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.


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.

Scam of the day – March 6, 2012 – Walmart gift card scam

This is the most recent variation of a familiar scam in which you receive an email or a text message telling you that you are lucky enough to have just won a $1,000 Walmart gift card.  I have received this very scam just yesterday with many other people receiving these over the past couple of days.  You can expect this and similar gift card scams to proliferate.  In the message, you are instructed to go to a link to enter your winning code number to claim your prize.  Never go to a link that you are not absolutely positively sure is legitimate.  In this particular scam, if you click on the link, you will only succeed in downloading a key stroke logging malware program that will read all of the information on your smart phone or computer that can steal from your computer or smart phone all of your personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, your Social Security number and more leading to a serious case of identity theft.


Walmart does not do these type of promotions, so if you receive a text message purporting to be from Walmart regarding this type of promotion or contest, you can be sure it is a phony.  The old adage is true; if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  If you have any thoughts that the contest or promotion might be legitimate, call the company at a number that you know is correct to find out the truth.

Scam of the day – March 5, 2012 – Spring Break Scams

Scammers exploit every opportunity and the upcoming college Spring Break vacation period is a tremendous opportunity to scam students and their parents.  Similar to the Grandparent scam which I have described in an earlier Scam of the Day, it often involves the parents or grandparents of a student who is away from home on vacation receiving a telephone call from a third party telling them that their child or grandchild has had a medical emergency or has been arrested and needs cash for emergency expenses, bail or a lawyer.  Generally, they advise that the cash be wired, which is always a cause of concern because once money has been wired, it is gone.  It is not like a credit card charge that can be put back on to your credit card if the charge is shown to be fraudulent.  Often the scammers get the names and telephone numbers of the vacationing students and their parents from the students’ cell phones which they may leave unattended on a beach, in a backpack or some other unsecure location.


Never wire money unless you are absolutely sure about to whom you are wiring the money and it is not a scam.  If a claim about a medical or legal emergency is made, contact the hospital or legal authorities in the area to confirm that the information is accurate.  Make sure that you have the cell phone numbers of anyone with whom your child or grandchild is traveling so you can confirm any calls claiming that an emergency has arisen.  Call the child directly on his or her cell phone to confirm the story.  Students traveling abroad should register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at  This program can help with communications in an emergency situation.

Scam of the day – March 4, 2012 – Phony Sweepstakes

I recently received an email from the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes telling me that I had won a major prize.  There is only one problem.  Publishers Clearing House does not notify winners by email.  Phony contests and sweepstakes have been a common and lucrative scam for many years and people still fall victim to them.  It is hard enough to win a contest that you enter, however, it certainly is difficult to win a contest you have not even entered.  Scammers use phony contests to gather personal information from you, such as your Social Security number to make you a victim of identity theft.  Other times they require you to send in money for taxes or administrative fees.  This is a tip off that the contest is a phony.  Real contest holders never ask you for tax money to be paid to them.


Don’t pay anything to anyone who has told you that you have won a sweepstakes and of course, do not give out your personal information to anyone telling you that you have won a contest that you have not entered.  You can contact your local Attorney General or the FTC for information about purported sweepstakes.

Scam of the day – March 3, 2012 – Tax credit scam

It may not be rabbit hunting season as Daffy Duck said in an old cartoon nor is it duck hunting season as Bugs Bunny said in the same cartoon, but it certainly is tax scam season and will be right up until (and past) the tax filing deadline.

The latest scam which the IRS has uncovered involves scammers telling people that they are eligible for tax credits based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit when the victims are clearly not eligible for the credit.  The  real American Opportunity Tax Credit program provides tax credits to parents and students to pay for college expenses.  However, scammers are telling people that they are eligible for the tax credits even though they have not gone to school for many years.

Many low income Americans as well as members of particular churches have been specifically targeted by these scams.


Always be wary of people or companies offering your religious or fraternal organization tax services in which they promise refunds or credits.  Always check the credentials of anyone who offers to assist you with your income taxes.  You can check with the IRS or your state Attorney General.  As for this particular scam based on the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a good place to start in evaluating whether the program applies to you is if you are not enrolled or paying for college, you are not eligible.  It is as simple as that.

Scam of the day – March 2, 2012 – Tornado scams

Natural disasters such as the recent tornados in the Midwest bring devastating destruction of property and loss of life, but unfortunately, they also bring scammers looking to take advantage of the situation for their monetary gain.  Victims of the storms should be wary of people claiming to be government officials, representatives of disaster relief organizations or insurance adjusters.  Always confirm their identity and never give personal information, such as your Social Security number to anyone whose identity you have not confirmed.  Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.  Also beware of people claiming to be loan brokers who represent that, for a fee, they can guarantee a low interest loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  When it comes to home repairs, check out the reputation of any contractor you are considering with the Better Business Bureau and your state Attorney General.  Also, make sure that they are fully bonded.  Finally, for people who are considering giving to charities to help the victims, make sure that you are giving to a legitimate charity and not a phony one set up by a scammer.


To check out the legitimacy of a charity or even to see how much of what you contribute actually goes to the charitable purposes of a legitimate charity go to

Scam of the day – March 1, 2012 – iPad3 scam

Ahead of Apple’s expected announcement next week of the release of the iPad3, the Internet is full of scams, many of them found on Twitter and Facebook for free iPad3s.  They are all scams.  Generally, these phony offers are used as lures that either take you to the relatively harmless, but still annoying surveys for which the scammer is paid by commission for each person who takes the survey or, in a more serious vein, results in your unwittingly downloading keystroke logging software, sometimes called Trojan Horses, which are able to read all of the information on your computer, including credit card information, bank passwords and other financial data that can result in you becoming a serious victim of identity theft.  Many people trust the offers because they appear on their Facebook page without realizing that it is a relatively simple matter for a Facebook page to be hacked into and an offer can appear to be forwarded to you by a trusted friend when, in fact, it is coming from a scam artist.


The old adage still holds.  If it appears to good to be true, it generally is.  never click on any link that is not from a source that you are absolutely sure is legitimate.  If you are not sure, but still want to consider going to the link, make sure that you confirm that any link you are clicking on is absolutely legitimate.  Otherwise the risk is too great.  And always keep your firewall and security software up to date.

Scam of the day – February 29, 2012 – Identity theft update

Yesterday, the Consumer Sentinel Network, which compiles data received from many federal agencies that deal with scams and other fraud released its annual report which again showed the number one scam in America continues to be identity theft.  Also high on the list of consumer complaints were sweepstake and lottery scams.  According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, Americans lost more than 1.5 billion dollars to scams and these figures actually less than the true figures because they only reflect the data received by the various federal agencies reporting tot he Consumer Sentinel Network.  Many scams go unreported.  The most common identity theft scams involved government documents and benefits, credit card fraud, phone or utility fraud and bank fraud.


Don’t be a victim.  Protect yourself from the various ways that clever identity thieves steal your identity.  Check out the list of common identity theft scams on this website for tips as to how to protect yourself and for more detailed information, get a copy of “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity and Your Credit” and “The Truth About Avoiding Scams.”

Scam of the day – February 28, 2012 – Justin Bieber Facebook Scam

Everyone is on Facebook and that includes scammers.  A common scam that utilizes Facebook to scam its victims involves a notice on your Facebook page promising to lead you to something that many people would be interested in.  The most recent incarnation of this scam is a posting that promises to provide you with a hidden camera sex video of Justin Bieber and his girlfriend Selena Gomez.  If you click on the link, it may take you to an online survey that earns money for the scammer who makes a commission off of every click to the survey.  Although being sent to an online survey is annoying, the potential problems you could encounter by clicking on such a link can move from the annoying to the dangerous because some of these links download key stroke logging malware on your computer that allows the scammer to read everything on your computer including your Social Security number, bank account information and credit card information.  The effect on your finances can be devastating.

Teh Justin Bieber ploy is nothing new.  It is only the most recent of this ilk.  Recently a number of such links promised to provide pictures surrounding the death of Whitney Houston.  Whatever and whomever is in the news will be used by scammers to lure you into being a victim of their crime.


Never click on a link from a source of which you are not totally convinced is legitimate.  Even links that you may receive from friends on Facebook can turn out to be from someone who hacked their account.  Always confirm before clicking.

Scam of the day – February 27, 2012 -Grandparent Scam

Although this scam is by no means new, it is having a bit of a resurgence lately with recent reports of the scam reappearing in nineteen states.  Law enforcement believes that many of the scammers inflicting this scam upon unwary grandparents are located overseas.  Generally the scam starts when a grandparent receives a telephone call from someone purporting to be their grandchild, who has encountered problems, such as an automobile accident, an arrest or other emergency while traveling in another country.  The “grandchild” then pleads with the grandparent to send money to assist the grandchild in need.  The money is requested to be sent by wire.  Often the scammer will provide details that “prove” he or she is the grandchild, however, this proof may have been merely taken from social media sites or other easily accessible sources.   A significant number of grandparent scam calls have followed a death in a family where family names may have appeared in an obituary.


If you receive such a call, contact the parents or other source of accurate information as to the correct whereabouts of the grandchild.  Always be wary of requests to wire funds because once money is wired, it is almost impossible to get the money back.