Scam of the day – June 14, 2015 – Section 8 housing scam

The housing choice voucher program, often referred to as Section 8 housing assistance is the name for a federal program of assistance to low income families, senior citizen and disabled people to help them pay for housing in the public market.  Due to a high demand for Section 8 benefits, there are waiting lists in order to receive benefits.  Scammers have been taking advantage of this by constructing websites that appear to be legitimate Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) websites where people are prompted to sign up for the wait lists and provide personal information as part of the process.  Often these phony websites also require a fee for registering for the wait lists.  The phony websites look very legitimate and may even carry the HUD logo.  Unfortunately, anyone providing personal information to these phony websites will end up a victim of identity theft and any money paid to enroll will be lost forever to a scammer.


The truth is that there is no fee for signing up for a Section 8 wait list and HUD does not have a website where you can sign up for the wait list.  HUD provides Section 8 funds directly to the local housing authorities throughout the country.  If you are interested in applying for these funds, you need to contact your local housing authority to determine how to apply in your area.  You can find the contact information for your local housing authority at this interactive page of the HUD website

Under no circumstances is a fee required to sign up for the wait list for Section 8 funds.

If you receive a phone call, text message or email that purports to be from your local housing authority asking you to apply for benefits, it is a scam.  No housing authority contacts prospective Section 8 applicants in this manner.  In addition, be particularly wary of using Google or other search engines to search for how to enroll in Section 8 waiting lists.  Sophisticated scammers are adept at manipulating the algorithms used by Google and other search engines to get their phony websites at or near the top of your search results.

Scam of the day – September 14, 2013 – Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 scams

You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why.  The scam artists, the only criminals we call artists, are coming to town.  Among the hottest items during this holiday season are the new Xbox One and the Sony PlayStation 4 so you can be pretty confident that there will be scams selling phony versions of these or other scams in which the scammer will take your money and you will get absolutely nothing in return.  It has already been reported by NetNames, a brand protection company that there have been 100,000 online scams on numerous websites.  Many of these scams required payment to be through wired money which is always a tip off that you might be dealing with a scam because once money has been wired, it is effectively gone forever without recourse.  Again, as you would expect, these phony Xbox One and Sony PlayStation 4 offers are for incredibly low prices, often less than a quarter of the real prices for these gaming consoles.


Only buy from reputable companies with which you are familiar and even then, if you are buying online, make sure that you have gone to the real website and not just merely made a typographical error when typing in their URL and end up at a phony website.  Only use a credit card when paying for online purchases.  If it turns out to be a fraud, the worst result is that you will lose $50 and most credit card companies will not even hold you responsible for that amount.  If you use a debit card, you risk losing your entire bank account if you do not pick up on the fraud quickly and even if you do notice and report the fraud to your bank immediately, your account will be frozen while the bank investigates the fraud.  If you choose not to follow my advice and go to an online company that is not a major company with which you are familiar and know is legitimate, check out the company with the Federal Trade Commission, your state’ s attorney general’s consumer protection division and also Google the name of the company with the word “scam” and see what comes up.


Scam of the day – October 29, 2013 – Phony Registry of Motor Vehicles

Identity thieves and scammers are quite adept at spoofing legitimate websites and using domain names that are quite similar to the legitimate websites that we all seek.  Believing that they are at a legitimate website, many people become victims of identity theft by inputting personal information when they think it is secure to do so, when, in fact, they are directly providing their personal information to an  identity thief who uses the information to make the person a victim of their scam.  Compounding the problem is that often these phony websites turn up high on search engines such as Google.  Google and other search engines cannot be trusted to provide access to only legitimate websites.  Recently this problem has been occurring more and more in Massachusetts in regard to the website for the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles which is updating its website due to a number of phony websites that have been taking personal information including credit card information from unsuspecting Massachusetts drivers seeking to renew their licenses online.


Specifically for Massachusetts drivers, the official website for the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles is  However, for everyone, the lesson is that you should always make sure that you never input information into a website unless you are absolutely sure that the website is legitimate.  Remember it is very easy for an identity thief to make a very legitimate looking counterfeit website as a trap for your personal information.  Also, remember that you cannot always trust search engines to provide you with the domain names for legitimate entities.  Search engines can be fooled just like the rest of us.

Scam of the day – January 7, 2013 – Most dangerous websites

Phishing is the name of the scam whereby you are lured to a phony website that appears to be legitimate, however when you click on links in these phony websites, download material from these websites or provide information to these websites, you put yourself in danger of identity theft or of downloading dangerous keystroke logging malware that can steal all of the information on your computer including credit card numbers, your Social Security number, passwords and various account information.  In addition, you may unwittingly have your computer taken over as a part of a botnet (for more information about botnets, check out other postings on or in “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age”) whereby your computer is made part of the botnet circulating scams around the world.


Recently Trend Micro issued a list of the most common websites that were the subjects of phony phishing websites during the past month.  The top ten websites of which you should be particularly wary of to make sure that you are dealing with the legitimate company are:  PayPal, Wells Fargo, Visa, Citibank, Bank of America, Aol, Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail and Mastercard.  Things to look out for to avoid phishing websites are when you are directed to a website through an email that does not refer to you by name or if the email contains spelling errors or poor grammar that may indicate the email is coming from a foreign scammer (or a poorly educated American scammer).  A good rule to follow is to not click on links in emails or text messages to go to a website.  If you consider the email or message worth following up on, go to the website of the legitimate company by typing the URL that you know is correct into your browser.

Scam of the day – July 25, 2012 – Olympic scams part 1

With the Olympics only a few days away, many of us are excited about watching this great event, but our excitement should also be tempered by awareness of the many scams that will emanate from the Olympics and the media coverage of it.  Over the next few days, I will discuss some of the scams of which you should be aware.  Many phony websites will be set up to provide Olympic coverage and may even appear high on the list of your search engine searches.  These phony websites will carry some legitimate information and videos, but while you are watching a pop up window will appear to inform you that your computer has been infected, but that you can click on the pop up to clear your computer of the virus.  Don’t do it.  By clicking on the pop up, you will be, in fact, downloading keystroke logging malware that can read and steal all of the information on your computer, such as your passwords, Social Security number and credit card numbers leading to identity theft.


When looking for information and coverage of the Olympics stay with websites that you know are legitimate and if you do go to a site where the pop up scenario telling you that your computer has been infected occurs, don’t click on the pop up because you have no idea what will happen when you do.  If your computer security software has been constantly updating you should be fine.  Even if you have not been updating your security software, leave the website immediately without clicking on the pop up and do a scan with your own computer security software.