Pennsylvania State Police warn of scams relating to Winter Olympics

Scammers may exploit the winter games to steal identities.

According to a release from the Pennsylvania State Police, several potential scams revolving around the nation’s attention to the 2018 Olympic winter games have the potential to pop up as the event gets under way.

Emails appearing to come from the United States Olympic Committee offering to pay victims $350 a week to display Olympic material on their vehicles are one of the scams police say they expect. Checks are sent to those who reply, police say, which are written for amounts over $350. The checks are counterfeit and any money over $350, which the victims are instructed to wire back to the sender, are deducted from the victim’s bank account.

Texts and emails containing malware are another way scammers attempt to gain access to devices for fraudulent purposes. Communication appearing to contain updates, photos, and videos of Olympic events are clicked on, introducing malware or ransomware onto the victim’s device, which is then used to steal identity, police said.

The “Olympic Lottery” is another way scammers attempt to capitalize on victims’ interest in the games. Emails telling victims that they’ve won cash and a trip to South Korea to see the games through the “Olympic Lottery” appear to come from known Olympic sponsors such as McDonalds or Coca-Cola. Victims are asked to pay taxes or administrative fees to claim the fraudulent prizes, and victims never collect any prizes after doing so.

Malicious apps that riddle devices with malware, found outside the Google Play Store or the App Store for Apple devices, are common and geared toward the Olympics. Counterfeit Merchandise is another way to make shady money off the games, police said. Authentic TeamUSA merchandise, they said, will be offered on the TeamUSA website and can be paid for using secure payment methods.

Police advise that people not cash a check that is more than the amount of any purported “prizes,” not click on links or download attachments without being sure the source is legitimate, recognize that taxes and fees on prizes are generally deducted before the prize is awarded or owed to the tax entity by the winner themselves and not handled through third parties, and use credit cards when ordering online rather than debit cards, which typically offer less protection.

If you feel you’ve been the victim of a scam, police suggest that you contact your local law enforcement agency, file a compliant with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov, or file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

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