FBI Warns of Spam, Lottery Scams and Potassium Iodide Price Gouging

FBI scams listThe latest federal scam alert includes virus-laden spam claiming to be from the Automated Clearing House network; new lottery scams by Jamaican gangs; and reports of overpriced potassium iodide.

The alerts by the IC3, a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), reflect recent cyber-crime trends and new takes on existing online scams. We've summarized the three new threats below:Automated Clearing House Spam

If you find the following message in your inbox, make sure to delete it immediately and do not click on the enclosed link:

"The ACH transaction, recently initiated from your checking account (by you or any other person), was cancelled by the Electronic Payments Association. Click on the link to view details."

The above message is one variation of a spam campaign using spoofed e-mail addresses to make it look like it was sent from a legitimate organization, and recently came to the attention of the IC3 and National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA).

Masquerading as the Automated Clearing House (ACH), the IC3 warns, is a favorite ploy of phishing scammers who use social engineering tactics to fool consumers into revealing enough personal information to leave them open to identity theft.

According to IC3 analysis, the latest exploitation of the ACH system is part of a new Zeus Botnet spam campaign. The links in the spam email takes users to websites that infect victims with malicious software. The Zeus Botnet, the IC3 notes, has historically been used by fraudsters committing ACH fraud.

New Twists on an Old Scam

Be wary of calls from Jamaican scammers claiming you've won the lottery.

According to complaints filed with the IC3, callers notified victims they'd won the lottery, and were instructed to wire funds to cover various fees before they could collect their winnings. The callers, who were identified as Jamaican through their accents and caller ID, also threatened many victims with physical violence if they refused to wire the money.

Although lottery scams are nothing new, con artist are coming up with new ways to defraud their victims. For instance, The IC3 recently received a complaint about an elderly victim whose family managed to halt the transfer of funds to the thieves. Undeterred, the scammer sent a taxi to the victim's home to take him to a retailer that offered wire transfer services, a ruse that failed.

In other cases, once elderly victims realized they were being conned, the scammers asked local law enforcement to conduct "well-being" checks on their potential victims, apparently in hopes they would coerce the consumers into wiring them the money after all. The ploy backfires when victims informed the police about the scams during the courtesy checks.

Potassium Iodide Price Gouging
In the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan and resultant fears of widespread fallout from radiation, the IC3 has received numerous complaints about price gouging of potassium iodide supplements.

Potassium iodide is normally absorbed by the body via daily nutrition, but the thyroid is incapable of distinguishing iodine types, and readily absorbs both radioactive and stable iodine. Potassium iodide fills the thyroid with stable iodine so it can't absorb any more iodine -- including radioactive iodine -- for 24 hours.

A variety of websites sell potassium iodide online, and prices are generally under $10 for a bottle of pills or a vial of liquid potassium iodide. However, reports indicate prices in the $20-$50 range, as well as a few online sellers peddling tablets for $200 to $300 a bottle.

Potassium iodide can be found in prescription and over-the-counter formats, but the IC3 warns users to consult with a physician regarding dosage amounts and any potential drug interactions or side effects before taking any.
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