic WiFi! Yes, it’s free, but a hacker could be lurking just a few feet away who is hoping you connect with no password or protection. They can easily setup a device that looks like your favorite coffee shop or airport connection, but as soon as you “login,” they can view everything you do on your device.


3. Update your smart device! Don’t ignore the messages that your computer or your cell phone send you to update your system. Software updates are useful, because they add new features and update possible security flaws already in place. And don’t forget about other smart devices, such as your TV, home security system, speakers, printer, and even your garage door opener.

Here is a great option to store and use strong passwords: https://1password.com/. Be aware and don’t think “that would never happen to me.” Protect your passwords, update your systems, and stay on top of the game, so that the bad guys don’t out smart you!

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Officer Safety During Riots

Riot gear, helmets, and shields. These are some of the protective equipment that police officers use to help keep them safe during large scale rioting, such as what took place recently at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Fueled by passion or alcohol or just those who want to get in on the action, peaceful protestors can become violent. And crowds can assemble anywhere and anytime they want. Of course, there are permit procedures to follow, but the gathering itself is protected by the constitution of the United States. So, law enforcement officers must be prepared for the worse when they are in the line of duty. They have the unruly and difficult task of doing their best to control crowds.

Formations of officers in uniform, who move in a trained manner, can be quite effective in separating or moving a crowd. With a limited number of resources how should they focus their energy? Strategy or tactics or neither of these. Ask yourself, what would you do? How would you handle the crowd? I would have done this, or I would have done that. Easy to say and judge, but would feel completely different when in the moment.

It’s a scary time in our world right now. Between COVID-19 and political forces, coupled with financial strains, education challenges, and all of us doing our best to keep our heads above water, law enforcement officers are here to help keep us safe. Let’s do our best to support them. Even the most seasoned and trained officers make mistakes.

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Wishing you peace and joy this holiday season!

The Public Safety Assistance Foundation would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We are grateful for the work we get to do every day in helping to protect law enforcement from the exposure of their personal information online.

Holiday Hours

We will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, along with limited availability during these holiday weeks. We appreciate your patience and will reply to your messages as soon as we can.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your support!

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Home Security Camera Warning

Home security systems – many of us have them because we believe they will help protect our families from criminals. Well now they seem to be the latest interest of hackers who are exploiting them in a really terrifying twist.

Hackers have been taking over home security cameras to scare and torment families. The FBI is saying these cyber-crooks are even sending police to unsuspecting family homes which is creating confusion and chaos that could be deadly.

Five steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you:

  1. Make sure your username and password are not been floated out on the dark web. If you have been part of a data breach, your information is most likely compromised.
  2. Search online at haveibeenpwned.com. Just plug in your usual username and if it comes up red, it’s time for a new username.
  3. Update your camera’s firmware
  4. Use a unique, lengthy, and complex password
  5. Use two-factor authentication

Creating emergencies that don’t exist
It’s called “swatting.” Where someone calls in a fake emergency to trick law enforcement officers into responding to another person’s address. It’s deceiving, it’s a harassment technique, and it can be a treacherous crime.

Dangerous Prank
Hackers are breaking into home security cameras that are connected to the internet and then watching the swatting unfold in real-time. Hackers can even access camera speakers and are shouting profane and racist slurs at the police.

This is a major safety issue. Especially with Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner. It’s not just home security cameras that can be hacked. Any device that is connected to the internet, where hackers can take over and control the devices, is vulnerable – a doorbell camera, web camera, even smart toys.

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Protect Yourself from Online Shopping Scams

Shopping online has become increasingly popular. And ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it has become even more prevalent since most of us are staying home. We are shopping not just on our home computers, but on mobile devices as well.

We no longer need to go to our offices to be able to get fast internet speeds anymore, so online shopping is so much easier than it was even a year ago. Sadly, Cyber criminals are ready for us to shop online. They are savvy and taking advantage, so buyer beware!

Cyber criminals targeting three primary areas:

1. Email – We all get spam emails, but criminals are sending emails with shopping deals that are simply too good to be true. And they will be directing you to websites that say “click here,” so that you can get incredible savings. DON’T BELIEVE IT. They want to redirect you.

2. Shipping Confirmations – Text messages are super popular right now. So, beware of texts that you receive about shipping confirmations. The text might indicate that the shipping company can’t reach you and is trying to make a delivery. It might ask you to click a link or call a number or even worse, provide some personal information. Please, please, please, don’t fall into this trap. Simply delete the text and block the number.

3. Order Confirmation – Again, texts and emails are the primary way companies are sending order confirmations these days. Clicking links could take you to a website that asks you to enter payment information or personal information.

All three of the methods above are going to drive you to click a link.
Those links might open the window to spyware being installed on your device. Or you might end up providing your address or phone number to a criminal looking to steal your information. All of these things can be very risky.

Ignore the link in the text and instead make an account with a shipping provider, such as FedEx or UPS. This will allow you to login and check the status of your real package. Be smarter than the criminal and protect your online information.


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