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.

Scam of the day – July 6, 2012 – Extreme botnet internet risk to 277,000 computers

In November of 2011, the FBI broke up a botnet scam by which seven Eastern European scammers since 2007 had turned more than 500,000 computers worldwide into a botnet of malware infected computers that redirected the victims’ web browsers to sites designated by the scammers that enabled them to earn more than fourteen million dollars in affiliate and referral fees.    The insidious malware used also prevented infected computers from downloading security software that could detect and cure the problem.  When the FBI shut down the operation last November, they took control of the servers used by the scammers and set up temporary servers to permit the infected computers to still have Internet access.  However, come July 9th, those temporary servers will be turned off and if your computer is one of the 277,000 still estimated as being infected, you will lose all Internet service.

TIPS

Fortunately all you need to do is to go to http://www.dns-ok.us/ to determine if you are infected.  You do not need to download any software to determine if your computer is infected and your computer will not be scanned.  If you find that your computer is infected go to http://www.dcwg.org/fix for help in clearing your computer of the malware. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Scam of the day – July 5, 2012 – Home Depot contest scam

Recently Jode Ventura of New Bedford, Massachusetts was lucky enought ot win $150,000 in a lottery conducted by Home Depot, a store where she frequently shopped.  The contest was from their British office and said, “We are pleased to inform you that you are one of the declared winners of a mega lottery conducted in UK.”  Inside the letter was the first payment of her winning, a bank check for $3,980.  The letter also required Ventura to send back  a check for  for $1,995.  Fortunately, for Jode Ventura, she went to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office where to Jode’s surprise, she was told that it was a scam and did not fall for it.  Others have not been so lucky.

TIPS

As I have warned you many times.  It is hard enough to win a lottery you have entered.  It is impossible to win one that you have not entered.  Foreign lottery scams are one of the most common scams today and they all share one thing in common that should be a tip off to you if you receive a notice that you have won a foreign lottery – playing foreign lotteries are illegal under Title 17, Part I, Chapter 95 , Section 1953 of the Federal Law.   Many people who receive these checks think they are being smart by waiting for the check to clear before sending back any money.  Unfortunately, they do not understand the rules of provisional credit under which, their account will be given temporary credit for the check after a few days while it goes through the more lengthy clearing process.  It will appear that it has cleared, but it has not and this will come back to haunt the victim when the check ultimately bounces after a few weeks, but the check that the victim has sent does not bounce.  Finally, taxes are never collected by the operators of legitimate lotteries.  They either deduct the income taxes from your winnings, or more often they leave it to you to pay the income taxes.

Scam of the day – July 4, 2012 – Smartphone app scam

Every day there are new helpful apps for our smartphones and every day there are new corrupted apps that can lead to identity theft or worse.  A new scam now being done involves you downloading a popular app such as a video player, however the app is corrupted with malware that can take over your text messaging and without your being aware of it, start sending text messages to premium addresses that cost you money.  In addition, the malware can also, without your knowing it make calls to expensive pay-per-call numbers.  It is not until you get your first bill after your smartphone has been infected do you learn about the extra charges.

TIPS

Only download apps from legitimate app stores such as Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store.  Anytime you download an app from a source you are not sure of, you are taking a chance.  And even when you download an app from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store, you may find yourself victimized because some of the more creative scammers will release a clean app through the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, which will check out the app, but later the scammer will send you the malware in an update to your app.  The best thing you can do in addition to only downloading apps from legitimate companies is to make sure that you have good, effective security software installed on your smartphone.  You do it for your computer and your laptop so, make sure that you do it for your smartphone as well.

Scam of the day – July 3, 2012 – Disaster scams

With the recent damage caused by Tropical Storm Debbie and the Colorado wildfires, you can expect to see scammers following in the wake of these disasters with scams to further victimize the people who have been harmed by these natural disasters.  Some scams will be when the criminals pose as insurance adjusters who need payments before doing their work while other scams will be scammers posing as government agents there to help  you who merely need your personal information such as your Social Security number to make you eligible for assistance programs.  Additional scams will involve phony contractors who will take your money and vanish without doing any work.  Finally, even if you have not been victimized, but merely want to help out the victims through charitable donations, you may end up giving to a phony charity.

TIPS

Don’t trust insurance adjusters until you have confirmed their identity with the insurance company independently.  Neither should you provide personal information to anyone until you have confirmed that they are legitimate.  In regard to FEMA or other federal agencies, a quick call to FEMA can confirm that the person speaking with you is legitimate. Don’t trust IDs.  They can be forged.  As for contractors, confirm independently that they are licensed, bonded and have not had complaints made against them.  All states provide this information.  Finally, in regard to any charity, check it out first on www.charitynavigator.com where you can find out if it is legitimate or not and even how much of your charitable donation will actually go toward charitable purposes and how much will be used for salaries and administrative expenses.

Scam of the day – July 2, 2012 – New text message identity theft threat

The Missouri Attorney General is warning people about phony text messages that people are receiving on their smartphones saying that the person receiving the text has just won a free Walmart or Costco gift card.  However, when people click on the link they receive no prize, but they do download on to their smartphone keystroke logging malware that can enable the identity thief who sent the text  message to steal personal information from their phone that can lead to their becoming a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

By no means is this threat unique to Missouri, this identity theft scheme is being used throughout the country.  Never trust any text message or email message that tells you that you have won a contest that you have not entered and never click on any link unless you are absolutely positive that the link is legitimate.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  If you have any doubts, check with your local attorney general or the real company that is supposedly sponsoring the contest.

Scam of the day – July 1, 2012 – Wyndham Hotel Data Breach

The Federal Trade Commission has just sued Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, the franchiser for Days Inn and Super 8 Motels in regard to data breaches that caused its customers to lose more than 10.6 million dollars in identity theft fraud losses.    According to the FTC, Wyndham misrepresented the security measures that the company took to protect the private data of its customers.  The FTC alleges that Wyndham’s security measures to prevent large scale data breaches are inadequate.  Wyhdam is disputing the charges.

TIP

The lesson here is that it is important to remember that your private information such as credit card numbers and Social Security numbers are only as secure as the weakest place that holds this information.   Before you do business with anyone where you will need to provide personal information that if it fell into the wrong hands could put you in danger of identity theft, confirm that they take adequate measures to protect your data that they hold.

Scam of the day – June 30, 2012 – Phony lawyer website scam

A scam that has become increasingly popular with scammers involves getting the name and basic business information about a legitimate lawyer and then setting up a phony website in the lawyer’s name.  Often the scammers merely steal the business cards for legitimate lawyers to gain the information necessary to establish a legitimate looking website.  Once the website is established, unwitting clients contact the lawyer in response to the website.  They then pay fees for services that are never rendered.  Sometimes they even meet with the scammers impersonating lawyers, but never at the lawyer’s office.  As a courtesy the lawyer comes to your home or meets at some other location.

TIP

When you meet with a lawyer, at least initially, it should be in the lawyer’s office to help confirm that he or she is legitimate.  You also can generally find a photograph of lawyers on line to match against the person you meet.