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Spike in scams targeting Vermont victims - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Spike in scams targeting Vermont victims

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Keith Pillsbury has been here before, and once again he's picking up the pieces after being targeted by email hackers.

"I just knew that I was going to have to do a lot of extra work getting my account passwords changed," Pillsbury said.

Everyone in his contacts received an email saying he was out of the country and needed financial help. But it wasn't true.

"'I'm here to finalize a contract, but I'm having some difficulties doing that now. I need to raise a fee of $2,900,'" Pillsbury read. "That's nothing that I would ever do to anybody."

It turns out Pillsbury and his contacts were targeted by online scammers.

"It's very difficult to track email communications. Many of them are coming from outside of the country, so it makes it virtually impossible for our government to track them," said Janet Murnane, the director of the Vermont Consumer Assistance Program.

Pillsbury says the first time he was hacked happened when he was planning a trip out of the country. As he prepares for another international vacation, he says he sees a pattern. The Vermont attorney general's office says this kind of privacy breach is one they see often.

"There's also the grandparents scam that's still happening, where grandparents are told that a nephew or a granddaughter or a grandson is in trouble in another country and they need to send money, so that one is still happening as well," Murnane said.

"The whole idea of your privacy being invaded, I think, is what is the biggest effect here," Pillsbury said.

One major contributor to people falling victim is social media. Posts sharing information about vacation plans can tip off scammers and make you their next target.

"Don't say on your Facebook account that you're going to Spain. Then what happens is your friends are contacted and there's an email saying that you're in trouble in Spain and you need them to send money," Murnane said.

The best way to protect online information? Change passwords immediately and keep firewalls updated.

"You never want to send money to anyone unless you've contacted them directly at a number that you know is correct. You never want to send money in response to an email or a phone call," Murnane said.

Anyone who has been targeted by a scammer should contact the Vermont Consumer Assistance Program -- https://www.uvm.edu/consumer/

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