Posts tagged with "scammers"

LongdistanceRelationship by Rita Azar for 360 Magazine

Catfishing During COVID

new study expects there to be an unprecedented rise in online romance scams this Valentine’s Day, with scammers praying on lonely and isolated people during the pandemic.

Americans lost $201 million to romance scams in 2019, more than any other type of scam. Virginia had the eighth most victims in the nation.  

When the FTC releases the final totals for 2020, they are likely to increase in correlation with surging dating app usage due to more Americans turning online for human connection.

Bumble saw an 84% increase in video calls and Match Group, which owns 60% of the market including Tinder, saw subscriptions increase by 15%.

SocialCatfish.com released a study, Catfishing: A Growing Epidemic During COVID-19, using the most recent data from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. It also includes an exclusive seven-minute video interview with a Nigerian scammer, and a 20-page leaked playbook.

The study warns of 5 tactics scammers are using:    

1.     Cannot Meet Because of COVID: The hallmark of a catfish scammer is to come up with excuses of why they cannot meet, such as pretending to be in the military overseas. The pandemic gives them a built-in excuse not to meet.  Be careful.

2.     Will Not Video Chat: The oldest excuse in the book… they cannot video chat with you because their video camera is supposedly “broken”, or they do not have the best access to Wi-Fi. These are red flags.

3.     They Ask You for Money: Once they form an emotional connection with lonely victims, they ask for money. During COVID-19, scammers have begun saying they are sick and need help with treatment, or are low on food, water, and other supplies.

4.     Poor Grammar: If the person claims to be American but has terrible grammar, they may be a scammer.

5.     Confesses Love Quickly: If you are stuck in your house with limited contact with your loved ones, then someone else’s sweet words can win you over. Scammers know that the sooner they win your trust, the sooner they can drain your bank account. Beware of someone who is moving too fast.

5 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Victim:  

1.     Never Give Money: Do not give anyone you meet online money, no matter the reason.

2.     Meet or Video Chat: Do not form a relationship with someone who will not video chat with you or meet you in person. 

3.     Do Not Give Personal Information:  Scammers can use basic information to commit identity fraud, get access to your banks and steal your money.

4.     Conduct Thorough Background Checks: Do not take someone’s word for it.  Use reverse look-up sites to verify information, images, email addresses, phone numbers and online profiles.

5.     Take Things Slow: If you like someone online, do not let them rush you. Nigerian romance scammers will be pushy about falling in love right away. If that is the case, know something is not right.  

COVID 19 by Symara Wilson for 360 Magazine, Covid Travel restriction

Coronavirus Mutations × U.S. Travel Restrictions

By: Emily Bunn

A breaking news article featured in The New York Times announced that the United States will be imposing a mandatory requirement for negative COVID-19 test results from all incoming, international travelers. The requirement for proof of a negative test in order to fly will begin Tuesday, January 25th.

The CDC has ordered for all travelers to provide proof of a negative test taken no more than 3 days before their travels. Without documentation of a negative test or documentation of recovery supplemented with a letter from a health care provider or public health official, passengers will be prohibited to fly.

The United States is not the only country to be putting in place tighter travel regulations. Due to new mutations of the virus, many countries are adopting stricter border protocol. The New York Times reports:

“Even as the United States moved to impose travel restrictions, citing the danger of the fast-moving variants, a case of the variant spreading in Brazil was identified in Minnesota.”

Variations of the virus in Brazil and South Africa, due to international travel, both pose the threat of COVID-19 mutating. If the virus does mutate, it is potential that the new strain of such will be unreactive to current vaccination efforts.

The New York Times reports that Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an adviser to President Biden, has commented: “With the world travel that you have, and the degree of transmissibility efficiency, it’s not surprising.” Further, President Biden has broadcasted a ban on travel by all non-citizens into the United States from South Africa, the U.K., Ireland, and 26 other European countries.

An article published today on AP News reported that in attempts to increase vaccination efforts, President Biden announced that his administration is planning to purchase 100 million doses of each of the approved coronavirus vaccines–Pfizer and Moderna. Vaccination deliveries to states will be surged for the next three weeks. The Biden administration has announced that they plan to vaccinate 300 million citizens by the end of summer, as reported by The New York Times.

The President, in a White House briefing on January 26th, commented on importance of increasing vaccination supplies to help Americans:

“And to a nation waiting for action, let me be clearest on this point: Help is on the way.  We can do this if we come together, if we listen to the scientists.”

These efforts come at an especially critical time, as the global number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 100 million, reports The Wall Street Journal. However, that has been recent speculation regarding the accuracy of that number. In New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration has been accused of undercounting the amount of coronavirus deaths that occurred at nursing homes. A report released by Letitia James, the Attorney General of New York, shows that the coronavirus death count appears to have been cut by approximately 50 percent. The report compares the number of facility deaths publicized by the Department of Health–1,229 deaths, versus the number of facility deaths reported the Office of Attorney General–1,914 deaths. This staggering discrepancy between reported deaths has spurred suspicion against Cuomo, and the Office of Attorney General (OAG) is conducting an on-going investigation concerning the cause of these variances.

However, there is still hope. In Los Angeles, Governor Gavin Newsom rescinded the county’s stay-at-home order this past Monday, reports The Los Angeles Times. This new jurisdiction will allow for all counties in California to return to the four-tier, colored-coded system of assessing coronavirus risk. Lifting the imposed stay-at-home order could allow for the reopening of personal care services and outdoor dining. While LA has been particularly hard hit by coronavirus, the city actually has a higher vaccination rate than most other comparable cities in the U.S. The New York Times reports that “83 percent of the doses the city has received have been administered, compared with 74 percent in New York City; 52 percent in Bexar County, which includes San Antonio; and 58 percent of the doses ordered in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix.”

While the coronavirus situation is still being closely tracked and monitored, hospitalizations and the number of patients in ICUs have been steadily declining. With hospitalizations at their national lowest since December 13th and an increase in vaccination efforts, there is progress to be recognized, despite current setbacks and uncertainties.

Despite progress in vaccination efforts and decreasing corona virus cases, new virus mutations pose critical cause for concern. In countries across the Asia-Pacific region, a new, more infectious variant–the Delta variant–is causing stay-at-home orders to be again put into place. This new variant was first identified in India, and has quickly been spreading. As restrictions begin yet again, countries across the globe are grappling with the harrowing fate that the pandemic is far from over.

In some major Australian cities, such as Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Darwin, residents have been forced into strict lockdowns. Flights are even being banned due to the new threat, with Hong Kong barring British entry. Indefinite stay-at-home orders were extended by the Malaysian government on Monday. In Malaysia, the new variant is especially threatening, as only 6% of the country’s residents are fully vaccinated, reports the New York Times.

India has faced a devastating, major second wave of coronavirus due to the Delta Plus variant, a sub-lineage of the Delta variant. This past spring, the dangerous variant caused thousands of deaths per day, and forced residents into partial stay-at-home orders, yet again. Much like in Malaysia, in India only 5% of the population is fully vaccinated. In fear of a third wave of the virus, Maharashtra’s chief minister, Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, has authorized the use of a fourth vaccine in an attempt to increase vaccination supplies.

In good news, the Covid-19 vaccination is largely effective against the new Delta variant. However, this Delta variant is 50 percent more contagious than several of the other variants of concern, such as the Alpha variant.

As countries continue reopening, people look toward high vaccination rates to change the coronavirus game. In the U.S. and Britain, officials are planning to, or already have, lift most pandemic restrictions. White House secretary, Jen Psaki, recently announced that the United States would send two million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Peru. Additionally, the U.S. looks to send 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Pakistan. A third shipment of 1.5 million Moderna vaccination doses will be sent to Honduras from the United States.

Looking ahead to this weekend, July 30-Aug 1, 2021, the return of  a major musical festival threatens a super-spreader event. The highly infectious variant of COVID-19 has again created a surge in the number of recent coronavirus cases. As festival fans migrate to Chicago for Lollapalooza – the first of which held since 2019 – the Windy City braces for the potentially devastating impact.

Fortunately, the festival is taking several precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. All attendees must be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of event entry. However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that not all guests will be honest about meeting these requirements.

The head of the BBB, Steve Bernas, warns of the potential for festival scammers who fabricate fake vaccine cards and negative test results. “We anticipate a double whammy this year not only the tickets but also the vaccine cards,” Bernas said in a statement. “The scammers will be out in full force.” He continues, cautioning ticket buyers to be on high-alert: “Just like finding tickets, there are countless ways for consumers to find vaccinations cards online, with online marketplaces, ticket sellers, resellers and the like…and unfortunately, some of them are rip-offs”

One of Chicago’s top coronavirus experts, Dr. Emily Landon, also weighed in on the weekend’s festivities. She argues that Lollapalooza’s 72-hour testing window is too lenient, and that the city is inviting in a massive spike of cases by holding the concert. NBC Chicago reports that Dr. Emily Landon commented, “Lolla has let us down with respect to how vigorously they’re restricting people based on the things that they sort of initially told us (about how) ‘we’re going to be really strict’ and now it’s like they’ve lightened up quite considerably on checking vaccines and negative tests.”

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady expressed concerns similar to Dr. Emily Landon’s. Recognizing the importance of getting vaccinated, she commented the following in a coronavirus update last week: “We want people to have a good time and we want this to be as safe as it can be…And so certainly we’ll be watching that just as we do any other gathering, but I am more concerned about the many people who have not chosen the COVID vaccine.”

Still, Chicago’s mayor and top doctor still haven’t wavered their support for the much-loved music festival. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed her desire the event to occur as safely as possible, though she didn’t comment on the recent uptick in case numbers and coronavirus hospitalizations. NBC 5 Chicago reports on the current coronavirus statistics in the city:

“Chicago’s average daily number of new cases rose to 130 per day early Monday – a 76% jump compared to last week. The city’s average daily case rate was at 90 per day last week and 41 per day the week before that, meaning it’s more than tripled in roughly three weeks. However, it is still significantly lower than the more than 700 cases per day the city was seeing earlier this year and last, before vaccines were widely available.”

Additional safety measures, including mandatory mask-wearing on public transport, will also be enforced. The Chicago Transit Authority is offering reduced ticket rates this weekend for Lollapalooza travelers.

As Summer winds down, COVID-19 cases are beginning to rise yet again. Several virus variants, including the new Lambda variant, are causing major concern among Americans. In an attempt to quell concern, several cities have launched vaccine passport programs.

Across the United States, metropolitan hubs including New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans are requiring residents to show proof of vaccination before entering indoor spaces. That means that visiting gyms, concerts, restaurants, and more will require citizens to have both of their required vaccination shots. Vaccine passports are not being put in place to stop public gatherings, but are intended to creater safer enviroments outside of one’s home.

However, many Americans are opting to stay indoors yet again, thanks to new variant threats. The Lambda variant, which was first detected in Peru and is quckly spreading through South America, is causing concern among citizens. The New York Times reports that “On June 14, the World Health Organization designated it as a “variant of interest,” meaning, essentially, that experts suspect it could be more dangerous than the original strain.

However, it has been reported that the Lambda variant is likely not as contagious as other deadly virus mutuations, like the Delta variant. And fortunately, the Lambda variant is able to be combatted by the vaccines that have currently rolled out across the U.S. The New York Times records the climbing numbers of the Lambda variant, “As of mid-June, Lambda had been reported in 29 countries, territories or areas, according to a June 15 update from the W.H.O. The variant had been detected in 81 percent of coronavirus samples sequenced in Peru since April, and 31 percent of those in Chile to date, the agency said.” However, assessing the virus has been difficult due to Latin America’s limited ability to conduct geonomic surveillance and follow-up laboratory studies, reports the NYT. Scientists and medical professionals around the world are currently conducting research to better understand this new variant and its implications.

HotelPlanner’s Delta Variant Coverage:

America’s comeback is in jeopardy. The Delta variant is surging, prompting concerns that we need another lockdown. Travel executives are already huddling, discussing potential next steps to both protect guests and their businesses’ bottom lines. Americans were traveling in record numbers, and people are wondering if this could slow down the sector. How could the Delta variant, and other emerging variants, impact travel?

“We are watching the rapid uptick in Delta variant case infections closely, says Tim Hentschel, Co-Founder and CEO of HotelPlanner. “Although some families may choose to curtail their summer travel plans, we remain confident that the vast majority of Americans who were planning to travel this summer will keep their plans, while exercising more caution with crowds and destination selection. For those who are already vaccinated, the Delta variant shouldn’t be a deterrent to summer travel because they should be protected.”

ABOUT HOTELPLANNER

HotelPlanner is a leading travel technology company that combines proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities, and a 24/7 global gig-based reservations and customer service network, to quickly and seamlessly serve all traveler hotel & accommodation needs from a single platform.

HotelPlanner is one of the world’s top providers of individual, group, and corporate travel bookings, specializing in unique “Closed User Group” discount rates.

Founded in 2004, HotelPlanner has enduring partnerships with the world’s largest Online Travel Agencies, well-known hotel chains, individual hotels, online wedding providers, ancillary lodging providers, corporations, sports franchises, universities, and government agencies.

Veterans illustration by Kaelen Felix for use by 360 MAGAZINE

Postal Inspection Service Lists Scams Targeting Veterans

As Veterans Day approaches this Wednesday, Operation Protect Veterans is alerting more than 17 million U.S. veterans to scams that are specifically targeting them. OPV is a joint crime prevention program created by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and AARP.

Some of these scams are listed as: 

  • Secret Veterans Benefits Scam: Veterans are told they qualify for “secret” government programs or benefits that offer thousands of dollars. But first, they attempt to collect personal information or a fee.
  • Pension Poaching Scam: Scammers often offer veterans lump sum payments up front, in exchange for signing over all their future monthly benefit checks.  
  • Bogus Employment Scam: Scammers post fake job descriptions to collect personal information from a veteran’s job application, or they charge an employment fee.
  • VA Loan Scams: Offers to refinance VA loans at extremely low rates. 
  • Update Your File Scam: An imposter, claiming to be from a government agency, attempts to get a veteran’s personal information to “update their file,” so they can maintain their benefits.
  • Aid and Attendance Scam: Veterans (or their family members) receive an offer to move their assets into a living trust so that they can qualify for financial assisted Iiving benefits.

According to research conducted by AARP, veterans are twice as likely as the general public to be victims of scams. What can veterans – and those who care about them – do to prevent being taken advantage of by scammers? 

The Postal Inspection Service advises every veteran do the following:

  • Visit the Postal Inspection Service’s website (www.uspis.gov) to learn about scams targeting veterans and what they can do to prevent becoming a victim.
  • Check out any offer with a trusted family member, friend or your local veteran’s affairs office before acting. 
  • Don’t be pressured into acting immediately. If you are dealing with a legitimate outfit, they won’t try to pressure you to act before having a chance to check it out and think about it. If they do, just say “no” and hang up.
  • Get an answering machine and caller ID display. Then, let the machine answer the phone for you. If you don’t recognize the person leaving a message, don’t pick up the phone! 
  • Contact your telephone service provider, and ask them what kind of services they offer to help you block unwanted calls.
  • Report if you believe you have been the victim of a scam. Contact your local police or AARP (protectveterans@aarp.org or 877-908-3360).
  • Get credible information on how to qualify for veterans’ benefits by contacting your state veterans’ affairs agency. Visit www.nasdva.us, and click on “Links.”

“Veterans have access to special benefits and share a special bond that scammers know and use to take advantage of them,” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. “The Postal Inspection Service works hard every day to stop scams targeting veterans, but we need everyone to become better informed, so they can help spread the knowledge to the veterans they know and love. 

“I encourage all Americans to make this Veteran’s Day not only a day of remembrance and thanks for our veterans,” Barksdale continued, “but also to make it the start of learning about, and helping to spread information on scams targeting veterans.”

For more information on scams targeting veterans and other scams, visit www.uspis.gov. To learn more about the U.S. Inspection Postal Service, visit www.uspis.gov. You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

New Medicare Cards

Next week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will be automatically mailing new Medicare cards to more than 3.5 million people with Medicare in New York State.

People with Medicare in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont will also be receiving their new card. People with Medicare in these states and New York, should receive their new card by the end of August and can begin using it right away.

Key features of the new card and rollout process:

  • Social Security Numbers have been replaced with new unique identifying numbers.
  • Social Security numbers are no longer on the new Medicare, helping protect people with Medicare from identity theft and CMS fight fraud.
  • The new Medicare card is free. Avoid scammers by knowing that CMS will not call people with Medicare asking for any personal information, your Social Security Number, bank information, or to pay for the new Medicare card.
  • People with Medicare can sign up for email notifications on when the new cards will be mailed to their area by going towww.medicare.gov/newcard.
  • There are no changes to Medicare benefits. Once you receive your New Medicare card, you should destroy your old Medicare card by shredding or cutting it up with scissors.

You can also access new Medicare card fact sheets, graphics, b-roll, images and other resources here.