Scam of the day – May 11, 2012 – Dangers of hotel internet connections

The FBI has just issued a warning to people traveling out of the country about malware being secretly installed on the laptop computers of people staying at hotels offering Internet connections in their hotel rooms.  The installation of the malware, which has included dangerous keystroke logging programs that can steal all of the information from your computer occurs when in the course of connecting to the hotel Internet system a pop up appears informing you that you need to update a commonly used software product.  The software the pop up refers to is legitimate.  This pop up is not.  It is a phony pop up and when you click on it to install the newest update, instead you are downloading dangerous malware.

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Update your software at home or at work on your own Internet service to avoid these problems.  If you need to update your service while abroad, go directly to the website of the software vendor and download a safe version.

Scam of the day – May 10, 2012 – Free trip scam

As we approach the summer vacation period, the scammers will be out in droves taking advantage of people looking to get a deal on a great vacation.  One of the scams now quite prevalent involves you being notified by email, telephone or regular maili that you have won a free vacation.  You may even have entered a contest to win such a free vacation at a booth set up at a fair or other public gathering.  But be wary because many of these free trip contests are scams.  You may be asked to pay large fees in order to claim your “free” vacation or you may be asked to give a credit card number just for identification purposes.  Of course, the credit card number is not used for identification purposes, but to make you a victim of identity theft.

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Before giving any information to anyone in regard to a trip you have “won,” contact the hotel, airline or any other actual provider of services involved with the trip directly to confirm whether or not the trip that you have won is legitimate.  And even if you actually have won a trip, always read the fine print to see how “free” your trip actually is.

Scam of the day – May 9, 2012 – Phony job scams

With more and more people looking for employment including now many college students looking for summer jobs, scammers are focusing more attention to scamming these new job applicants.  Just because a company may be one that you are familiar with doesn’t mean that the advertisement to which you may be responding was placed by the actual company.  Always check with the actual company by phone to confirm any job openings and advertisements.  More and more job seekers are going on line to legitimate and illegitimate online employment agencies.  Merely because a company is listed by a legitimate online employment agency does not mean that the company advertising online with them is legitimate.  Many of the scammers posing as potential employers or employment services will ask for upfront application fees.  They also will ask for your Social Security number and bank account information so that they can directly deposit your salary check into your bank account.

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Always independently check out whether the company with which you are dealing is a legitimate company.  The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start.  You can also just Google their name with the word “scam” next to it for further inquiry.  Even if the company checks out as legitimate, you should contact them directly to confirm that any job opening being advertised is legitimate and not just a scammer posing as the legitimate company.  Also, never pay up front fees to employment companies even if they promise a “guaranteed” refund.  Finally and most importantly, never give your Social Security number and bank account number to any company you have only had contact with online.  You should also be careful about the personal information that you include on your resume to make sure that it does not contribute to possible identity theft.

Scam of the day – May 8, 2012 – Jamaican lottery scam arrests

Although the country of Nigeria comes to mind when we think about countries from which many scams originate, as I warned you in my “scam of the day” of April 18, 2012, Jamaica has become a hotbed of phony lottery scams.  This week the Jamaican Assistant Commmissioner of Police gave a speech in which he indicated that lottery scams have become the most significant contributer to an increased murder rate in the St. James parish of Jamaica.  On the same day of Commissioner Williams’ speech, Jamaican police announced the arrest of six Jamaicans for scamming Americans through a telemarketing lottery scam.

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You cannot win a contest you have not entered.  You don’t have to pay fees to receive winnings in legitimate contests and lotteries.  Another common lottery scam is when you are told that they have to collect the income taxes on the prize.  This is a scam too.  Either the taxes are deduted from your prize or you pay them directly to the IRS.  No contest sponsor receives a payment from you for taxes.  The Jamaican scam has preyed partiularly on the elderly who should never trust anyone on the telephone telling them that they have won a contest.

Scam of the day – May 7, 2012 – New Amazon email scam

Recently a large  number of people have been receiving emails purporting to be from Amazon with “Amazon.com Your Cancellation” in the subject line.  Even though the email may appear to be legitimate, it is not.  It is just an example of phishing.  The email will advise you to click on links in the emails to verify your status.  Under no circumstances click on any links or open any attachments.  Downloading an attachment or clicking on a link inside the phony email can result in malware being installed on your computer that can read all of your computer’s contents including important personal information that can lead to identity theft.  Also, do not respond to the email by providing any information asked.  That too can lead to you becoming a victim of identity theft.

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The real Amazon.com will never send you an unsolicited attachment nor will it ever ask you to reply with personal information.  The real Amazon.com will not ask you to verify account information through a link in the email.    If you do have a present active order with Amazon or any question whether such an email is legitimate, merely go to www.amazon.com, click into “Your Account” and you can get proper information.

Scam of the day – May 6, 2012 – Updated grandparent scam

Although it has been going on for years, many people are still falling prey to the “Grandparent Scam” where grandparents get telephone calls from scammers posing as grandchildren in trouble in need of money for bail, car repairs, lawyer’s fees or other matters.  The scammers lure the grandparents into wiring the money to the scammers.  Now this scam has extended to other family members other than grandparents and following apparent breaches at some military bases, scammers are calling the families of service members seeking money pretending to be family service members.

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One of the prime sources of information that the scammers use in obtaining personal information to use in order to pose as a family member is social media such as Facebook.  People should be wary of all of the information they include on their social media and remember that knowledge of these details does not mean that the person calling is who he or she purports to be.  If you believe there is a real emergency, first contact other family members to confirm the location of the individual and if the scammer claims to be in a hospital or a jail, find the real telephone number of the hospital or jail to confirm the story you are told.  Chances are, it is a scam.

Scam of the day – May 5, 2012 – Better Business Bureau Scam

The Better Business Bureau is a very trusted institution which is why their name is often exploited by scammers.  For the fifth time in the last six months there has recently been a new wave of phishing scams involved with the Better Business Bureau’s name.  The scam starts with a business owner receiving an email informing him or her that a complaint has been filed against his or her company.  The business owner is invited to click on to a link for more information, however, if you do this, you risk unwittingly installing keystroke logging malware that can read all of the information on your computer including your banking information.  This information has been used by scammers to access the bank accounts of businesses falling victim to the scam.  Because it is so easy to make an email look like it is from a legitimate company, you should always be wary of any email that asks for information or asks you to go to a link.

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Never click on links or attachments unless you are positive that they are legitimate. When you evaluate emails from companies with which you do business, notice if they are addressed to your personally or to “Dear Customer.”  Make sure your anti virus and anti malware software is always up to date and if you have any concern that the communication is legitimate, confirm it with a phone call to a telephone number that you know is legitimate.

Scam of the day – May 4, 2012 – Medicare Scams

As a part of a massive federal effort to reduce Medicare fraud, federal law enforcement authorities have arrested more than a hundred doctors and other health care professionals involved in Medicare scams that cost taxpayers an estimated 452 million dollars.  Medicare fraud which generally occurs when false or unnecessary medical treatments or equipment are billed for may not seem like they affect us individually, but they do.  Cooperating even unwittingly with Medicare scammers can lead to your identity theft as well as cost us all more money as taxpayers.

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Never give your personal information, particularly your Medicare card number (which coincidentally is your Social Security number) to anyone who contacts you uninvited  to sell you Medicare related products.  Be particularly wary of people who solicit you for “free” medical equipment.  Always check you Medicare and private insurance bills, sometimes called explanation of benefits to make sure that you ar not being charged for services that you did not receive.

Scam of the day – May 3, 2012 – Time share scams

Timeshare sales have had more than their share of scams involved with them, but in the last three years the number of people victimized by time share scams have increased dramatically.   Recently, 22 people were indicted for timeshare resale fraud in Illinois.   In Florida, timeshare resale fraud is the subject of the greatest number of consumer complaints.  Timeshares are a legitimate vacation option for many people, but particularly since the economy first soured in 2008, resales have been difficult for many people and the scammers have come in to prey upon timeshare owners trying to sell their interests with promises of buyers that never materialize after charging the timeshare owners upfront fees of between $2,000 and $8,000 that vanishes with the scammers.

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Always check out the legitimacy of anyone proposing to help you sell your timeshare.  You can check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, your state’s attorney general at www.naag.org and your local consumer protection agencies at www.consumeraction.gov.  Make sure you have a lawyer review any contract before you sign it and it is a good idea not to pay in advance for the services of someone purporting to assist you in reselling your timeshare unit.

Scam of the day – May 2, 2012 – Extended Warranties

This is another oldie but goodie scam that continues to scam people out of hard earned money, but recently became the subject of new legislation in Missouri although the issue is a countrywide problem.  The problem are extended warranties for your automobile.  Actually, they are not “extended” warranties at all because if you read the fine print you will notice that although the notice looks official,  it is not from either the car manufacturer who issued your original warranty nor the car dealer who sold you the car.  The warranties themselves vary from scammer to scammer with some of the “extended” warranties being relatively worthless, but with all of them based on misrepresentations, how can you trust them, in any event?

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Always read the fine print of any communication you receive regardless of how official it looks.  In regard to car warranties, it is always a good idea to check with your dealer as to what warranties cover your car.