Scam of the day – May 10, 2014 – Mothers’ Day scams

Although for many of us, Mothers’ Day is an opportunity to show our mothers how much we love and appreciate them, for scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists, it is yet another opportunity to scam people.  One common Mothers’ Day scam involves an email that you get offering Mothers’ Day gifts such as flowers, jewelry, shoes or clothing at tremendously discounted prices.  All you need to do is to click on a link to order online.  The problem is that many of these offers are indeed scams.  If you click on the link, one of two things can happen and both are bad.  Sometimes the link will take you to an order form where you provide your credit card information, but never get anything in return.  Instead your credit card information is used to make you a victim of identity theft.  Even worse is the other possibility which is by clicking on the link, you will unwittingly download a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of the personal information stored on your computer and use that information to make you a victim of identity theft.  Another Mothers’ Day scam involves e-cards which are great, particularly for those of us who forget to get a Mother’s Day card until the last minute.  Again, however, identity thieves will send emails purporting to contain a link to an electronic Mothers’ Day card, but if Mom clicks on the link, she will download that dangerous keystroke logging malware that I just described.

TIPS

It is always dangerous to buy anything online from any store or company with which you are not familiar.  Check out the company with the Better Business Bureau, your state’s Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission or just on Google to see if the company is legitimate.  Even then you are better going directly to the company rather than dealing with a company through an email that may just be a forgery of an email from a legitimate company.  As always, if  the offer you receive sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  As for e-cards, never open an e card unless it specifically indicates who sent the card.  Phony e cards will not indicate the name of the sender.  If the email card states that it is from “your son” or “your daughter,” don’t open it until you have confirmed with your child that they indeed did send that particular e-card.  You can’t trust an e-card that indicates it comes from someone where only the first name is used because that too may be a scam.  The best course of action is to always confirm with the purported sender that they have sent you an e-card before you open it.

Scam of the day – May 14, 2012 – Infomercial scams

The Federal Trade Commission has just won a major lawsuit against infomercial marketers of real estate investment scams that stole money from a million victims who fell for the informercials misleading misinformation as to how they could become rich through real estate deals and through the Internet.  The infomercials were for “John Beck’s Free & Clear Real Estate System”, “John Alexander’s Real Estate Riches in 14 days” and “Jeff Paul’s Shortcuts to Internet Millions.”  In addition to the misleading and false claims that were made in the infomercials, the scammers did not adequatley disclose that once you paid for the system, you also were automatically enrolled in a program that charged you anew every month.

TIPS

Perhaps the most important thing to take away from this type of scam is that just because you see an advertisement on a legitimate television, cable or satellite station, hear about it on a legitimate radio station or read about it on a website or publication that is honest, you can’t automatically trust that the advertisment is legitimate. Media outlets do little if any screening for legitimacy and accuracy when it comes to their advertisers.  As always, if it sound too good to be true, it usually is.  It is always a good idea to check out the program and the history of the company behind the program independently before investing in anything.  Checking with the Better Business Bureau, the FTC and your local attorney general are good places to start your research.  And finally, always read the fine print.  Rarely is there anything fine in fine print.

 

Scam of the day – May 5, 2012 – Better Business Bureau Scam

The Better Business Bureau is a very trusted institution which is why their name is often exploited by scammers.  For the fifth time in the last six months there has recently been a new wave of phishing scams involved with the Better Business Bureau’s name.  The scam starts with a business owner receiving an email informing him or her that a complaint has been filed against his or her company.  The business owner is invited to click on to a link for more information, however, if you do this, you risk unwittingly installing keystroke logging malware that can read all of the information on your computer including your banking information.  This information has been used by scammers to access the bank accounts of businesses falling victim to the scam.  Because it is so easy to make an email look like it is from a legitimate company, you should always be wary of any email that asks for information or asks you to go to a link.

TIP

Never click on links or attachments unless you are positive that they are legitimate. When you evaluate emails from companies with which you do business, notice if they are addressed to your personally or to “Dear Customer.”  Make sure your anti virus and anti malware software is always up to date and if you have any concern that the communication is legitimate, confirm it with a phone call to a telephone number that you know is legitimate.

Scam of the day – May 3, 2012 – Time share scams

Timeshare sales have had more than their share of scams involved with them, but in the last three years the number of people victimized by time share scams have increased dramatically.   Recently, 22 people were indicted for timeshare resale fraud in Illinois.   In Florida, timeshare resale fraud is the subject of the greatest number of consumer complaints.  Timeshares are a legitimate vacation option for many people, but particularly since the economy first soured in 2008, resales have been difficult for many people and the scammers have come in to prey upon timeshare owners trying to sell their interests with promises of buyers that never materialize after charging the timeshare owners upfront fees of between $2,000 and $8,000 that vanishes with the scammers.

TIP

Always check out the legitimacy of anyone proposing to help you sell your timeshare.  You can check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, your state’s attorney general at www.naag.org and your local consumer protection agencies at www.consumeraction.gov.  Make sure you have a lawyer review any contract before you sign it and it is a good idea not to pay in advance for the services of someone purporting to assist you in reselling your timeshare unit.

Scam of the day – April 1, 2012 – Better Business Bureau scam

Phishing occurs when an identity thief lures you through a phony email that purports to be from a legitimate company to a bogus website that looks like the website of the legitimate company that the scammers pretend to be.  The website requries you to provide personal financial informaiton to verify your account.  This information innocently provided is used to make the person providing it a victim of identity theft.  One of the latest phishing scams now going on involves a phony email purporting to be from the Better Business Bureau that reads: “Dear Business Owner, we have obtained several complaints via the Better Buseinss Bureau online complaint center concerning several unauthorized transactions from a number of private bank accounts to your corporate account.   You can view the complaints in our online complaint center using the following link:”  A phony link is supplied in the email.  Clicking on the link can lead to you becoming a victim of identity theft.

TIP

Always beware when an email is addressed to you as “business owner” without your exact name.  Never click on a link when you are not absolutely sure the source of the email.  It can lead to identity theft or the downloading of a keystroke logging malware program that can read everything in your computer and provide this information to the scam artist.  When in doubt, call the real legitimate organization at a phone number that you know is correct to identify if the email is legitimate.

Scam of the day – March 21, 2012 – Rental listing scams

This is another tried and true scam that keeps cropping up.  Recently there were reports of phony apartment listings on Carigslist for New York City apartments and a California youth soccer team that was scammed when it thought it was renting a house in Palm Springs for their state tournament.  In both cases, the victims lost the money they sent to the scammers who had no connection with the real estate.  Sometimes scammers will hijack real rental listings and alter the advertisements.  Other times the scammers will create phony ads for property they do not own or for property that does not even exist.

TIP

Whenever possible, meet the person renting the property in person at the property.  Also, confirm through local real estate tax records that the person actually owns the real estate he or she is seeking to rent to you.  Always  be wary if you are asked to wire money because once it is wired, the money is gone.  Check with the Better Business Bureau, local attorney general or Federal Trade Commission to assist in confirming that the renter is not a scammer.

Prime Bank Schemes

This scam keeps reappearing.  It involves the scammer telling the victim that they can get huge returns on their investments by being let in on the “secret” investment portfolios of the world’s largest and most elite banks.  You may be told that these investments are a secret and that only select banks and privileged investors are permitted access to these investment programs.   In fact, it is so secret that federal regulatory agencies don’t even know about it. You may even be required to sing a nondisclosure agreement by which you promise not to divulge to anyone that you are one of the lucky few involved in this investment.

TIP

There is no such prime bank investment program.  It is a scam.  The fact that you are told that even federal regulatory agencies don’t know about this secret program is a good indication that it is nothing more than a scam.  A good question to ask yourself is, “Why am I so lucky to be offered to participate in this investment program?”  The answer is that you are lucky enough because you are targeted as a victim.

Mystery Shopper Scam

These scams lure victims by telling them that they will be paid to shop at various stores and then report on their shopping experience to market research firms that work for the retailers to help them evaluate and improve their customer relations.

How the scam works is that once the victim signs up for the program, he or she receives a certified bank check to cover the cost of the purchases (which the mystery shopper is allowed to keep) as well as the payment to the mystery shopper for his or her services.  The scam artist further instructs the victim to wire back to the scam artist the balance remaining of the funds sent by the certified check.  Many victims have thought they were being careful by waiting for the check to clear before making their purchases and sending back the remainder only to find that banks routinely give provisional credit for checks of less than $5,000 within five days.   Once the certified bank check is discovered to be a forgery, the bank deducts the amount of the check from the victim’s account.  Unfortunately, also deducted from the victim’s account are the funds that the victim wired to the scam artist under the mistaken impression that the certified bank check indeed was an actual certified bank check.

TIP

Whenever you are provided payment by check, always wait for the check to truly clear before trusting that the funds are legitimate.  One reason that mystery shopping scams work is that there are legitimate mystery shopping jobs although they are relatively few.  A good place to check out if a mystery shopping company is legitimate is with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, a trade organization of legitimate mystery shopping companies.  Their website can be found at http://www.mysteryshop.org/

As always, you should also check into the particular mystery shopping company you are interested in with the FTC, the Better Business Bureau and your local state attorney general.

Work at Home Scam

Working at home sounds very appealing.  No commute and you get to work in your pajamas.  What could be more convenient than that?  Stuffing envelopes, a common work at home scam from the past has been updated to offers of being paid to read emails.  The range of work at home scams is constantly changing and evolving, but the result is always the same – rarely are these work at home schemes legitimate nor do they provide any income except for the scammers who operate them.  Often the advertisements for these work at home scams appear in legitimate media who have not properly checked out the legitimacy of the advertisement.

TIP

As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Check out work at home scams with the big three – your local attorney general, the Better Business Bureau and the FTC.  And as always, you can Google the name of the particular company offering you the work at home program with the word “scam” next to it and see what turns up.