It worked for Charles Ponzi, it worked many years later for Bernie Madoff and it still works today. This scam is as profitable as it is simple. It is a classic pyramid scheme whereby you are promised returns that may appear too good to be true (and indeed that is the case), but you know of investors who have made incredible profits by investing with the scam artist. The problem is that the money used to pay off early investors does not come from successful investing, but rather by paying the early investors with the money of later investors. Usually there are no investments at all.
If you are retaining the services of an investment advisor, make sure he or she is not acting both as your broker investment advisor and also the broker dealer. By giving this kind of control of your money to a single person, you enhance the possibility of fraud. Also, never invest in anything you do not truly understand. This rule was broken by many intelligent people who invested with Bernie Madoff although they did not understand how his investment strategy worked. Anyone who actually carefully evaluated Madoff’s investment strategy and the returns it provided would be able to see that it was a scam.
This scam keeps reoccurring around the country and people still are falling victim to it. It starts when you receive an email from a purported hit man who informs you that he has been hired by someone you know to kill you. However, the hit man then tells you that he will refrain from killing you if you pay him a sum of money. In the past the amount has ranged from $80,000 to $150,000. Not only is this a scam, but the FBI has traced many of these emails to Eastern Europe, far from where you may live.
If you get one of these emails contact the FBI and the Internet Crime Complain Center at www.ic3.gov.
The tremendous popularity of eBay, the Internet auction website has made it a frequent target of scammers. One of the more common scams that keeps occurring involves the receipt by the victim of an email purporting to be from PayPal informing you that there has been a computer problem and that you need to log on to your account to confirm your personal information in order to keep your eBay account operational. The link provided in the email to connect you to PayPal’s website is an excellent example of phishing because although the website to which you go to if you click on the link looks like eBay, it is a phony website that exists merely to harvest your personal information if you provide it to the scammer.
If you ever get such an email and you are tempted to respond, merely contact eBay independently rather than by clicking on the address provided in the email.
Malware is the term for malicious software that you unwittingly download on your computer when you click on links in emails from scammers or fall prey to phishing and download the program from a phony website to which you were lured in the belief that it was a legitimate website.
One of the most common and dangerous types of malware is the keystroke logging program which is often referred to as a Trojan horse. Once this malware is installed on your computer, the scammer is able to access all of the information on your computer and can provide the scammer with access to your bank accounts, credit cards, brokerage accounts or any other information that is contained on your computer.
Never click on links unless you are absolutely sure it is legitimate. Also make sure you have an operating firewall on your computer and your computer security software is up to date.
Smishing is similar to phishing on your computer, but this time the scammers message comes as a text message on your cell phone. Often it comes purportedly from your bank telling you that your account has been frozen and then asks you to provide personal information or your account will be frozen. Smishing is also used by scammers, particularly during the holidays to appear to provide free coupons or free coupons.
Never respond to a smishing message. By so doing you only succeed in telling the scammer that you are out there. Never provide personal information in response to a text message from anyone. If you believe the message may be legitimate, contact the entity at a telephone number or website that you know is accurate. Don’t download coupons from emails or text messages. Again, if you think it may be legitimate, go to the website of the company that you know is legitimate and download the coupons there.
Phishing occurs when an identity thief lures you through a phony email that purports to be from a bank, another legitimate company or even the IRS or other governmental agency to a phony website that looks like the website of that legitimate company, but actually is just a con to entice you into providing personal financial information. Often phishing scams prey upon our fears by telling us that our accounts have been compromised and that if we do not provide verifying information, our accounts will be closed.
Clicking through to the phony websites also carries the risk of unwittingly downloading malware such as keystroke logging programs that once installed on your computer provide the scammer with all of the information found about you on your computer. This information can be used to make you a victim of identity theft or even to empty your bank accounts if you use your computer for online banking.
Never click on a link to a website unless you are totally sure that it is legitimate. Trust me you can’t trust anyone. Even if you receive an email from someone you trust, it may not be from them at all, but rather from someone who has hijacked their email or even if it is from them, they may have, in turn, fallen prey to a scam artist and may be passing along dangerous malware without even knowing it.
Install antiphishing software on your computer to warn you before going to a website that may be tainted. A good, free antiphishing software can be found at www.toolbar.netcraft.com.