Scam of the day – June 16, 2012 – Global Payment data breach update

On March 31st I originally told you about the massive data breach at Global Payment, a third party credit card processing company that works with retailers as a middleman in the processing of credit card charges.  In the wake of the data breach which affected holders of about 1.5 million credit card holders, the company said that it would notify potentially affected people and provide credit monitoring and identity protection insurance free of charge.  However, such notifications have not yet happened as the company has still not completed its internal investigation.  Global payments has indicated that it will provide more information to the public by July 26th as its investigation proceeds.  Meanwhile both Visa and MasterCard are no longer using Global Payment for credit card processing.

TIPS

At the moment everyone should assume that they may have been affected by the Global Payment data breach and although there is no reason to panic, there is every reason to take steps to protect yourself from identity theft, such as carefully monitoring your credit card statement every month for unauthorized charges and putting a credit freeze on your credit report.  You can find more information about credit freezes elsewhere on this website.

 

Scam of the day – June 15, 2012 – Conviction of Allen Stanford – the lesson for everyone

Yesterday, R. Allen Stanford, the primary figure of the Stanford Financial Group was convicted of running a Ponzi scheme by which he stole 7 billion dollars through his Stanford International Bank based in Antigua.  He was sentenced to 110 years which sounds like a lot until you compare it to the 150 year prison term given to Bernie Madoff.  The difference is, of course, inconsequential, since it is unlikely that either man will ever see a day out of prison.  Stanford promised his investors that the were investing in safe Certificates of Deposit in his bank.  Despite the conservativeness of these investments, investors were promised double digit returns on their investments.  Unfortunately for the people who trusted Stanford, the entire investment scheme was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme where there were no profits and early investors were paid with the invested funds of later investors and ultimately there was nothing left.

TIPS

If it seems to good to be true, it generally is.  Conservative Certificates of Deposit do not and did not bring in the type of returns promised by Stanford and it was unreasonable to expect them to do so.  Investors should always investigate on their own the validity of any investment and never invest in anything that they do not understand.  Anyone investigating these investments carefully would have known that they could not sustain the returns promised.

Scam of the day – June 14, 2012 – Identity theft threat in nursing homes and assisted living facilities

The elderly are particularly vulnerable to scams and identity  theft and nowhere are they more vulnerable then when they are in a nursing home or assisted living facilities.  This week arrests were made in Florida involving identity theft from 44 residents of The Groves Center Nursing Home.  Much of the problem results from rogue employees stealing personal information including Social Security numbers from residents of nursing homes and assisted living.

TIPS

The Groves Nursing Home Center is making changes to prevent unauthorized employees from getting access to residents’ personal information by installing an electronic filing system limiting access to information.  If you have  a family member in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you should ask the management what they are doing to keep records secure.  More extensive background checks by nursing homes and assisted living facilities during hiring of new employees would also be helpful to weed out people with criminal backgrounds.

Scam of the day – June 13, 2012 – Facebook dislike button scam

A recent scam that has been causing unwary Facebook users to provide identity thieves with a steady stream of information that can be used against you to make you a victim of identity theft.  The scam involves a link on your wall informing you that Facebook now has a dislike button that you can click on in order to take advantage of this new feature.  Unfortunately, this is a scam.  There is no dislike button on Facebook.  If you click on the link, you will automatically download malware that gives the identity thieves access to your profile, the ability to post spam and surveys that can provide them with more information that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIP

There is no dislike button so if you see a link to one, you can be sure that it is a scam.  If you unwittingly have downloaded this or anything else that concerns you, you should delete it from your Facebook account as soon as possible and report it to Facebook.

Scam of the day – June 12, 2012 – Copy machines and identity theft

Although many people are unaware of it, just about every photocopier machine produced since 2002 has a hard drive just like on your computer and just as information is stored on your computer, so do these copy machines store the copies that have been made on these copy machines.  Often these machines are leased and then sold without properly and permanently erasing the information contained on the hard drive.  Identity thieves can purchase these machines that have been used by banks, accountants offices, businesses, or medical offices with tremendous amounts of personal information that can be used to make you a victim of identity theft.  New Jersey is presently working on a law to make it illegal to sell a copy machine without erasing the hard drive.

TIPS

Don’t use copy services or public copiers for copying documents with personal information unless you have been assured that the information is encrypted and then destroyed.  Ask any business or professional with whom you do business that copies information of yours, what security steps they are taking to protect the information on their copier’s hard drive.

Scam of the day – June 11, 2012 – Credit repair scam

Credit repairs scams are very common  as scammers take advantage of people with debt problems and promise to fix their credit and clear their credit report of adverse information for up front fees.  Recently the Attorney General of Arkansas shut down companies operated by Latrese and Kevin Hargrave who advertised credit repair companies that could “erase bad credit” for a $250 fee.

TIPS

Don’t fall prey to scammers operating phony credit repair companies. and never pay an upfront fee to one of these companies.  Advance fees for credit repair companies that operate for profit are banned by the Credit Repair Organizations Act.  Negative information on your credit report remains on your credit report for seven years and bankruptcies for ten years.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to scam you.  Many of the scam credit repair companies use illegal tactics such as applying for a federal employer ID to use as your Social Security number for credit.  This is illegal. If you need real credit counseling you should consider contacting companies that are afiiliated with either the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling or the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Scam of the day – June 10, 2012 – Home loan modification scams

A new wave of home loan modification scams is sweeping across the country.  The Washington State Attorney General just issued a warning to residents of that state, but his warning should be heeded by homeowners everywhere.  What many of these scams have in common is a promise that they can assist you in modifying your home loan to a more affordable monthly payment.  Often the companies have names that sound official or like a law firm and the advertisements for these companies appear in the legitimate media on radio, television and trusted newspapers.  One thing that they all have in common is an upfront fee of between $1,500 and $5,000.

TIPS

Never pay an upfront fee for any company offering to assist you in a loan modification.  Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau and your state Attorney General.  Also, Google the name of the company with the word “scam” and see what comes up.  Also, remember merely because you learn about a company offering these services from legitimate media sources does not in anyway mean that the company is approved by or been checked out by the media carrying the advertisement.

Scam of the day – June 9, 2012 New military scam

Scammers have no scruples.  They target whomever they think is vulnerable including the elderly.  They also have been increasingly targeting the men and women of the military both active and retired.  The most recent military scam involves and email that purports to be from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services, which is the payment service for the Department of Defense.  In this email the scammer informs the military service member or retiree that if they are receiving disability compensation from the VA, they may be entitled to additional money from the IRS.  The email goes on to request supporting documentation including copies of the email recipient’s income tax return, 1099-R form, Retiree Account Statements and VA award level.  The email looks legitimate and the email address from which it is sent has a “.mil” domain, but the email is totally false.  Anyone sending this material will find themself a victim of identity theft.

TIP

As always, you can never be sure of who is sending you an email no matter how legitimate it may appear.  Any email that seeks such personal information should never be responded to until you have contacted the legitimate agency at a telephone number or email address that you know is legitimate to confirm whether or not the email that you received is a scam.

Scam of the day – June 8, 2012 – Latest Facebook scam

Facebook is a breeding ground for scams because so many people use Facebook, it attracts scammers.  It also is fertile ground for scams because it is easy for scammers to infiltrate.  The latest scam involves a posting from a “friend” who is not really one of your friends, but just one of your friends whose account has been hijacked.  The posting by your friend tells you how to link your Visa or MasterCard debit cards to your Facebook account and that by doing so you will get a 20% cash back offer.  Unfortunately, you will not be getting any cash back if you follow the directions provided you.  Instead you will download a keystroke logging malware program called Zeus which has been used by organized crime to steal more than 60 million dollars from unsuspecting victims.

TIPS

Never install a game or an app that you are not absolutely positive is legitimate.  Don’t trust postings from friends because they may have had their Facebook account hacked thereby giving access of the scammer to his or her list of friends.  Always be wary of posts from friends that offer business deals.  When in doubt, call your real friend and speak to them directly.

Scam of the day – June 7, 2012 – Sacramento low income housing scam

On occasion, I will provide warnings for particular local scams, both to warn the local citizens of a particular area of a dangerous scam, but also because just about all scams weave their way throughout the country and you can expect a scam that starts in one place to soon go to another.  The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency is warning people about phony websites that are posing as websites where people can apply for subsidized housing under its Housing Choice Voucher Program.  Many people are familiar with the program under its former name of Section 8 Housing.  This week, the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency began taking online applications for the first time in six years to be added to the waiting list for subsidized rental homes and and apartments in Sacramento County.  Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the situation and setting up phony websites that ask for credit card information or offer to sell credit reports.

TIP

The only website to apply for the Sacramento Housing Choice Voucher Program is www.sacwaitlist.com.  The deadline is midnight tomorrow so if you are interested, you must act quickly.  The legitimate website will not ask for your credit card infromation and neither payments nor a credit report is required to make a legitimate application.  For people around the country, never provide credit card information or other personal information on any website that you are not sure is absolutely legitimate.  If you think it may be the legitimate website (and scammers make excellent forgerers) call the agency first to confirm the true website.