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.

Scam of the day – March 6, 2012 – Walmart gift card scam

This is the most recent variation of a familiar scam in which you receive an email or a text message telling you that you are lucky enough to have just won a $1,000 Walmart gift card.  I have received this very scam just yesterday with many other people receiving these over the past couple of days.  You can expect this and similar gift card scams to proliferate.  In the message, you are instructed to go to a link to enter your winning code number to claim your prize.  Never go to a link that you are not absolutely positively sure is legitimate.  In this particular scam, if you click on the link, you will only succeed in downloading a key stroke logging malware program that will read all of the information on your smart phone or computer that can steal from your computer or smart phone all of your personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, your Social Security number and more leading to a serious case of identity theft.

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Walmart does not do these type of promotions, so if you receive a text message purporting to be from Walmart regarding this type of promotion or contest, you can be sure it is a phony.  The old adage is true; if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  If you have any thoughts that the contest or promotion might be legitimate, call the company at a number that you know is correct to find out the truth.

Skimmers

Skimmers are small devices that can read a credit or debit card and capture the information on the card for scam artists.  They may be installed on an ATM or a gas pump or any other device into which you directly swipe your credit card or debit card.  They may also be used as a portable device by a criminal clerk or waiter who takes your card and not only runs it for the legitimate charge for whatever you are purchasing, but also runs it through the skimmer to capture the information to steal access to your credit card or debit card.

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As much as possible, when giving your credit or debit card to a clerk or waiter, watch the card to make sure that it is not swiped through a skimmer as well as through the legitimate credit card processing machine.  Many restaurants now bring the card processing apparatus to you at your table to avoid this type of criminal activity.

And while you are at it, you should consider using your debit card less because unlike a credit card, the laws that protect you in the event of fraudulent use of the card are greatly limited.  While your liability for fraudulent use of your credit card is limited by law to no more than fifty dollars, your potential liability for fraudulent use of your debit card that you do not catch in a timely fashion could be the emptying of the checking account to which your debit card is attached.

ATM Scams

Using an ATM is a very convenient way to access your bank account.  Unfortunately, it is also a very convenient way for scam artists to access your bank account as well, often with your assistance.

The primary way ATM’s are compromised is through the use of a small device called a “skimmer” which fits over the slot where you put your bank card.  The skimmer reads the information embedded in your card, which is half the battle to accessing your account.  Often criminals will install cameras by the ATM to read your PIN as you input it into the ATM.    These cameras may even appear to be the security cameras used your bank.  Other times they may even install a keyboard over the regular keyboard to capture your PIN.

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Always check an ATM before using it to see if it appears to have been tampered with and when you input your PIN, shield the keyboard from any cameras or prying eyes.

Tax Scams

Tax scams are rampant although they do spring up more in the Spring as we get ready to pay our income taxes.  Most of the scams prey on two conflicting motivations.  The first is our fear of the IRS and doing something wrong in filling out our taxes and the second is the desire to avoid paying taxes.  Either way, you are a potential victim of the tax scammer.

First and foremost, don’t believe the scammer who tells you that the income tax is illegal and that he or she can show you why you don’t need to pay taxes.  The income tax is legal.  That is all there is to it.  People with contrary opinions have gone to prison for tax evasion.

Some people may receive forms from the IRS on line, often asking personal information such as your Social Security number or even your credit card number.  The IRS does not communicate with taxpayers on line so don’t fall for this scam.

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Consider the source for any tax advice you get.  Don’t rely on people telling you that you don’t have to pay taxes because that is what you want to hear.  Always check out the qualifications of any tax adviser.  And if you are contacted by someone purporting to be the IRS asking for information, if you have any concerns that the contact may be legitimate, contact the IRS at a number that you know is legitimate.

Phony Caller ID

Caller ID is a great service that permits you to see who is calling you on your phone so you can determine whether to answer it or just let it go to voice mail.  It also is a great service to scam artists who use it to lure people into providing personal information that can lead to identity theft by appearing to be from your bank or local court or some other trusted institution.  They then trick you into giving them personal information, such as your Social Security number that leads to identity theft.

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Don’t trust caller ID.  Never give out personal information to anyone who calls you unless you are absolutely sure of their identity.  If you have any doubts, call the real institution that they claim to be at a number that you know is accurate and you can confirm whether indeed your original call was legitimate.

Area Code 809

Have you ever heard of area code 809?  Don’t feel bad if you haven’t because it probably is not an area code with which you would be familiar unless you make a lot of calls to the Caribbean.   Similar to the 900 scam, you may receive a call in your voice mail telling you that you have won a contest or even that someone you know has gotten into difficulties and needs your help.  In any event, you are prompted to call a number beginning with the area code 809 which at charges of $25 per minute can run up your phone bill to outrageous levels quite quickly.

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Always be skeptical of any call instructing you to call the area code 809 unless you truly do know who is calling and that they are in the Caribbean.

Phony Diplomas

A College degree can help you land a good job, but a phony diploma from an organization granting worthless college degrees that require you to do little, if any academic work, but gives you large credit for your “life experience” is just a diploma mill that can, in fact, hurt your chances of getting a job.  There also are easy to recognize scams that just lure people into being a part of the scam by selling you counterfeit diplomas of legitimate colleges.  Either way, you should avoid these education scams.  Some states, such as Oregon have even made it a crime to use a diploma from one of these phony colleges.

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“What’s in a name?”  If you studied Shakespeare in college, you would know that quote comes from “Romeo and Juliet.”  Always check the name of phony colleges because the names may be quite similar to legitimate colleges.  Columbia State University is a diploma mill.  Columbia University is an Ivy League college.  Check out the school at the U.S. Department of Education’s website at www.ope.edu.gov/accreditation to see if the particular institution of higher learning is an accredited college.