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Borrowed Identities




When I first started working on my degree in Cybersecurity, I began following multiple scam bait videos. I was interested in seeing how scams work since there has been such a high volume of victims being scammed.  Whether it was someone pretending to be the “child” texting a parent asking for help or the famous Nigerian prince who had millions to drop into your bank account, it was fascinating to me to see how easy it was to trick someone into giving their information so freely to anyone who asked of them. I cannot say that I haven’t been tempted because I feel the need to make sure whatever the crisis is that you are approached with is averted. 

One of the most recent scams that have started appearing is the “Government Benefits Scam.” This is a scam that is approached in multiple different ways. 

1.       A “friend” sends a request on social media (primarily Facebook Messenger).

2.       An email sent from a “government agency”.

3.       A phone call from the “IRS” or another government agency.

4.       A person calls on your behalf to an agency to apply for benefits.

Some of these may seem simple to avoid, however, it is even easier to fall into it if you are not alert. Let’s tackle a few of these and give some tips on how to avoid them in the future.

A Special Message on Facebook

Hey John!  I heard about a great program where the government is giving people who have been affected by the pandemic $10,000 to start a new business or for any reason whatsoever. I thought it was fake but I just got my check in the mail yesterday!  I thought of you and wanted to give you the information.


This is an actual message from someone who is on Facebook Messenger. You and I read this right now and we already see the red flags waving in the air. It is effective because if it weren’t…it wouldn’t be happening. The dream is alive and well to get money for nothing or at least try to start a business so that we can all be successful.  Truth be told, nothing in life is free. As Ronald Reagan once said, “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government and I’m here to help.”1 If you have those nine words in may not be persuaded to take your “friend” up on this government assistance. Let’s also be real – your “friend” isn’t going to message you on Facebook about a great opportunity. They are going to send you a text message with a link just like everyone else. Well, that may be far-fetched but let’s just go with that.

An Email from a Government Agency / Phone Call from a Government Agency

Dear John C. Smith,

We are reaching out to inform you of a new government program that we are making available to millions of Americans to help boost the United States economy. This grant does not have to be paid back to the government and can be used at your discretion. Kindly click the link to start the application process and one of our agents will contact you.

Best regards,

 

Leslie R. Scammer Official Government Representative

 

This email looks and sounds dumb. Believe it or not, people fall for this every day. They also get phone calls from “government agencies” as well informing them of benefits that are made available to them. The primary red flag is this; you received a phone call or email from a government official. According to the Fair Trade Commission, “government agencies will never call, email, text, or message you on social media to ask for money or personal information.”2 The government will never reach out to you unsolicited.  

Personal Information Leaked for Scammers to Take Benefits

Identity theft is on the rise in the world with the increase of the internet, the cloud, and artificial intelligence. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to hack a computer system to steal someone’s identity.  Once this identity has been stolen, scam artists will receive benefits that are allocated for these individuals which leaves the victim holding the bag in the future when they go to apply for the same benefits. These thieves will stop at nothing to steal the information and most of us, me included, don’t think about our information being stolen until it is too late. How do you avoid your identity being stolen? 

Tips

1.       Keep your social security number to yourself.

2.       Don’t be a victim of phishing scams – don’t get click-happy on emails and messages.

3.       Keep your passwords updated and strong. This includes your internet, email, social media, etc.

4.       Don’t leave your wallet/purse unattended.

5.       Get an Identity theft protection program.

6.       Don’t click on the first thing that you see on Google or any other search engine.

References

 

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