06Jun

Coronavirus scams promising cures, tests and preventatives have become so prevalent the Federal Trade Commission is promoting a sort of bingo card to help unwary consumers from becoming victims.

“Scams related to the coronavirus are growing,” FTC Associate Director Jennifer Leach said in announcing the bingo card. “Use the #FTCScamBingo card to check off the scammers you spotted, along with the steps you took to stop them.”

More than just health claims, scammers are promising to solve your financial problems, forgive debt and now, help you get your stimulus money. The FTC is hoping people – particularly seniors who are the most susceptible to scams – will share the cards on social media to alert their friends to the tricks.

“When you have bingo, share it with the FTC on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll be helping the FTC – and others – know what’s going on.”

Complaints related to the coronavirus have surged, the FTC said, doubling in a week to more than 7,800. Not all were scams, but of those fraud complaints that were, “consumers reported losing a total of $4.77 million, with a reported median loss of $598,” the FTC said.

Warning letters were sent last month to seven companies by the FTC and Federal Drug Administration over claims they were making about products to treat the virus.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued its own warning, cautioning investors not to be fooled by claims “that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.”

Be especially wary, the SEC says, of microcap stocks, which it says “may be particularly vulnerable to fraudulent investment schemes.”

FINRA, which governs the securities broker-dealer industry in the US, has a “scam meter” to help potential investors unsure if an investment might be fraudulent.

Internet scams have become rampant. In a report delivered this week to the internet governing agency ICANN, cybersecurity group Interisle said at least 100,000 virus-related website names were registered in March alone. While not all are scams or fraudulent, many, the report said, are being used “to spam out advertisements for COVID-themed scams. As of this writing, the number of confirmed malicious COVID-related domains is in the thousands.”

In addition to scams that prey on fears of the virus, hackers are taking advantage of the millions of Americans now working from home. Many are working with confidential company data on laptops and home computers that are not secure or are sending information back and forth that is unencrypted.

Phishing schemes and email attacks have risen dramatically. One network security company told American Banker that its corporate customers experienced a 667% increase in coronavirus-related email attacks since February.

The World Economic Forum has a detailed list of what businesses and those working at home can do to protect against cybercrime.

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Green Key

Tech Centers Top the List For Jobs

Wallet Hub is out with its annual list of the best places to find a job. If you’re in IT, you’ve got your pick. Not surprising, tech hubs rank high in the scoring. Out of the top 10 places with the best job prospects, half are in or around tech centers like Silicon Valley.

Most of these also made the top 10 cut when factors like family incomes, housing costs, commute times and recreation are included.

For anyone considering a geographic change, but uncertain about where, the list can be a useful starting place. It doesn’t tell you exactly why for example, Pittsburgh gets higher marks for its socio-economic climate than does Virginia Beach or Austin. The methodology does explain the factors and weight that go into the scoring, though it would seem being far south of the snow belt and on the ocean or in the trendy home of SXSW has got to count for a lot.

Still, the list can help you discover places you hadn’t thought of and certainly, raises a red flag if you were considering Toledo or Cleveland or Stockton, California, all of which are in the bottom 10. Dead last is Detroit.

California, as might be expected of the nation’s most populous state, has 16 cities in the top half of the list. Arizona comes in second with 8 cities, including Phoenix. But Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, some of the less populated states, rank among the top places for jobs and living; South Burlington, Vermont scored 2nd on the overall best cities list, and was actually #1 for jobs.

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