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Written by Rachelle Haughn
In the Air
Column
As seen in the November 2018 issue of
Model Aviation.


Email, internet, and telephone scams are nothing new to Americans. News stories about identity theft and people overseas convincing others to wire them money are commonplace today. You might not expect these scammers to infiltrate the hobby that you love, but they have. And it has been going on for some time.

AMA wants you to be aware that some emails appearing to come from AMA, its officials, or members of your club, in fact, are not legitimate. Often, these messages ask for money to be wired or have a link to click on. These are scams or phishing schemes.

Be cautious when visiting websites that appear to be for the FAA’s UAS registration. Only one of these websites is legitimate; the rest were devised to steal your money and could cost you at least 10 times what it should cost to register your aircraft with the FAA.

When a club or member is scammed, the AMA Headquarters is often one of the first places that they call. AMA has received some reports this year from club members who believe that they received emails from fellow members. These messages instruct someone to wire money to a bank account or to a company. The email address appears to be legitimate, but it is not. This year alone, AMA has received reports of AMA clubs losing thousands of dollars in such schemes and the clubs were unable to recoup it.

Some individuals received an email in September that appeared to have come from AMA and asked for money for a sick child who needed an operation. The message, which includes the AMA and Go Fund Me logos, asks for donations to help a child named “Jason.” This email also is a scam and did not come from AMA. If you received this email, please delete it immediately.

A scammer has also been writing emails to individuals asking for their phone numbers. The emails appear to come from Chad Budreau, AMA’s interim executive director. These are fake.

Keith Sessions, AMA’s chief financial officer, and Chad have some advice for members. Keith urges members to never click on a link in an email because that could lead to a security breach. Also, personal or confidential information, such as Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, etc., should not be provided through email or over the telephone.

“Always be cautious when an email asks for personal information or money,” Chad stated. “Even if the email appears legitimate, please investigate. Sometimes scammers will use email addresses that are identical to someone else or very similar (perhaps as a minor spelling change). This doesn’t necessarily mean someone’s identity is stolen. It is easy to mimic an email to appear as from someone else.”

The FAA also released some advice this year for how to avoid UAS registration scams.

“There are a number of entities that offer to help drone owners and operators file an application for a registration number. Some attempt to mimic the look of the FAA’s website with similar graphic design and even the FAA logo, or suggest they are somehow ‘approved’ by the agency. They aren’t—and you could be wasting your money.

“The FAA neither regulates these entities nor will speculate on their legitimacy. However, we have recently received reports of vendors charging exorbitant fees up to $150 for this service. The actual FAA registration fee is $5. For that charge, hobbyists receive one identification number for all the drones they own. All others pay the registration fee for each drone they intend to operate.

“We strongly advise you to avoid registering your unmanned aircraft anywhere but at the FAA Drone Zone. It’s the only way to make sure your drone is legally registered and that you’ve gotten your money’s worth.”

According to Angie Martin, AMA Government Affairs and Public Relations assistant, the FAA registration scam websites began appearing when drone registration was first introduced in December 2015. Since that time, AMA has received hundreds of calls (if not more) from unsuspecting members who were duped into paying a hefty registration fee.

“If they are on any website besides www.faa.gov, they are in the wrong place,” Angie stated. “The fee for recreational users flying under Section 336 is $5 for all of your aircraft and there is not an option to buy labels or impose any additional fees. When a member calls in, my advice is to dispute the larger charge through their credit card company.”

For more information about how to protect yourself or your club from scams and phishing schemes, read Keith’s column in the October 2018 issue of Model Aviation, stay current with news reports and social media posts about scams, or visit AMA’s Government Affairs and Public Relations page at www.modelaircraft.org/about-ama/advocacy.

If you or your club fall victim to a scam, report it to local law enforcement.

—Rachelle Haughn
rachelleh@modelaircraft.org






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