Posts Tagged With: Scam

Do Not Return Calls or Texts From These Area Codes–It’s A Scam!

A scam that seems to reappear periodically is back and helping criminals steal people’s money. Protecting yourself is simple – if you know how the scam works.

So, here is what you need to know to protect yourself about the three variants of the scam:

What is the scam?

1. In the first version of the scam, criminals target their victims simply by calling them (usually from a robocall auto-dialer which supplies caller ID information that the victim will not recognize) – and hanging up before anyone answers, thereby arousing the call-recipient’s natural curiosity as to who called. Criminals sometimes do this several times in succession – so victims see a call coming in repetitively from some number that they do not recognize – further increasing the chances that the targeted victims’ curiosity will cause them to call back.

2. In another variant of the scam, the criminals don’t hang up quickly, but, rather, wait for the intended victim to answer the phone call, at which point the robocaller plays a recording of someone crying for help or the sounds of someone in need of medical attention or under attack – and then hangs up. Obviously, many good hearted people are likely to call back in such a situation. Some criminals may do the same, pretending to be a collection agency, a law enforcement official, or a doctor treating a close relative.

3. In the third version of the scam, a criminal sends a text message similar to the voice recording in variant 2 – explaining that he/she is in danger and needs help – often making it appear as if the message was sent by accident to the wrong recipient. The criminal may ask for you to call back or to text back.

In all of these cases the criminal wants you to call or text back.

These calls are likely part of what is commonly know as “473 Scam,” “Ring and Run Scam,” or “One Ring Scam,” and the numbers displayed on your caller ID or sent in a text message are likely premium numbers; you will be charged- sometimes quite a bundle – for any calls that you make, or text messages that you send, to them.

What should you do?

It’s quite simple to protect yourself – Do not call back, and do not text back.

How do I know if it is a scam call or text?

The name “473 scam” comes from the fact that criminals have been known to use caller IDs with the area code 473 – which appears to be domestic – but it is actually the area code for the island of Grenada and several other islands outside the United States that, like the USA, use country code +1. Calls placed to 473 numbers are international calls, not typically included in calling plans, and can run up quite a bill. Also, the criminals perpetrating 473 scams often establish premium numbers – the equivalent of the 900 numbers that were popular in the United States in the pre-Internet era; calls to such numbers can sometimes cost more that $20 for the first minute! (In fact, a couple decades ago similar scams used to be run from within the United States – criminals would send messages to people’s pagers (remember those?) paging them from premium numbers with the hope that the recipients would call back and be charged for the calls.)

Of course, the 473 scam is run from area codes other than 473 – below is a list of area codes that appear domestic (because they use country code +1), but are, in fact, international.

Are there other numbers I need to worry about?

In addition to the list of international numbers that “look American,” keep in mind that Canada and various US territories are also part of country code +1 – and while scammers do not typically run 473 scams from Canada or US territories, some domestic telephone plans to not consider calls to these areas to be a domestic or free call. For that reason, I have included lists of US Territory and Canadian area codes below as well.

Are there lessons to learn from this scam?

The history of the 473 scam reveals an important point about which you must be aware in order to stay safe.

After most Americans became aware that 900 numbers were premium numbers, criminals stopped perpetrating the scam using 900 numbers, and started to use other areas codes – often 809 (the Caribbean islands) – which led to this scam even being known as an 809 scam. After sufficient media coverage educated enough folks not to return calls to area code 809, criminals shifted to other areas codes – assisted by the implementation of many new area codes over the last two decades – making it far more difficult for people to recognize which numbers are domestic number and which are not. Of course, the fact that today’s phones allow people to respond quickly to text messages and missed calls means that people are less likely today than during the era of pagers to reconsider responding before they call or text back. Also, psychologically speaking, humans are also more likely to become alarmed when hearing the voice of another human crying for help than when seeing a text message – giving today’s scammers another edge up over their pager-scamming counterparts two decades ago. Scammers adapt their techniques as technologies and awareness levels change.

As far as lessons – here is the bottom line:

If you miss a call – whoever called can send you a text message (or leave a voicemail). If they did neither – and you don’t know who called – don’t worry about it. Also, remember that someone whom you do not know who is truly in distress at a location with which you are not familiar is unlikely to dial you at a random number in another country and ask you to help them – they would call the police.

Here are the current international area codes within the +1 country code:

242- Bahamas

441 – Bermuda

784 – St. Vincent & Grenadines

246 – Barbados

473 – Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique

809, 829, and 849 – Dominican Republic

264 – Anguilla

649 – Turks and Caicos

868 – Trinidad and Tobago

268 – Antigua

664 – Montserrat

876 – Jamaica

284 – British Virgin Islands

721 – Sint Maarten

758 – St Lucia

869 – St. Kitts & Nevis

345 – Cayman Islands

767 – Dominica

Here are the US Territories’ area codes (listed by territory):

American Samoa: 684

Guam: 671

Northern Mariana Islands: 670

Puerto Rico: 787 and 939

US Virgin Islands: 340

Here are the Canadian area codes (listed by province):

Alberta: 403, 587, and 780

British Columbia: 236, 250, 604, and 778

Manitoba: 204 and 431

New Brunswick: 506

Newfoundland: 709 (879 is being added in 2018)

Northwest Territories: 867

Nova Scotia: 902

Nunavut: 867

Ontario: 226 , 249, 289, 343, 365, 416, 437, 519, 613, 647, 705, 807, and 905

Quebec: 418, 438, 450, 514, 579, 581, 819, and 873

Saskatchewan: 306 and 639

Yukon: 867

Nationwide: 600 (and possibly 622, 633, 644, 655, 677 and 688).

US/Canada Numbers to Beware:

Area code: 900

Canadian numbers that begin 976 after the area code (These can be like 900 numbers. The USA used to have such numbers as well. Numbers beginning 540 in New York used to also be premium numbers, but these should no longer be in service.)

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WARNING..NEW RANSOM VIRUS….For PC Virus Victims, Pay or Else

Kidnappers used to make ransom notes with letters cut out of magazines. Now, notes simply pop up on your computer screen, except the hostage is your PC.
In the past year, hundreds of thousands of people across the world have switched on their computers to find distressing messages alerting them that they no longer have access to their PCs or any of the files on them.
The messages claim to be from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, some 20 other law enforcement agencies across the globe or, most recently, Anonymous, a shadowy group of hackers. The computer users are told that the only way to get their machines back is to pay a steep fine.
And, curiously, it’s working. The scheme is making more than $5 million a year, according to computer security experts who are tracking them.
The scourge dates to 2009 in Eastern Europe. Three years later, with business booming, the perpetrators have moved west. Security experts say that there are now more than 16 gangs of sophisticated criminals extorting millions from victims across Europe.
The threat, known as ransomware, recently hit the United States. Some gangs have abandoned previously lucrative schemes, like fake antivirus scams and banking trojans, to focus on ransomware full time.
Sometimes victims get a message accusing them of breaking the law and demanding a fine. (Courtesy: NYTimes)
Essentially online extortion, ransomware involves infecting a user’s computer with a virus that locks it. The attackers demand money before the computer will be unlocked, but once the money is paid, they rarely unlock it.
In the vast majority of cases, victims do not regain access to their computer unless they hire a computer technician to remove the virus manually. And even then, they risk losing all files and data because the best way to remove the virus is to wipe the computer clean.
It may be hard to fathom why anyone would agree to fork over hundreds of dollars to a demanding stranger, but security researchers estimate that 2.9 percent of compromised computer owners take the bait and pay. That, they say, is an extremely conservative estimate. In some countries, the payout rate has been as high as 15 percent.
That people do fall for it is a testament to criminals’ increasingly targeted and inventive methods. Early variations of ransomware locked computers, displayed images of pornography and, in Russian, demanded a fee — often more than $400 — to have it removed. Current variants are more targeted and toy with victims’ consciences.
Researchers say criminals now use victims’ Internet addresses to customize ransom notes in their native tongue. Instead of pornographic images, criminals flash messages from local law enforcement agencies accusing them of visiting illegal pornography, gambling or piracy sites and demand they pay a fine to unlock their computer.
Victims in the United States see messages in English purporting to be from the F.B.I. or Justice Department. In the Netherlands, people get a similar message, in Dutch, from the local police. (Some Irish variations even demand money in Gaelic.) The latest variants speak to victims through recorded audio messages that tell users that if they do not pay within 48 hours, they will face criminal charges. Some even show footage from a computer’s webcam to give the illusion that law enforcement is watching.
The messages often demand that victims buy a preloaded debit card that can be purchased at a local drugstore — and enter the PIN. That way it’s impossible for victims to cancel the transaction once it becomes clear that criminals have no intention of unlocking their PC.
The hunt is on to find these gangs. Researchers at Symantec said they had identified 16 ransomware gangs. They tracked one gang that tried to infect more than 500,000 PCs over an 18-day period. But even if researchers can track their Internet addresses, catching and convicting those responsible can be difficult. It requires cooperation among global law enforcement, and such criminals are skilled at destroying evidence.
Charlie Hurel, an independent security researcher based in France, was able to hack into one group’s computers to discover just how gullible their victims could be. On one day last month, the criminals’ accounting showed that they were able to infect 18,941 computers, 93 percent of all attempts. Of those who received a ransom message that day, 15 percent paid. In most cases, Mr. Hurel said, hackers demanded 100 euros, making their haul for one day’s work more than $400,000.
That is significantly more than hackers were making from fake antivirus schemes a few years ago, when so-called “scareware” was at its peak and criminals could make as much as $158,000 in one week.
Scareware dropped significantly last year after a global clampdown by law enforcement and private security researchers. Internecine war between scareware gangs put the final nail in the coffin. As Russian criminal networks started fighting for a smaller share of profits, they tried to take each other out with denial of service attacks.
Now, security researchers are finding that some of the same criminals who closed down scareware operations as recently as a year ago are back deploying ransomware.
“Things went quiet,” said Eric Chien, a researcher at Symantec who has been tracking ransomware scams. “Now we are seeing a sudden ramp-up of ransomware using similar methods.”
Victims become infected in many ways. In most cases, people visit compromised Web sites that download the program to their machines without so much as a click. Criminals have a penchant for infecting pornography sites because it makes their law enforcement threats more credible and because embarrassing people who were looking at pornography makes them more likely to pay. Symantec’s researchers say there is also evidence that they are paying advertisers on sex-based sites to feature malicious links that download ransomware onto victims’ machines.
“As opposed to fooling you, criminals are now bullying users into paying them by pretending the cops are banging down their doors,” said Kevin Haley, Symantec’s director of security response.
More recently, researchers at Sophos, a British computer security company, noted that thousands of people were getting ransomware through sites hosted by GoDaddy, the popular Web services company that manages some 50 million domain names and hosts about five million Web sites on its servers.
Sophos said hackers were breaking into GoDaddy users’ accounts with stolen passwords and setting up what is known as a subdomain. So instead of, say,, hackers would set up the Web address, then send e-mails to customers with the link to the subdomain which — because it appeared to come from a trusted source — was more likely to lure clicks.
Scott Gerlach, GoDaddy’s director of information security operations, said it appeared the accounts had been compromised because account owners independently clicked on a malicious link or were compromised by a computer virus that stole password credentials. He advised users to enable GoDaddy’s two-step authentication option, which sends a second password to users’ cellphones every time they try to log in, preventing criminals from cracking their account with one stolen password and alerting users when they try.
One of the scarier things about ransomware is that criminals can use victims’ machines however they like. While the computer is locked, the criminals can steal passwords and even get into the victims’ online bank accounts.
Security experts warn to never pay the ransom. A number of vendors offer solutions for unlocking machines without paying the ransom, including Symantec, Sophos and F-Secure. The best solution is to visit a local repair shop to wipe the machine clean and reinstall backup files and software.
“This is the new Nigerian e-mail scam,” Mr. Haley said. “We’ll be talking about this for the next two years.”

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Warning: Scam Targeting Shooting Instructors……

Several different pro-gun websites have reported a scam that seeks to take advantage of unsuspecting shooting instructors.

According to Shall Not Be Questioned, the Pennsylvania-based firearm blog, the scam involves an email from a person claiming to be from Japan (or another foreign country) who is looking for firearms classes for his family or a group of people during an upcoming trip to the United States.

Here is a version of the email:


I want to book for 2 weeks firearm training, 1 or 2 hours each day Monday to Friday (morning or evening hours) for a group of 10. We will be coming to your country for one month vacation/holiday from 28th Sept. 2012 and in line with our plans we will require 2 weeks firearm/safety training in your place just for the experience as we require no certificate at the end of the session and also to make our stay fun. We have been working for months without vacation so would want to add some fun to our upcoming vacation as this training will also help us in overcoming the fear of gun generally as most members have not touched a gun before.

The sessions should basically be a fun training experience for my group, please let me know if you can organize the training for us from your field of profession so i can finalize arrangements with my group and get back to you with more clear and specific details. Also confirm if you can arrange one on one exercise for us each day or if its better in group.

Awaits your email.

Changi Wong

The con artist then attempts to dupe the firearms instructor into giving him personal information, such as the instructor’s bank account info for a “wire transfer” or, in the case of Joshua Wander, a NRA Election Volunteer Coordinator in Pittsburgh, the con artist negotiated a price for the training – $450 – and then sent Wander four different money orders for $875.21 each, totally more than $3,500.
The goal was to trick Mr. Wander into depositing the faux money orders into his bank account and then having him send back the difference in real money to the con artist. It’s an old scam, but one that – for one reason or another – continues to work.

Fortunately, Mr. Wander caught on right after he received the money orders.

The National Skeet Shooting Association and the National Sporting Clays Association warned people of similar scam in the past:

A few months ago, NSCA (National Sporting Clay Association) informed instructors and clubs of fraudulent activities targeting NSCA Certified Instructors around the country. This week, we have learned of other instructors and clubs who have been targeted with similar schemes.

The instructors and clubs tell us they are being contacted through email by someone who is supposedly setting up a shooting event for a corporate group. Some of the reports say the person claims to be from England.

The person inquires about booking instruction for the group, including guns, ammunition, and other equipment, adding up to thousands of dollars. Some of the emails ask for the instructor’s bank account information so he can wire the payment to the bank, while others ask the instructor to handle some US payments on behalf of the group, with a promise to send a money order.
So, please spread the word about this scam. Be sure to tell those trainers and instructors who have their names and contact information published to be wary of emails from foreigners looking to book range time for groups or families.

Categories: 2nd Amendment | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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