Scam Alert: New Phone Scam Uses a Real Text From Your Bank to Trick You

Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images
Tero Vesalainen/iStock via Getty Images

If you're hesitant to pick up your phone when you see an unknown number (or a familiar number), that's understandable. Fraudulent phone calls have reached an all-time high in recent years and scammed Americans out of billions of dollars. But no matter how savvy you think you are, it helps to be aware of the newest tricks criminals are using before you fall victim to them. One new scam tactic, reported by Lifehacker, uses your bank's real phone number to encourage you to surrender your PIN.

Legal.io CEO Peter Gunst recently shared his experience with the bank scam on Twitter. "Was just subjected to the most credible phishing attempt I've experienced to date," he wrote on the platform.

It starts with the scammers calling your phone claiming to be your bank. They explain that someone has attempted to use your card in a faraway location. When you tell them it wasn't you who made the purchase, they'll claim to block the transaction and ask for your member number. This isn't an obvious red flag: Unlike an account number or PIN, the scam artists can't use your member number alone to rip you off.

But they can use this number to reset your bank account password and trigger a verification code text that's sent to your cellphone—which is what happened to Gunst. The callers say they're sending a “verification PIN” and ask you to read it back to them. Because the text is a legitimate code sent from your actual bank, it's easy to fall for the ruse, but what you're actually doing is providing the scammers with the information they need to change your bank login information.

The final step of the scam is where Gunst noticed something wasn't right. The callers ask for your PIN, claiming they need it to block the number while actually hoping to get the final piece of the puzzle needed to infiltrate your account. Incoming calls claiming to be from your bank should always be treated with caution, but a caller asking you to share your PIN over the phone is a good indication you should hang up. If you suspect the call is legitimate, tell them you'll call back so you know you're in contact with a number you can trust—a real bank employee won't try to stop you.

Want to feel safer the next time you answer the phone? Here are some more scam tricks to be aware of.

[h/t Lifehacker]

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Squirrels Are Assaulting Porch Pumpkins Across the Country—Here's How to Stop It

Squirrels are looking to pumpkins for sustenance this year.
Squirrels are looking to pumpkins for sustenance this year.
Ian Lee, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you ever come home to discover a cherished Halloween pumpkin destroyed, don’t assign blame to any neighborhood vandals. This year, it might be the work of squirrels.

According to a series of news reports from around the country, the bushy-tailed rodents that once occupied a place of esteem as a pet for President Warren G. Harding have taken to assaulting and defacing pumpkins left out on porches for Halloween by using them as a source for food.

What makes this year different? There’s been speculation that fewer acorns might have squirrels foraging for food more than usual. Another theory is that reduced traffic in parks and restaurants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic might mean fewer scraps for squirrels to gather.

In New York and Pennsylvania, a drought may be to blame. Charlie Todd, owner of Chamberlain Acres Garden Center in Southport, New York, told 18 News that a lack of rainfall reduced the amount of available vegetation squirrels normally dine out on.

Can this squirrel crime wave be stopped? A number of solutions are circulating online, from spraying pumpkins with soap and hot sauce to coating it with a sticky solution. But if a squirrel is desperate enough, it’s probably going to take what it can get. Some people leave out other snacks, like peanuts, to deter the squirrel from munching on the gourd, but leaving food out can attract other animals, too. If you have a prized pumpkin and fear its destruction, displaying it inside your home is probably your safest bet.