Scam of the day – March 16, 2012 – Cell phone bank scam

A growing scam is the stealing of victims’bank accounts by identity thieves.  According to the American Bankers Association, this type of scam has increased by 260% in the last two years.  One of the more common ways scammers steal your bank account is by getting you to give them the keys to the kingdom by calling you on your cell phone with an automated call or text message from the scammer posing as your bank, telling you that there has been a security breach and your account is in jeopardy.  The message asks you to provide personal information about the account.  Many victims have trusted the scammers because their caller ID shows that the message came from their bank.  However, the bank’s caller ID has merely been copied or spoofed by the scammers.  If you provide the requested information, your account can be emptied and your identity stolen causing you further financial harm.  Sometimes the message actually appears to come from a bank you do not even have an account with.

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You should be skeptical when your bank  appears to be contacting you and asks for personal information.  And, of course, you should never respond to a message from a bank that you do not have an account with asking for personal information.  Never respond to a text message or automated call purporting to be from your bank by doing anything other than contacting your bank at a telephone number that you know is correct to confirm the call.

Scam of the day – March 15, 2012 – Pinterest Scams

The name “Pinterest” may not be familiar to you, but it will be.  It is a new social media site by which people are able to share or “pin” images of their business logos, business coupons and discounts for marketing purposes to a virtual bulletin board.  Viewers can then either indicate that they like the image, comment on the image or re-pin it to their own boards.  Pinterest is becoming increasingly popular and as more people are drawn to the site, so are scammers who are using phony postings that are easy to make in an effort to lure victims into being scammed by being routed to the same surveys that the scammer gets paid for in similar Facebooks scams or that trick you into providing personal information used for identity theft or, most seriously, install keystroke logging malware software that harvests all of your computer’s information and makes you a victim of identity theft.

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As always, if the offer looks too good to be true, it probably is, so a bit of skepticism is in order.  If you are routed to a survey, don’t take it and make sure that you do not enter personal information that could lead ot your identity being stolen.  Finally, a bit of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so make sure that your computer security software is up to date and that it includes antiphishing capabilities.  Phishing is when you are directed by a scammer to a phony website that purports to be a legitimate website.

 

Scam of the day – March 14, 2012 – March Madness scams

As I have said many times, scammers are always resourceful and taking advantage of whatever has captured the public’s imagination.  Little has captured the public’s imagination more at this time of year than the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament.  Phony ticket and travel scams abound.

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Although sites such as Craigslist may have listings for tickets, there is no screening process for someone to sell their tickets on Craigslist or similar sites.  Check with your local attorney general, the Better Business Bureau or the FTC about sellers to see if ticket sellers are legitimate.  Always pay by credit card, never a debit card or check so that if the sale is a fraud, you can get the money back form your credit card company.

Scam of the day – March 13, 2012 – Law firm scam

According to a report released yesterday by the FBI, a number of law firms have been victimized by a scam in which the law firm receives an email from an overseas business seeking to hire the law firm to collect debts owed to the overseas company.  A standard retainer agreement is sent by the overseas company along with a certified check.  The law firm is instructed to deduct its initial retainer costs and wire the remainder of the funds back to China, Korea, Ireland or Canada, typically.  Of course, for regular scamicide readers, you have already guessed that the “certified check” was counterfeit and that even if the law firm waited the few days for the check to receive provisional credit from the bank where the law firm deposited the check, the check ultimately bounced and the money wired from the law firm to the overseas company is gone forever.

In another variation of this scam, the initial solicitation comes from a lawyer in another country seeking assistance with a collection.  The scammers use the names of real attorneys so if the American law firm checks out the legitimacy of the foreign lawyer, it would appear to check out.  Of course, if the American law firm actually called the foreign lawyer, they would learn that it was a scam.

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The essence of this scam and many other scams is an overpayment to you of an apparently “certified check” where you are asked to send the diffference to the scammer.  There is never a reason to accept an overpayment check.  That is a red flag that there is a scam involved.  If you do accept a certified check, always contact the issuing bank to make sure that the check is legitimate and even then, do not consider the transaction as being complete until the check has fully cleared and not just provisionally been cleared.

Scam of the day – March 12, 2012 – Latest Facebook Scam

Almost every day brings a new Facebook scam and with good reason.  They work.  The latest involves a post from a “friend” that says that it provides a link to a video of a horrific roller coaster accident that in various posts has occurred in either California, the United Kingdom or Australia.  The post is a scam and like so many of the phony links on Facebook is designed to lure you to something that the scammers believe will appeal to our curiosity.  The first thing to remember is that it is easy to hack into someone’s Facebook page and then send out phony postings so merely because you recognize the poster does not mean that the posting is legitimate.  If you do click on one of these phony links you either end up taking a survey for which the scammer is paid a commission or downloading malware that can lead to your identity being stolen.

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Scammers often have bad grammer so be wary of postings with bad grammer and spelling.  Never click on any link without verifying that it is legitimate.  Check with friends to make sure that they are indeed the people sending you the particular link.

Scam of the day – March 11, 2012 – Driveway repair scam

As Spring rapidly approaches, you can be sure that we are likely to start seeing a common Spring scam dealing with driveway repair.  This scam generally starts with the appearance of a paving contractor at your doorstep who informs you that he has been doing paving for other people in your town and has some asphalt left over which he says he can use to seal and pave your driveway at a reduced cost.  Upon being hired, the work is either never done and you are out your deposit or the work is done in a quick and shoddy manner.  Either way, you lose.

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Never fall prey to high pressure sales tactics.  Take your time.  And never hire a contractor until you have checked his or her references and confirmed that he or she is registered with the state and properly bonded.

Scam of the day – March 10, 2012 – Latest Facebook Scam

The answer to the question about why scammers are drawn to Facebook is the same answer to the question posed to a bank robber as to why he robbed banks.  Because that is where the money or in the case of Facebook, the victims and money can be found.  The latest Facebook scam follows a familiar pattern.  You see a posting on your page that attracts your attention, such as the one now circulating that says “OMG I just hate RIHANNA after watching this video.”  The posting may look like it has come from one of your friends, but in fact, your friend’s Facebook account has probably been hijacked.  In this particular scam, you are told to share the link before you can see the video.  This is a tip off that it is a scam and if you do share it, you become part of the problem by sending it to unsuspecting friends.  If you click on the link, two things can happen, you may be led to a survey that you must complete before being able to see the video.  This is because the scammers are using this lure to earn themselves a commission for everyone that takes the survey.  However, the more sinister thing that can happen if you click on the link is that you may unwittingly be downloading a key stroke logging malware program that will steal all of your personal information, such as credit card numbers and passwords from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.  Either way, after you have clicked on the link, you never see the promised, non-existent video.

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These types of scams can easily be avoided with a little skepticism and some fact checking.  Don’t trust postings even if they appear to come from your friends.  Never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure as to its source and even then, you may have a friend who doesn’t realize they are passing along a scam.  Independently check out online the particular item before you even consider clicking on to it.

Scam of the day – March 9, 2012 – Kony 2012 scams

The power of the internet and social media was never more apparent than this week when a documentary video about atrocities committed by a Ugandan warlord was posted on YouTube and quickly went viral with more than 41 million people watching the video.  This huge number was assisted by Tweets alerting people to the video by celebrities such as Will Smith, J.K. Rowling, P.Diddy and Justin Bieber.  The video done by an American organization known as “Invisible Children” is seeking donations, which the organization says will be used toward education and security programs as well as to support an awareness program.  The appeal to our charitable instincts is enormous and that is enough to alert scammers who are also out there ready to appeal for your dollars claiming they are involved with this program or similar programs.  You may see solicitations from other organizations with similar names or who appear to be collecting for the same cause, but without doing a bit of checking, you never know whether you are giving to a scammer or a real charity that will effectively use your donation.

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Anytime you consider making a charitable donation, you should always first make sure that the charity receiving your donation is a legitimate charity and not a scam.  An easy way to do this is to go to the free website www.charitynavigator.org and check out the charity.  You will receive much information that will let you know whether indeed the charity is legitimate.  However, even if the charity is “legitimate,” it may not be where you wish to donate your money.  You may find that the particular charity spends most of its donations on administrative costs and salaries and that little of its donations actually go toward the charitable purpose for which you made your donation.  You can also find this information on www.charitynavigator.org as well.  By the way, the Invisible Children charity is highly ranked by www.charitynavigator.org.

Scam of the day – March 8, 2012 – Work at home scams

Work at home scams have been part of the arsenal of scammers for many years and with good reason.  They work – at least for the scammer.  Recently there has been an upsurge of work at home scams, many of which appear on line on sites such as Craigslist where you may find such scams listed seeking people to work in merchandising or processing.  The job is said to entail receiving packages or money orders and then repackaging them and sending them to another address, often in a foreign country.  You get paid by way of a certified check which you deposit, keep the amount that represents your fee and wire the remainder back.  The problem is, as I have indicated many times previously, the “certified” check you receive is a phony.  Some people who think they are prudent wait a few days for the check to clear before sending the requested money from their account only to learn when the check ultimately bounces that they only received provisional credit from their bank and once the check is found to be counterfeit, the full amount of the check funds are withdrawn from the account by the bank and you are left having sent your own money to the scammer.

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These type of repackaging jobs are scams.  Don’t get involved.  Anytime you are given a certified check, contact the issuing bank to confirm it is legitimate and don’t consider the money yours until the check has fully cleared.

Scam of the day – March 7, 2012 – Prepaid debit card scams

For many years, the coin of the realm for many scams was wired funds because once funds were wired from your bank or a company such as Western Union, the money was gone, unprotected by consumer laws, difficult to trace and could not be easily recovered.  Many schemes including the infamous Nigerian Letter Scam were based upon people wiring the funds to the scammers.  Now we have a new way for scammers to take your hard earned money – prepaid debit cards.  Proponents of these card argue that they can be used just like a check, but unlike a check, there is no legal protection if you are scammed and paid the scammer using one of these cards.  These cards are prepaid and non-reoloadable cards that consumers buy at a store and use to reload a prepaid debit card.  In the course of the scam, the scammer will ask you to buy one of these prepaid debit cards and then ask for the seria number for verification.  This is all that they need to drain the card.  Sellers of these cards such as the company MoneyPak are aware of the problem and are trying to educate consumers.

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Never pay for anything with a prpaid debit card unless you are absolutely sure of whom you are dealing with and have checked them out to make sure that they are not scammers.