Scam of the day – August 18, 2012 – Publishers Clearing House prize scam

The famous Publishers Clearing House will be awarding its annual prize soon and scammers are taking advantage of this fact by telephoning people to tell them that they have won a huge prize, but they have to purchase a prepaid gift card or prepaid credit card and provide the number to the caller in order to be able to claim the prize.  If you do so, you will end up losing the money that you paid for the card to the scammer.

TIPS

As I have often said, it is hard enough to win a contest that you have entered; it is impossible to enter a contest you have not entered.  However, many people do enter the Publishers Clearing House contest so you may find it credible to be contacted by someone purporting to be with Publishers Clearing House to tell you of your lucky day.  The fact is that Publishers Clearing House will only notify you by regular mail or in person.  They will not contact you by phone or by email and they will never ask for any administrative fees or other costs to be paid to claim your prize.

Scam of the day – August 17, 2012 – New York legislation

Generally, in the “Scam of the day” I warn you about the latest scams and identity theft schemes, however, I am happy to report that today’s “Scam of the day” is to inform you about a new bill just signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that will take effect four months from now that prohibits businesses and services from requiring people to disclose their Social Security numbers in order to business with the particular company.  There are some legitimate exceptions for bank and credit related purposes and other similar services, but generally this will prevent companies that have no legitimate need for your Social Security number from requiring that you give them your Social Security number or refuse to provide goods or services to you if you do not provide it.

TIPS

Unfortunately, most states and the federal government still permit companies to refuse to do business with you if you refuse to provide them with your Social Security number.  If you are dealing with a company that requests your Social Security number although they do not need it, you should suggest using another identifying number such as your Driver’s license number.  Some people have gone so far as to obtain Richard Nixon’s Social Security number by using the Death Master Index of the Social Security Administration that provides access to the Social Security numbers of anyone who has died.  The more places that have your Social Security number, the greater your risk of identity theft if their data security is breached so whenever possible limit the places that have it.

Scam of the day – August 16, 2012 – Voter survey scam

Political candidates derive much of their strategy from the information they obtain from telephone surveys so it is not surprising that you may receive a telephone call from a company taking a survey on behalf of a particular candidate.  Even if you are on the federal do-not-call list, the law permits you to receive these kinds of calls.  Scam artists and identity thieves are aware of this and will call you posing as legitimate poll takers.  They will then tell you that in return for taking their poll, you are eligible for a prize and in order to be eligible for the prize, you must provide them with some personal information such as your Social Security number or your bank account number.  Unfortunately, there are no prizes for participating in such surveys and if you provide this information, you will become a victim of identity theft.

TIPS
Legitimate political poll takers never offer prizes for participation in their polls so if one is offered, you know it is a scam.  As I have repeatedly said, never give your personal information, such as your Social Security number to anyone whom you have not called and are sure of their identity and their need for the information.  Finally, as I have indicated before, you may wish to place a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if your Social Security number is stolen, the identity thief will not be able to get access to your credit report to make large purchases in your name.

Scam of the day – August 15, 2012 – Voter registration scam

With the presidential election season in high gear, it is not surprising that identity thieves and scam artists are taking advantage of this to scam people out of their money.  One of the more common identity theft schemes involves a call from your city or town clerk verifying your registration as a voter.  In order to do this, you are told that you need to provide your Social Security number.  Once you have done this, you have handed the identity theft all he or she needs to steal your identity and obtain credit in your name.

TIPS

Never give your Social Security number to anyone whom you have not called and does not absolutely need it.  Your city or town clerk will never call you to confirm your Social Security number for purposes of verifying your voter registration.  If you have a question about your voter registration, contact directly your city or town clerk at a telephone number that you know is correct.  You also may wish to put a credit freeze, which is described elsewhere in this website/blog on your credit report to prevent access to your credit report and your credit even if someone is able to get your Social Security number.

Scam of the day – August 14, 2012 – More IRS identity theft scams

The recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration of the IRS’ poor record when it comes to preventing tax identity theft where identity thieves steal the names of Social Security numbers of their victims and then file phony federal income tax returns claiming phony tax refunds is absolutely startling when you consider that the IRS’ computers were not able to find anything amiss when  it issued more than a million dollars in refund checks regarding 741 separate income tax returns that all used the same Belle Glade, Florida address.  But that wasn’t even the worst example.  The IRS sent checks totalling more than 3.3 million dollars in regard to 2,137 individual returns that all listed the same Lansing, Michigan address.

TIPS

As I have explained previously on this website/blog, identity thieves get names and Social Security numbers of people to file phony income tax returns from Social Security’s own Death Master File which lists the names and Social Security numbers of recently deceased individuals.  This information is available free on line.  They also have stolen the names and Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican citizens who are not liable for federal income taxes, they have stolen the names and Social Security numbers of children and they have stolen the names and Social Security numbers of many others through a large variety of illegal tactics.  To keep yourself from becoming a victim of tax identity theft, keep your Social Security number as private as possible.  The fewer places that have this information, the better.  Also, file your income tax return as early as possible.  Identity thieves file phony income tax returns in the names of their victims before W-2s are required to be filed with the government this year until February 28, 2013.  The Identity thieves forge phony w-2 forms which the IRS may not have a valid W-2 to compare it to.

Scam of the day – August 13, 2012 – Veterans Retraining Assistance Program scam

The Veterans Retraining Assistance Program is a program of the Department of Veterans Affairs that provides funds to eligible veterans for VA approved educational programs.  However, scammers are calling veterans and telling them that they have been approved for benefits of $8,500 and that this will be deposited into the bank account of the veteran.  All the veteran has to do is call a telephone number and provide his or her bank account number bank routing number and pay a $205 service fee.  Unfortunately, the call is a scam.  Providing the information to a scammer can lead to the veteran’s bank account being emptied.

TIPS

The VA will never charge a fee to access your benefits nor will it ever ask for private information over the phone.  Never give personal information over the phone to someone you have not called.  If you suspect that such a call is legitimate, contact your local VA office at a telephone number that you know is accurate.

 

Scam of the day – August 12, 2012 – Deployed soldier scam

Scammers certainly have no ethics when it comes to determining their victims.  A new scam that is now appearing involves the spouse of a deployed soldier being contacted by an email indicating that the spouse needs to wire funds in order to cover the cost of luggage charges before the service member spouse can be approved for a temporary leave.  This particular scam actually contains the name of real service members which indicates that there has been a breach of security somewhere in a data bank with information on military members and their spouses.

TIPS

No matter how legitimate an email may look, it can be a forgery.  In this particular instance, despite the fact that actual names are used, you should be skeptical of a military program pertaining to a leave that requires you to wire funds.  If you have any questions you should contact the service member’s base in the United States to confirm that the message is a scam.

Scam of the day – August 11, 2012 – Latest Twitter scam

Recently there have been a large number of tweets from scammers that indicate that if you click on the link contained in the tweet you will see a photograph of yourself.  Unfortunately, if you click on the tweet, you don’t get a photograph of yourself, but you do download a Blackhole Exploit Kit that can do any number of malicious things to you and your computer.  It has key stroke logging capabilities so it can read the information on your computer and get access to your credit card numbers and other personal information that may be on your computer.  It also can take over your computer and turn it into a zombie computer as part of a botnet by which the scammers use your computer to send out their scam emails.

TIPS

Never click on a link unless you are positive it is from a reliable source.  Even if it appears to be from one of your friends, their account may have been hacked into and the link may have been sent by a scammer.  Always call your friend first to confirm that the message was from him or her and even then you should exercise caution because he or she may be passing on malware that he or she is not aware he or she has downloaded.  In this particular scam, many of the scamming tweets are coming from Cuba or Russia so if the link ends in “.ru” or “.cu” you should be particularly wary.

Scam of the day – August 10, 2012 – Campaign donation scams

With the presidential campaign heating up, it is not just campaign season, but scam season.  Scammers manage to take advantage of whatever is going on in society to advance their illegal goals.  Many people are receiving telephone calls from scammers posing as campaign fund raisers for either the Obama or Romney campaigns.  Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call list, political campaign solicitations are permitted to be made to you.  Unfortunately, when you receive a call from a purported campaign worker, you never can be sure that you are actually receiving a call from a legitimate campaign worker or a scammer.

TIPS

Never give credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called yourself and only when you are absolutely sure that the telephone number is accurate.  If you are inclined to give to a particular campaign, go to the campaign’s official website

Scam of the day – August 9, 2012 – Largest Identity theft ring in American history

Recently, Amar Singh and his wife Neha Punjani-Singh were sentenced to prison for their role in a thirteen million dollar identity theft ring that operated in the United States with help from abroad between July and November of 2011.  The Singhs were only two of a group of 111 people who were arrested by federal authorities in regard to the scam.  Amar Singh was one of four top operators of the identity theft ring which received stolen personal information on American victims from sources in Russia and China as well as from American based identity thieves who obtained the personal information of their victims primarily through skimming devices, which as I have explained previously in this website/blog are small electronic devices that are used by identity thieves to illegally swipe a credit card used in a restaurant or retail establishment at the same time the victim presents his or her card for a legitimate purchase.  The skimmer steals the information stored on the card.  The information gathered both home and abroad was used to create counterfeit credit cards that were used by the criminals to the detriment of the identity theft victims.

TIPS

As much as possible, when you pay with a credit card, keep the card in sight to help insure that your card is not being swiped through a skimmer.  Skimmers can also be installed on gas pumps and ATM machines so look for signs of tampered machines.  Also, limit your use of your debit card to ATM machines because the risk of losing money through a debit card is greater than through a credit card due to different federal laws that govern each type of card.  Protect your personal financial information as much as possible and keep it private because data breaches in any place that holds your information puts you at risk.  Finally, read your monthly credit card bill carefully each month to make sure that there are no fraudulent charges and if you do find them, report them immediately.