Scam of the day – September 15, 2012 – Nude pictures of Princess Kate scam

Although it was only recently that I warned you about the dangers of searching online for nude pictures of Prince Harry, it bears repeating in the light of the publishing of paparazzi pictures of Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing topless at what she thought was a secluded villa in the French countryside.  Many people will be curious to see these photographs and identity thieves will take advantage of this curiosity to lure you into downloading keystroke logging malware programs on to your computer, laptop or smartphone and steal all of your personal information and make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

You may receive an email or a message on your Facebook page purportedly from a friend telling you to click on a link to get access to the pictures of Kate, but the emails are from identity thieves and even if the message appears to be from a true friend, their email or Facebook page may have been hacked into which is easy to do for an identity thief (or anyone else) to make you less suspicious.  NEVER click on links sending you to pictures such as this.  If you really want to see the pictures, go directly to legitimate websites that deal with this kind of material, such as www.tmz.com.

Scam of the day – September 14, 2012 – Dangerous celebrities online

It is not that Emma Watson, the young actress who is best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies is a particularly dangerous person.  She certainly is not known to be a martial arts expert.  However, interest in her is so high that many people find themselves going through search engines to dangerous websites that lure them into clicking on links that will download dangerous keystroke logging malware that can steal the information from your computer or install a virus on your computer.  In particular, looking for nude pictures or celebrity mishaps is a recipe for disaster.  These will often lead to your computer being infected   In fact, McAfee, the computer security company ranks the most dangerous celebrities each year and determined that looking for Emma Watson photographs, videos and downloads on line brought a whopping 12.6% chance of downloading spyware, viruses, or malware.

TIPS

Polonius was right in Hamlet when he told his son that he would be judged by the company he kept.  It is still good advice.  When you are looking for videos and stories about celebrities, stick to legitimate websites that you know will not be likely to cause you to download malware or other viruses.  If you need gossip, stay with the legitimate websites such as www.tmz.com.

Scam of the day – September 13, 2012 – Foreign investment Ponzi scheme

Recently Carmelo Provenzano and Daniel Dragan pleaded guilty to crimes related to operating a Ponzi scheme through which they scammed investors out of millions of dollars.  They lured their victims into investing in two phony hedge funds “Caxton Capital Management” and CCP Pro Consulting, Inc.” that they claimed brought returns of more than 170% through the use of a secret computer algorithm that directed their investments in foreign currencies.  Their scam was remarkably similar to the original scam of Charles Ponzi who said he had a secret formula that took advantage of fluctuations in the values of foreign currencies.  As with Ponzi, early investors of Provenzano and Dragan got paid from the funds invested by later investors, which gave the investment the appearance of legitimacy while the two then took most of the money to fund a lavish lifestyle.

TIPS

It bears repeating.  If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.  Anyone being promised a return of 170% should be skeptical.  Additionally, you should never invest in anything that you do not understand, a mistake that investors have made in many Ponzi schemes including the Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff.    It also is helpful to check out the history of the people asking for your investment dollars as well as never invest with anyone unless there is an independent custodian who holds the investment in order to avoid having the same person both manage and hold the investment which is a recipe for disaster since it makes it easy for the scammer to hide his or her crimes.

Scam of the day – September 12, 2012 – Lawyer scam

Later this Fall, Nigerian Emmanuel Ekhator will be going on trial in the Federal District Court for Pennsylvania on charges that he stole more than 32 million dollars from lawyers using a simple, but effective scam against law firms that should know better.  The way the scam works is that American law firms are contacted by people claiming they need representation collecting a lawsuit settlement check.  The law firms that fall for this scam collect the settlement check in the form of a bank check, deposit the check in their firm’s escrow account, deduct their fee and wire the remainder to the “client.”  Many of these scams have been traced to Nigeria and to Nigerians living in Canada as well as Japan and South Korea.

TIPS

This scam works on the same basis as the mystery shopper scam where the victim receives a counterfeit check, deposits the check into his or her account and then sends some of the money from the check back to the scammer.  The key is that a bank will give provisional credit for the check in the account of the victim after just a few days so it will appear that the check has been cleared, however, the check does not officially clear, or in the case of a counterfeit check not clear for a few weeks after which time the provisional credit is rescinded and the victim is left having wired good money of the victim to the scammer.  The key to avoiding this scam is to contact the bank issuing the check deposited by phone to make sure that the check is legitimate and that there are funds to cover the check in that account.  Further, do not send any funds in such a situation until the check you are given has fully cleared.

Scam of the day – September 11, 2012 – Spearphishing

By now, most people are aware of the scam tactic referred to as “phishing,” by which you receive an email purportedly from a legitimate company or government agency that has all of the appearances of being a true and legitimate communication from the company or agency, but in fact is from an identity thief who under the pretext of a problem with your account or some other such emergency lures you into clicking on a link contained in the email, which unbeknownst to you downloads harmful malware on to your computer, such as keystroke logging programs, sometimes called Trojan Horses that will steal all of the information from your computer and lead to your becoming a victim of identity theft.  Most often these phishing emails are not directed at you by name, but rather to you as “customer” or “consumer.”  They also may appear to come from companies with which you do not do business as from a bank where you have no accounts.  However, with the epidemic of hacking of large companies and governmental agencies, many identity thieves are able to use the hacked information to send you a personal phony email that contains your name and is definitely from a company or agency with which you do business making you more likely to respond to the urging to click on the dangerous link contained in the email.  This type of targeted phishing is called “spearphishing” and it is extremely dangerous.

TIPS

Never click on links in emails unless you are absolutely sure they are legitimate.  If you get such an email from a company, you should always be skeptical and make sure that you call the company or federal agency before considering clicking on the link to confirm whether or not the email is legitimate.  Merely because the email uses your name and even your account number does not mean that the email is legitimate.

Scam of the day – September 10, 2012 – Smart Phone Scams

Although many of us are very cognizant of protecting our computers from the slings and arrows of outrageous hackers and identity thieves many people do not take the same security precautions with our smart phone, tablets and other portable devices.  Many people use these devices for making purchases online, doing online banking and other financial transactions as well as storing sensitive personal information.  If your portable device is hacked, it can lead to a devastating identity theft.

TIPS

Protect your portable device with a complex and unique password so that if your device is physically lost or stolen, the information contained in it will be secure.  Also get a good encryption app.  Google Play has many good encryption apps for androids.  The premium form of the app Lookout, which for only $29.99 a year, has a feature that continually scans your other apps for viruses or malware and can also lock your phone remotely or eliminate all of your stored data if your device is lost or stolen.

Scam of the day – September 9, 2012 – Identity theft risks of school children

Young children have become prime targets of identity thieves because the law requires children to have Social Security numbers, yet they rarely are involved with credit.  An identity thief who is able to obtain a child’s name and Social Security number can leverage that information into identity theft and obtain credit as well as  make large purchases while ruining the credit of the child who may not be aware that the crime has occurred until the child is much older and applies for financial aid, a car loan or some other financial transaction.  Often the perpetrators of this crime are family members, baby sitters or others who may have easy access to the child’s information.  Other times personal information gathered about your child by his or her school or an extracurricular program such as sports or music becomes the source of the problem if they do not properly protect the security of your child’s information.

TIPS

Guard your child’s Social Security number at home.  Keep any documents with the number on them locked in a secure location.  Find out from your child’s school or other organization that is gathering such information what they are doing to protect that information as well as with whom they share that information.  Federal law requires schools to notify parents about the school’s directory information policy and to offer families the right to opt out of the release of any data on their child to third parties.

Scam of the day – September 8, 2012 – iTunes bill scam

Recently Theresa Brown was shocked to receive an e mail with a huge bill for her iTunes account.  Like so many phishing scams, where you receive an email that appears entirely legitimate, the bill indicated that if she disputed the charge, she needed to click on a link contained in the email.  Fortunately, Ms. Brown was savvy enough to check her credit card records for the credit card that she had provided to Apple from which her iTunes charges were automatically deducted and found that there were no charges.  It was then that she realized for sure that this was a scam.

TIPS

If Theresa Brown had reacted in panic upon receiving such a huge bill and clicked on the link contained in the email that looked entirely legitimate, she would have ended up downloading a keystroke logging program on her computer that would have stolen all of her personal information from her computer and taken the first step toward her becoming a victim of identity theft.  NEVER click on links contained in emails from companies with which you do business no matter how legitimate they look.  You can never be sure if it is legitimate or a phishing scam.  If you have any questions, call the company at a number that you know is accurate.