Scam of the day – July 19, 2012 – Reloading scam

According to the Federal Trade Commission’s most recent survey, more than thirty million Americans were the victims of scams last year.  However, the number of scams was indicated as close to 49 million scams, which means that many scam victims were victimized more than once.   This is not a coincidence or mere bad luck.  Scammers often compile lists of their victims with information including their names, addresses and contact information.  They sell this information to other scammers who often contact the victims and tell them that they are with a consumer group or government agency and that they are available to help the victim regain the money lost to the previous scam.  The new scammer then asks for processing fees or other personal information, such as a Social Security number in order to proceed with the recovery effort.  Of course, the recovery effort never occurs.  In fact, the victim is merely victimized again, either by paying for services the victim never receives or by giving away personal information that leads to identity theft.

TIPS

No government agency or consumer agency will contact you about recovering money you have lost to a scam.  It is up to you to contact them.  Only the scammers know you have been scammed so if you receive contact from someone seeking to help you, just say no.  Never give your personal information to anyone whom you have not contacted and are sure that they are legitimate and need the information.

Scam of the day – July 18, 2012 – Lost USB sticks

Curiosity killed the cat and it can also invade your computer and result in a scammer getting access to your computer through malware such as a keystroke logging program that can read and steal all of the information stored on your computer, such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers and passwords.  It can lead to you becoming a victim of identity theft.  What scammers and identity thieves have been doing recently is leaving USB sticks in parking lots of companies that they wish to hack, hoping that people who work there will see the USB sticks and then curious about what is on them, put them into their computers at work and, without thinking, download the malicious software.

TIPS

Never put a USB stick into your computer that you are not absolutely sure is clean.  The risk is too great.  Let the cat live.

Scam of the day – July 17, 2012 – Microsoft patches

Recently Microsoft released nine security bulletins relating to a number of critical vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer, Visual Basics for Applications and Microsoft Office.  Two of the patches in particular MSA12-043 and MS12-045 are very important in maintaining your computer’s security from attack.  Scammers and identity thieves take particular advantage of the computer vulnerabilities of people who do not update their computer software.

TIPS

Most Microsoft customers automatically have their software security updates downloaded and installed.  If you do not, you should consider doing so to make sure that you do not miss important computer security patches.

Scam of the day – July 16, 2012 – Jury duty scam

Some scams keep repeating and with good reason – they work.  Jury duty scams have been with us for many years and they continue to be an effective scam.  They start when you receive a telephone call or a text message informing you that you have failed to report for jury duty and you are at risk of a substantial fine or even arrest.  You are given a number to call and when you do, the scammer then tells you he or she needs to confirm your personal information including your Social Security number.  Some particularly blatent scammers will even ask for your credit card number.  Why you would need that to confirm your identity for jury duty purposes is hard to imagine.  Anyone who provides the information requested will become a victim of identity theft as the information is used to obtain credit, goods and services in the name of the victim.

TIPS

Courts will not contact you by the phone or a text message.  Never give your personal information to anyone whom you are not sure is legitimate.  If you have a question about jury duty, call the number for the court that you know to be accurate, not the one that is provided to you by the scammer.

Scam of the day – July 15, 2012 – Phony computer repair scam

One of the latest computer scams now going on involves the victim receiving a telephone call from a scammer posing as a representative of a well known computer company who informs the victim that the victim’s computer is infected with a dangerous virus and that the company needs to access the computer remotely in order to clear the computer of the virus.  The scammer then asks for the victim’s password and other information in order to get access.  Unfortunately, rather than clear the computer of a virus, what the scammer will do is actually install viruses and malware such as keystroke logging programs that can lead to your becoming a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Never trust anyone on the phone to be who they say they are.  In addition, you will not be called by companies to inform you that your computer has been infected.  Don’t give personal information including passwords to anyone unless you are absolutely sure who they are.  If you get a communication that indicates it is from your computer company, you should verify it with a phone call or email to the computer company at an address or phone number that you know is accurate.

Scam of the day – July 14, 2012 – More Yahoo dangers

Data breaches such as occurred this week with Yahoo, which shockingly did not even encrypt the data of its users often lead to even more scams through the use of the email addresses of the hacked individuals to send out phishing emails to unsuspecting victims who see an email from a trusted source that may contain a link that they click on to and unwittingly download malware such as keystroke logging programs that can steal all of the information off of your computer, such as your Social Security number, passwords, credit card numbers and more.  The risk of these types of phishing scams always increases following a large data breach such as the recent Yahoo, Formspring and LinkedIn data breaches.

TIPS

Always check with any website or company that will have information about you as to their own security.  Also do not store credit card numbers with companies that you do business with online.  It may be convenient for you to do so, but it exposes you to greater risk if there is a data breach.  Finally, never click on any link in an email even one from a friend until you have confirmed that it is legitimate by contacting the friend directly to make sure that it was he or she that sent it.  And even then you may wish to consider where they got the link to make sure that they are not unwittingly passing on malware to you.

Scam of the day – July 13, 2012 – Yahoo data breach and how to protect yourself

Data breaches are a fact of modern digital life.  This week hundreds of thousands of Yahoo users had their usernames and passwords stolen from one of their databases and just within the past month social network sites Formspring and LinkedIn had their databases hacked into resulting in the loss of personal information of millions more people.  It is important to remember that your own personal security is only as safe as the company with the weakest security that holds your information.  But there are things you can do to protect yourself.

TIPS

Do not give your Social security number to companies that request it unless you truly legally must do so.  Your Social Security number is the key to identity theft and can provide access to to your credit report which in turn can provide an identity thief with access to your credit.  Use complex passwords and use different passwords for each of your accounts so that if a breach occurs, not all of your accounts are in jeopardy.  It is easy to pick  a passowrd with numbers and letters and just vary it slightly from account to account.  Put a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if someone gets your Social Security number and name, they cannot get access to your credit report. With a credit freeze, you credit report can only be accessed through a PIN that you keep private.

Scam of the day – July 12, 2012 – New online loan scam

We all know to be careful when getting loans from online lenders who may be scammers.  One of the telltale signs that the lender may be a scammer is that they require advance fees before they lend the money.  Additionally, you may respond to a lender because you see their ad on a legitimate website or in other legitimate media.  It is important to remember that just because the media carrying the ad is legitimate, does not mean that the lender is legitimate.  But the new online loan scam involves people who have received online loans from legitimate companies who then receive calls from debt collectors hounding them for repayment.  The problem is that these debt collectors are scammers who have purchased the information about the borrower from the lender and the worse part is that this practice is entirely legal.  Anyone can buy that information, which is used for legitimate marketing purposes by honest companies, but is used by scammers to make you think you owe them money.

TIP

Never trust that the person on a phone call is who they say they are.  Never give personal information over the phone to someone if you are not absolutely sure who they are.  If someone calls you about an overdue loan on the phone ask them to send written documentation.  Keep good records as to how much you have borrowed, how much is owed and to whom it is owed so you won’t fall prey to a scammer.

Scam of the day – July 11, 2012 – Obama utility bill scam

A scam that is making its way around the country and scamming thousands of people involves scammers notifying their victims that the victims are eligible for a utility payment assistance program authorized by President Obama.  The victims are told that all they need to do is to register for the program by providing their Social Security number and other personal information.  They are then given bank account numbers and bank routing numbers to be used to pay electronically their utility bills.  One unfortunate reason that the scam has proved so successful for scammers is that when the utility companies receive the initial electronic payment, they apply the amount sent electronically to the bill of the scam victim so it appears for a while that the program is actually real.  However, once the electronic payment fails to clear, the payment is rescinded cancelling the payment and making the victim liable for late fees.  Meanwhile the victim has given his or her Social Security number and  personal information to the scammer that can be used to make the victim a further victim of identity theft.

TIPS

There is no such utility payment assistance program.  Do not fall for this scam.  If you are ever told that there is a federal or state program for which you are eligible for benefits, check out your eligibility on your own directly with the state or federal agencies involved.  Never give your personal information to anyone unless you are sure who they are.

Scam of the day – July 10, 2012 – Iraqi dinar scam

Trading and speculating in foreign currencies is a high risk, but potentially high reward investment activity.  It is a legal activity and people selling these investments must be registered with both state and federal agencies.  Recently there has been in upsurge in sales of the Iraqi dinar, the currency of Iraq.  Many of the sales are being done by unregistered scammers promising that when the Iraqi economy turns around in a few years you will make a tremendous profit  Unfortunately, no one knows if and when the Iraqi economy will improve and perhaps an even more significant problem is that the dinar is not a listed security anywhere and no govermental agency is directly supervising its trading.  Banks don’t even use it.

TIPS

Never invest in any investment that you do not totally understand and never invest without checking out the legitimacy of the person and company offering the investment.  In the case of the Iraqi dinar, you can’t even check out the investment because at the moment it is unregulated, which should be sufficient investigation in and of itself to tell you not to invest in it.