Scam of the day – August 5, 2012 – IRS identity theft update

Earlier this week the IRS acknowledged that they had paid out more than five billion dollars in fraudulent income tax refunds to identity thieves in 2011 and that a government audit of the IRS predicted that the problem will worsen over the next five years.  Despite the efforts of the IRS in detecting about 940,000 fraudulent income tax returns last year, they are not coming close to stopping the flow of fraudulent tax refunds.

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If someone steals your identity and files an income tax return before you do, your ability to get your proper income tax refund becomes much more delayed and complicated.  Consider filing early as do the identity thieves who often file before employers must file W-2 forms for their employees.  Also, guard your Social Security number as much as possible because it is the key to filing a fraudulent income tax return.  If you work with a tax preparer, check them out first to make sure that they are both honest and that they keep your personal information secure

Scam of the day – July 22, 2012 – Serendipity

Serendipity is when a favorable result occurs as a result as a lucky accident.  Certainly having someone cash checks from your bank account with your forged signature is not a favorable result, however, being present at the bank to complain about the money being fraudulently deducted from your account at the same time that the scammer is there trying to cash one of the checks certainly would qualify as serendipity.    This is exactly what occurred this week in Oregon when Matthew Frombach tried to cash a fourth forged signature check.  A friend of the victim chased Frombach, subduing him until police arrived.

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This is a story with a message for us all.  Police believe that the checks themselves were not forgeries, but rather that the victim’s checks were stolen when he reordered them from his bank and had them delivered in the mail.  It is not unusual for an identity thief to steal the last few pages of a new check book with the expectation that the real account owner won’t notice until it is too late.  This is always a risk when you reorder checks unless you arrange to pick up the new checks at your bank.  It may seem like an inconvenience and it is, but a slight inconvenience is much better than becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud.

Scam of the day – May 9, 2012 – Phony job scams

With more and more people looking for employment including now many college students looking for summer jobs, scammers are focusing more attention to scamming these new job applicants.  Just because a company may be one that you are familiar with doesn’t mean that the advertisement to which you may be responding was placed by the actual company.  Always check with the actual company by phone to confirm any job openings and advertisements.  More and more job seekers are going on line to legitimate and illegitimate online employment agencies.  Merely because a company is listed by a legitimate online employment agency does not mean that the company advertising online with them is legitimate.  Many of the scammers posing as potential employers or employment services will ask for upfront application fees.  They also will ask for your Social Security number and bank account information so that they can directly deposit your salary check into your bank account.

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Always independently check out whether the company with which you are dealing is a legitimate company.  The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start.  You can also just Google their name with the word “scam” next to it for further inquiry.  Even if the company checks out as legitimate, you should contact them directly to confirm that any job opening being advertised is legitimate and not just a scammer posing as the legitimate company.  Also, never pay up front fees to employment companies even if they promise a “guaranteed” refund.  Finally and most importantly, never give your Social Security number and bank account number to any company you have only had contact with online.  You should also be careful about the personal information that you include on your resume to make sure that it does not contribute to possible identity theft.

Scam of the day – April 17, 2012 – New gift card scams

Gift cards have been a source of numerous scams with the most recent being a scam that comes in the form of a text message where the potential victim is told that they have won a free gift card as a result of a contest in which they were automatically enrolled when they made a recent purchase using their credit or debit card at a local retailer.  The problem is that in order to claim your gift card, you have to pay a $25 dollar processing fee.  Of course, the contest is a scam and anyone paying the money and providing personal information runs the risk of not only losing their $25, but also of becoming a victim of identity theft through the personal information they provide the scammer.

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Chances are if you had enrolled in a contest, you would have remembered so when you are told that you have won a contest about which you have no memory of ever entering, it is a scam.  If you have any thoughts that you might have won a legitimate contest, contact the company allegedly putting on the contest to see if indeed it is legitimate.  It is also a good idea to check with your local attorney general to also check out whether it is a fraud.

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.

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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 18, 2012 – Diabetes scam

The Department of Health and Human Services Office has issued a recent warning to Americans with diabetes to be alert to a number of scams targeted specifically at people with diabetes.  The scams originate with a call from someone purporting to be from either Medicare, another government agency or a diabetes organization in which the scammers offer free diabetic supplies, such as glucose meters, diabetic testing strips or lancets.  All the victim of the scam has to do to receive these free items is provide personal information, such as the victim’s Medicare number, which, although the government should know better, is still the person’s Social Security number.  The scammers then either use the victim’s Medicare information to bill Medicare for the items, make the person a victim of medical identity theft, which can corrupt the victim’s health records and/or use the other personal information to make the person a victim of more conventional identity theft.

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Never give your Medicare number or other personal information to someone you don’t know.  Legitimate diabetes associations, Medicare and other governmental agencies will not call you by phone offering “free” items.  Always check your Medicare Summary Notice and other medical billings that you receive to make sure that you have not been billed for items you did not order and to see if you have become a victim of medical identity theft.  You can go to the medical identity theft section of scamicide.com to see how to reclaim your identity if you have become a victim of medical identity theft.

Scam of the day – March 15, 2012 – Pinterest Scams

The name “Pinterest” may not be familiar to you, but it will be.  It is a new social media site by which people are able to share or “pin” images of their business logos, business coupons and discounts for marketing purposes to a virtual bulletin board.  Viewers can then either indicate that they like the image, comment on the image or re-pin it to their own boards.  Pinterest is becoming increasingly popular and as more people are drawn to the site, so are scammers who are using phony postings that are easy to make in an effort to lure victims into being scammed by being routed to the same surveys that the scammer gets paid for in similar Facebooks scams or that trick you into providing personal information used for identity theft or, most seriously, install keystroke logging malware software that harvests all of your computer’s information and makes you a victim of identity theft.

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As always, if the offer looks too good to be true, it probably is, so a bit of skepticism is in order.  If you are routed to a survey, don’t take it and make sure that you do not enter personal information that could lead ot your identity being stolen.  Finally, a bit of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so make sure that your computer security software is up to date and that it includes antiphishing capabilities.  Phishing is when you are directed by a scammer to a phony website that purports to be a legitimate website.

 

Scam of the day – March 14, 2012 – March Madness scams

As I have said many times, scammers are always resourceful and taking advantage of whatever has captured the public’s imagination.  Little has captured the public’s imagination more at this time of year than the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament.  Phony ticket and travel scams abound.

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Although sites such as Craigslist may have listings for tickets, there is no screening process for someone to sell their tickets on Craigslist or similar sites.  Check with your local attorney general, the Better Business Bureau or the FTC about sellers to see if ticket sellers are legitimate.  Always pay by credit card, never a debit card or check so that if the sale is a fraud, you can get the money back form your credit card company.

Scam of the day – March 12, 2012 – Latest Facebook Scam

Almost every day brings a new Facebook scam and with good reason.  They work.  The latest involves a post from a “friend” that says that it provides a link to a video of a horrific roller coaster accident that in various posts has occurred in either California, the United Kingdom or Australia.  The post is a scam and like so many of the phony links on Facebook is designed to lure you to something that the scammers believe will appeal to our curiosity.  The first thing to remember is that it is easy to hack into someone’s Facebook page and then send out phony postings so merely because you recognize the poster does not mean that the posting is legitimate.  If you do click on one of these phony links you either end up taking a survey for which the scammer is paid a commission or downloading malware that can lead to your identity being stolen.

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Scammers often have bad grammer so be wary of postings with bad grammer and spelling.  Never click on any link without verifying that it is legitimate.  Check with friends to make sure that they are indeed the people sending you the particular link.

Scam of the day – March 10, 2012 – Latest Facebook Scam

The answer to the question about why scammers are drawn to Facebook is the same answer to the question posed to a bank robber as to why he robbed banks.  Because that is where the money or in the case of Facebook, the victims and money can be found.  The latest Facebook scam follows a familiar pattern.  You see a posting on your page that attracts your attention, such as the one now circulating that says “OMG I just hate RIHANNA after watching this video.”  The posting may look like it has come from one of your friends, but in fact, your friend’s Facebook account has probably been hijacked.  In this particular scam, you are told to share the link before you can see the video.  This is a tip off that it is a scam and if you do share it, you become part of the problem by sending it to unsuspecting friends.  If you click on the link, two things can happen, you may be led to a survey that you must complete before being able to see the video.  This is because the scammers are using this lure to earn themselves a commission for everyone that takes the survey.  However, the more sinister thing that can happen if you click on the link is that you may unwittingly be downloading a key stroke logging malware program that will steal all of your personal information, such as credit card numbers and passwords from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.  Either way, after you have clicked on the link, you never see the promised, non-existent video.

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These types of scams can easily be avoided with a little skepticism and some fact checking.  Don’t trust postings even if they appear to come from your friends.  Never click on a link unless you are absolutely sure as to its source and even then, you may have a friend who doesn’t realize they are passing along a scam.  Independently check out online the particular item before you even consider clicking on to it.