Beware Fake Debt Collection Agencies

Bogus debt collection agencies, online dating chat robots, and an “Energy Department refund”: Internet ScamBusters #263

Before we tell you about today’s three Snippets, we wanted to
draw your attention to Snippet #2, because it is part of a
whole new class of scams that we think will grow exponentially
over the next year.

Although this scam will most likely not hit countries other
than Russia until February, be sure you check it out — even
if you never visit online dating sites. That’s because
although this scam is starting via online dating, it will soon
move to other venues.

Today’s Snippets are:

– Beware Fake Debt Collection Agencies

– A New Type of Scam: Online Dating Bots Flirt Via Chat

– New Scam Notifies People of “Energy Department Refund”

But first, we urge you to take a look at these top articles
from our other websites:

New Year’s Resolutions For Identity Theft Prevention: Quick and easy
ways to have href=""
target="_blank">identity theft prevention tools in place for the
new year.

How Savvy Consumers Get Services For Half Price or Less: target="_blank">Save money on services with these innovative

Has Your Credit Card Company Helped You Lately? Learn more about the improvements
target="_blank">credit card companies are making to
keep you happy.

Do You Have What It Takes to Make It Through the Winter Storms? Practical tips to get you through
target="_blank">winter storms that you
should do now.

And now for today’s Snippets…

Beware Fake Debt Collection Agencies

Aside from vampires, werewolves and zombies, debt collectors
are among the scariest creatures ever conjured by the human
mind. Just kidding — sort of.

We say “sort of” because some scammers are using people’s fear
of being labeled “deadbeats” to extort money from honest,
creditworthy consumers.

Posing as a collection agency representative, the con artist
will contact a victim by mail, email or telephone, claiming
the person owes a specific dollar amount to a particular

To convince victims to wire money to pay the “delinquent
accounts,” scammers will threaten to report “overdue bills” to
credit bureaus, take some form of legal action or even drain
money from victims’ bank accounts without their consent.

Ironically, real “deadbeats” probably wouldn’t fall for this
scam, since they have no intention of repaying their
creditors. But upright citizens may doubt themselves,
thinking they’ve forgotten to pay a bill.

And, because the sums involved tend to be fairly small, some
people may be tempted to just pay the “bill” and “get it over

Do NOT “pay off” these scammers!

Instead, contact the actual creditor to learn if someone
opened an account in your name. This is important because you
could be a victim of identity theft — and not know it.

If there is no delinquent account, contact local police to
file an incident report. If possible, record the phone number
of the scammer using your caller ID, and then notify your bank.

And don’t just assume the caller is a scammer. You may have
been a victim of identity theft or mistaken identity. Order a
free copy of your credit report from one of the three major
credit bureaus and check your history.

You can find out how to get a copy of your free credit report
in our Can
You Really Get a Free Credit Report — Without Getting Scammed?


Assume nothing — even if the scammer has lots of information
about you, including your Social Security number, address,
etc. Then take action to preserve your good credit and your
hard-earned money!

You can get more tips on contacting creditors and credit
bureaus in our href="">What to Do if Your
Credit Card or Wallet is Stolen article.

A New Type of Scam: Online Dating Bots Flirt Via Chat

A new class of bots (software robots) have found their way
onto online dating forums, and we predict this is just the
beginning of a new class of scams that will probably grow very

These programs mimic online flirting with the goal of getting
victims to provide personal information.

The first of these programs is called CyberLover.
Unfortunately, CyberLover is good enough at automating its
chat so that victims have a hard time recognizing that it’s an
automated robot rather than a real person.

Further, CyberLover can establish up to 10 “relationships” in
30 minutes. That means that scammers can use this software
to automate the scamming process: rather than having to spend
time themselves, they can unleash this software to find
hundreds or thousands of victims at a time.

CyberLover can be used for financial and identity theft, as
well as leading to “personal” websites that deliver malware.

Currently, CyberLover is targeted at Russian dating sites.
However, it won’t be long until we see similar bots in other
countries (probably next month).

Action: Always use common sense. Don’t provide financial or
other personal information. And be on the alert that you may
be flirting with a robot. ;-)

New Scam Notifies People of “Energy Department Refund”

These days, many people are trying to reduce their electric
and heating bills — whether to cut down on their “carbon
footprint,” save money, or both.

Knowing this, phishing scammers are sending emails to
consumers, purportedly from the Department of Energy (DOE),
claiming that recipients are entitled to a refund from the DOE
of $408.58, reports href=""
target="_blank" rel="nofollow">

“The DOE believes that the purpose of the scam is to infect
victims’ computers with malware that will allow hackers to
steal sensitive information, such as user names and passwords.

“The subject line of the email says ‘User Notification’ and
informs the recipient that an analysis of their bills shows
they are due a refund.” To receive the refund — of course —
the person must click on a link in the message, which then
infects the computer.

Here’s one simple tip to avoid this scam: Be aware that the
DOE does NOT “collect revenues from, or issue refunds to, the
general public via email.”

In other words, all of these emails are part of the phishing
scam, and should be immediately deleted!

You can learn the “basics” about phishing scams in our href="">Phishing Scams: How
You Can Protect Yourself article.

That’s it for this year, but we’ll be back next week with
another issue. Happy New Year — we’ll see you then!