Scam Alerts


Criminals and hackers are constantly coming up with new schemes designed to compromise computers, steal passwords, trick you into revealing valuable information (personal, financial, etc.), or trick you out of money.

Scams can lead to identity theft, regular theft, access to your accounts and personal information, and compromised computers. A compromised computer can put ALL of your information and passwords at risk

Scams commonly use email, the internet, or the telephone to trick people into revealing sensitive information or get them to do something that is against policy. Key indicators:

  • You are being asked for personal or private information, your password, financial account information, Social Security Number, or money.
  • Unexpected/unsolicited email with a link or an attachment
  • Scare tactics or threats stressing that if you don't act quickly something bad will happen
  • Promises of something too good to be true. This includes bargains and “great offers,” or links to claim an award/reward.
  • Requests that you forward emails, attachments, links, etc. to your friends, co-workers or family

Other indicators that an email isn’t legitimate:

  • It’s not addressed to you, specifically, by name.
  • The sender isn’t specified, isn’t someone you know, or doesn’t match the “from” address.
  • It has spelling or grammatical errors.
  • It has a link that doesn’t seem match where the email says the link will take you, or an attachment with an incorrect or suspicious filename – or a suspicious file extension (e.g.: *.zip, *.exe, *.vbs, *.bin, *.com, *.pif, *.zzx)
  • It has a link/attachment to view an unexpected e-card or track an unknown package
  • It includes links to pictures or videos from people you don’t personally know

Source: UC Santa Cruz

IRS and Tax Scams

E-mail, Phishing and Malware Schemes involve emails which are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. E-mails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.       

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scam is an aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license.

Source: Internal Revenue Services

Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams

Fraudulent telemarketers based in Jamaica are calling people in the U.S., telling them that they’ve won a sweepstakes or foreign lottery. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Jamaican Constabulary Force say most of these promotions are likely to be phony — a trick to get you to part with some money — and they are working together to stop them.

The fraudulent telemarketers typically identify themselves as lawyers, customs officials or lottery representatives, and tell people they’ve won vacations, cars or thousands — even millions — of dollars. “Winners” need only pay fees for shipping, insurance, customs duties or taxes before they can claim their prizes.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Sweetheart (Affinity) Scam

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people. And many forge successful relationships. But scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money.   An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Smuggling Scam

Older adults are being contacted and offered lavish trips overseas.  At some point, they are asked to deliver a “present” or a “gift” to someone overseas.  It turns out these older adults are unwittingly smuggling drugs internationally.

The ruse entices victims with a promise of an inheritance or business opportunity and the requirement that they fly to various countries to meet with “attorneys” or “business partners,” with all travel and expenses paid by the transnational criminal organization. On the final leg of the trip, the victims are asked to take seemingly harmless items along with them for their business contacts at the next location. Upon arrival and inspection, these innocuous items are found to contain drugs resulting in detention and arrest by local authorities. The drugs are concealed in everything from chocolates, picture frames, tea and markers to canned goods, shampoo bottles, soap and wooden hangers.

Source: Department of Homeland Security

Tech Support Scams

In a recent twist, scam artists are using the phone to try to break into your computer. They call, claiming to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft. They say that they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don’t need.

These scammers take advantage of your reasonable concerns about viruses and other threats. Once they’ve gained your trust, they may ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable or trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords.

Source: Federal Trade Commission