Massachusetts Couple Victim of Strange Amazon Scam

In October of 2017, Mike and Kelly Gallivan of Acton, Mass started receiving free mystery packages from Amazon. What started as a fun surprise has turned into something of an annoyance for the couple as these packages have continued to arrive at a rate of one or two a week ever since.

My initial reaction, like many, was BRING ON THE FREE THINGS! The couple was receiving items like phone chargers, USB fans and other cheap items.

Turns out that the two may be unwitting accomplices in a scam in an effort to manipulate buyer reviews on the Amazon web site.

The two have contacted Amazon and learned that all of the orders were paid for by gift card. This method doesn’t require a sender’s name, address or other information.

Here’s how the scam works: A seller trying to prop up a product would set up a phony e-mail account that would be used to establish an Amazon account. Then the seller would purchase merchandise with a gift card – no identifying information there – and send it to a random person, in this case the Gallivans. Then, the phantom seller, who controls the “buyer’s” e-mail account, writes glowing reviews of the product, thus boosting the Amazon ranking of the product.

The sending of the actual items boosts the review’s validity as it earns the marking of “verified review” meaning that Amazon can vouch that this person actually ordered the item in question. Amazon then highlights verified reviews on the product page and gives better ranking to items with more verified reviews.

Sadly, there is no way of knowing how the Gallivans, both retired nurses, fell victim to this scam. The likelihood is that at one point or another they ordered from the perpetrating company and their address was then used to perpetuate this scam.

I encourage online shoppers to make sure they are shopping Amazon to choose items that are fulfilled by Amazon rather than a third-party. You can see if this is the case by taking a look at the page either in the “add to cart” area or under the price in the item description.

This will limit the exposure of your information to third parties.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

Advertisements

Scams Exploiting Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 Crash

It’s an unfortunate reality that in the wake of a tragedy the scum of the earth rise up to show their true colors. Scammers exploit major news tragedies in an effort to make money from real donations or fake charities.

Malaysia_Airlines_Boeing_777In the days following the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 a large number of scam charities and malicious pages have popped up all over social networks.  These scams include fake Facebook pages in honor of the deceased. The pages request donations to be made in their honor.

Other web sites claim to have video footage of the plane crashing. In one instance the claimed video was posted on  the memorial page for one of the victims. Clicking the link leads to a pornographic web site which then attempts to load malware onto the viewers computer.

Through Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, users have been posting exaggerated headlines related to the incident along with links that lead to bogus web sites designed to “phish” users personal information including financial information and passwords.

If you’re looking for a way to give, the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission both have tips and advice specific to this tragedy.

Here are some highlights from the FTC:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust. You want to find a charity with a proven track record with dealing with these disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information — including your credit card or bank account number — unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

Your best bet is to think before you click. If your browser offers you a preview of the link when you hover over it, take the time to let it load before proceeding. When in doubt- don’t click and don’t share links!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Speaker Scam using UK Church as Front

In the past 6 years since I have started speaking professionally I have seen a large number of scams come through my inbox. Many are so transparent that it’s almost painful. It’s rare that a scam can fool me but this one almost got me. Almost.

ID-10079656Here is the 1st e-mail I received:

Dear Josh.

My Name is Pastor Tom Edwards from the First Baptist Church we are writing to Invite you to be our guest speaker at the up Coming First Baptist Church 2014 Anniversary which is taking place here In UK England, We are writing to invite and confirm your booking to be our
Guest speaker at up Coming First Baptist  Church 2014 Anniversary. Other Ministers Of God are coming from Different part of the World.

The Venue as follows:
39 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1BX,
Website:http://www.newglorytabernacle.com/
Expected audience: 300 people Duration of speech per speaker: 1 Hour
Host: PASTOR TOM EDWARDS
Topic: Innovation Management Ethics Attitude
Date: 10th Augut 2014
Theme: TIME OF FULFILLMENT
REFERENCE: EVENT BROCHURE
SIGNING OF AUTOGRAPH: ALLOWED
SELLING OF CD’S AND BOOKS: ALLOWED.
TELEPHONE: + 44 704 205 6151

The purpose of these conference is to re-brand the heart,mind,body and soul of Christians who have gone astray and are diverting their whole attention into mundane affairs and ensuring that it is possible for Christians, whether new or of long standing, to deepen their spiritual lives and gain eternal life. Also bringing a heart of deep compassion and a strong commitment to the fullness of life that is found only in the redemptive love of Christ, we are Sorry about our late invitation it is due to the fact that our Speaker had back out because of her sudden illness.

We came across your profile on http://joshgunderson.com The lord has direct us to email you for this assignment. and we say it’s up to standard and we will be very glad to have such an outstanding personality in our mist for these overwhelming gathering. With your Multi  talented speech more lives will come close to GOD. Arrangement will be discussed as soon as you honor our invitation. If you have any more publicity material,please do not hesitate to contact us. We are taking care of your  traveling and Hotel Accommodation expenses including our Speaker fees you are bless as you honor this invitation it is a pleasure writing you.

Hope to hear from you Asap.

In His Services,
Pastor Tom Edwards
First Baptist Church

I replied back despite a few red flags going up. Strange wording on the e-mail as well as grammatical and spelling mistakes were a few. I ignored them on the grounds for the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom.

In my response I quoted travel costs and speaking fee which were agreed to without question. Because of the last minute notification for international travel, I informed “Pastor Tom”  that all payments would need to be made within two weeks in order to secure tickets and make travel arrangements.

I was told that this would be no problem and along with his reply sent me their contract. Red flags everywhere started to appear when I read their childish 1-page contract.

I replied back with my own contract/rider and said that I would send a signed copy of their along once I received mine back.

No response.

Then the next day:

Good day Josh, I understand that you are First Baptist Church’s guest for their upcoming conference, Edward Smith informed me earlier, I have undergone this process for their guests in the past as well prior to this time as well so below are the details.

I have undergone this process for people prior to this time as well so below are the details. (It is a pity though that you do not have your Swiss passort intact and up-to-date as you would have been waived for this fee).

Our Government (United Kingdom) Main Application Fee for a UK work permit is £488 and £95 for homeland fee making an overall sum of £583, You should understand that as a United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & European citizens holding their international passport, entrance permits are at a reduced fee at rate given above, other nationalities pay more. I will do the application and payment in your name at our Consulate and send you necessary binding documents.

Usually, It takes between 1-14 weeks to get a permit depending on the category such permit may fall into, But if we process expressly and I append the application as a staff it will take just about one week and a maximum of two weeks give or take some delays in courier or so since it is categorized as ‘ministerial/religious’ under the UK Tier 5 work permit, It will take a week and a few days to process. If you are ready to proceed (which I advise you should) We would as well need you to send to us the below stated documents.

Full Name of applicant:
Passport Number:
invitation Letter from Sponsor:

Now, you will have to make the application fees payment and I will later send you the official UK TIER 5 WORK PERMIT FORM and the UKBA SCREENING FORM as an allied country citizen you do not need to fill the immigration assessment form as you are already eligible. We might only need your thumbprints at the United kingdom border on entry into the UK.

Please, be swift with your response because you know documents after been processed by the UK immigration might delay a bit, give or take 2-3days, It would be advisable you start processes a bit ahead of time.

Have a Wonderful day.

Patricia Coleman.
United Kingdom Border Agency.
N.A.

p.coleman@workmail.com
790-871-7081

At this point my e-mail had turned into a Red Flag production factory and I became weary of the whole situation.

BEHOLD THE MIGHTY POWER OF GOOGLE!

I popped Patricia Coleman, Border Agency into the search engine and the word SCAM began appearing everywhere.

As if to confirm my findings about an hour after Patricia’s e-mail, I received a third requesting that I complete the Tier 5 Work Permit paperwork and send it over. Once I had e-mailed the paperwork I would need to wire $1,000 USD in order to have the application processed.

Now hip to what was really going on, I decided to play things out just to see what happened.

At this point many e-mails had been exchanged with members of the organization and I had even spoken on the phone with one. I replied back to the request for the wire with:

Dear Phylis,

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I have received your request for $1,000 to be wired in order to expedite the Tier 5 Work Permit application in time for the conference in August. As I mentioned this additional cost will be added into my already quoted fee so that there is no loss on our end.

In reviewing your request with my attorney, I must ask that the fee be covered up front by your organization.

Please let me know if this will be possible so that we may continue forward with the contracts.

Best,

Josh

Within minutes I received a phone call from “Phylis” from 321-200-1024. 321 being a Florida area code.

I was told that because of the structure of the sponsorship for the conference, I would need to pay the application fee. I reminded her that “Edward Smith” had confirmed that my payment up front wouldn’t be a problem and that the $1,000 could be taken from the fee that I would be receiving with the signed contract.

She said she would have to check with Reverend Dunning and I would hear from her soon.

I then received an e-mail from “Dunning” requesting an immediate delivery of the money.

I responded back that I would not be able to front the money and that I was hesitant to continue with the engagement because I had heard about scams from UK churches involving speakers.

I received an e-mail back reading like a Sunday sermon assuring me that there wouldn’t be a problem.

I replied back terminating the agreement and promising to report them.

People I spoke with along the way were:

Pastor Thomas Edwards, First Baptist Church England Firstbaptistchurchengland@minister.com
Reverend Phil Dunning revphildunning@gmail.com
Edward Smith eechurch@hotmail.com
Patricia Coleman UK Border Agency p.coleman@workmail.com
Reverend Brian Moody revbrianmoody199@gmail.com
Phylis Kamps 321-200-1024, phyliskamps.church@gmail.com
Reverend Michael Silver rev.michaelsilver@gmail.com

I would caution other speakers to do their due diligence when receiving requests to work internationally. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

When in doubt- GOOGLE IT!

Have you ever received a scam e-mail? Share your tale!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net