Scam of the day – April 30, 2012 – Phony Medical identification cards

Most new scams are just variations on old scams and this one is no exception.  Many people, particular older Americans are receiving telephone calls from their medical insurance companies informing them that they will be receiving new identification cards for new expanded benefits which will now include dental and vision coverage.  Then comes the kicker.  All the company needs, you are told is just some bank account information for confirmation.  If you give the information to the scammer, you are giving them the keys to your bank account and making yourself a victim of identity theft.

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Never give information to anyone over the phone  whom you have not called because you can never be sure who they are.  Also, consider why anyone, such as this person, would even require such information.  There is no reason your medical insurer would need your bank account information.  Whenever you have any question as to whether such a call is legitimate, merely call the number for the company with which you do  business at a number that you know is legitimate and you can confirm whether or not the initial call was a scam.

Scam of the day – April 29, 2012 – Mobile device hacking

Mobile device hacking whether it be your smart phone or iPad or other mobile device is turning into the new target of scammers and identity thieves and with good reason.  More and more people are using their mobile devices not just to store important personal information, but also to do financial transactions such as shopping and banking.  Unfortunately we have a perfect storm when it comes to hacking into portable devices.  They contain much information of value to scammers and identity thieves, they are easty to hack into and the owners of portable devices are not taking the steps to secure these devices as much as they would their computers.  Thus more and more people are having their information stolen and becoming victims of identity theft.

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Make the physical security of your mobile device a priority.  Theft of the devices is an easy way to fall victim to identity theft.  Also protect your portable device with hard to guess passwords.  Also use encryption software and make sure that your device is kept up to date with the latest security software patches.  Finally, one of the biggest threats to your security on your portable device comes from downloading malware through corrupted apps.  Only download apps from legitimate sources and only download apps you are sure are safe.  Finally, whenever you download an app, pay attention to the permissions and services that are part of the app agreement and do not give access to transmit data that is not necessary for the operation of the app.

Scam of the day – April 28, 2012 – New Postal Service Scam

A new, but familiar scam is being used to lure unsuspecting victims into downloading dangerous malware that can steal all of the information on your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.  it starts with an email that you receive that appears to have been sent by either the United States Postal Service, USPS Global, Global Services or the United States Postal Service Customer Service.  The email is a phony.  It purports to tell you that a package is being held and that you are being charged for each day that you do not claim the package.  It refers to a phony reference number for the package and provides you with a link to click on to obtain further information.  Merely opening the email will not cause you any  harm, but if you click on the link, you will download the devastating malware.

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Never click on links from sources of which you are not absolutely clear are legitimate.  If you have any question or doubt, call a telephone number for the legitimate company being used as the lure that you know is accurate to confirm whether indeed the email message is a scam.

Scam of the day – April 27, 2012 – Pre-IPO scams

The Securities and Exchange Commission has just issued a warning to investors about scammers who are purporting to sell shares in companies such as Facebook and Twitter in advance of the Initial Public Offerings of the stock of these companies.  As with many scams, there is a small kernel of truth in that the law does provide for small legitimate offers of pre-IPO shares under very limited circumstances to accredited investors.  However the chance of your getting in on these Pre-IPO offerings for such companies are slim indeed.  In 2010 the SEC obtained a judgment against a scammer who stole millions from people by offering fake pre-IPO shares in companies such as Google and just a couple of weeks ago a similar scammer was enjoined by the SEC from perpetrating a similar scam involving Pre-IPO shares of Facebook.

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Certainly be skeptical of anyone contacting you with a proposal to sell you pre-IPO shares that you receive by a fax, email, text message or tweet.  Also check out the person trying to sell you the shares.  Go to the website of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority where you can check on the background of any broker  You can also check with the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website and finally you can even check the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator to learn if the person with whom you are dealing has every served time in prison.  A little skepticism and homework and save you from losing your money to a scammer.

Scam of the day – April 26, 2012 – Latest Craigslist rental scam

Craigslist can provide an easy opportunity for someone to legitimately and economically do business.  Unfortunately, it also can provide an easy opportunity for scam artists.  The latest scam involving Craigslist around the country occcurs when a scammer takes the photograph of a home that is listed for sale on the Internet and then lists it on Craigslist for rent often using the name of the actual owner.    Often the scammers ask for the initial rent and security deposit wired to them before they will show the home.  That is a dead giveaway that you are dealing with a scammer.

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Never buy anything on Craigslist from someone whom you cannot meet in person and never rent a home without actually touring the premises.  Never sign a lease, pay rent or a security deposit without actually inspecting the property both inside and out.  Finally, always be wary of someone who wants you to wire money to them because if the deal is a scam, it is pretty much impossible to recover your funds.

Scam of the day – April 25, 2012 – Identity theft from the dead

Not even the dead are immune from identity theft and this particular type of identity theft is now on the rise.  One way this occurs is when scammers merely check out the latest obituaries and then go to a free totally available data bank called the Death Master File maintained by the Social Security Administration.  Using the Death Master File, the scammer is readily able to obtain the deceased person’s Social Security number which then can be used along with the information gained from the obituary to establish credit, make purchases or take out loans in the name of the deceased person.  This can bring about great problems in the estate settlement process

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Limit the amount of personal information contained in any obituary in order to not provide information exploitable by an identity thief.  Also, the executor or personal representative of the estate should contact the major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and notify them that the person is deceased and not to issue any further credit.   All creditors, such as credit card companies of the deceased should also be notified of the death and the accounts closed as soon as possible.

Scam of the day – April 24, 2012 – More foreclosure scams

Although the economy does seem to be making some improvements, the numbers of people facing foreclosure is still huge and that provides a great opportunity for scammers.  In  my “scam of the day” of April 6 and April 16th I warned you about some of these scams, particularly as they related to the national foreclosure settlement with some of the major banks.  But scammers have other scams they use to take advantage of people facing possible foreclosure.  Often they scour the newspapers for foreclosure notices to find potential victims.  Other times they may even advertise their services on television, radio or the internet.  It is important to remember that merely because you see an advertisement on a legitimate television station or other legitimate media, it does not mean that the ad is not a scam.  Many of these scams “guarantee” results and generally they all require up front payments.

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Remember no one can guarantee results when it comes to mortgage foreclosures.  In addition, the Federal Trade Commissions Mortgage Assistance Relief Services rules make it illegal for a company to require an advance payment.  They cannot require a payment until they provide you with a written offer of loan modification or other relief from your mortgage lender and you accept that offer.  Anyone asking for money up front should be avoided.  If you are having difficulty with your mortgage, there are plenty of free housing counselors who can help you.  Contact your state Consumer Protection Bureau for the names of some reputable companies.

Scam of the day – April 23, 2012 – Car logo advertising scam

Many scams lure us in because they seem so close to legitimate business opportunities.  It is true that companies pay people to advertise their logos in vinyl decals on individuals’ cars.  The vinyl decal is called an auto wrap and there are companies that legitimately pay for this service.  Unfortunately, there are also a number of scammers out there now representing themselves as working for Coca Cola, Monster Energy drink, Carsberg beer, Heineken beer and Red Bull.  But they do not work for these legitimate companies.  They are scammers.   They send you, the victim, a bank check or money order and instruct you to deduct your  payment and send the balance to a designated graphic designer who will be preparing the logo.  This is a typical scam where you are provided a check for more than what is owed you for whatever the service is and then instructed to send back the difference.  The problem is that the check to you is inevitably counterfeit, but the money you wire from your account is real and money that you have lost.

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Never get involved with any deal where you have to send back money where you are told you are being sent an overpayment.  And don’t trust your bank when it tells you that you that the check has cleared.  What you initially received from your bank is only provisional credit after a few days.  It can take weeks for the actual check to be discovered to be counterfeit.

Scam of the day – April 22, 2012- Stock picking robot scam

The SEC has just filed charges against two brothers in England alleging that they scammed 75,000 people through a scheme in which they touted a penny stock picking robot that they had developed that could identify stocks about to double in value.  The two twin brothers, Alexander John Hunter and Thomas Edward Hunter began the scam in 2007 when they were only sixteen years old.  The stock picking robot was a scam, but people still paid subscription fees to their newsletter.  Meanwhile, they also sold their services to stock promoters claiming that they could send their stock prices soaring through their newsletters.  Of course, the public was unaware that the twins were using a scam called “pump and dump” by which they tout a stock and temporarily drive up the price while they then sell the stock at the artificially established high price before the stock falls back to its true value leaving the people taking the investment advice with large losses.

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As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Always check out the qualifications of any investment advisor from whom you take advice.  Make sure that you are dealing with someone reputable.  Check with your state’s securities regulator or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority which maintains a BrokerCheck website.  Also make sure that any investment advisor you use is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

Scam of the day – April 21, 2012 – More medical identity theft

Following closely on the heels of the theft of the medical records of approximately 780,000 people in Utah that I reported on in the “scam of the day” for April 12th, another major example of medical identity theft has occurred, this time in South Carolina where approximately 230,000 Medicaid records were stolen.  In this case, the information contained names, phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, Medicaid ID numbers and Social Security numbers.  This amount of information dramatically puts those people whose information was stolen in grave danger of both medical identity theft and traditional identity theft.  While the Utah theft of information was perpetrated by outside hackers in Eastern Europe, in South Carolina it was an inside job with an employee accessing the information.  Medical Identity theft is becoming a huge problem with more than five million people being affected by medical identity theft in 2010 according to federal figures.  Medical identity theft can be particularly insidious because it can corrupt the victim’s medical records and cause the victim to receive improper medical treatment.  Traditional identity theft can also be accomplished simultaneously with medical identity theft thereby causing great financial damage as well to the victims.

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Greater security is required of medical records from attacks both from outside the system and inside the system.  Greater screening of employees having access to information should be done and the number of employees with access to such information should be limited.  Much greater use of encryption should also be used and greater password protection and user codes should be implemented.  As for we the individuals whose records are in jeopardy, we should pay greater attention to every detail of our medical bills each month to identify possible breaches and also inquire of our medical care providers as to what they are doing to preserve the security of our information.