Scam of the day – August 14, 2012 – More IRS identity theft scams

The recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration of the IRS’ poor record when it comes to preventing tax identity theft where identity thieves steal the names of Social Security numbers of their victims and then file phony federal income tax returns claiming phony tax refunds is absolutely startling when you consider that the IRS’ computers were not able to find anything amiss when  it issued more than a million dollars in refund checks regarding 741 separate income tax returns that all used the same Belle Glade, Florida address.  But that wasn’t even the worst example.  The IRS sent checks totalling more than 3.3 million dollars in regard to 2,137 individual returns that all listed the same Lansing, Michigan address.

TIPS

As I have explained previously on this website/blog, identity thieves get names and Social Security numbers of people to file phony income tax returns from Social Security’s own Death Master File which lists the names and Social Security numbers of recently deceased individuals.  This information is available free on line.  They also have stolen the names and Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican citizens who are not liable for federal income taxes, they have stolen the names and Social Security numbers of children and they have stolen the names and Social Security numbers of many others through a large variety of illegal tactics.  To keep yourself from becoming a victim of tax identity theft, keep your Social Security number as private as possible.  The fewer places that have this information, the better.  Also, file your income tax return as early as possible.  Identity thieves file phony income tax returns in the names of their victims before W-2s are required to be filed with the government this year until February 28, 2013.  The Identity thieves forge phony w-2 forms which the IRS may not have a valid W-2 to compare it to.

Scam of the day – August 13, 2012 – Veterans Retraining Assistance Program scam

The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program is a program of the Department of Veterans Affairs that provides funds to eligible veterans for VA approved educational programs.  However, scammers are calling veterans and telling them that they have been approved for benefits of $8,500 and that this will be deposited into the bank account of the veteran.  All the veteran has to do is call a telephone number and provide his or her bank account number bank routing number and pay a $205 service fee.  Unfortunately, the call is a scam.  Providing the information to a scammer can lead to the veteran’s bank account being emptied.

TIPS

The VA will never charge a fee to access your benefits nor will it ever ask for private information over the phone.  Never give personal information over the phone to someone you have not called.  If you suspect that such a call is legitimate, contact your local VA office at a telephone number that you know is accurate.

 

Scam of the day – August 12, 2012 – Deployed soldier scam

Scammers certainly have no ethics when it comes to determining their victims.  A new scam that is now appearing involves the spouse of a deployed soldier being contacted by an email indicating that the spouse needs to wire funds in order to cover the cost of luggage charges before the service member spouse can be approved for a temporary leave.  This particular scam actually contains the name of real service members which indicates that there has been a breach of security somewhere in a data bank with information on military members and their spouses.

TIPS

No matter how legitimate an email may look, it can be a forgery.  In this particular instance, despite the fact that actual names are used, you should be skeptical of a military program pertaining to a leave that requires you to wire funds.  If you have any questions you should contact the service member’s base in the United States to confirm that the message is a scam.

Scam of the day – August 11, 2012 – Latest Twitter scam

Recently there have been a large number of tweets from scammers that indicate that if you click on the link contained in the tweet you will see a photograph of yourself.  Unfortunately, if you click on the tweet, you don’t get a photograph of yourself, but you do download a Blackhole Exploit Kit that can do any number of malicious things to you and your computer.  It has key stroke logging capabilities so it can read the information on your computer and get access to your credit card numbers and other personal information that may be on your computer.  It also can take over your computer and turn it into a zombie computer as part of a botnet by which the scammers use your computer to send out their scam emails.

TIPS

Never click on a link unless you are positive it is from a reliable source.  Even if it appears to be from one of your friends, their account may have been hacked into and the link may have been sent by a scammer.  Always call your friend first to confirm that the message was from him or her and even then you should exercise caution because he or she may be passing on malware that he or she is not aware he or she has downloaded.  In this particular scam, many of the scamming tweets are coming from Cuba or Russia so if the link ends in “.ru” or “.cu” you should be particularly wary.

Scam of the day – August 10, 2012 – Campaign donation scams

With the presidential campaign heating up, it is not just campaign season, but scam season.  Scammers manage to take advantage of whatever is going on in society to advance their illegal goals.  Many people are receiving telephone calls from scammers posing as campaign fund raisers for either the Obama or Romney campaigns.  Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call list, political campaign solicitations are permitted to be made to you.  Unfortunately, when you receive a call from a purported campaign worker, you never can be sure that you are actually receiving a call from a legitimate campaign worker or a scammer.

TIPS

Never give credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called yourself and only when you are absolutely sure that the telephone number is accurate.  If you are inclined to give to a particular campaign, go to the campaign’s official website

Scam of the day – August 9, 2012 – Largest Identity theft ring in American history

Recently, Amar Singh and his wife Neha Punjani-Singh were sentenced to prison for their role in a thirteen million dollar identity theft ring that operated in the United States with help from abroad between July and November of 2011.  The Singhs were only two of a group of 111 people who were arrested by federal authorities in regard to the scam.  Amar Singh was one of four top operators of the identity theft ring which received stolen personal information on American victims from sources in Russia and China as well as from American based identity thieves who obtained the personal information of their victims primarily through skimming devices, which as I have explained previously in this website/blog are small electronic devices that are used by identity thieves to illegally swipe a credit card used in a restaurant or retail establishment at the same time the victim presents his or her card for a legitimate purchase.  The skimmer steals the information stored on the card.  The information gathered both home and abroad was used to create counterfeit credit cards that were used by the criminals to the detriment of the identity theft victims.

TIPS

As much as possible, when you pay with a credit card, keep the card in sight to help insure that your card is not being swiped through a skimmer.  Skimmers can also be installed on gas pumps and ATM machines so look for signs of tampered machines.  Also, limit your use of your debit card to ATM machines because the risk of losing money through a debit card is greater than through a credit card due to different federal laws that govern each type of card.  Protect your personal financial information as much as possible and keep it private because data breaches in any place that holds your information puts you at risk.  Finally, read your monthly credit card bill carefully each month to make sure that there are no fraudulent charges and if you do find them, report them immediately.

Scam of the day – August 8, 2012 – Citadel malware on Facebook scam

Recently a new version of malware called Citadel has been discovered on people’s Facebook pages.  The scam appears as a request for donations to a children’s charity.  Presently versions of the malware have been found on Facebook pages in England, Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland along with the United States.  In each case, the language used is the language of the country, but the grammar is not good, a common thread for many scams, particularly those originating overseas.  The American request is to help children in Haiti and it asks for a donation of just a dollar and then provides a form for you to enter your name, credit card number, expiration date, CVV code from the card and security password, if one is used.  Unfortunately, the scammers are not after a dollar and they aren’t helping any charity. They steal the entire credit limit of the credit card.

TIPS

Before you give to a charity, first make sure it is a legitimate charity.  Go to www.charitynavigator.org where you can find out whether indeed the particular charity is legitimate as well as, even if it is a legitimate charity, it pays as administrative and fund raising fees.  But even then never give through an online solicitation because you have no way of knowing whether it is the real charity or not that contacted you.  If you want to make a charitable contribution, go to the real charity’s website to make your donation.

Scam of the day – August 7, 2012 – Scholarship scam

With the cost of higher education reaching unprecedented levels, college students are looking for whatever financial assistance they can get and of course, scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists are there to answer their call.  It has been estimated that 350,000 students and their families are victimized by phony scholarship scams each year.  One of the most prominent scholarship scams involve scholarship offers that you receive that require you to file an application along with an administrative fee.  Often the scholarship offer guarantees a refund of your fee if you do not receive the scholarship.

TIPS

Why would you trust the guarantee of a scammer?  Legitimate scholarships do not require the payment of administrative fees.  Never pay an up front fee for any scholarship.  Additionally, beware of administrative fees that are required as a part of a low interest loan even if the fee is guaranteed again to be returned if you do not get the loan.  It is a scam.  Legitimate loan companies do not charge advance fees.

Scam of the day – August 6, 2012- Wireless phone cramming

Many of you may be familiar with the scam of “cramming” where unauthorized charges are added to your phone bill.  Often due to phone bills being so lengthy and confusing, people may not spot small recurring bills for services that they do not recognize and just ignore them while the scammer continues to steal the victim’s money.  Since October of 2011, customers have been permitted to block third party billing on their landlines, however, the ability to add such third party charges on your smart phone is still legal and abused by scammers who do this for illegal purposes.

TIPS

Sometimes cramming is the result of a scammer just getting the information to access your phone and add charges, but other times, people may not realize that they have given permission for such additional charges in the fine print contained on documents, such as a contest form, that they might find at a fair or other public event.  The lesson is to first, always read the fine print of anything you sign and second to read your smart phone bills carefully each month and make sure that you understand what every charge is for and dispute any charges that are bogus.

Scam of the day – August 5, 2012 – IRS identity theft update

Earlier this week the IRS acknowledged that they had paid out more than five billion dollars in fraudulent income tax refunds to identity thieves in 2011 and that a government audit of the IRS predicted that the problem will worsen over the next five years.  Despite the efforts of the IRS in detecting about 940,000 fraudulent income tax returns last year, they are not coming close to stopping the flow of fraudulent tax refunds.

TIPS

If someone steals your identity and files an income tax return before you do, your ability to get your proper income tax refund becomes much more delayed and complicated.  Consider filing early as do the identity thieves who often file before employers must file W-2 forms for their employees.  Also, guard your Social Security number as much as possible because it is the key to filing a fraudulent income tax return.  If you work with a tax preparer, check them out first to make sure that they are both honest and that they keep your personal information secure