Scam of the day – March 6, 2014 – Verizon Wireless scam

March 6, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

“Spoofing” is the name for the tactic used by identity thieves to make a call that you receive appear to come from a legitimate source, when, in truth it is from a scammer who has merely managed to make it look like the call is legitimate.  Many people are reporting receiving calls on their smart phones or landlines that on Caller ID appear to be from “Technical Support” and carrying a telephone number that is a real number for Verizon Wireless technical support.  The call received is an automated robocall that informs you that you have are eligible for a $54 reward and then directs you to the website www.verizon.54.com.  This website is a phony website which lures you into providing personal information that is then used to make you a victim of identity theft.  In other variations of this scam, merely by clicking on a link on the phony website, you will unwittingly download keystroke logging malware that will steal the personal information from your computer and use this information to make you a victim of identity theft.   This type of scam by which a legitimate-looking, phony website tricks you into providing personal information or clicking on tainted links is called “phishing.”

TIPS

You can never trust a phone call to actually be from whom the caller says.  Spoofing is easy to accomplish by identity thieves.  Don’t be tricked into trusting a telephone call.  In addition, robocalls are illegal so you should never trust a prerecorded call.  Nor should you click on links that you are not sure are legitimate.  If you have any thought that the original contact might be legitimate, contact the company directly at a website address or telephone number that you know is accurate to inquire about the particular matter.

Scam of the day – March 5, 2014 – Sands Casino hacking worse than initially thought

March 5, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

In a recent regulatory filing Las Vegas Sands Corp, the parent company of a number of casinos, including the Sands and the Venetian in Las Vegas, as well as a number of other casinos in America and throughout the world disclosed for the first time that the data breach it suffered at its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania hotel and casino on February 10th was more serious than originally thought.  It is now known that the hackers managed to steal not only names and Social Security numbers for employees of the Bethlehem casino, but also names, Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers for numerous customers of the casino and hotel.  It is not yet known whether or not credit card information for its customers were also compromised.  In  addition, the hackers also obtained passwords for slot machine systems at the casino.  Law enforcement including the FBI are still investigating the hacking, which may have been politically motivated as indicated by comments the hackers made on the hacked website of the Sands.

TIPS

Although Las Vegas Sands Corp is the largest casino company in the world with net income last year of over two billion dollars, it presently appears that the data breach was limited to only the Bethlehem casino.  If you were a customer of the casino and affected by the data breach, the company is offering free credit monitoring services although you may also wish to consider putting a credit freeze on your credit report for greater protection.  You can find more information about credit freezes and how to put one on your credit report by going to the Scamicide archives and looking up “credit freezes.”  If you were a customer of the Bethlehem Sands hotel and casino, you can contact the hotel for further information about the data breach at 866-579-2213.

Scam of the day – March 4, 2014 – Latest Google Chrome security updates

March 4, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

I constantly am providing you with the latest security updates for many of the software programs that we all use.  I do this because identity thieves and hackers are always working to identify and exploit vulnerabilities in these programs and use these vulnerabilities to make us victims of identity theft and other scams.  It is important to keep your software updated  and download these latest security updates and patches.  Additionally, however, even if you know it is important to keep your software programs updated, many people are wary of whether they are updating with legitimate security updates and patches or malware put out there by identity thieves and scammers posing as providers of security software.  It is for that reason as well that I regularly provide you with links to the latest security updates and patches that you can trust as they become available.

TIPS

Google Chrome is a web browser used by many people.  Google has just identified some security flaws in its software and has issued an advisory with links to the necessary security patches that you need to install to keep using Google Chrome safely.  Here is the link to that latest advisory as provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security.

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2014/02/21/Google-Releases-Google-Chrome-Update

Scam of the day – March 3, 2014 – Happy birthday Charles Ponzi

March 3, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Happy birthday to Charles Ponzi, the man credited with being the first to exploit the simple scam that has come to be known as a Ponzi scheme.  Ponzi was born in 1882 which means had he not died in 1949, he would have been 132 years old today.  To put this in perspective, if Ponzi schemer, Bernie Madoff started serving his prison sentence 132 years ago, he would still have 18 years left on his sentence of 150 years.  Ponzi was a good example to generations of scammers including, in recent years, Bernie Madoff, R. Allen Stanford, Tom Petters, Scott Rothstein and Marc Drier, to name just a few.  Unfortunately although scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists have learned from Charles Ponzi, many of us in the public have not paid enough attention to the lessons of Charles Ponzi and we continue to be cheated and scammed by people following Ponzi’s plan.  At its core, Ponzi’s plan involves a  seemingly complex investment that returns steady and lucrative returns.  Generally the investments are touted as being both safe and high paying.  Unfortunately, the only one who is getting highly paid is the criminal masterminds behind these scams.  Generally there are no investments, as was the situation with Madoff.  The records provided to investors are phony and the money paid back to investors is derived from the funds constantly being added to the scheme by new investors.

TIPS

Bernie Madoff had the temerity to blame his own victims for their losses when he recently said that investors should have investigated his investment strategy before investing with him and that had they done so, they would have been able to see that it was a scam.  The truth is, however, that no one should ever invest in any type of investment that they do not fully understand.  Madoff’s professed theory at the time he was raking in funds appeared so complex that many intelligent investors ignored the fact that they did not understand what was going on and instead merely looked at his consistent rates of return and just blindly trusted him.  This was a big mistake.  Investors with R. Allen Stanford may have been blinded by their greed when they invested in his off-shore CDs that somehow were able to return interest rates 4% higher than CDs from American banks.  Neglecting to do proper research into these investments cost Stanford’s victims dearly.  You can learn more details about how to recognize Ponzi schemes and what steps you can take to protect yourself from investment scams in my book “The Truth About Avoiding Scams” which can be obtained through Amazon by clicking on the link on the right hand side of this page, however two essential rules are that you should never invest in any investment that you do not truly understand and you should always be skeptical when an investment appears too good to be true.

Scam of the day – March 2, 2014 – Wells Fargo sued over criminal identity theft

March 2, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Florida resident, Carlos Gomez is suing Wells Fargo Bank for malicious prosecution relating to an incident of criminal identity theft.  Gomez was falsely arrested in a predawn raid at his home in Kendall, Florida on crimes never committed by him, but were actually done by a bank employee at a local Wachovia Bank (Wachovia is now owned by Wells Fargo) where Gomez had a bank account.  The rogue employee stole Gomez’s identity to launder more than a million dollars that he had stolen from the accounts of other bank customers.  It took seven months for the identity theft to be discovered and for Gomez to be cleared of all charges.  In his lawsuit, Gomez accuses the bank of being lax in its security procedures which, he says, should have been sufficient to prevent this crime.

Although, Gomez’s nightmare is over, many victims of identity theft have more difficulty clearing their names.  Victims of criminal identity theft often find themselves in constant jeopardy of being arrested and jailed for crimes committed by identity thieves who have stolen and used their names to commit crimes. 

TIPS

If you learn that you are a victim of criminal identity theft and that someone has stolen your name and committed crimes using your name, you should contact the police and District Attorney’s office immediately.  File a report indicating that you are a victim of identity theft.  Get a letter from the District Attorney explaining the situation so that if you are ever stopped by a police officer or arrested, you can prove that the criminal is not you.  For more details on what you can do, get a copy of “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” which can be ordered from Amazon by clicking on the link on the right hand side of this page.

Scam of the day – March 1, 2014 – IRS telephone scam

March 1, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

A call from the IRS demanding that you pay overdue taxes is certainly a nightmare, but that is what many people are experiencing throughout the country.   Generally, the way the scam works is that you get a telephone call from someone purporting to be from the IRS telling you that you owe taxes, interest and penalties.  Your caller ID may even indicate that the call actually is from the IRS, but this too is a scam called “spoofing,” where a scammer can make it appear as if a call is coming from a legitimate source when in reality, it is not.  The caller then threatens you with arrest unless you either provide your credit card over the phone to pay the amount claimed or pay through a prepaid card, such as GreenDot cards which are the equivalent of cash.  The scam artists calling can be quite persuasive and many people are becoming victims of this scam.

TIPS

This scam is actually quite simple to avoid.  If you get a telephone call from the IRS demanding money, it is a scam, so hang up.  The IRS doesn’t call taxpayers demanding payments.  It is important to remember that you should never give your credit card number or a GreenDot card number to anyone over the phone who you have not called because you can never be sure of to whom you are speaking.  So when the IRS purports to call, just hang up.

Scam of the day – February 28, 2014 – Important security patches for Mac users

February 28, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

In my Scam of the day for February 23rd I warned you about the major security defect that had just been identified in programs operating iPhones, iPads and Ipods that if left unpatched would permit identity thieves to steal all of the information they would need to make the iPhone, iPad or iPod user a victim of identity theft without the victim ever knowing he or she had been hacked.  Fortunately, in the Scam of the day of February 23rd, I also provided you with a link to the security update you need to  download to cure the problem.  Hopefully, if you use any of these devices, you have already done so, but, if not, I urge you to do so now.

However in my Scam of the day for February 23rd, I also told you that Apple’s OS X Maverick software for Apple’s Macintosh computers were vulnerable to the same security defect and Apple had not yet come up with a security update to patch this problem.  I am happy to tell you today, that Apple has come up with a new security patch to cure this problem in it’s OS X Maverick software used on its Macintosh computers.  If you have a Macintosh computer and use this software you should download and install the new patch as soon as possible.

TIPS

Here is a link to the new security patch for the OS X Maverick software for you to download and install as soon as possible if you use a Macintosh:   https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2014/02/27/Apple-Releases-Security-Updates-OSX-Mavericks-v1092-and-Security

Identity thieves and hackers count on people not promptly taking the identity theft protection steps necessary to keep themselves safe.   Don’t be a victim.  If you use a Mac, install the patch as soon as possible.  It is also important to remember that the battle with hackers and identity thieves is ongoing.  At the same time that you are installing a security patch, hackers and identity thieves are busy studying the new patches trying to find flaws.  I will always report to you as soon as new developments occur, so make it a point to check out www.scamicide.com each day.

Scam of the day – February 27, 2014 – Another Nigerian letter that isn’t from Nigeria

February 27, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Today’s Scam of the day comes right from my email and I am sure that it has appeared in the email boxes of many of you.  Although it may appear that the Nigerian email scam began in the era of the Internet, the basis of the scam actually goes back to 1588 when it was known as the Spanish Prisoner Scam.  In those days, a letter was sent to the victim purportedly from someone on behalf of a wealthy aristocrat who was imprisoned in Spain under a false name.  The identity of the nobleman was not revealed for security reasons, but the victim was asked to provide money to obtain the release of the aristocrat, who, it was promised would reward the money-contributing  victim with great sums of money and, in some circumstances, the Spanish prisoner’s beautiful daughter in marriage.

Today’s scam of the day is yet another variation of what has come to be known as the Nigerian letter scam.  In the various versions of this scam circulating on the Internet today, you are promised great sums of money if you assist a Nigerian in his effort to transfer money out of his country.  Variations include the movement of embezzled funds by corrupt officials, a dying gentleman who wants to make charitable gifts or a minor bank official trying to move the money of deceased foreigners out of his bank without the government taking it.  the example below of the email I received isn’t from Nigeria, but the scam is the same.  Although generally, you are told that you do not need to contribute anything financially to the endeavor, you soon learn that it is necessary for you to contribute continuing large amounts of money for various reasons, such as various fees, bribes, insurance or taxes before you can get anything.  Of course, the victim ends up contributing money to the scammer, but never receives anything in return.

Here is a copy of the email, I recently received:

“Dear Friend,
i need your kind attention. I will be very glad if  you do assist me to relocate this sum of ( US$15.Million dollars.) to your bank account for the benefit of our both families.
only i cannot operate it alone without using a Foreigner who will stand as a beneficiary to the money, that is why i decided to contact you in a good manner to assist me and also to share the benefit together with me.
for the sharing of the fund 50/50 base on the fact that it is two man business note that you are not taking any risk because there will be a legal back up document as well which will back the money up into your bank account there in your country.
all i need from you now is to indicating your interest and I will send you the full details on how the business will be executed.
Thanks & Best Regards,
Dr Lahman”

TIPS

This is a simple scam to avoid.  It preys upon people whose greed overcomes their good sense.  The first thing you should ask yourself is why would you be singled out to be so lucky to be asked to participate in this arrangement.  Since there is no good answer to that question, you should merely hit delete and be happy that you avoided a scam.  As with many such scams, which are originating outside of the United States, the punctuation and grammar are not very good.

 

Scam of the day – February 26, 2014 – Update on Internet Explorer flaw

February 26, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

In the Scam of the day of February 18th I warned you about a serious, recently discovered flaw in Internet Explorer 10.  It turns out that this flaw is also present in Internet Explorer 9, as well.  A full patch has still not been issued by Microsoft, the maker of Internet Explorer, however Microsoft has issued a fix that will block the attacks although not patch the underlying problem.  A link to the Microsoft fix can be found below.  This flaw, unless remedied, allows hackers to completely take over the systems of hacked users.  In addition, Adobe, has also issued a new security update for its Adobe Flash Player which is a program used by website developers that has flaws that can be exploited through Internet Explorer versions 9 and 10 that have not been fixed.  The fix to Adobe Flash is also an incomplete fix.  It is expected that a permanent patch will be provided by Adobe within the next few weeks.

TIPS

You should consider updating your Internet Explorer to IE 11, but if for whatever reason you must still use IE 9 or 10, make sure that you go to the following links to protect yourself, at least temporarily from this serious security breach.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/security/advisory/2934088

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2014/02/20/Security-Updates-Available-Adobe-Flash-Player

Scam of the day – February 25, 2014 – Aleksi Kolarov convicted of identity theft

February 25, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Although the name of Bulgarian Aleksi Kolarov is probably not familiar to you, it probably should be.  Last Friday, he was convicted of identity theft in federal court in New Jersey.  For years, Kolarov was one of the leaders and operators of the website Shadowcrew.com, a black market website where stolen credit cards, debit cards and bank account information were sold to the approximately 4,000 members of the criminal website.  It has been estimated that Shadowcrew was responsible for the theft of 1.5 million credit cards, debit cards and bank account numbers resulting in fraud losses totaling millions of dollars to the banks issuing the cards and where the accounts were located.  Sentencing is scheduled for May 28th.

TIPS

One of the best things to come out of this case was the international cooperation of law enforcement agencies that it took to bring Kolarov to justice.  Too often today, particular in Russia and China, law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with efforts to arrest international criminals such as Kolarov.  Black market websites still are used to sell stolen credit cards and debit cards.  The credit cards and debit cards stolen in the Target data breach have been available for criminals to purchase on line since December and now as most of those credit and debit cards have been cancelled by the victims, the price of the remaining credit cards and debit cards involved in the data breach that remain unsold has dropped by more than 70% according to Brian Krebs of Krebs Security.  If your credit card or debit card was compromised in the breach and you have still not cancelled the card, you should do so immediately.