LARAMIE – In its second year of tracking Wyoming reported scams, the CyberWyoming Alliance announced its latest data showing familiar brands are often impersonated to lure victims
Brand impersonation was prevalent in 2021 with Amazon, Microsoft, Norton (antivirus software), PayPal, and McAfee (antivirus software) rounding out the top 5 brands. According to Proofpoint’s State of the Phish 2021 Report, Amazon’s and Microsoft’s brands were most often abused nationwide.
“It is important to note that it isn’t just the large, nationwide companies whose brands were impersonated,” said Laura Baker, President of the CyberWyoming Alliance. “Even local churches in Wyoming have been impersonated.”
Most scams reported by Wyomingites are what the CyberWyoming Alliance labels the “fakes.” These include fake delivery notices on text or email impersonating UPS to a fake craft fair advertised by a scammer for the Gillette community. Fake notifications for user id and password suspensions for well-known brands, fake product offers, and fake product sales top Wyoming’s chart.
“If you’ve ever felt that small sense of panic because you got an email from Amazon confirming a purchase for hundreds of dollars that you didn’t make, then you have received a fake product sale notification,” said Baker.
The CyberWyoming Alliance encourages everyone to develop the practice of opening a new browser window and typing in the website address, logging into your account, and checking your balance instead of calling or following the links in the email. Clicking on links in emails from well-known brands can be dangerous because of brand abuse.
The next highest category of scams reported by Wyomingites over the past two years involved some sort of money trade, Baker said. “For instance, if you help move this money or donate this money to charities, then you will get a percentage,” she said. “These often disguise themselves as foreign funds found, dying widows, and foreign government impersonations.”
Baker said the third most reported in Wyoming are scams around winning a prize or taking a survey to win a prize. The surveys often ask you questions that could help fraudsters determine what your password reset questions are like “where did you go to high school?” Usually, the surveys or prizes are disguised with well-known branding, and many have been reported impersonating stores like Sam’s Club and online services like Netflix.
Finally, government impersonation scams have been widely reported across the State, Baker said. “These are usually via phone and the bad actors claim to be from the Social Security Administration, Medicare, or the IRS,” she said. “They make arrest threats if you don’t pay or provide sensitive information. One of the most widely reported phone scams was “we are changing your Medicare card so please verify your personal information.”
A free scam awareness program that anyone in Wyoming can take advantage of is subscribing to the CyberWyoming Alliance Hacker’s Brief, a weekly report of scams seen in the state as reported by Wyomingites. Statistics show that prior knowledge of a scam reduces the chances of a potential victim engaging with the scammer. (Exposed to Scams: What separates victims from non-victims? BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, Stanford Center on Longevity and Finra Investor Education Foundation. Published September 2019). In addition, Wyoming AARP and the CyberWyoming Alliance publish senior alert flyers for 2/3 of the senior center statewide as a free service, based off of the Wyoming reports of scams.
To report a scam, describe the scam phone call or forward texts and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.