Posts Tagged: ‘charity scams’

Scam of the day – August 24, 2014 – Ice Bucket Challenge scams

August 24, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

According to the old saying, “no good deed goes unpunished” and this phrase could apply to the ALS Bucket Challenge, which has been taking the country by storm.  As everyone knows by now, people are dousing themselves with buckets of icy water as part of a national fund raising effort to support the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, which is also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  We have all seen videos online and on television showing various people doing the challenge in entertaining and unusual ways.  Many celebrities and politicians have also been caught up in this viral campaign.  Unfortunately, as with anything that captures the public’s imagination, the Ice Bucket Challenge has also captured the imagination of scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists who are sending emails and text messages that purport to provide links to videos of particularly enticing and entertaining examples of the Ice Bucket Challenge, such as purported videos of popular celebrities, politicians, or athletes being dowsed, but, in fact are links that when clicked upon will download keystroke logging malware that will steal all of the personal information from your computer and use it to make you a victim of identity theft.

Another Ice Bucket Challenge related scam relates to websites or links for you to click on in order to make a charitable contribution.  Scammers have been busy setting up phony ALS charities and soliciting online and through telemarketing for phony ALS charities where your contribution will not go to ALS research and prevention, but rather to line the pockets of a scammer.

TIPS

In regard to avoiding the Ice Bucket Challenge video scams, my advice is the same as always, which is to never click on links in emails or in text messages unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate.  Even if they appear to come from a real friend of yours, you cannot be sure that your friend’s email account had not been hacked by a scammer sending you a tainted text or email.

As for avoiding the ALS charitable contribution scams, my advice is the same in regard to all charitable solicitations which is that whenever you are contacted by phone, mail, email, text message or any other form of communication, you can never be sure that the sender is actually from a legitimate charity.  In addition, many phony charities have names that are quite similar to legitimate charities and you can be fooled into giving a contribution to a scammer.  The first thing you should do before making any charitable contribution is to first check out the charity at www.charitynavigator.org where you first can find out whether or not the charity is actually legitimate.  Charitynavigator.org also provides information as to how much of the particular charities contributions go toward its charitable purposes and how much goes toward its salaries and administrative costs.  Once you have ascertained that a charity is legitimate, you should go online to the charity’s website to make your contribution directly.  In the case of the ALS Association, its website is http://www.alsa.org/

Scam of the day – July 22, 2014 – Malaysian Airliner Flight MH 17 scams

July 22, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

With the world’s attention focused on the recent  shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 17 over the Ukraine, it was inevitable that identity thieves and scammers would soon be exploiting this event toward their own criminal goals and that is just what is already happening.  There are a variety of scams that have sprung up that are using the shooting down of the airplane as a hook to scam members of the public.  One scam involves phony charities that are asking for donations for the benefit of the victims of the missile attack only to steal all of the donations.  Another scam involves emails, text messages or communications on social media, such as Facebook that promise startling video of the event.  One message reads “Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine.  Watch here the video of Crash.”  If your curiosity gets the better of you and you click on the link to view the video, you may unwittingly download a keystroke logging malware program that will steal all of your personal information from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

You should never give to a charity until you  have confirmed that it is legitimate.  Go to www.charitynavigator.org where you can not only find out whether or not the charity is legitimate, but also how much of your donation goes toward charitable purposes and how much goes to administrative costs and salaries.

As I always warn you, you should never click on any link in any email, text message, social media or other communication unless you are absolutely sure that it is legitimate.  In this case, the particular language that I reported above that is used to lure people to download malware is written in broken English and could be an indication that the source is a foreign scammer or identity thief.  If you must search for such video, stay with legitimate new sources such as CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or other sources that can be trusted.

Scam of the day – May 1, 2014 – Disaster relief scams

May 1, 2014 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Six states in the Southeast suffered serious storm damage from tornadoes and floods earlier this week.  Mississippi and Arkansas were particularly hard hit, but the devastation was widespread throughout much of the Southeastern United States.  This kind of natural disaster brings out the best in us as many people are quick to make donations to charities to help the survivors of the storms and the families of the victims.  This kind of natural disaster 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 the storms, these 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, 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.  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.  If you wish to donate to the American Red Cross, you can do so through your smartphone by texting the word “redcross” to 90999.  You may also donate directly on their website at www.redcross.org.

Scam of the day – November 13, 2013 – Philippine Typhoon Haiyan scams

November 13, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan this past weekend in the Phillipines has aroused many people around the world to seek ways to help those affected by the storm.  Unfortunately, it has also aroused scammers take advantage of these people seeking to make charitable donations to aid the victims of the storm.  This should not be surprising because scammers are constantly taking advantage of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy as well as unnatural disasters, such as the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut to scam good people who are only trying to help.  Phony charities are popping up and contacting people or setting up websites in an effort to steal your money and take advantage of the people already harmed by the storm.

TIPS

Never give to a charitable solicitor over the telephone or in response to an email or text message because you can never be sure that the person contacting you is who they say they are.  The first thing you should do before making any charitable contribution is make sure that the entity is a legitimate charity.  The best way to do that is to go to www.charitynavigator.org where you will find not only whether or not the charity is a legitimate charity, but also, how much the legitimate charity spends on its salaries and administrative costs as compared to the money that actually goes toward its charitable purposes.  Contact the charity to which you wish to make a donation by your smartphone or computer and make your donation after you have confirmed that the address you are using is accurate.  As for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, there are a number of legitimate charities you may wish to consider including the World Food Programme, which is part of the United Nations, the Red Cross, the Phillipine Red Cross, AmeriCares, World Vision, ShelterBox, UNICEF and the Salvation Army.

Scam of the day – November 10, 2013 – Veterans’ Day scams

November 10, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Tomorrow, November 11th is Veterans’ Day, a day we set aside to honor those who have served our country and to whom all Americans owe a debt of gratitude.  However, for scam artists, the only criminals we refer to as artists, tomorrow is just another opportunity to take advantage of the best intentions of people and steal their money.  People will be receiving telephone calls that purport to be from various veterans’ organizations or charities seeking donations when, in fact, many of these calls will be from scammers seeking to steal money under false pretenses.  Other scams related to Veterans’ Day will occur when veterans receive telephone calls purporting to be from the Veterans’ Administration asking for personal information necessary to verify or update the information of the VA.  Of course, the call is not from the VA and the request for personal information is merely to gather that type of information in order to make the veteran a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

Even if you are on the federal Do Not Call List, which is a good thing to be on if you wish to avoid telemarketers, you are legally able to be called by charities.  The problem is that whenever you receive a call purporting to be from a charity, you have absolutely no way of knowing if you are being contacted by a legitimate charity or its representative.  You also cannot know, without doing some research, whether the particular veterans’ charity that may be contacting you is legitimate or not.   As I often advise you, never give personal information such as credit card information to anyone over the phone if you have not made the call.  If you are interested in considering a gift to a particular charity, first check out the charity with www.charitynavigator.org to make sure that the charity is legitimate and then get the address from charitynavigator.org for the charity, if it is legitimate so that if you wish to make a gift, you can make it directly to the charity.

As for calls that you may receive purporting to be from the VA or any other governmental agency requesting information, you should never provide information over the phone to anyone because, as I indicated above, you can never be sure if the caller is who he or she says they are.  In this case, you should contact the particular agency at a telephone number that you know is accurate to confirm whether or not the request for personal information was legitimate or not.  Most of the time, the call will turn out to be a scam.

Scam of the day – September 21, 2013 – Colorado flood scam

September 21, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

As the devastating Colorado floods continue to ravage parts of the state, generous people around the country are reaching out, as Americans always do when our fellow citizens are in need, to help those affected by the floods.  Unfortunately, scammers pounce upon this opportunity to set up phony charities to lure you into contributing to lining their pockets rather than having the money go to those in need.  We have seen this scenario repeated numerous times whether in instances of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Irene or manmade tragedies such as the Newtown, Connecticut shootings and the story is always the same.  Suddenly new charities spring up online.  Sometimes you may receive a telephone call or an email soliciting for one of these new charities.  So how do you know how to safely give?

TIP

You start by remembering my motto, “Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.”  Whenever you get a solicitation by phone, email or text message you cannot be sure who really is contacting you.  They may use the name of a legitimate charity, but you can’t be sure that these people are who they say they are.  Additionally, when you are contacted by phone, it is generally by a paid charitable solicitor who is paid a commission on what he or she collects so the full amount of your contribution is diluted when it gets to the charity.  The best thing to do is to check out any particular charity you may be considering with the website www.charitynavigator.org.  This website will first tell you whether or not the charity is legitimate or a scam.  But then it will also tell you how much of your contribution actually goes for charitable purposes and how much for administrative costs and salaries.  The figures may surprise you.  Once you have determined to what charity you are going to give, you should contact the charity directly to make your donation rather than go through a paid charitable solicitor so that more of your money will go toward the organization’s charitable purposes.

Scam of the day – August 27, 2013 – Forest fire scams

August 27, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Throughout the years that I have written Scamicide there have been a number of natural disasters including the Japanese Tsunami and Hurricane Sandy. Recently there have been horribly destructive forest fires through much of the Western United States claiming the homes of many unfortunate residents.  These are terrible events that harm many people, but they bring out the best in our fellow citizens as so many of us respond to these disasters by donating to charities to help the victims.   Unfortunately, scammers are right there to take advantage of these generous impulses by setting up phony charities.  In addition, other scammers will take these events as an opportunity to scam the people who have already been victimized by these natural disasters by posing as government aid workers or insurance adjusters with the promise of help when all they really are doing is stealing personal information to use to make the people already victims of natural disasters victims of identity theft.

TIPS

Before you ever give money to a charity, make sure that it is a legitimate charity.  Often phony charities will have names that are deceptively similar to real charities.  Go to the website www.charitynavigator.org where you can check and see not only if a particular charity is legitimate, but also how much of your contribution actually goes to helping the victims and how much goes toward the charity’s fund raising, salaries and administrative expense. There are some “legitimate” charities that spend inordinate amounts of the money they collect on lining their own pockets.

As for anyone asking you for personal information representing themselves as employees of FEMA, state emergency management agencies, insurance companies or insurance adjusters, you can never be sure that the person with whom you are meeting is actually legitimate.  Often the scammers will have counterfeit credentials.  Never give personal information to anyone until you have independently confirmed that they are legitimate by contacting the company or agency they purport to represent directly to make sure that you are not giving information to a scam artist.

Scam of the day – August 11, 2013 – Flood relief scams

August 11, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The videos of the devastating floods affecting much of the Midwest have touched the heart of many Americans, who, in time of need generously reach out to help their fellow Americans.  But scam artists, the only criminals to whom we refer as artists are also there to take advantage of our best instincts.  They also are there to victimize even more the unfortunate victims of the floods.  Warnings are now being issued by many in law enforcement, such as Missouri’s Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long who warned people to be wary of identity thieves and scam artists using these floods as an opportunity to scam people out of their money.  Two major types of scams often occur following such disasters as we are seeing in the Midwest.  The first is phony charities that spring up eager to take your money, when in fact all that they are doing is stealing your money with none of it going to help the victims of the floods.  The second type of scam is an identity theft scam where scammers turn up posing as government aid workers or insurance adjusters with the promise of help.  They then solicit personal information from the victims, such as Social Security numbers which they then use to victimize the flood victims a second time;  this time as victims of identity theft.

TIPS

Before you ever give money to a charity, make sure that it is a legitimate charity. Often phony charities will have names that are deceptively similar to real charities.  Go to the website www.charitynavigator.org where you can check and see not only if the charity is legitimate, but how much of your contribution actually goes to helping the victims and how much goes toward the charity’s fund raising, salaries and administrative expenses.  There are some “legitimate” charities that keep much too much of your contributions for their own pockets.  Also, when you decide on a charity to which you wish to contribute, make your contribution directly to the charity online, through the mail or by phone at numbers and addresses that you know are accurate so that you can be sure that your money will go to the real charity and not a scammer using the name of a legitimate charity.  By making your payment directly to a charity you also make sure that a larger part of what you contribute will actually go to the charity.  When you pay your money to a professional solicitor hired by the charity, a portion of your contribution goes to the professional fund raiser.

As for anyone asking you for personal information and representing themselves as employees of FEMA, state emergency management agencies, insurance companies or insurance adjusters, you can never be sure that the person with whom you meet actually is legitimate.  Often the scammers will have counterfeit credentials.  The best thing you can do is to never give personal information to such people, but rather get information from them and follow up online or on the phone with someone actually from FEMA or whatever agency or company you need to deal with.  Contact them at addresses or numbers that you have confirmed are accurate.  Do not trust the information given to you by a field worker who may only be posing as a legitimate FEMA employee.  Verify.

 

Scam of the day – April 16, 2013 – Boston Marathon attack scams

April 16, 2013 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

The horrible events at yesterday’s Boston Marathon where two bombs were detonated, killing and maiming innocent people is bad enough, but now scammers will be taking advantage of the curiosity of people about the event to make them victims of identity theft.  Every disaster, whether it is a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina or the Japanese Tsunami or unnatural horrible events such as the shootings in Newtown Connecticut bring out the scammers who will be looking to take advantage of both the public’s curiosity and its generosity to turn them into victims of identity theft and scams.  You can expect emails and Facebook messages that promise links to unique video footage of the events that will come laden with keystroke logging malware that can steal all of the information contained in your computer that will, in turn, make you a victim of identity theft.  Even if the emails or Facebook messages appear to come from someone you know, you can never be confident that someone has not merely hacked into your friend’s email account or Facebook account.  Phony charities will also be springing up to help the victims and once again, you can be sure that the scammers will be setting up many of these charities to play on your heartstrings and steal your money.

TIPS

Never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate and even then, your friends and family may be unwittingly passing on links and attachments tainted with malware.  If you have any doubts as to the source of an email or a Facebook message, contact that person at a telephone number that you know is accurate to inquire if indeed they actually contacted you as well as to check on the source of the material that they, in turn, are passing on to you.  When it comes to videos of newsworthy events, stick  with well established, legitimate websites.  You can’t trust the other material found on the Internet.  As for charities, never give to a charity unless you have confirmed both that it is a legitimate charity and that it does not use too much of its contributions for payment of salaries of executives within the charities and fund raising activities.  You can find this critical information at www.charitynavigator.org.

Scam of the day – December 31, 2012 – Scams to watch for in the new year

December 31, 2012 Posted by Steven Weisman, Esq.

Rather than look back on this, the last day of 2012, I think it is more productive to look ahead to what scams and identity theft schemes you should be wary of in the new year.  More and more identity theft schemes will be aimed at your smart phones and portable devices.  As we all use our smart phones and portable devices for so many activities, they have become attractive targets for identity thieves who are looking to steal information from your portable devices and smart phones to make you a victim of identity theft and even though many of us would never think about leaving our computers unprotected, many of us do not sufficiently protect our smart phones and portable devices.  Check out my new book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” for specific advice on how to protect your smart phones and portable devices.  Also, as I warned you a few days ago, there will be major hackings by botnets into American banks.  Protect your computer from being a part of a botnet and make sure that you continually follow your bank accounts to make sure that you promptly identify any breaches of security.

Every season is scam season and you can count on February bringing Super Bowl scams and Valentine Day scams.  Prior to April there will be many scams involved with filing income tax returns.  Summer will bring many vacation scams.  The early Fall will bring scams related to hurricanes and other natural disasters.  December will bring the usual holiday shopping scams and charity scams.

TIPS

Information is power.  Read “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” and “The Truth About Avoiding Scams” to arm yourself with specific information you can use to protect yourself from scams and identity theft schemes.  Also, read this blog each and every day so that you stay current with the latest scams and identity theft schemes.  And trust me, you can’t trust anyone.