Scam of the day – April 5, 2012 – Mortgage scam update

As I warned you in “scams of the day” on February 26, 2012 and March 26, 2012, mortgage settlement scams are becoming more and more prevalent and dangerous.  Recently the New York Attorney General warned consumers to be wary of phone solicitations from people purporting to be part of the major mortgage relief settlement with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial.  Sometimes the scammers lure the victims into providing personal information that can be used for identity theft purposes.  Other times they offer to assist with obtaining settlement funds or a loan modification for a fee.

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Don’t trust anyone who calls you on the phone offering such help.  Don’t give your personal information to anyone on the phone whom you have not called and are not positively sure as to who they are.  No fees are charged by banks or HUD approved housing counseling agencies for settlement assistance.  The best place to go for accurate information is the website of the mortgage settlement, which is www.nationalforeclosuresettlement.com.

Scam of the day – April 4, 2012 – Upswing in Identity theft from children

Recently there has been a dramatic increase in identity theft from children.  According to the FTC more than 19,000 children had their identitities stolen last year and this number may be quite less than the true number because often, children whose identities have been stolen do not learn of the theft until, a older teenagers they apply for student loans or car loans.  By then a tremendous amount of damage may have been done and the job of fixing the credit record becomes much more difficult than if the theft had been discovered early.

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A significant amount of identity theft from children comes from family members, baby sitters or others who may have access to personal information about the child that has not been properly secured.  Keep the Social Security cards and numbers secure and away from prying eyes.  Also teach your children not to provide personal information on line unless they are absolutely sure of to whom they are providing the information and it is absolutely necessary to provide such information.

Scam of the day – March 30, 2012 – Draw Something scam

Draw Something is a Pictionary type game that has been available online since February and has been downloaded more than thirty-five million times.  Scammers, pretending to be from Draw Something are taking advantage of the game’s popularity by tweeting people and telling them that they have won a prize.    They are then sent to drawsomethingwinner.com to answer a few questions to qualify for the prize.  Unfortunately, it is a scam.  The real Draw Something has nothing to do with either the domain to which the victims are sent nor the tweet.   What you may encounter is either filling in a questionnaire for which the scammer receives a commission or something more sinister, such as giving up information that makes you a victim of identity theft.

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Remember, it is always difficult to win a contest you never enterred so you should always be skeptical when you receive a notice that you have, in fact, won such a contest.  If you are at all tempted to respond to such a tweet, check out the truth of the matter by confirming the validity of the contest.

Scam of the day – March 29, 2012 – RockYou Game site identity theft risk

Recently the operators of the online children’s game site RockYou settled a claim of the Federal Trade Commission that it did not properly protect the privacy of its users and failed to use proper security resulting in the site being hacked and the information on 32 million users being compromised.  This particular website by being aimed at children also violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protect Act Rule or COPPA which requires website operators to notify parents and get their consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information from people under the age of 13.

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You are only as safe from identity theft as the places that hold your information.  Try to limit the places that have your personal information and find out what security measures they take, such as encryption of the data.  You should also educate your children about the dangers of downloading free music or games because that is a common way that scammers install keystroke logging malware on your computer that can steal all of the information from your computer.

Scam of the day – March 28, 2012 – Farm scam

Recently many farmers around the country have reported receiving phone calls or faxes purporting to be from the United States Department of Agriculture complete with the USDA logo and seal.  Many of these faxes are from USDA Senior Procurement Officer Frank Rutenberg.  The truth is that the USDA neither has a Senior Procurement Officer nor an employee named Frank Rutenberg.  It may look official, but it is a scam with the sole intention of getting personal identification information such as Social Security numbers to make the unwary victim of identity theft.

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Never give personal information to anyone whose identity you have not confirmed.  If you are a farmer and you think that such a fax or phone call might be legitimate, confirm it with a call to the real USDA.

Scam of the day – March 22, 2012 – Windows security scam

A new scam currently turning up involves people receiving a telephone call from someone purporting to be from Microsoft and that there is a dangerous computer virus infecting the Windows operating system on the person’s computer.  The caller then asks the person to log on to their computer and go through  with the scammer the steps necessary to clear the computer of the threat.  The threat, of course, comes from the caller who uses the call to gather personal information to turn the person receiving the call into a victim of identity theft.

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Microsoft would not call you.  Never give personal information over the phone to someone you have not called or are not completely sure who they are.  As for your Windows software, make sure it is always up to date.  Automatic regular updating is best.  Also make sure that you have legitimate security software on your computer and up to date to protect you from viruses, spyware and malware.

Scam of the day – March 19, 2012 – New iPad scam

Once again, the scammers are there when anything new catches the public’s attention.  This time it involves Apple’s release of the newest iPad, which, once again is exciting the buying public.  But why buy a new iPad when you can get one for free.  Turning up in emails and on Facebook pages are offers of free iPads in exchange for merely testing the iPad.  If you click to the link to claim your iPad, you find yourself in the same danger as when you fall for any of these type of lures by scammers.  You may be led to a survey, which even if you take it, does not end up with your getting the promised iPad, but does provide a commission payment to the scammer.  More seriously, you may provide information that could put you in danger of identity theft or even worse, you could have unwittingly, by clicking on the link, downloaded a keystroke logging malware program on to your computer that can access all of the information on your computer, such as passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can turn you into a victim of identity theft.

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Many of the free iPad scams actually refer to the device as an ” iPad 3″ which is not the official name of the device, so you can be sure that the offer is a scam.  However, whenever you see any of these offers, rest assured, they are scams.  Apple does not do these kind of promotions.  If you still are not convinced when you see this kind of offer, call Apple.

Scam of the day – March 16, 2012 – Cell phone bank scam

A growing scam is the stealing of victims’bank accounts by identity thieves.  According to the American Bankers Association, this type of scam has increased by 260% in the last two years.  One of the more common ways scammers steal your bank account is by getting you to give them the keys to the kingdom by calling you on your cell phone with an automated call or text message from the scammer posing as your bank, telling you that there has been a security breach and your account is in jeopardy.  The message asks you to provide personal information about the account.  Many victims have trusted the scammers because their caller ID shows that the message came from their bank.  However, the bank’s caller ID has merely been copied or spoofed by the scammers.  If you provide the requested information, your account can be emptied and your identity stolen causing you further financial harm.  Sometimes the message actually appears to come from a bank you do not even have an account with.

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You should be skeptical when your bank  appears to be contacting you and asks for personal information.  And, of course, you should never respond to a message from a bank that you do not have an account with asking for personal information.  Never respond to a text message or automated call purporting to be from your bank by doing anything other than contacting your bank at a telephone number that you know is correct to confirm the call.

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 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.