Scam of the day – November 10, 2017 – Veterans’ Day scams

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, 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.  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 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 – October 16, 2017 – Breast Cancer Awareness Month telemarketing scams

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and scammers are taking full advantage of the increased attention to this disease which is diagnosed in 200,000 women each year.   Recently, I received a telephone call from a telemarketer seeking a contribution to a breast cancer charity or at least that is what she said.  Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call List, the law permits charities and politicians to contact you.  However, whenever you receive a telephone call, you can never be sure who is really calling you.  Even if your Caller ID indicates that the call you are getting is coming from a charity the name of which you recognize, the call actually may be from a scammer using a technique called Spoofing to make it appear that the call is legitimate when it is not.  The truth is that the call you receive may or may not be from a legitimate charity or a telemarketer on behalf of a legitimate charity and you can’t tell who is really on the other end of the line.

TIPS

When you receive such a call from a telemarketer or someone purporting to represent a charity, if you are interested in the particular charity, the best thing you can do is just to ask them to send you written material.  Do not provide your credit card number over the phone to anyone who calls you because you cannot be sure that they are legitimate.   Also, as I have warned you in the past, many phony charities have names that are similar to real charities so it is always a good idea to investigate a charity before you make a charitable contribution.  In addition, when you receive a charitable solicitation telephone call from a telemarketer, the telemarketer is generally being paid a commission for the money he or she collects.  Thus, your contribution to the charity is diluted by the amount that goes to the telemarketer and as Jerry Seinfeld would say, “not that there is anything wrong with that.”    However, if you really want to make your charitable contribution go farther, you will  be  better served by first checking out the particular charity at www.charitynavigator.org where you can find out not only if the particular charity is legitimate, but also how much of your contribution goes toward administrative costs and how much actually goes toward the charity’s charitable purposes.  Then you can make your contribution directly to the charity without any amount being deducted for fund raising expenses.

Scam of the day – August 29, 2017 – Beware of Hurricane Harvey charity scams

Hurricane Harvey, which first hit Texas four days ago has brought devastating rains, wind and flooding.   This kind of natural disaster brings out the best in us as many people are quick to donate 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 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.  Here is a link to charitynavigator.org with a list of a number of highly rated charities helping in the Hurricane Harvey relief effort.  https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=5239

Recommended charities include Americares, International Relief Teams, Direct Relief, GlobalGiving, Save the Children and the American Red Cross.

Scam of the day – August 14, 2017 – Telemarketers may get a new weapon

Legitimate telemarketing calls can substantially be avoided by consumers by signing up for the free federal Do-Not-Call list which makes it illegal for telemarketers to contact you on your landline phone or cell phone unless they are representing a charity, debt collector, survey or a politician.  Here is a link to where you can sign up for the Do-Not-Call list if you haven’t yet done so and want to avoid these calls.  https://www.donotcall.gov/

It is important to remember that criminal telemarketers, including many who utilize automated robocalls pay no attention to the Do-Not-Call list.

Now, new technology has been developed that enables telemarketers to contact you by calling directly to your voicemail without your phone ever ringing.  Telemarketers argue that this technology is not subject to the Do-Not-Call list because your phone never rings, which seems like poor reasoning to me, however, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is considering an application by a company that wants to use this technology for telemarketing to allow these calls to be made to consumers.

TIPS

Unfortunately, at the present time there is no way for you to block undesired voicemails as we have with other types of robocalls. The FCC is presently soliciting comments from the public as to whether or not to allow this new technology to be used for telemarketing to consumers.  If you wish to comment  to the FCC on this you can do so by clicking on this link.  You will need to insert the name and number of the proceeding as 02-278 Ringless Voicemail.

https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express

Scam of the day – January 29, 2017 – “Can you hear me” phone scam is a hoax

The era of fake news has been with us for quite a while and it includes reports of scams that never have occurred.  Presently a number of sources including the Better Business Bureau and others are reporting about a scam that is often referred to as the “Can you hear me” phone scam.

The purported scam involves an automated call that asks “Can you hear me” and when the person receiving the call indicates “yes,” the response is recorded and used to authorize unwanted charges on your phone bill through cramming or other accounts.

Many people have received these unwanted calls, however, no one has yet reported actually being victimized by this scam.  Verified reports have only been of receiving such a call.

Even paranoids have enemies, but this scam does appear to be somewhat overstated.  It seems to be similar to the commonly reported scam about people getting out of their cars to retrieve a $100 bill left on their windshield only to have their car hijacked when they attempt to do so. This scam was described in the media although it never actually happened.

TIPS

While this “Can you hear me” scam appears to be not true, in theory, it does provide a lesson in caution when responding to unsolicited phone calls.  You may wish to avoid such telemarketing calls altogether by enrolling in the Do-Not-Call List which you can do by going to https://www.donotcall.gov/

If you receive a telemarketing call after enrolling in the Do-Not-Call list, you can be sure that it is a scam.

You also may wish to avoid robocalls by enrolling in nomorobo, which cuts off robocalls after one ring.  You can enroll at https://www.nomorobo.com/

Finally, if you do answer a telemarketer, never respond with an affirmative declaration, such as “yes” to any automated call or telemarketer.

Scam of the day – January 3, 2017 – FTC brings charges in timeshare resale scam

The Federal Trade Commission has just announced the filing of charges against Pro Timeshare Resales, LLC and a number of individuals connected with this company on charges that they took sizable up-front fees after promising they had buyers and renters ready to buy or rent their time share units.

The scam would begin when the victim would be contacted by phone and told that the company had a ready, willing and able buyer  or renter for the victim’s timeshare unit.  The victim was told that they must pay upfront fees, which could be as much as $2,500.  The truth is that their were no buyers andoften the victims were even called in violation of the Federal Do Not Call List.  When some of the victims asked for  refunds, the scammers refused to return the funds paid to them.

TIPS

Many timeshare owners have become desperate to sell their timeshare units and scam artists take advantage of this desperation. However, regardless of how desperate you are, you should never pay anyone promising to sell your timeshare unit in advance of the actual sale.  If you follow this rule, you will save yourself a lot of headaches.  Before signing with anyone to sell your timeshare unit, you should also investigate the company to make sure that they are legitimate.  Check with your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission to see if their are complaints or legal actions against the company.

Scam of the day – October 16, 2016 – FTC shuts down telemarketing scam

At the request of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a temporary restraining order has been issued by a judge in the Federal District Court for Arizona temporarily shutting down the operation of a telemarketing scam in which three people, utilizing numerous corporations,  lured people into investing thousands of dollars in purported  e-commerce websites.  The scammers targeted older people and veterans from whom they stole millions of dollars with promises of huge profits and fraudulent misrepresentations that the investments were “risk free” and totally guaranteed,   The scammers charged by the FTC are Susan Rodriguez, Matthew Rodriguez and William “Matt” Whitley who did business under the names “Titan Income, ” “Wyze Money,” “Prime Cash,” and “Building Money.”  As alleged by the FTC, the entire operation was a scam and the victims received neither profits nor their investments back when they requested refunds.  The next step in the case against these defendants will be a hearing to replace the temporary restraining order with a more permanent preliminary injunction to stay in affect during the litigation.

Many of the victims of this scam were on the Do Not Call List, which should have been an initial indication to the victims that the “business opportunity” was a scam because calling them to offer a business opportunity was already a violation of the law.

TIPS

Never invest in anything until you have had a chance to do diligent research into the particular investment.  You should be particularly wary of investment “opportunities” that come your way through unsolicited telemarketers.  Also, the federal Business Opportunity Rule, which was ignored by  the defendants in this case, requires that before you invest in any business opportunity you are provided with a one-page disclosure that provides important facts about the business.  In addition  if, as in this case, you are told how much money you can make, you are required to be given another document with greater details.  For more information about the Business Opportunity Rule, the disclosures you should receive and claims that may not be made by people soliciting investments you can go to this link from the FTC.   https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0172-bogus-business-opportunities

Scam of the day – October 10, 2016 – Hurricane Matthew charity scams

While Hurricane Matthew has caused serious damage on the South Coast of the United States, the utter devastation caused by this storm in Haiti, where hundreds of people died as a result of the storm, has been so much worse.   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.  Here is a link to charitynavigator.org with a list of a number of highly rated charities helping in the Haitian relief.           http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=4386

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 – August 1, 2016 – Presidential election scams

With the Presidential election in full swing, scammers are busy taking advantage of this fact to scam people and make them victims of identity theft.  One common election scam involves a telephone call you receive purportedly from one of the political parties or one of the candidates’ campaign staff asking for a contribution.  Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call List, you can be legally called by politicians seeking campaign contributions so the calls may appear legitimate.  They may also show up on your Caller ID as coming from a political party or candidate’s campaign, but this does not mean that the call is legitimate.  Through a technique called “spoofing,” scammers are able to fool your Caller ID and make it appear that the call’s origin is legitimate when it is not.

Another common election time scam involves a call purportedly from your city or town clerk informing you that you need to re-register or you will be removed from the voting lists.  You are then told that you can re-register over the phone merely by providing some personal information, such as your Social Security number.  The truth is that you will not be called by your city or town clerk and told that you need to re-register and voter registration is not done by phone.

TIPS

In regard to the first scam, you can never be sure when you receive a phone call as to who is really on the other end of the line.  Never give personal information such as your credit card number to anyone who calls you on the phone unless you have absolutely verified that the call is legitimate.  In the case of a campaign contribution solicitation, if you are inclined to donate to a particular candidate or party, the best thing to do is to go directly to the candidate’s or party’s website to make your contribution.

Even though being on the Federal Do-Not-Call List does not prevent charities or political candidates from calling you, it can cut down on annoying telemarketing calls and let you know right away that anyone who calls you in violation of the Do-Not-Call List is not to be trusted.  If you want to get on the Do-Not-Call list, just click on this link.  https://www.donotcall.gov/