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Hustlers’ coupons look and are too good to be true

Fake coupons that promise deep discounts at online stores are making the rounds on social media sites, according to Scam Detector.

The ads have a professional look, with stock photography and “a good-looking design,’ and you might see them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Craigslist.

The message is that a particular online shop is closing down immediately and is having a final blowout sale, with promised discounts of up to 70 percent. Also, the business is throwing in free delivery if you purchase over a certain amount, according to Scam Detector.

The upshot, if you follow through, is that the site will ask for your credit card information but will not deliver any of the items you order, the site says.

One way to check on the legitimacy of an ad is to do an online search using the company’s name and the word “scam.” Also, take a look at the company’s website and see if there are any other forms of contact besides just email.

You can also take a look at the address and make sure it includes “https” rather than just “http.” The “s” indicates an extra layer of security.

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Several readers called regarding my column on scammers who have been trying to make a buck off of hail damage done recently to vehicles and structural roofs. I neglected to mention that a good resource for checking on whether a company is legitimate is the BBB’s directory at www.bbb.org/.

It evaluates many businesses nationwide, with a letter grade based on certification, customer reviews and complaints and other information it gets directly from the business and from public data sources. It’s always a good tool to help research a company and decide whether you want to do business with it.

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The FBI is warning that smart devices meant to make life simpler are serving to make things simpler for hackers, too.

The problem is with so-called “Internet of Things” devices that communicate with the internet to send or receive data. Examples are smart garage door openers, routers, wireless radio links and audio/video streaming devices.

The problem, says the FBI, is that unsecured smart items have vulnerabilities that can be used as a gateway for hacking. They also “provide a layer of anonymity by transmitting all internet requests through the victim device’s IP address,” the FBI says.

Among the dastardly deeds hackers are committing in this way are: sending spam emails; “obfuscating network traffic;” masking internet browsing and buying or selling illegal images or goods, the FBI says.

The agency warns that it can be difficult to detect whether your device has been infiltrated but be suspicious if you see a major spike in monthly internet usage or a larger-than-usual internet bill or if your device suddenly becomes slower or inoperable.

Protect yourself in these ways:

• Reboot devices regularly, as most malware is stored in memory but is removed when you reboot.

• Change default usernames and passwords.

• Use anti-virus regularly and ensure it is up to date.

• Ensure all IoT devices are up to date and security patches are incorporated.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210.

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