What could a boarding pass, DMV, and dogs have in common during Covid? They are all current scams being implimented during Covid upon our CV neighbors. With Covid came Stay Home orders. This means more people are home to answer their phones. Which segment of the population is most gullible to scam calls? Why the elderly, of course.

Like most people, you ask, "Phishing scams at the DMV?" The DMV has warned California drivers of a phishing scam using text messaging related to REAL ID. The DMV warns us that they never ask for personal info related to your driver’s license number. However, during Covid there are scammers, allegedly from the DMV, requesting an update on your contact information for the new REAL ID Compliance. Don’t get sucked in!

An updated mailing address and phone number are requested and when drivers click the button, the message “Action Needed: Due to an update on our regulation complaint, every California DMV customer must update their contact information. Update now at …" and then a phony link is inserted. All Coachella Valley drivers must be warned that this is NOT from the DMV.

When the DMV does text, it is based on an action initiated by the driver. The DMV never requests personal information like this, just as the IRS never calls you. It is just not relevant to your DMV record. So, if you receive a notice like this just delete it. Such notices can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint. For phishing emails, forward them to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at [email protected]. Phishing text messages should be forwarded to SPAM (7726).

It is important to note that as of last year, the US Department of Homeland Security will require a valid passport or other federally approved document, like a REAL ID driver’s license or ID card, to board flights within the USA. Before you apply for the REAL ID, you should fill out the online application and bring the confirmation code and document with you to a DMV. More info can be obtained at REALID.dmv.ca.gov.

BEWARE OF YOUR AIRLINE BOARDING PASS. You ask how an airline boarding pass left behind or thrown away, can be a problem? Why should we not leave them on the plane? If you look closely you will see a QR code on the ticket. A hacker, with a smart phone, can scan the QR code and get all your info and change your pin. Really, no kidding!

Seriously, dog scams? Most of us are aware that the demand for dogs has skyrocketed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. That is very understandable, as the imposed isolation caused many to understand the value that companionship pets can provide. In fact, the demand has increased to the point that some shelters have stopped accepting applications to foster animals and breeders say that the waitlists for puppies have quadrupled.

Unfortunately as demand for pets increase, so do the online scams. Our friendly scammers set up phony websites or post fake advertisements for dogs that don’t exist. This is similar to some of the real estate scams that took place during Coachella and other concerts. People would offer to rent a non-existent home or one that was rented to someone else or owned by someone else.

Reports on these scams have tripled since the time when Covid was not yet in “fashion”. The scammers will even offer to ship the dogs for a fee paid upfront. That adds more money to their successful scams.

After the prospective pet owners place an order, the sellers often require additional fees to handle shipping issues or for other reasons. Some buyers have lost hundreds of dollars before realizing the pet was never really going to arrive. This is similar to the advanced costs requested before the scammer can send you the lottery winnings that are YOURS. Non-profit consumer protection organizations report that the usual amount of money lost due to these scams has risen. These scammers play on the buyers' emotions and vulnerability.

Pet scams can be the most emotional, and to avoid these scams you should try to adopt from a pet shelter before opting for an online deal; be circumspect of deals that sound too good to be true; research the price for the breed you are looking for, as deeply discounted prices should raise your suspicion; check for stock photos; avoid sending money through unusual means like wiring, sending gift cards, etc. and double check the registration organization the seller mentions.

Some sellers try to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to not meet in person. However, a genuine breeder will agree to talk on the phone or video chat. Scammers are likely to try and handle everything through e-mail, as that way their location is more difficult to track. The bottom line for February 2022 is that you must stay vigilant.