Scam of the day – July 16, 2012 – Jury duty scam

Some scams keep repeating and with good reason – they work.  Jury duty scams have been with us for many years and they continue to be an effective scam.  They start when you receive a telephone call or a text message informing you that you have failed to report for jury duty and you are at risk of a substantial fine or even arrest.  You are given a number to call and when you do, the scammer then tells you he or she needs to confirm your personal information including your Social Security number.  Some particularly blatent scammers will even ask for your credit card number.  Why you would need that to confirm your identity for jury duty purposes is hard to imagine.  Anyone who provides the information requested will become a victim of identity theft as the information is used to obtain credit, goods and services in the name of the victim.

TIPS

Courts will not contact you by the phone or a text message.  Never give your personal information to anyone whom you are not sure is legitimate.  If you have a question about jury duty, call the number for the court that you know to be accurate, not the one that is provided to you by the scammer.

Scam of the day – July 15, 2012 – Phony computer repair scam

One of the latest computer scams now going on involves the victim receiving a telephone call from a scammer posing as a representative of a well known computer company who informs the victim that the victim’s computer is infected with a dangerous virus and that the company needs to access the computer remotely in order to clear the computer of the virus.  The scammer then asks for the victim’s password and other information in order to get access.  Unfortunately, rather than clear the computer of a virus, what the scammer will do is actually install viruses and malware such as keystroke logging programs that can lead to your becoming a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Never trust anyone on the phone to be who they say they are.  In addition, you will not be called by companies to inform you that your computer has been infected.  Don’t give personal information including passwords to anyone unless you are absolutely sure who they are.  If you get a communication that indicates it is from your computer company, you should verify it with a phone call or email to the computer company at an address or phone number that you know is accurate.

Scam of the day – July 14, 2012 – More Yahoo dangers

Data breaches such as occurred this week with Yahoo, which shockingly did not even encrypt the data of its users often lead to even more scams through the use of the email addresses of the hacked individuals to send out phishing emails to unsuspecting victims who see an email from a trusted source that may contain a link that they click on to and unwittingly download malware such as keystroke logging programs that can steal all of the information off of your computer, such as your Social Security number, passwords, credit card numbers and more.  The risk of these types of phishing scams always increases following a large data breach such as the recent Yahoo, Formspring and LinkedIn data breaches.

TIPS

Always check with any website or company that will have information about you as to their own security.  Also do not store credit card numbers with companies that you do business with online.  It may be convenient for you to do so, but it exposes you to greater risk if there is a data breach.  Finally, never click on any link in an email even one from a friend until you have confirmed that it is legitimate by contacting the friend directly to make sure that it was he or she that sent it.  And even then you may wish to consider where they got the link to make sure that they are not unwittingly passing on malware to you.

Scam of the day – July 13, 2012 – Yahoo data breach and how to protect yourself

Data breaches are a fact of modern digital life.  This week hundreds of thousands of Yahoo users had their usernames and passwords stolen from one of their databases and just within the past month social network sites Formspring and LinkedIn had their databases hacked into resulting in the loss of personal information of millions more people.  It is important to remember that your own personal security is only as safe as the company with the weakest security that holds your information.  But there are things you can do to protect yourself.

TIPS

Do not give your Social security number to companies that request it unless you truly legally must do so.  Your Social Security number is the key to identity theft and can provide access to to your credit report which in turn can provide an identity thief with access to your credit.  Use complex passwords and use different passwords for each of your accounts so that if a breach occurs, not all of your accounts are in jeopardy.  It is easy to pick  a passowrd with numbers and letters and just vary it slightly from account to account.  Put a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if someone gets your Social Security number and name, they cannot get access to your credit report. With a credit freeze, you credit report can only be accessed through a PIN that you keep private.

Scam of the day – July 12, 2012 – New online loan scam

We all know to be careful when getting loans from online lenders who may be scammers.  One of the telltale signs that the lender may be a scammer is that they require advance fees before they lend the money.  Additionally, you may respond to a lender because you see their ad on a legitimate website or in other legitimate media.  It is important to remember that just because the media carrying the ad is legitimate, does not mean that the lender is legitimate.  But the new online loan scam involves people who have received online loans from legitimate companies who then receive calls from debt collectors hounding them for repayment.  The problem is that these debt collectors are scammers who have purchased the information about the borrower from the lender and the worse part is that this practice is entirely legal.  Anyone can buy that information, which is used for legitimate marketing purposes by honest companies, but is used by scammers to make you think you owe them money.

TIP

Never trust that the person on a phone call is who they say they are.  Never give personal information over the phone to someone if you are not absolutely sure who they are.  If someone calls you about an overdue loan on the phone ask them to send written documentation.  Keep good records as to how much you have borrowed, how much is owed and to whom it is owed so you won’t fall prey to a scammer.

Scam of the day – July 11, 2012 – Obama utility bill scam

A scam that is making its way around the country and scamming thousands of people involves scammers notifying their victims that the victims are eligible for a utility payment assistance program authorized by President Obama.  The victims are told that all they need to do is to register for the program by providing their Social Security number and other personal information.  They are then given bank account numbers and bank routing numbers to be used to pay electronically their utility bills.  One unfortunate reason that the scam has proved so successful for scammers is that when the utility companies receive the initial electronic payment, they apply the amount sent electronically to the bill of the scam victim so it appears for a while that the program is actually real.  However, once the electronic payment fails to clear, the payment is rescinded cancelling the payment and making the victim liable for late fees.  Meanwhile the victim has given his or her Social Security number and  personal information to the scammer that can be used to make the victim a further victim of identity theft.

TIPS

There is no such utility payment assistance program.  Do not fall for this scam.  If you are ever told that there is a federal or state program for which you are eligible for benefits, check out your eligibility on your own directly with the state or federal agencies involved.  Never give your personal information to anyone unless you are sure who they are.

Scam of the day – July 10, 2012 – Iraqi dinar scam

Trading and speculating in foreign currencies is a high risk, but potentially high reward investment activity.  It is a legal activity and people selling these investments must be registered with both state and federal agencies.  Recently there has been in upsurge in sales of the Iraqi dinar, the currency of Iraq.  Many of the sales are being done by unregistered scammers promising that when the Iraqi economy turns around in a few years you will make a tremendous profit  Unfortunately, no one knows if and when the Iraqi economy will improve and perhaps an even more significant problem is that the dinar is not a listed security anywhere and no govermental agency is directly supervising its trading.  Banks don’t even use it.

TIPS

Never invest in any investment that you do not totally understand and never invest without checking out the legitimacy of the person and company offering the investment.  In the case of the Iraqi dinar, you can’t even check out the investment because at the moment it is unregulated, which should be sufficient investigation in and of itself to tell you not to invest in it.

Scam of the day – July 9, 2012 – Extortion email scam

The FBI as well as Canadian law enforcement agencies are reporting an upsurge in an extortion type of malware that is unwittingly downloaded by victims on their computers through standard phishing tactics.  Once the malware is installed, the computer freezes and a message appears that the computer user has been identified by the Justice Department as accessing illegal child pornography or illegally downloading music.  In order to unlock the computer, the victim is told he or she must pay a $100 fine through the a prepaid money card service.  The problems don’t stop there, however, as the malware also may contain keystroke logging programs that can further make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

The first thing to remember is that you should not pay the demanded ransom.  Legitimate law enforcement does not make demands for payments in this fashion.  Have your computer security software do a scan to locate and remove the malware.  You may need to have a computer professional clear your computer of the malware.   People who have not maintained their computer’s security software and firewall up to date are the most at risk for this particular scam.

Scam of the day – July 8, 2012 – NACHA scam

NACHA is a company that processes an electronic payment system called the Automated Clearing House Network (ACH).  It is a legitimate company.  But if you, like I, received an official appearing email purporting  to be from NACHA informing you that an electronic transaction you did from your bank account was rejected, you should immediately delete the email and not click on the link to a Transaction Report that will download malware on to your computer if you click on the link.

TIPS

I am sure that many of you, again like I, use electronic payments and might be tempted to respond to the email by clicking on the link, however, some of the telltale signs that this is a scam is the lack of any information other than your email address that indicates that this email relates to you.  Perhaps the most telling sign, however, is that with a little research, you would find that NACHA does not send communications in any form whatsoever to people about individual ACH transactions.  Never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure it is legitimate and have done your research.  In this case, I did it for you.

Scam of the day – July 7, 2012 – Affordable Care Act scams

It didn’t take long following the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Constitutionality of Obama Care (The Affordable Health Care Act) for scammers to take advantage of the ruling to start scamming people using the Supreme Court’s ruling as the hook.  The scams are taking the form of telephone calls and emails from scammers posing as health insurance companies who tell their victims that they only have a short time to enroll in new health care policies.  These may be attractive, particularly to people who are either uninsured or under-insured.  Unfortunately, these insurance policies are scams that will take your money while not providing you with any significant services if they provide anything at all.  Other times, the scammers are just seeking information from you to make you  a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Health insurance is a complicated matter.  Never make a quick decision about health insurance.  Legitimate companies are also not likely to contact you by phone or by email.  Never consider a health insurance company until you have checked them out with your own state’s department of insurance to make sure they are legitimate and even if they are legitimate make sure you understand all of the terms of any policy that you are considering.