Category Archives: Scam Alert!

SCAM ALERT: Tracking you with Apple AirTags – Cyber experts give safety tips, break down stalking risk

ST. LOUIS — Apple’s newest product, the Apple AirTags, has been making headlines since its launch.

People can stick the little plastic discs onto everyday items to track things you may commonly lose – like your keys.

But the worry is that bad actors could be using the tags to track you.

5 On Your Side’s Sydney Stallworth talked to tech experts about the risks and how you can protect yourself.

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Nationally recognized model, Brooks Nader, shared that she had a scary experience after someone planted an Apple AirTag on her person without her knowledge.

“When I was almost home, I got this notification on my home screen that popped up saying that I was being tracked and I had been for a while now… which is basically when I knew something wasn’t right,” Nader said in an interview shared with NBC.

People have taken to social media to share their stories, finding Apple Air tags slipped into their coats, onto their cars, and in bags.

We met with Brad Butler, chief technology officer with Acropolis Tech.

“As any new technology comes out, there are going to be people that will misuse it or use it for nefarious purposes,” Butler said.

Tech experts say the risk of being targeted is slim. But, it’s important to know how the AirTags work to understand how they can be misused. It all starts with Apple’s “Find My” network.

“If you had an iPhone or a MAC computer or air pods, they communicate over Bluetooth to any Apple device anywhere. [The Find My network] was a feature that was turned on by default. So, as Apple users, we didn’t go in and elect to be part of that Apple Find My network. It was just turned on. That’s where it starts. Then, when the AirTag is released, [it] utilizes that Find My network in the 728 million iPhones that are out in the world,” Butler explained.

Because so many people across the country use iPhones, the AirTags are able to give the user extremely accurate directions to their tag, with a wider range than devices like the Tile or Samsung Smart Tag.

What should you do if you find an AirTag on you that isn’t yours?

To find out, 5 On Your Side spoke with Tony Brian, the executive director of CyberUp.

He gave the following tips:

  1. Turn off your Bluetooth connection.
  2. Scan the AirTag. The scanning function can give you a serial number that you could provide to law enforcement.
  3. If the prior steps cannot be done, immerse the AirTag in water to stop it from working.

Apple has updated the AirTag system to alert users if there’s an AirTag nearby that doesn’t belong to them.

You will get an alert on your iPhone and the AirTag will sound an alarm. But it could take eight to 24 hours to hear that sound.

Android users may not get notified at all. That’s why you may want to download some apps to scan your phone for any unwanted Bluetooth connections.

“… Apple released an application called “Tracker Detect” that you can get through the Google Play store. If you’re concerned, you can download the app and you can run it, and then it will go out and search for those AirTags around you,” Butler said.

Experts also recommend apps like “Light Blue,” “Bluetooth Scanner,” “Bluetooth Auto Connect” or “Auto Bluetooth.”

You won’t get automatic notifications if a Bluetooth device is nearby. Meaning, you have to run these apps manually. So be vigilant and check them if you feel unsure.

Source: 5 On Your Side

Apple AirTag Photo: MacRumors.com

Got robot calls? FCC fines $225 million in Texas

When my phone rings these days, many of the callers come up as “Spam Risk” or “Telemarketer,” thanks to my cell provider. Other providers are also following suit. But, I’ve always wondered how those automatic phone calls that drive me nuts ever make any money. But apparently, they do – and a lot of it is based on fraudulent sales schemes. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) statistics indicate that just two of these companies in Texas were making billions of calls just in 2019.

The two telemarketing companies based in Texas, Rising Eagle and JSquared Telecom, were fined $225 million by the FCC on 3/17 for making these “robocalls” in 2019 selling fraudulent short-term health insurance. This fine is the largest in the history of the FCC.

This is just one step in the FCC ‘s plan to do away with these annoying calls.

A “Robocall Response Team” was also announced on 3/17, which consists of 51 FCC employees. Their purpose is to make sure this anti-automated call effort it efficiently coordinated. The FCC has also contacted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the attorneys general of most states for help with this endeavor.

According to USA Today, three out of four Americans said they were targeted by phone scammers over the past year. Some callers claimed to be with legitimate businesses, such as Amazon.

The article also claimed that folks who do fall for the scams lose $182 on average, with some people losing $500 or more.

The best way to avoid being victim to these buzzards are to just not answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number, as well as paying attention if your cell provider has automatic warnings such as “Spam Risk,” etc. Certain cell phone companies are even going further than the warnings, automatically sending callers that look suspicious or fraudulent straight to voicemail.

I’ve always wondered how these companies make so many calls with fake names and where they get the phone numbers to call, besides buying phone lists. Apparently there is something called “legacy technology,” which basically means that it is an old method or technology that is still in use, in the existing phone system that allows them to fake phone numbers on their end.

The most common scams, according to the FCC, are “IRS imposter calls, calls that pretend to be from Apple, false COVID-hardship programs, and fictional refunds from Amazon.”

The government has been combating this annoyance as well, passing the TRACED Act in December of 2019, which makes it possible to up the fines for a single robocall to $10,000.

Hopefully, these efforts by the “powers that be” plus us, as citizens ignoring unknown callers, will start the fade on this annoying, and sometimes costly, practice.

For an app that helps avoid the calls, check out Robokiller.

Texas House passes bill to prohibit telemarketers from falsifying caller ID

BY ALEX SAMUELS

Scam_Likely_Telemarketers_MG

Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

The Texas House gave an initial stamp of approval Wednesday to a bill that aims to prohibit telemarketers or businesses from falsifying their phone numbers.

The measure, House Bill 1992, would prohibit caller ID spoofing — when callers tamper with information transmitted to people’s caller IDs to disguise their identities.

Under the proposal by Republican state Rep. Ben Leman of Anderson, telemarketers using a third-party source to make calls to the public must ensure the number that appears on people’s caller ID matches the number of the third party, or the number of the entity that has contracted with the third party.

Read more from the Texas Tribune…

Officials: Beware Sierra Leone ‘one ring’ robocallers

By FOX4News.com Staff

 – If you are one of the many people who has gotten a late-night call from Sierra Leone, don’t be tempted to call the number back.

The Federal Communications Commission is warning people about a reported wave of the so-called “one ring” or “Wangiri” scam.

Robocallers allegedly target specific area codes in bursts and often call multiple times in the middle of the night. They hang up after one or two rings.

Read more from FOX 4…

Grapevine PD warns citizens about mail theft

IMG_6088Grapevine officers are getting reports of mail theft near Hughes Rd and 360. Please remind friends and family: if they are victims of mail theft, please report the crime to the U.S. Postal Inspectors, either by phone or online at 877-876-2455 or https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov.

Email SCAM ALERT

47681246_2256784967666317_4786191145254256640_oGrapevine PD is getting several reports of people falling victim to email scams. In many of the cases, employees THINK they are getting an email from their boss at work.

Just this week, a worker opened an email supposedly from a supervisor, asking the worker to buy $4,000 in gift cards. After sending off the gift card numbers, they learned it was a scam, but their money was already gone, and the gift cards have been cashed.

The victims in these cases genuinely believe the emails are from their boss. This is a crime called spear phishing. Criminals target specific people based on where they work, and pretend to be a coworker.

If you EVER get an email from someone asking for you to spend money, transfer money, or buy gift cards, know it may be a scam. Instead of making a purchase or transferring money, directly call that supervisor to ask questions.

Another red flag is on the “FROM” part of the email. Is the person using the correct work email address? Many of the scammers’ emails originate in other countries, like .lv or .ng and should raise concerns. If you receive an email like this, DO NOT reply or send money. Call and ask questions, and report it to your company’s IT department.