Scam of the day – August 22, 2016 – Louisiana flood charity scams

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is warning the public about charity scams following the recent devastating floods across Louisiana.  This kind of natural disaster  brings out the best in our fellow citizens, many of whom desire to give to charities to help the victims of disasters like this.  Unfortunately, it also brings out the worst in scammers  who are quick to take advantage of the generosity of people by contacting them, posing as charities, but instead of collecting funds to help the victims of these natural disasters, the scam artists steal the money for themselves under false pretenses.   Charities are not subject to the federal Do Not Call List so even if you are enrolled in the Do Not Call List, legitimate charities are able to contact you.  The problem is that whenever you are contacted on the phone, you can never be sure as to who is really calling you so you may be contacted either by a phony charity or a scammer posing as a legitimate charity.  Similarly, when you are solicited for a charitable contribution by email or text message, you cannot be sure as to whether the person contacting you is legitimate or not.

TIPS

Never provide credit card information over the phone to anyone whom you have not called or in response to an email or text message.  Before you give to any charity, you may wish to check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org where you can learn whether or not the charity itself is a scam.  You can also see how much of the money that the charity collects actually goes toward its charitable purposes and how much it uses for fund raising and administrative costs.  If you do wish to make a donation to a charity, go to the real charity’s website or call them at a telephone number that you know is accurate in order to make your donation rather than responding to a telephone call or electronic communication.  Charitynavigator.org lists some highly rated charities involved with Louisiana flood relief, which you may wish to consider if you are thinking about making such a charitable gift.  They are the American Red Cross, Convoy of Hope and the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.  Below are links to their pages on Charitynavigator.org that describes the charities in detail as well as provide a link to make a donation if you are so inclined.

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3277

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=7276

https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4626

Scam of the day – July 19, 2016 – Another version of the Nigerian scam

Today’s Scam of the day comes from the email of a Scamicide reader.   I am sure that the same email has been sent to many of you, as well.  This is just another version of the Nigerian email scam.  Although it may seem 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.

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  received by a Scamicide reader whose name I have crossed out involves “donating” money to the recipient of the email for charitable purposes.   Although generally, you are told initially in these scams 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 gets anything in return.

Here is a copy of the email recently received by a Scamicide reader:

“Dear  XXXXXX,

I got your details after an extensive on-line search Via (Network Power Charitable Trust) for a reliable person, I’m Mrs.Rose Duggan, 61 years old dying woman who was diagnosed for cancer about 4 years ago,I have decided to donate ($10,500,000.00) to you for charitable goals.Contact me if you are interested in carrying out this task, so that i can arrange the release of the funds to you.

Thank you and God bless you.
Mrs.Rose Duggan”

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 if you receive such an email 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.

Many people wonder why cybercriminals and scammers send out such ridiculously obvious scam letters that anyone with an ounce of sense would recognize as a scam, but that may be intentional on the part of the scammer because if someone responds to such an obvious scam, they are more likely to be gullible enough to fall prey to the scam.

Scam of the day – September 19, 2015 – Syrian refugee charity scams

The civil war in Syria has been going on for almost five years and during that time millions of people have been displaced with many fleeing the conflict to other countries.    The needs of these people for basic human necessities are great.  Mankind indeed can be quite kind and giving at times such as this when our fellow man is in need and the generosity of people here in the United States and around the world is a wonderful thing.  However, scammers are always present at times like this, eager to take your charitable impulse and turn it into an opportunity to steal money you intend to help those in need.  While there are many legitimate charities working hard to help these people, many scammers are setting up phony charities or using the names of legitimate charities to steal charitable donations that should be going to help our fellow man.  In addition, there are some “legitimate” charities that spend an inordinate amount of what they collect in donations on their own salaries and administrative costs rather than use the funds to meet the needs of the people the particular charity is supposed to be helping.

TIPS

Be very wary of telemarketers seeking charitable contributions.   Whenever you receive a telephone call that purports to be from a charity, you can never be sure that the caller is legitimate.  In addition, even if the caller is a legitimate solicitor on behalf of a charity, they work on commission and some of what you donate will be going to the telemarketer.  If a telemarketer arouses your interest in a particular charity, ask the telemarketer to send you written information that you can review before making a contribution directly to the charity that you know will go entirely to the charity.

As for email and text message solicitations from charities, be particularly careful because not only can you not be sure if they are legitimate or not, they may be even worse than that.  The email or text message may contain a link or attachment that has malware that can steal the information from your computer or smartphone and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

Charitynavigator.org is a great resource.  It is a free website at which you can look up any charity to which you may be considering making a donation.  Not only will Charitynavigator.org tell you whether or not the charity is a scam or not, it also will tell you how much of the money given to the charity goes toward its charitable works and how much it pays in salary and administrative costs.

Some of the well established and highly rated charities presently working on the Syrian relief effort are the American Refugee Committee, the Convoy of Hope, GlobalGiving, International Rescue Committee, Lutheran World Relief, Medical Teams International, Mercy Corps and Save the Children.   You can get more information about these charities at Charitynavigator.org as well as find links to these and other good charities themselves where you can make a donation.

Scam of the day – September 1, 2014 – Phone scams

Although so much of our attention is focused on scams perpetrated on the Internet and through means of high technology, a recent survey confirmed that low technology, namely the telephone still is fertile ground for many scams.  According to the Truecaller/Harris survey more than 17 million Americans became victims of telephone scams during the past year at a cost of 8.6 billion dollars.  One specifically telephone connected scam is “cramming” where fraudulent charges are added to your phone bill and often go unnoticed by people who pay little attention to the detailed information provided in lengthy, monthly phone bills particularly for wireless service. There are many ways that these unauthorized charges make their way to a victim’s phone, sometimes, consumers actually unknowingly sign up for premium texting services that may be for things such as flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip.  Whatever the source of the charges, they are fraudulent and typically cost about $9.99 per month and continue to appear for months without end.  You can find more detailed information about cramming by putting the word “cramming” into the archives section of Scamicide.  Other telephone related fraud occurs when people provide personal information over the phone when called by scamming telemarketers or to scammers who entice or scare the person receiving the call to either provide personal information or make a payment, such as in the present scam in which you receive a call purportedly from the IRS demanding payment for outstanding taxes.

TIPS

In regard to protecting yourself from cramming, you should never click on links or sign up for anything unless you have carefully read the fine print to see what else you may be signing up for.  In fact, you should never click on links in an email or text message unless you have independently verified that it is legitimate.  As for calls from telemarketers, not all telemarketers are criminals, but unfortunately, you have no way of knowing when you receive a call whether or not the person on the other end of the conversation is indeed legitimate or not so you should never provide personal information or payment in response to a telephone call until you have independently verified the call.  You may even wish to put yourself on the federal Do Not Call list to avoid telemarketers.  If you do get a call from a telemarketer after you have put yourself on the list, you know that the person is not legitimate and you should ignore the call.  Here is a link to the Do Not Call list if you wish to enroll.  https://www.donotcall.gov/  You can still receive calls from charities even if you are on the Do Not Call List, but again, you cannot be sure that the person calling is really from the charity so never give money over the phone to a telemarketer who calls you on behalf of a charity.  It is also worth noting that when you do make a charitable donation to a legitimate charity telemarketer, the telemarketer takes a percentage of your contribution as a commission.  If you want your donation to do the most good, you should contact the charity directly to make your donation.

Scam of the day – July 26, 2014 – Immigrant children charity scam

The plight of children from Central America pouring into America has caught the attention of many people as the government is working to both enforce our immigration laws while showing compassion for these children.  Times like this bring out the best in many people and there are a number of charities including, most prominently, Catholic Charities USA that are providing humanitarian assistance to these children in need.  Unfortunately, scammers are also taking advantage of the situation by either appealing to people through phony charities or by telephoning people pretending to be representing legitimate charities.  In both cases, the money you contribute goes to a scammer’s pocket and not to help needy children.

TIPS

Phony charities often have names that sound very similar to legitimate charities so don’t give to a charity unless you are sure that it is legitimate.  A good place to go to find out if a charity is legitimate as well as to learn how much of your contribution will go to the charity’s charitable purposes and how much goes to its own salaries and administrative expenses is www.charitynavigator.org.  As for telemarketing charitable solicitations, even if you are enrolled in the Do Not Call List, charities are allowed to call you, however, whenever you get a call, you can never be sure who is on the other end of the line so you should never make a charitable donation over the phone to someone who has called you.  If you are inclined to give a donation in response to such a call, go to the charities website or call them at a number that you know is correct in order to make your contribution.

Scam of the day – January 14, 2014 – Firefighters Support Foundation scam

Recently residents of Montana have been receiving letters soliciting contributions to the Firefighters Support Foundation, an organization that appears to support Montana firefighters.  In truth, the organization is not a legitimate organization promoting the welfare of firefighters, but in actuality is a scam intended to raise money only for the scammers who operate the phony charity.

TIPS

Solicitations for phony charities are quite common.  Often the phony charities have names that sound legitimate and it is difficult to know merely from a solicitation whether or not the charity is legitimate or not.  Phony charities related to police and firefighters are particularly common.  Prior to giving to any charity, I suggest you first look into whether indeed the charity is legitimate or not and the best way I know to do that is to go to www.charitynavigator.org where not only can you find out whether the charity is a scam, but also how much of your donation goes toward the charitable purposes of a legitimate charity and how much goes toward salaries, administrative costs and fund raising.

Scam of the day – October 28, 2013 – Wounded Warrior Project scam

The Wounded Warrior Project is most assuredly not a scam.  It is a charity that has numerous programs to help wounded American veterans.  Unfortunately, according to Columbus, Ohio police, the name of this commendable charity was used by Joseph Earl Stewart who was recently arrested for going door to door soliciting donations for the charity when he had absolutely no connection to the organization, and according to police, merely kept the money that generous people thought they were giving to The Wounded Warrior Project.  According to the Columbus police department, Stewart had managed to steal thousands of dollars from unwary donors before he was caught.  This case exemplifies the difficulties in knowing when you make a charitable donation whether the person you are giving your money to is legitimate or not.

TIPS

A good policy to follow is to make your charitable donations directly to the charities either online or by mail and only then after you have confirmed both that the charity you are giving to is legitimate and that the website or address you are using is the correct website or address.  By giving charitable donations in this manner, you can not only be sure that the charity will actually receive your donation, but you also are insuring that more of your donation goes toward the charity’s charitable work rather than having some of it go to a commission to a person collecting from you door to door or by phone solicitation.  In order to check whether the charity is legitimate as well as its correct address and even to learn how much the charity spends on administrative costs as compared to its charitable work, go to www.charitynavigator.org.  By the way, charitynavigator.org gives The Wounded Warrior Project a three out of four star rating.  If you want to give to the Wounded Warrior Project directly, you can go to their website www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Scam of the day – June 9, 2013 – Sandy Hook Elementary School scam

On June 7th I told you about the indictment of Nouel Alba for fraudulently representing that she was the aunt of Noah Pozner, a six year old child who was one of the students killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.  Alba used Facebook, telephone calls and text messages in which she claimed that she was the aunt of Noah Pozner and needed funds for his burial to scam people out of thousands of dollars.  Now, rather than face a trial, Alba has pleaded guilty and will be sentenced on August 29th.  She faces a maximum sentence of twenty years although she is not expected to receive that stiff a sentence.

TIP

The lesson remains the same.  As much as we want to help the victims of disasters that may either be man made such as the shootings in Newtown or natural, such as the tornadoes in Oklahoma, we must always be skeptical of any solicitations to contribute to charities for the victims.  Fortunately, with a little due diligence, you can find a legitimate charity that will provide help to those people who really need it.  First, check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org which is a free service that will provide you with the truth as to whether a charity is legitimate or a scam.  Second, make sure that when you do give to a legitimate charity, that you are actually giving to the real charity rather than one that may have a name that is deceptively similar to the real charity.  Finally, when actually making your contribution, do it directly to the charity on its website or through snail mail making sure that the address is correct.

Scam of the day – June 7, 2013 – Sandy Hook Elementary School charity scam

It is a sad state of affairs that immediately after the murderous rampage by Adam Lanza in which he killed twenty-six people including twenty children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, I had to warn you about the charity scams that would be immediately turning up to prey upon your generosity and desire to help the victims.  Unfortunately, I was right and phony charities turned up within hours stealing money from people who were just trying to help the families of the victims.  It is indeed contemptible that after any tragedy whether it be a natural tragedy such as the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma or unnatural, such as the shootings in Newtown, scammers turn up to take advantage of the best intentions of us in order to steal our money by appealing to our charitable intentions.  Recently, Nouel Alba, a New York woman was indicted for a scam in which the Bronx District Attorney says she posted pictures of one of the victims, Noah Pozner, claiming she was his aunt and that she needed money to help pay for his funeral.  Nouel Alba is no relation to Pozner.

TIPS

To make sure that your charitable donations are going to where they can do the most good, make sure that any charity you wish to donate to is legitimate.  You can do this by going to www.charitynavigator.org and learn not just if the charity is a scam, but also how much of donations to the particular charity is spent on salaries and administrative expenses rather than going to the charitable purposes of the charity.  If you are contacted by phone, email or text message from a charity, you can never be sure that the person contacting you is legitimate even if he or she uses the name of a legitimate charity.  In that case, if you are charitably inclined, your best course of action is to contact the charity directly by phone or at an email address that you know is accurate to make your donation.

Scam of the day – May 22, 2013 – Oklahoma tornado charity scams

As our hearts go out to the victims of the Oklahoma tornado, many of us are looking for places to make donations to help ease the suffering of the people affected by the killer storm.  Unfortunately, as with every disaster whether it is man made, such as the bombing of the Boston Marathon last month or of the natural variety, such as this week’s tornado in Oklahoma, among the first responders are scam artists who immediately contact you pretending to be charitable organizations dedicated to helping the victims, but who, in fact, are just taking advantage of the public’s generosity to steal money intended to help the victims.

TIPS

It is generally a good idea to stick to established charities that you know are capable of providing services to the victims and even then it is important to make sure that you are actually contributing to the recognizable charity and not one that has a name that might be deceptively similar.  Be particularly wary of solicitations for charitable contributions you receive by phone.  Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call List, you may be contacted by charities by phone, however, whenever you are contacted by phone to contribute to a charity, you have no way of knowing whether the person on the other end of the line is who they say they are.  Similarly with email or text solicitations, you cannot be sure of the identity of who is contacting you.  The best course of action is to go on line to the website of legitimate charities to find out how you can contribute online, by phone or where to send a check.  Before you decide to make any charitable donation, you might find it helpful to go to www.charitynavigator.org where you can find out not only if a particular charity is legitimate, but also how much of what it receives in donations go to helping the victims and how much goes to salaries and administrative costs of the charity.