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.

TIP

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 www.charitynavigator.org.

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.

TIP

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.

TIP

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.

TIP

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.

TIP

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.

Scam of the day – February 26, 2012 – Mortgage Settlement Scams

Whatever is in the news is always fodder for scammers.  Whether it is scams that lure people in with claims of photographs of Osama Bin Laden following his fatal shooting or photographs of Whitney Houston dead in her bathtub, scammers always manage to appeal to our curiosity about whatever is current in the news.

Many people were harmed by the actions of major banks in regard to their mortgage loan and foreclosure practices.  Following legal action by the federal goverment and the state attorneys general, a partial settlement was reached with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial (formerly known as GMAC) by which these banks will provide 1.5 billion dollars in cash payments to 750,000 former borrowers whose homes have been foreclosed upon and another 20 billion dollars to be paid to provide some financial relief to some other distressed homeowners who have not been foreclosed upon.

But no good deed goes unpunished and the scam artists are right there taking advantage of the confusion brought about by people not understanding how the settlement works.  Recently, scammers have been calling homeowners posing as representatives of the banks.   They tell their victims that they are eligible for the settlement and that they have to pay a fee to participate in the settlement.  They go on to ask for bank account information in order to be able to deposit the settlement funds into the homeowner’s account.  However, their real goal is to take the fees as well as access the homeowners’ bank accounts and never be heard of again.

TIP

The mortgage settlement is complicated, however, you should be aware that there are no fees for particpating in the program.  The best place to go for information upon which you can rely is the website of the mortgage settlement which is www.nationalforeclosuresettlement.com.  You will find the real story behind the mortgage settlement there as well as directions as to how to determine whether you are eligible for any of the funds and how to claim any funds for which you may be eligible.  As always, be careful when typing in the domain name in your browser to insure that you are not being sent to a website of the scammers that is just slightly different from the proper website.  You also can contact your own state’s attorney general for help and guidance.

Scam of the day – February 25, 2012 – Internet Employment Scam

The FBI is warning people about a new scam in which people who have either posted their resume on line looking for work or responded to an on line advertisements for employment are contacted by scammers claiming to be a research company seeking to hire the unwary victim to complete a survey on wire transfer services provided by various wire transfer companies, allegedly in order to evaluate the efficiency of these money transfer services.  Upon agreeing to do the work, the victims are sent a certified check by mail which they are instructed to deposit into their own checking account.  They are further instructed to wire a portion of the funds back to the company and keep the balance as their fee within twenty-four hours or they will be reported to the FBI and face a penalty of up to twenty-five years in jail.  It is only after the victim has forwarded money from his or her checking account that he or she learns that the original “certified check” was counterfeit and worthless, but the funds that they wired to the scammer is gone forever from their checking account.  Most victims have lost at least $2,500 as a result of this scam.  To make things worse, the counterfeit checks look real and, according to federal banking regulations,  banks will give provisional credit to the counterfeit check within five days of its deposit so the unwary victim may believe that the check has actually cleared while the truth is that the credit to his or her account will later be reversed when the check fails to clear and the victim, who thought the money to cover the funds he or she wired to the scammer was in his or her account, will learn that the check he or she received was a worthless counterfeit.

Tip

Always be wary of any business transaction that asks you to wire money.  Once you have wired money it is gone.  If you receive a purported certified check, contact the bank issuing the check to confirm that the check is legitimate and that there are sufficient funds in the account.  Finally, wait for the check to fully clear before doing anything with the money contained in a certified check.

Scam of the day – February 24, 2012 – Loan Collection Scam

The Internet Crime Complaint Center is reporting a large number of recent complaints about scammers calling victims posing as representatives of the FBI, the “Federal Legislative Department, a law firm or some other official sounding entity and attempting to collect purported overdue loans on behalf of companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. CAsh Net or other check cashing services that can be found on the Internet.

In some of the calls the scammers threaten arrest or civil lawsuits.  In all of the calls, high pressure tactics are used and payment is demanded by credit or debit cards or prepaid credit cards.  Many of the calls have been made to the victims on their cell phones, at their places of work or at their home.

Some of the victims have reported that the scammers have much information about them, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, bank account numbers and place of employment.  The fact that this information is known by the scammers is an indication that hacking or identity theft has already occurred.  Some of the victims had completed online applications for loans or credit on either sites that were either phony or their information had been hacked either on their own computer or the computer of the legitimate loan source.

If you receive such a call, hang up and promptly notify your bank, put a credit freeze on your credit report and report the call to law enforcement.

Quotes about Scams

“You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”  Abraham Lincoln

“But you can come awfully close if people aren’t careful.”  Steve Weisman

“The sure way to be cheated is to think one’s self more cunning then others.”  Francois De La Rochefoucauld

“Education is when you read the fine print.  Experience is what you get if you don’t.”  Pete Seger

“If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out.”  Will Rogers

“They were a people so primitive they did not know how to get money, except by working for it.”  Joseph Addison

“Who is going to believe a con artist?  Everyone, if she is good.”  Andy Griffith as television lawyer, Matlock

“It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.”  W.C. Fields

“By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.”  African proverb

“There are some frauds so well conducted that it would be stupidity not to be deceived by them.”  Charles Caleb Colton

“We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“By the time the fool has learned the game, the players have dispersed.”  African proverb

“It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money.”  W.C. Fields

“They were a people so primitive they did not know how to get money, except by working for it.”  Joseph Addison

Welcome to Scamicide.com

Scams and fraud have been a part of history since the beginning of time.  Many of the new scams that we see today are not really new at all, but merely variations on old cons.  One such scam that was perpetrated in the 1500s when it was called the Spanish Prisoner Scam has evolved over the years into the Nigerian Letter Scam of today.  Scams relating to medical treatments and diet were as attractive to early American colonists as they are to us, in what we perceive to be more enlightened times.

The old French proverb is indeed correct.  “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”  Age old human desires don’t seem to change.  Clever con artists can manipulate those desires to their own benefit.  Con artists are indeed criminals, but they are also the only criminals we refer to as artists because as much as we deplore their actions, we also recognize their art.

Scam artists adjust their art to paint whatever picture they sense will make us vulnerable to their con.  They have a knowledge of psychology that would make Freud envious.  They know how to appeal to our particular weaknesses and psychological makeup.  They appeal to whatever works.  They construct a network of “people like us” whom we trust; they appeal to our fears; they appeal to our friendship; they appeal to our optimism;  they appeal to our generous, charitable instincts; they appeal to our desire for quick and easy solutions to life’s vexing problems and they appeal to our greed.  Sometimes they even appeal to and exploit that little kernel of dishonesty that many people have.

According to the Federal Trade Commission Americans lose billions of dollars to scams every year.  Interestingly, the largest group of victims is between the ages of 25 and 44; ages when you are young enough to know everything – which, of course, makes you more vulnerable to a scam artist.  Particularly troublesome is a study done by the National Association of Securities Dealers that indicated that wealthy people who are financially literate and astute are actually more likely to taken in by an investment scam.

Smart people can get scammed.  Just ask any of the victims of Bernie Madoff.

The threat of scams and identity theft is not as bad as you think.  It is far worse and getting more serious every day.  Modern technology has been a boon to mankind, but it has even been a bigger boon to scam artists and identity thieves who are able to use the latest technology to scam you and steal your identity from your cell phone and every other mobile device.

Technology may be a part of the problem, but it is also part of the solution.

But the biggest solution is knowledge and skepticism.

And that is where I come in.

I can teach you how to recognize scams and risks of identity theft as well as how to avoid them.  I can provide you with the telltale signs of scams and identity theft and I can alert you to the latest developments in scams and identity theft.

What you don’t know, can hurt you.  I can educate you to spot the dangers in places you may never have considered, such as your television or your cell phone.

And if you have become a victim, I can show you what to do.

In this age of information sharing, everyone is vulnerable to identity theft and scams because even if you are doing everything right, the many companies and institutions with which you do business and operate with in your everyday life may not be protecting you as much as they can.  I can show you how to minimize those risks.

Many years ago I worked as a professor in a college program in the state prison system in Massachusetts.  One of my students was doing two consecutive life sentences, which meant that after he died, he would start his second sentence.  When he told me about this I told him about how I always wondered how that worked.  He said that he had too and that when he was sentenced, he yelled at the judge, “How do you expect me to do two consecutive life sentences” to which the judge responded, “Just do the best you  can.”

There are no guarantees in life and there certainly is no guarantee that you will not become a victim of identity theft or scammed, but by doing the best you can, you can certainly narrow your chances of becoming a victim.