Scam of the day – May 3, 2012 – Time share scams

Timeshare sales have had more than their share of scams involved with them, but in the last three years the number of people victimized by time share scams have increased dramatically.   Recently, 22 people were indicted for timeshare resale fraud in Illinois.   In Florida, timeshare resale fraud is the subject of the greatest number of consumer complaints.  Timeshares are a legitimate vacation option for many people, but particularly since the economy first soured in 2008, resales have been difficult for many people and the scammers have come in to prey upon timeshare owners trying to sell their interests with promises of buyers that never materialize after charging the timeshare owners upfront fees of between $2,000 and $8,000 that vanishes with the scammers.

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Always check out the legitimacy of anyone proposing to help you sell your timeshare.  You can check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, your state’s attorney general at www.naag.org and your local consumer protection agencies at www.consumeraction.gov.  Make sure you have a lawyer review any contract before you sign it and it is a good idea not to pay in advance for the services of someone purporting to assist you in reselling your timeshare unit.

Scam of the day – May 2, 2012 – Extended Warranties

This is another oldie but goodie scam that continues to scam people out of hard earned money, but recently became the subject of new legislation in Missouri although the issue is a countrywide problem.  The problem are extended warranties for your automobile.  Actually, they are not “extended” warranties at all because if you read the fine print you will notice that although the notice looks official,  it is not from either the car manufacturer who issued your original warranty nor the car dealer who sold you the car.  The warranties themselves vary from scammer to scammer with some of the “extended” warranties being relatively worthless, but with all of them based on misrepresentations, how can you trust them, in any event?

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Always read the fine print of any communication you receive regardless of how official it looks.  In regard to car warranties, it is always a good idea to check with your dealer as to what warranties cover your car.

Scam of the day – May 1, 2012 – FTC study on identity theft

From time to time, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) focuses its attention on particular areas of identity theft and they have just announced that they will be studying identity theft that targets senior citizens.  Any senior citizen who has been a victim of identity theft or who wishes to comment can send their comments to the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/os/publiccomments.shtm.  You should title your comments as “Senior Identity Theft PO65411.”  Your comments will be included in public records so it is important not to include any personal information that could actually be used to make you a victim of identity theft.

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Senior citizens should be particularly wary of identity theft schemes involving abuse of Durable Powers of Attorney and financial abuse by family members or advisers such as accountants, lawyers and financial planners.

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.