Holiday message 2012

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and looking forward to the new year, I will continue to warn you and update you on the latest scams and identity theft schemes.  My recently published book “50 Ways to Protect Your Identity in a Digital Age” is a good source for specific, helpful information that can guide you in proactive steps you can take to protect your identity and recognize potential threats.  The upcoming year will most likely be one with record numbers of identity thefts and is important for all of us to do the best we can to protect ourselves.  I urge you to consider buying this book, which you can do simply by clicking on the icon on the right of this website/blog.  This link will take you to where you can buy the book easily and receive it in short order.  I know this sounds self-serving and it is, however, it is also a very cost-effective  way to protect yourself from the substantial risks presented by identity theft.  I also urge you to keep coming back to on a regular basis, preferably daily to see for free what the latest identity theft and scam threats are and how to avoid them.

Best wishes.

Steve Weisman

Scam of the day – August 8, 2012 – Citadel malware on Facebook scam

Recently a new version of malware called Citadel has been discovered on people’s Facebook pages.  The scam appears as a request for donations to a children’s charity.  Presently versions of the malware have been found on Facebook pages in England, Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland along with the United States.  In each case, the language used is the language of the country, but the grammar is not good, a common thread for many scams, particularly those originating overseas.  The American request is to help children in Haiti and it asks for a donation of just a dollar and then provides a form for you to enter your name, credit card number, expiration date, CVV code from the card and security password, if one is used.  Unfortunately, the scammers are not after a dollar and they aren’t helping any charity. They steal the entire credit limit of the credit card.


Before you give to a charity, first make sure it is a legitimate charity.  Go to where you can find out whether indeed the particular charity is legitimate as well as, even if it is a legitimate charity, it pays as administrative and fund raising fees.  But even then never give through an online solicitation because you have no way of knowing whether it is the real charity or not that contacted you.  If you want to make a charitable contribution, go to the real charity’s website to make your donation.

Scam of the day – August 2, 2012 – Indictments in Income Tax Scam

Recently the Justice Department through the U.S. Attorney’s office for Alaska in cooperation with the Justice Department’s Tax Division announced a ninety count indictment against eleven people accused of filing phony income tax returns between January 2010 and March 2012 and claiming millions of dollars in phony refunds.  The indictments allege that the defendants used a common income tax fraud tactic that takes advantage of the fact that Puerto Rican citizens do not have to pay federal income taxes although they do have to have Social Security numbers.  The  defendants are accused of stealing the names and Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican citizens and filing phony income tax returns with phony claims for non-existent refunds.  Particularly when tax returns are filed early before W-2s are required to be filed by employers it is easy to defraud the IRS.


It is good to see federal law enforcement not only taking this matter seriously, but actually getting indictments.  Much still remains to be done including new laws and regulations to make it more difficult for identity thieves and scam artists to file phony tax returns.  As for each of us, the best we can do is to protect our Social Security number as much as possible and to file your income tax return as early as possible to beat the scammer to the punch.

Scam of the day – August 1, 2012 – Data breach at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue

For the fourth time in the last six years, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue has negligently released personal information on Wisconsin taxpayers putting them at serious risk of identity theft.  This time the Wisconsin DOR put up on its website a report of real estate property sales from 2011, but included for all the world to see 110,795 Social Security numbers of people involved in those transactions.  The state is offering free credit monitoring to those people whose Social Security numbers were released, but that is of little consolation when you consider the shoddy information security practices of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.


The Wisconsin Department of Revenue is not the only transgressor when it comes to inadqeuate data security and unfortunately, your own personal security is only as safe as the  company or agency that holds your data with the weakest security measures in place.  The best place to look for a helping hand is at the end of your own arm so you should proactively consider protecting your credit report with a credit freeze so that even if someone obtains your Social Security number they cannot get access to your credit report for a large purchase.  You should also limit the places to which you give your personal information as much as possible and always inquire as to their security practices.

Scam of the day – July 23, 2012 – Aurora Colorado shootings scams

As distasteful as it is to imagine, there will be a number of scams that will be occurring during the upcoming days and weeks related to the shootings at the theater in Aurora, Colorado where the opening night of the new Batman movie was being screened.  These scams follow a pattern of scammers taking advantage of the public curiosity and obsession whenever a major event happens, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden or the Japanese Tsunami.  One of the most common forms that these scams will take will be emails or messages on your Facebook page with links to “exclusive” video footage of some intriguing aspect of the event.  Often the link sent to you on your Facebook page will be from a “friend” although it will, most likely not be from a real friend, but from a friend whose Facebook page has been hacked into and taken over so that you trust the message when you receive it.  As I always say, trust me, you can’t trust anyone and you can trust me on that.  If you click on these links, they will download keystroke logging malware that will steal all of your personal information from your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.


Never click on links that you get from friends on Facebook or emails until you have confirmed that they have actually sent you the link and even then you probably are better off considering whether the link that they are sending came from a reliable source or are they unwittingly passing on malware.  Get your videos and other information only from sources that you know are legitimate and keep your computer security software up to date.

Scam of the day – July 16, 2012 – Jury duty scam

Some scams keep repeating and with good reason – they work.  Jury duty scams have been with us for many years and they continue to be an effective scam.  They start when you receive a telephone call or a text message informing you that you have failed to report for jury duty and you are at risk of a substantial fine or even arrest.  You are given a number to call and when you do, the scammer then tells you he or she needs to confirm your personal information including your Social Security number.  Some particularly blatent scammers will even ask for your credit card number.  Why you would need that to confirm your identity for jury duty purposes is hard to imagine.  Anyone who provides the information requested will become a victim of identity theft as the information is used to obtain credit, goods and services in the name of the victim.


Courts will not contact you by the phone or a text message.  Never give your personal information to anyone whom you are not sure is legitimate.  If you have a question about jury duty, call the number for the court that you know to be accurate, not the one that is provided to you by the scammer.

Scam of the day – July 7, 2012 – Affordable Care Act scams

It didn’t take long following the Supreme Court’s upholding of the Constitutionality of Obama Care (The Affordable Health Care Act) for scammers to take advantage of the ruling to start scamming people using the Supreme Court’s ruling as the hook.  The scams are taking the form of telephone calls and emails from scammers posing as health insurance companies who tell their victims that they only have a short time to enroll in new health care policies.  These may be attractive, particularly to people who are either uninsured or under-insured.  Unfortunately, these insurance policies are scams that will take your money while not providing you with any significant services if they provide anything at all.  Other times, the scammers are just seeking information from you to make you  a victim of identity theft.


Health insurance is a complicated matter.  Never make a quick decision about health insurance.  Legitimate companies are also not likely to contact you by phone or by email.  Never consider a health insurance company until you have checked them out with your own state’s department of insurance to make sure they are legitimate and even if they are legitimate make sure you understand all of the terms of any policy that you are considering.