Tag Archives: Florida

State Attorney Phil Archer Warns About New Text Message Scam Called ” Smishing” |

easiest solution is to not click on provided link

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ABOVE VIDEO: There is a new scam targeting cell phone users. Like traditional “phishing,” “smishing” attempts to get cell phone users to click on a link included in a text message.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – We’ve warned you about phishing emails (when a scammer creates an email that appears to be from someone you trust and includes a malicious link). But there’s also a text message version called “SMishing,” short for SMS phishing.

Like our photo, the texting scam looks legitimate because it pretends to be a fraud alert from your bank or credit card issuer. Scammers are spoofing banks’ phone numbers and sending text messages.

A spoofed phone number hides the actual number the text is coming from and displays a number from a trusted source, like your bank. The text claims that your debit card or account has been restricted or used to make a purchase and if you do not recognize the transaction, to call their fraud prevention helpline.

A linked phone number is provided for you to call. Calling the number provided in the text connects you to the fraudster who will then ask you to confirm your sensitive banking details.

With this information they can steal money from your account.

In at least one reported incident, when the victim notified her bank, the claim was denied. The bank said that it was not at fault because the victim willingly divulged personal security information used to obtain money from her account.

While we don’t believe this is the norm, it’s worth considering.

Because Smishing scams are becoming more frequent, we wanted to share some suggestions to help you avoid them:

  • Phone number – If you receive a text or email claiming to be from your bank, do NOT call the phone number that is provided. Always call the number that is printed on the back of your debit or credit card.
  • Security details – You should NEVER reveal your security details like your full passwords or PIN code over the phone. They might ask you to answer a preset security question which is fine, but never your password.
  • Be suspicious – Never assume that a text message or email is genuine. Scammers can spoof phone numbers and email addresses to make them look official. Don’t click on links within these messages, always type the website address into your browser or call the phone number located on the back of your credit or debit card.
  • Trust your instincts – If a text or email seems suspicious, delete it immediately. Follow up by calling the company using the trusted phone number on the back of your card.
  • Take your time – If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank, don’t let them rush you into giving them sensitive information. The incoming number could have been spoofed and a scammer might be on the line. Just tell them that you need a moment and you will call them back. Then call using the phone number that you know is correct.
  • Don’t feel pressured – If the person calling is pressuring you to give them sensitive data, stay calm and refuse. Just hang up the phone and call the company’s trusted number to follow up with the issue.

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Davidson County Schools among about 20 districts hit by phishing scams

Phishing scams similar to the one that collected the W-2s and personal information of approximately 3,200 Davidson County Schools employees have hit at least 20 other school systems across the country over the past two years. In at least one case, the scam was traced back to Russia, and authorities say that may be the case here.

Each of the school systems that fell victim to the scams received emails whose sender posed as the district superintendent and requested employees’ W-2 forms or personal information.

Though many of the scams are still under investigation, Central Illinois Proud – a website for two television stations in Illinois – reported Jan. 31 that an email used to trick an employee of the Morton School District there into releasing names and Social Security numbers of employees was traced back to Russia.

Davidson County Sheriff David Grice said the phishing scam that targeted Davidson County Schools remains under investigation, so he couldn’t say definitively that it originated in Russia. However, he said, “there is a strong possibility in our situation that is the case.”

Grice said scams such as these typically seem to be working out of countries like Great Britain and Russia.

Dr. Lory Morrow, Davidson County Schools superintendent, could not be reached for comment regarding updated information on the scam. The school system has created a page on its website to answer victims’ frequently asked questions.

The number of people affected by the phishing scams varied from district to district. The School District of Manatee County, in Florida, inadvertently released the information of 7,700 employees on Feb. 6, according to an article in the Bradenton Herald. In the Barron Area School District, in Wisconsin, five employees’ information was sent to the unknown scammer on Feb. 15, the Barron News-Shield reported.

Barron Area’s numbers are considered an outlier in comparison to the rest of the school districts who sent off information, with the next lowest number of employees affected landing at 400 in the Brunswick School Department, in Maine.

Brunswick was targeted on March 31, 2016; however the employee who sent out the information was wary enough of the email to mark through dates of birth and Social Security numbers of the employees before sending the information. When the scammer responded and requested the forms to be sent again with all of the information, administrators within the system realized the request was not valid, the Bangor Daily News reported.

Three out of the 20 cases affecting school districts were in Texas, including: Argyle Independent School District, which sent employees’ W-2 information on Jan. 20; Corsicana Independent School District, which was hit Feb. 8; and the Belton Independent School District, which released the information for 1,700 of its employees on Jan. 27. The news agencies that reported on these scams were NBCFW5, Corsicana Daily Sun and CENTV, respectively.

Shopping for W2s, Tax Data on the Dark Web

The 2016 tax season is now in full swing in the United States, which means scammers are once again assembling vast dossiers of personal data and preparing to file fraudulent tax refund requests on behalf of millions of Americans. But for those lazy identity thieves who can’t be bothered to phish or steal the needed data, there is now another option: Buying stolen W-2 tax forms from other crooks who have phished the documents wholesale from corporations.

A cybercriminal shop selling 2016 W-2 tax data.

A cybercriminal shop selling 2016 W-2 tax data.

Pictured in the screenshot above is a cybercriminal shop which sells the usual goods — stolen credit card data, PayPal account logins, and access to hacked computers. But hidden beneath the “other” category of goods for sale by this fraud bazaar is an option I’ve not previously encountered on these ubiquitous, cookie-cutter stores: A menu item advertising “W-2 2016.”

This particular shop — the name of which is being withheld so as not to provide it with free advertising — currently includes raw W-2 tax form data on more than 3,600 Americans, virtually all of whom apparently reside in Florida. The data in each record includes the taxpayer’s employer name, employer ID, address, taxpayer address, Social Security number and information about 2016 wages and taxes withheld.

Each W-2 record costs the Bitcoin equivalent of between $4 and $20. W-2 records for employees with higher-than-average wages in the 2016 tax year cost more, ostensibly because thieves stand to reap a higher tax refund from those W-2’s if they successfully trick the Internal Revenue Service and/or the states into approving a fraudulent refund in the victim’s name.

Tax refund fraud affects hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of U.S. citizens annually. Victims usually first learn of the crime after having their returns rejected because scammers beat them to it. Even those who are not required to file a return can be victims of refund fraud, as can those who are not actually due a refund from the IRS.

Tax data can be phished directly from consumers via phony emails spoofing the IRS or employers. But more often, the information is stolen in bulk from employers. In a typical scenario, the thieves target people who work in HR and payroll departments at corporations, and spoof an email from a higher-up in the company asking for all employee W-2 data to be included in a single file and emailed immediately.

Incredibly, this scam tricks countless organizations into giving away all employee W-2 data directly to identity thieves who use it (or, in this case, sell it) for tax refund fraud. Earlier this month, solar panel maker Sunrun disclosed that a spear phishing attack exposed W-2 tax form data on more than 3,400 employees.

In this case, however, it does not appear the cybercrime shop obtained the W-2’s through phishing employers. It cost roughly $25 worth of Bitcoin to reveal the likely common thread among all 3,600+ Floridians being exploited by this shop: A local tax preparation firm that got hacked or phished.

Two tax records that a source purchased from the shop listed Kirai Restaurant Group LLC in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Kirsta Grauberger, managing partner of that organization’s physical property — the Market 17 & Day Market Kitchen — confirmed that the two W-2 records were tied to two employees.

But Grauberger said her company has employed fewer than 150 employees total since it opened for business six years ago. So which other company or companies account for the remaining 3,450 employees whose W-2 are for sale by this shop?

Grauberger told KrebsOnSecurity that her firm doesn’t even handle employee tax forms, and that her company outsourced that entire process to a local tax preparation firm called The Payroll Professionals.

W-2 information also was on sale for employees of a doctor’s office in Boca Raton, Fla. The medical office told KrebsOnSecurity that it, too, managed its payroll through the same third-party payroll management firm.

A man answering the phone at Payroll Professionals who would only give his name as “Robert” said the company was “aware of the potential hacking” and was in the process of informing its clients.

According to recent stats from the Federal Trade Commission, tax refund fraud was responsible for a nearly 50 percent increase in consumer identity theft complaints in 2015. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of tax refund fraud is to file your taxes before the fraudsters can.

See last year’s Don’t Be A Victim of Tax Refund Fraud in ’16 for more tips on avoiding this ID theft headache. But here are the main takeaways from that story:

-File before the fraudsters do it for you – Your primary defense against becoming the next victim is to file your taxes at the state and federal level as quickly as possible. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether or not the IRS owes you money: Thieves can still try to impersonate you and claim that they do, leaving you to sort out the mess with the IRS later.

-Get on a schedule to request a free copy of your credit report. By law, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their report from each of the major bureaus once a year. Put it on your calendar to request a copy of your file every three to four months, each time from a different credit bureau. Dispute any unauthorized or suspicious activity. This is where credit monitoring services are useful: Part of their service is to help you sort this out with the credit bureaus, so if you’re signed up for credit monitoring make them do the hard work for you.

Monitor, then freeze. Take advantage of any free credit monitoring available to you, and then freeze your credit file with the four major bureaus. A freeze can help you stop ID thieves from opening new lines of credit in your name. Instructions for doing that are here. However, note that neither a credit freeze nor credit monitoring will stop ID thieves from filing a fraudulent refund request with the IRS in your name. Again, your best bet to prevent this is to file your taxes before the fraudsters can do it for you.

-File form 14039 and request an IP PIN from the government. This form requires consumers to state they believe they’re likely to be victims of identity fraud. Even if thieves haven’t tried to file your taxes for you yet, virtually all Americans have been touched by incidents that could lead to ID theft — even if we just look at breaches announced in the past year alone.

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