Scam of the day – January 27, 2017 – Unusual identity thieves sentenced

Recently, Edmund Seshie and Abdul Rezak Shaib were convicted and sentenced for their part in a bizarre identity theft ring.  Seshie and Shaib bought stolen credit cards and driver’s licenses in bulk on the Dark Web, that part of the Internet where criminals buy and sell stolen information and merchandise.  The credit cards and licenses were then used to buy cars from various dealers around the United States which were then shipped to Africa where the cars were sold.

Seshie and Shaib are both from Ghana where the mastermind behind the crimes, Henry Addo directed the operation.  Addo is presently being sought by law enforcement in Africa.  An interesting aspect of this crime was that according to federal prosecutors, Adda motivated Seshie and Shaib to participate in the criminal operation by invoking Sakawa, which is a Ghanian practice  that combines traditional African religious rituals with modern Internet cybercrime techniques to target foreigners.

TIPS

The best way to prevent identity theft that is related to credit cards is to use your EMV chip card whenever possible and to check your credit card statement regularly to become aware of any compromise of your security as quickly as possible in order to limit the damage.  If you do become a victim of identity theft there are a number of steps that you should take as detailed in the tab “if you are a victim of identity theft” at the top of this page.

Scam of the day – December 21, 2013 – What to do if you were a Target hacking victim

With 40 million credit and debit cards affected by the recent hacking of Target, there is a good chance that many Scamicide readers are a part of that group that includes my own wife.  The hacking of Target once again shows that regardless of how careful you are, you are only as safe from identity theft as the place with the weakest security that holds or processes your personal information such as credit cards.  Today I am going to provide the simple steps that you should take if your credit card or debit card was compromised.

TIP

First of all, resolve not to use your debit card for purchases.  Reserve its use for ATMs.  The maximum that you are possibly liable for in regard to fraudulent charges on your credit card is only $50 and most credit card issuers won’t charge you anything.  However, with a debit card, if you don’t notice the illegal withdrawals from your bank account in a timely fashion, you risk losing all of the money in the account and even if you do report the fraudulent activity right away, you will not be made whole by the bank until they have completed an investigation of the matter.

The next thing you should do is check your credit card statement for illegal activity.  Do this online for both speed and to see the most recent transactions.  If fraudulent purchases appear, notify the credit card company to have them remove the charges.  Also file a police report.  You should then cancel the card and have the credit card company issue you a new card.  Even if you have not yet noticed illegal activity, you shouldn’t be complacent because generally in these situations, the thieves sell the stolen credit card information on black market websites and there may be a long time lag before you would see illegal activity on your card.  Why wait for the inevitable?  Cancel the card and get another one.

You also should use this opportunity to obtain your free credit report in order to make sure that there is no evidence of identity theft.  Go to www.annualcreditreport.com.  This is the only source for the free credit reports that you have a right to have by law.  Many other websites with similar names may provide you with a free credit report, but in the fine print, you may find that you have unwittingly signed up for a costly service that you do not want or need.

Finally, you may wish to consider putting a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if someone has sufficient personal information about you to otherwise gain access to your credit report in order to use it to make a large purchase, they would not be able to get access to your credit report because it is frozen and can only be made available by you using a PIN.  You can find all the information you need about credit freezes here on Scamicide.  Just go to the column on the right and click on “credit freezes.”

 

Scam of the day – June 14, 2013 – Mailbox identity theft

Recently there was a news story about David Lalima of Northampton, Massachusetts, who along with his wife Georgie Thomas became victims of identity theft when an identity thief was able to access their credit card account and run up charges of $20,000 before the victims became aware that someone had taken over their credit card.   Making things even more of a problem was the fact that Lalima and Thomas had their monthly credit card payment made automatically in full out of their bank account electronically.  Eventually, but with much difficulty they were able to straighten the problem out.  What the identity thief had done was intercept a monthly credit card bill of theirs sent to them in the mail.  This enabled the identity thief to not only get the number of the credit card to use as he or she wished, but also to change the address for the account by simply filling in the change of address section on the monthly bill.  This provided the identity thief with extra time to use the credit card before being discovered.

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Identity theft can be high, tech, low tech or no tech.  In this case, it was decidedly no tech.  Identity thieves will go through mailboxes at people’s homes and take out the credit card bills before the real credit card holder ever sees it.  If the credit card holder is not vigilant in tracking his or her monthly bills and noticing when a credit card bill is late, he or she could fall victim in the same manner as Lalima and Thomas did.  It is therefore important to keep your mailbox as secure as possible.  Also, some people will pay their credit card bill and other bills with paper checks which they then put in envelopes in put in their own mailbox for the mail carrier to pick up when he or she is delivering the mail.  This is a bad thing to do because identity thieves merely look for people’s mailboxes with the red flag up indicating their is mail for the mail carrier to pick up and go through the mail for credit card bills that they can convert into identity theft.  They also can copy checks found in the envelopes to make counterfeit checks and empty your bank account.  The best way to pay your bills is online.

Scam of the day – June 3, 2013 – Latest skimmer scam

I have been warning you about the dangers of skimmers since the inception of Scamicide and in my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.”  Recently a new wave of skimmer identity theft has been sweeping the country, with police in White Pine, Tennessee among the many places reporting an increase in this criminal activity.  As those familiar with Scamicide or my book know, a skimmer is a small electronic device that fits over any machine used to read credit cards or debit cards, such as ATMs, gas pumps or other similar devices.  Often the skimmer can be hard to recognize.  When you run your card through what you think is a legitimate card reader, your card’s information is provided to an identity thief who can use this information to make you a victim of identity theft, use your credit card to run up purchases in your name or use your debit card to empty your bank account.

TIPS

Limit your use of ATMs to those of banks with which you are familiar and feel around the card insert to see if there is any indication that the device has been tampered with.  Also shield the key pad from any prying cameras that may be attempting to read your PIN when you insert it.  Also feel the pad itself to make sure that it has not been tampered with by overlaying the pad with a thin cover that electronically steals your PIN.  For more information about skimmers, you may want to get my book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age.”  You can click on the link that shows the book on the right side of this page to go directly to Amazon to get the book at a reduced price.  Also, do not use your debit card for any purchases because the protections that you have if your debit card information is compromised through a skimmer is much less than if you use a credit card.

Scam of the day – May 12, 2013 – Bank text message scam

Everyone texts including scammers and identity thieves.  A recent text message scam that has resurfaced involves a text message from “Credit Card Services Alert” and it informs you that your debit card has been deactivated.  The text message provides you with a telephone number to contact.  If you respond by calling the number, you will reach an automated service informing you that you have reached the card activation center.  It then asks you for you credit card number, expiration date and security code.  Anyone providing this information is sure to become a victim of identity theft.  Your bank or credit card issuer will not contact you in regard to problems by a text message so if you do receive such a text message, you should immediately delete it.

TIPS

Whenever you receive a text message, email, letter or telephone call, you can never be sure of who is communicating with you.  If you have even the slightest thought that the message may be real, you should not respond to the text, email, or caller directly, but rather contact the bank or other organization that they pretend to represent at a telephone number that you know is accurate in order to inquire about the legitimacy of the communication, whereupon you will promptly be informed that it was a scam.  Remember, texts and email messages or phone calls can appear to come from legitimate companies, but that does not mean that it is not a fake.  I received a very real looking email message about a problem with my bank account, however, there was only one problem.  I didn’t have an account at that bank so I merely deleted the email.  You should too.