Scam of the day – May 8, 2012 – Jamaican lottery scam arrests

Although the country of Nigeria comes to mind when we think about countries from which many scams originate, as I warned you in my “scam of the day” of April 18, 2012, Jamaica has become a hotbed of phony lottery scams.  This week the Jamaican Assistant Commmissioner of Police gave a speech in which he indicated that lottery scams have become the most significant contributer to an increased murder rate in the St. James parish of Jamaica.  On the same day of Commissioner Williams’ speech, Jamaican police announced the arrest of six Jamaicans for scamming Americans through a telemarketing lottery scam.

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You cannot win a contest you have not entered.  You don’t have to pay fees to receive winnings in legitimate contests and lotteries.  Another common lottery scam is when you are told that they have to collect the income taxes on the prize.  This is a scam too.  Either the taxes are deduted from your prize or you pay them directly to the IRS.  No contest sponsor receives a payment from you for taxes.  The Jamaican scam has preyed partiularly on the elderly who should never trust anyone on the telephone telling them that they have won a contest.

Scam of the day – May 7, 2012 – New Amazon email scam

Recently a large  number of people have been receiving emails purporting to be from Amazon with “Amazon.com Your Cancellation” in the subject line.  Even though the email may appear to be legitimate, it is not.  It is just an example of phishing.  The email will advise you to click on links in the emails to verify your status.  Under no circumstances click on any links or open any attachments.  Downloading an attachment or clicking on a link inside the phony email can result in malware being installed on your computer that can read all of your computer’s contents including important personal information that can lead to identity theft.  Also, do not respond to the email by providing any information asked.  That too can lead to you becoming a victim of identity theft.

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The real Amazon.com will never send you an unsolicited attachment nor will it ever ask you to reply with personal information.  The real Amazon.com will not ask you to verify account information through a link in the email.    If you do have a present active order with Amazon or any question whether such an email is legitimate, merely go to www.amazon.com, click into “Your Account” and you can get proper information.

Scam of the day – May 6, 2012 – Updated grandparent scam

Although it has been going on for years, many people are still falling prey to the “Grandparent Scam” where grandparents get telephone calls from scammers posing as grandchildren in trouble in need of money for bail, car repairs, lawyer’s fees or other matters.  The scammers lure the grandparents into wiring the money to the scammers.  Now this scam has extended to other family members other than grandparents and following apparent breaches at some military bases, scammers are calling the families of service members seeking money pretending to be family service members.

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One of the prime sources of information that the scammers use in obtaining personal information to use in order to pose as a family member is social media such as Facebook.  People should be wary of all of the information they include on their social media and remember that knowledge of these details does not mean that the person calling is who he or she purports to be.  If you believe there is a real emergency, first contact other family members to confirm the location of the individual and if the scammer claims to be in a hospital or a jail, find the real telephone number of the hospital or jail to confirm the story you are told.  Chances are, it is a scam.

Scam of the day – May 5, 2012 – Better Business Bureau Scam

The Better Business Bureau is a very trusted institution which is why their name is often exploited by scammers.  For the fifth time in the last six months there has recently been a new wave of phishing scams involved with the Better Business Bureau’s name.  The scam starts with a business owner receiving an email informing him or her that a complaint has been filed against his or her company.  The business owner is invited to click on to a link for more information, however, if you do this, you risk unwittingly installing keystroke logging malware that can read all of the information on your computer including your banking information.  This information has been used by scammers to access the bank accounts of businesses falling victim to the scam.  Because it is so easy to make an email look like it is from a legitimate company, you should always be wary of any email that asks for information or asks you to go to a link.

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Never click on links or attachments unless you are positive that they are legitimate. When you evaluate emails from companies with which you do business, notice if they are addressed to your personally or to “Dear Customer.”  Make sure your anti virus and anti malware software is always up to date and if you have any concern that the communication is legitimate, confirm it with a phone call to a telephone number that you know is legitimate.

Scam of the day – May 4, 2012 – Medicare Scams

As a part of a massive federal effort to reduce Medicare fraud, federal law enforcement authorities have arrested more than a hundred doctors and other health care professionals involved in Medicare scams that cost taxpayers an estimated 452 million dollars.  Medicare fraud which generally occurs when false or unnecessary medical treatments or equipment are billed for may not seem like they affect us individually, but they do.  Cooperating even unwittingly with Medicare scammers can lead to your identity theft as well as cost us all more money as taxpayers.

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Never give your personal information, particularly your Medicare card number (which coincidentally is your Social Security number) to anyone who contacts you uninvited  to sell you Medicare related products.  Be particularly wary of people who solicit you for “free” medical equipment.  Always check you Medicare and private insurance bills, sometimes called explanation of benefits to make sure that you ar not being charged for services that you did not receive.

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.