Scam of the day – March 17, 2016 – Political donation scams

March 16, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The 2016 presidential campaigns are in full swing and scammers are taking advantage of interest in the various candidates by making telephone calls posing as campaign workers seeking political donations from their unsuspecting victims who are lured into providing their credit card information over the phone.  This particular scam can easily seem legitimate.  Caller ID can be tricked through a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear that the call is coming from a candidate and recordings of the candidate can also be used as a part of the scam.  Furthermore, calls from political candidates are exempt even from the federal Do-Not-Call List, so it would be legal for someone to get a call from a political campaign seeking donations.


Whenever you receive a telephone call, you can never be sure as to who is really contacting you, so you should never give personal or financial information to anyone over the phone who you have not called.  If you do wish to contribute to a political candidate’s campaign, the best way to do this is by going to the candidate’s official website and make your contribution.  Even then, make sure that when you are giving your donation online that the website address begins with https instead of just http.  Https indicates that your communication is being encrypted for better security.


Scam of the day – March 16, 2016 – New Chase phishing email

March 15, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Phishing emails, by which scammers and identity thieves attempt to lure you into either clicking on links contained within the email which will download malware or providing personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft, are nothing new.   They are a staple of identity thieves and scammers and with good reason because they work.  Here is a copy of a new phishing email that appears to come from Chase bank that is presently circulating.  DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINK.  Like so many phishing emails, this one attempts to lure you into responding by making you think there is an emergency to which you must respond.

Dear Chase customer:

As part of our commitment to help keep your account secure, 
we have detected an irregular activity on your account and we are placing a hold on your account for your protection.

Please visit the confirmation of accounts system

Please enter your information carefully


Chase Online Banking Team 




We sent this email from an unmonitored mailbox. Go to to find the best way to contact us.

Your privacy is important to us. See our online Security Center to learn how to protect your information. Chase Privacy Operations, PO Box 659752, San Antonio, TX 78265-9752.

© 2016 JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. Member FDIC


There are a number of indications that this is not a legitimate email from Chase, but instead is a phishing email.  The email address from which it was sent has nothing to do with Chase, but most likely was from a hacked email account that is a part of a botnet of computers controlled remotely by the scammer.  In addition, legitimate credit card companies would refer to your specific account number in the email.  They also would not use the generic greeting “Dear Chase Customer,” but would rather specifically direct the email to you by your name.  As with all phishing emails, two things can happen if you click on the links provided.  Either you will be sent to a legitimate looking, but phony webpage where you will be prompted to input personal information that will be used to make you a victim of identity theft or, even worse, merely by clicking on the link, you will download keystroke logging malware that will steal all of your personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.  If you receive an email like this and think it may possibly be legitimate, merely call the customer service number on the back of your credit card where you can confirm that it is a scam and make sure that you dial the telephone number correctly because scammers have been known to buy phone numbers that are just a digit off of the legitimate numbers for financial companies, such as Chase to trap you if you make a mistake in dialing the real number.

Scam of the day – March 15, 2016 – Latest software security updates from the Department of Homeland Security

March 15, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats.  Whenever new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use.  Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results.  However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update.  Today’s updates include critical updates for Google Chrome.


Here are links to the latest security updates and patches from the Department of Homeland Security:

Scam of the day – March 14, 2016 – Wounded Warrior Project fires administrators

March 14, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The Wounded Warrior Project was created in 2003 to help wounded veterans coming back to the United States.  It started modestly, but grew dramatically in recent years, taking in almost a billion dollars in donations since 2009.  However, despite much good work helping returning veterans, there have been charges for quite a while of lavish spending unrelated to the charity’s purposes as well as large salaries paid to administrators, particularly Steve Nardizzi, its chief executive and his right hand man Al Giordano.  Following an internal investigation, Nardizzi and Giordano both had their employment with the Wounded Warrior Project terminated last week.  According to approximately 40% of the charities donations were spent on fundraising and administrative expenses in 2014.

Some charities are pure scams where scammers take all of the donations and never provide payments or services to anyone other than the phony charity’s administrators.  However, other “legitimate” charities may, strictly speaking, not be violating any laws, but take an outrageous amount of money to pay inflated salaries of administrators and costly fund raising efforts that do little to advance the charitable purposes of these charities.  I have written many times about various charities that fit this pattern.


As a rule of thumb, charities that spend more than 25 to 33% of their donations on their own administrative costs including large salaries may be considered to be charities you may wish to avoid. A good place to go to find out whether or not a charity is first and foremost a scam and then to learn how much the charity spends of its donations on its own administrative expenses is where you can find this information for free.

March 13, 2016 – Steve Weisman’s latest column from USA Today

March 13, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Here is a link to Steve Weisman’s latest column from USA Today which deals with the important topic of how secure are banks from cyberattacks.  The timeliness of this column is increased when you consider the recent cyberattack on the Bank of Bangladesh described in the Scam of the day for March 12, 2016

Scam of the day – March 13, 2016 – Adobe Flash software update

March 13, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

I have been writing about the security flaws in Adobe Flash for years and finally in July of 2015 I advised everyone to disable Adobe Flash and use other video software.   Unfortunately, some popular websites including HBO and Spotify still require the use of Adobe Flash.  In 2015, Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox browser  blocked Adobe Flash from use on Firefox as a security protection to Firefox users.  That came just a day after Facebook’s head of security went on record saying that Adobe should stop making Flash because it is too flawed.  Flaws in Adobe Flash have been exploited by hackers and identity thieves against individuals, companies and government agencies including the U.S. State Department and the White House.  Problems with Adobe Flash are nothing new.  In 2010 Steve Jobs vociferously complained about its security and it has routinely been cited as being extremely vulnerable.  Despite security patch after security patch, new problems keep coming up.  It appears that just as companies retire certain programs when it is just too difficult to patch them, this may well be the time for Adobe to retire Flash and if it doesn’t, you should consider retiring it yourself and replacing it with another plugin that performs the same function, but is safer.


Some alternative plugins you may wish to consider include  GNU Gnash, and Silverlight.  Silverlight can be downloaded free directly from the Microsoft at this link: while GNU Gnash can be downloaded free at this link:

Meanwhile, for those of you who still wish to use Adobe Flash, you should make sure that you update your Adobe Flash software whenever new security patches are issued, which Adobe has just done.  Here is a link to the new security update as indicated by the Department of Homeland Security:

Scam of the day – March 12, 2016 – Hackers steal 81 million dollars from Bangladesh bank

March 12, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Early last month cybercriminals hacked into Bangladesh’s central bank and managed to steal approximately 81 million dollars, however, it could have been worse.  If it weren’t for a spelling error, the theft could have approached a billion dollars.   Although the investigation into this crime is still in its early stages, it appears that as with so many types of cybercrimes, this one started with social engineering spear phishing which lured bank employees to unwittingly download the malware used by the hackers to infiltrate the bank’s computers and obtain not just the passwords and cryptographic keys used for electronic fund transfers, but also the emails of bank employees so that they could copy and adapt the emails by which they made their transfers appear legitimate.    Armed with this information, the cybercriminals sent dozens of account transfer requests from the Bangladesh central bank to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York where the Bangladesh central bank has accounts containing billions of dollars.  The account transfer requests processed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York electronically sent about 81 million dollars to accounts in the Philippines where the funds were transferred multiple times including transfers to Philippine casinos in an effort to launder the money.

Four transfer requests totaling approximately 81 million dollars were processed in this cyber bank heist when the fifth transfer request to a supposed Sri Lankan non-profit organization aroused suspicion with Deutsche Bank, a routing bank in the transaction due to the misspelling of “foundation” as “fandation” prompting  a closer investigation of the transfer request.  At the same time, the Federal Reserve also became suspicious at the large number of transfer requests being made to private entities instead of banks, halted the remaining transfer requests and contacted the Bangladesh central bank.


All businesses and governmental agencies have got to do a better job at cybersecurity in general.  In particular, greater attention has to be paid to the dangers of social engineering spear phishing which has been at the root of the almost all of the major data breaches at both companies like Target and governmental agencies, such as the Office of Personnel Management.

Scam of the day – March 11, 2016 – Possible Home Depot data breach settlement

March 11, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

A tentative settlement has been reached between Home Depot and the 56 million victims of its massive data breach which occurred between April and September of 2014.  The proposed settlement provides for a 13 million dollar fund to reimburse victims for out of pocket losses incurred  with an additional 6.5 million dollars being set aside for legal fees and other related expenses.  Shortly after the data breach, Home Depot announced that it would provide a year’s free credit monitoring through security company All Clear ID.  The offer was made to Home Depot customers who used their credit or debit cards at Home Depot between April 1, 2014 and September 9, 2014.  The proposed settlement of the class action brought by victims of the data breach must be approved by the judge overseeing the case.

Similar to the major data breach at Target which occurred a year earlier, Home Depot’s computers and credit card processing equipment was hacked when a third party party vendor’s computers were hacked thereby enabling the hackers to steal the passwords necessary for the third party vendor’s to access Home Depot’s computers.  As an additional part of the settlement Home Depot committed to make greater efforts at data security.


As further developments in this settlement occur, I will inform you of those developments so if you were a victim of the Home Depot data breach, I will let you know what to do.  As for all of us, even if we were not a victim of this particular data breach, it is important to remember that we are only as safe as the places with which we do business that have the weakest security.  Greater implementation of EMV smart chip credit cards will reduce the effects of data breaches aimed at gaining credit card and debit card information, but many stores still have not shifted over to the new equipment required to process EMV smart chip credit cards.

Also, do not use your debit card for retail purchases.  Limit its use to ATMs.  There are strong laws to protect you from fraudulent use of your credit card, but the laws protecting you from liability in the event of fraudulent use of your debit card are not strong and you potentially risk losing your entire bank account to which the card is attached.  In addition, even if you report the fraudulent use of your debit card immediately, your bank will freeze your account while it investigates the breach which can be very inconvenient if you need immediate cash or have bills automatically paid from your account.

Scam of the day – March10, 2016 – Uber fake vomit scam

March 10, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Uber, which operates the successful ride sharing app is an international success story.  It also appears to have spawned some scammer Uber drivers to add cleaning fees of $200 to the charges as a phony cleanup fee for vomit left in the Uber vehicles by passengers that never occurred, according to reports coming from around the country.  In one recent report, New Yorker Meredith Mandel said a $200 cleanup charge was added to her Uber bill of $19 when the driver claimed she had vomited in the car.  In apparent support of his claim, the driver had photographs of the vomit, however, upon closer inspection, the “vomit” shown was in the area of the front seat of the Uber car when Mandel and her co-passengers were seated in the backseat throughout the trip.  Fees for legitimate clean up fees are collected and paid directly to the individual drivers, however, so are fraudulent clean up fees as well.  Upon Mandel disputing the clean up fees with Uber and following Uber’s investigation, the charges were taken off of her bill, however, this is something about which people should be aware.


Even paranoids have enemies and even though the number of incidents of this type of fraud have been relatively few, you might wish to consider taking some quick photos yourself when you exit your Uber drive or even taxi rides where the potential for this type of scam also exists.  If you are a victim of this type of scam, you should both immediately complain to Uber and notify your credit card company to remove the disputed charge which they will do until they complete an investigation.

Scam of the day – March 9, 2016 – First ransomware aimed at Mac users surfaces

March 9, 2016 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

I have been warning you about the dangers of ransomware since 2012.  Ransomware  problems begin when you find your computer frozen and a message on your screen tells you that your computer will remain frozen until you pay a “ransom.”  CryptoWall and its predecessor CryptoLocker ransomware have been used effectively by criminals for years.    The most recent version of ransomware being used is called Tescrypt.  Companies, government agencies and individuals have all been the targets of ransomware.  In fact, a number of police departments, including the Swansea Massachusetts police department have been the victims of ransomware and actually paid the ransom. More recently, the town of Medfield, Massachusetts paid a bitcoin ransom equal to approximately $300 to a hacker who used ransomware to encrypt and lock the municipalities computer network.  Just a couple of weeks ago the computer system of the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in California had its computers locked and encrypted by ransomware and the hospital ended up paying a ransom of 50 bitcoins (approximately $16,664) to get back access to its computers.

Until now, the problem of ransomware was limited to the Microsoft Windows operating system, but now security firm Palo Alto Networks has announced that it has discovered the first time that ransomware malware was written for and deployed among users of Apple’s Mac operating system leaving Mac users who had long felt less threatened by ransomware to suddenly feel vulnerable. The ransomware presently being circulated among Mac users has been called KeRanger and it was downloaded on to unsuspecting users of Transmission, a legitimate BitTorrent file-sharing application.  Apple has remedied this particular ransomware problem at Transmission, however, the genie is now out of the bottle and there is every reason to believe that there will be more incidents of ransomware attacking Mac users.


The best way to deal with ransomware is to avoid it in the first place.  Have a good firewall, good anti-virus and good anti-malware software installed on your computer, tablet or other devices and keep the software up to date.  However, remember that the security software companies are always playing catchup with hackers, so your security software will not always protect you.  The latest incarnations of most malware is generally at least thirty days ahead of the security software companies so you can never rely on your security software and your firewall to keep you totally safe.   However, make sure that when security updates are available that you download them as soon as possible.  Many people become victims of older versions of ransomware because they have not updated their security software.  Also, you should always back up everything on your computer in the Cloud or on a USB drive or preferably both so if you do become a victim of ransomware, you will not have to pay the ransom because you have already protected your files..  Finally, never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely positive that they are legitimate and the only way to do this is to confirm that they are legitimate with the real companies you think may be sending you the email before ever clicking on a link or downloading an attachment.

If you are a victim of ransomware, here are a couple of free links that may help you.   The first  is a link to Microsoft’s Malware Protection Center with links and instructions for removing ransomware infections from your computer:  The second is to Malwarebytes Anti-Malware which will detect and remove malware such as trojans and spyware.  The link is  Some types of ransomware cannot be defeated after they are installed, but it is always worth a try.