Scam of the day – November 29, 2016 – Giving Tuesday scams

Following the major shopping days referred to as Black Friday and Cyber Monday now comes Giving Tuesday which was first designated as a special day to focus on helping out people in need through charitable gifts in 2012.  This is a time of the year when many people are receptive to solicitations from charities.  Unfortunately, not all of those solicitations will be from legitimate charities.  Many of those calls, letters and emails will be from scammers posing as charities.

Even if you are on the federal Do-Not-Call List, which I strongly recommend unless you want to talk to telemarketers, the law permits charities to contact you by phone.  Unfortunately, whenever you receive a telephone call, you can never be sure who is really calling you.  Even if your Caller ID indicates that the call you are getting is coming from a charity whose name you recognize, the call actually may be from a scammer using a technique called Spoofing to make it appear that the call is legitimate when it is not.  The truth is that the call you receive may or may not be from a legitimate charity or a telemarketer on behalf of a legitimate charity and you have no way of knowing who is really on the other end of the line.

TIPS

When you receive such a call from a telemarketer or someone purporting to represent a charity, if you are interested in the particular charity, the best thing you can do is just to ask them to send you written material.  Do not provide your credit card number over the phone to anyone who calls you because you cannot be sure that they are legitimate.   Also, as I have warned you in the past, many phony charities have names that are similar to real charities so it is always a good idea to investigate a charity before you make a charitable contribution.  In addition, when you receive a charitable solicitation telephone call from a telemarketer, the telemarketer is generally being paid a commission for the money he or she collects.  Thus, your contribution to the charity is diluted by the amount that goes to the telemarketer although as Jerry Seinfeld would say, “not that there is anything wrong with that.”    However, if you really want to make your charitable contribution go farther, you will  be  better served by first checking out the particular charity at www.charitynavigator.org where you can find out not only if the particular charity is legitimate, but also how much of your contribution goes toward administrative costs and how much actually goes toward the charity’s charitable work.  Charitynavigator.org will also show you the best address to send your contribution.  Then you can make your contribution directly to the charity without any amount being deducted for fund raising expenses.

November 5, 2016 – Steve Weisman’s latest column for USA Today

The open enrollment period for Medicare is going on now.  Open enrollment for Medicare is open season for scammers who use interest in Medicare as an opportunity to scam unsuspecting victims.

Here is a link to my latest column for USA Today which discusses the various Medicare scams and how to avoid them.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2016/11/05/how-spot-avoid-medicare-open-enrollment-scams/93297060/

Scam of the day – June 24, 2016 – EMV chip card update

It has been eight months since the mandate to the credit card companies and merchants to switch to the new EMV chip credit cards which generate a unique randomly generated code for each transaction that renders useless hacking retailers to steal credit card information as we have seen so many times in the past few years, most notably with Target in 2013.  Yet despite the October 1, 2015 deadline for merchants and credit card companies to switch to the new EMV chip credit cards in order to avoid liability for fraudulent credit card purchases, recent surveys indicate that only 70% of American credit card holders have EMV chip credit cards and less than 37% of merchants have adopted the new technology.  Many smaller retailers have made the decision not to switch to the new processing equipment required to process EMV chip credit cards because they have determined that the cost of updating and changing their card processing equipment is more expensive than they perceive their risk of potential liability for fraudulent card use while other retailers have updated their equipment, but have been delayed in having it become operative because it must be certified by each payment network, such as MasterCard and Visa, used by the merchant.  Some merchants have even sued MasterCard and Visa over the delays.

TIPS

The rules regarding the shifting of liability for fraudulent charges do not directly affect consumers, however, that does not mean that consumers can just ignore this matter.  Scammers are still taking advantage of the fact that 30% of Americans still have not received a new EMV chip card by emailing them posing as their credit card companies asking for information in order to process their new EMV chip cards. Unfortunately, people receiving these emails provide the personal information including their credit card number, which is then used to make fraudulent charges in the names of the scammers’ victims.

So how do you know as a consumer if you receive an email purporting to be from your credit card company that it is legitimate?

First check the address of the email sender.  If it appears to come from someone or some company wholly unrelated to your credit card issuer, it is a scam.  Many scammers use hijacked email accounts that become a part of a network of controlled computers referred to as a botnet to send out their emails so that it is difficult to trace the scams back to the scammer.

Merely because the email appears legitimate, is written in proper English and even carries the logo of your credit card company does not mean that it is legitimate.  It is easy to copy the logo of a company on to an email.  If you get an email from your real credit card company it will generally be addressed to you specifically by name rather than a generic greeting of “Dear Cardholder.”  In addition, legitimate emails to you will generally reference your account by including the last four digits of your account.  However, even paranoids have enemies so if you do get an email that appears legitimate, but you still have concerns, merely call the company at the number found on the back of your credit card to confirm that the email is legitimate. but make sure that you dial the number correctly because some enterprising scammers have bought telephone numbers that are quite similar to those of the legitimate customer service numbers for your credit card companies in order to snare people who have misdialed their credit card company.

Steve Weisman’s latest column from USA Today

Here is a link to my latest column from today’s version of USA Today.  It deals with the timely topic of scams and identity theft dangers found in online shopping.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2015/12/12/weisman-online-shopping-cybersecurity/77012780/

Scam of the day – November 10, 2014 – SIPC investor warning

The Securities Investor Protection Corp. is a nonprofit corporation formed by Congress to assist investors who have lost money through investment fraud in getting back money they have lost to swindlers and other investment criminals.  They work with court appointed trustees to identify and distribute funds from criminals such as Bernie Madoff.  SIPC is funded entirely by the legitimate brokerage industry and it does not charge the victimized investors for their services.  Recently, the SIPC identified what it believes are two phony websites that appear to claim that they are doing the same work that SIPC does, but are done either at a fee or are merely phishing websites intended to lure victimized investors into providing personal information about themselves and their accounts which is used to make the victim a further victim of identity theft.  The two websites named by SIPC are associated with Alliant Trust Systems and Investment Assurance Corp.  Each of these websites indicate that Stephen Harbeck is the president of their respective companies.  Harbeck is, in fact, the president of SIPC, but has no relation whatsoever with either Alliant Trust Systems or Investment Assurance Corp.

TIPS

As always, before providing personal information or payments for any services, you should make sure that you are indeed dealing with a legitimate entity.  A common trick of scammers is to use names of companies and agencies that sound legitimate or are even the slightest variations of the names of legitimate companies and government agencies.  Always confirm that the company or agency with which you are dealing is, in fact, legitimate before ever providing personal information or money.

Scam of the day – September 16, 2014 – Latest security updates from the Department of Homeland Security

Constant updating of the software we all use with the latest security patches and updates is a critical part of avoiding scams and identity theft threats.  Whenever new security updates and patches are issued, we provide access to these so that you can update your software to provide better security on your computers, smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.  Updating your software with the latest security patches and updates as soon as possible is important because identity thieves and scammers are always finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in the software that we all use.  Delay in updating your software could lead to disastrous results.  However, it is also important to be sure that you are downloading legitimate patches and updates rather than being tricked by an identity thief or scammer into downloading malware under the guise of downloading a security patch or update.  That is why we provide links to the necessary patches and updates as provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the companies directly.  Today’s updates include important security patches for Adobe software including the Adobe Flash Player, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.

TIPS

Here are the links to the latest security updates as issued by the Department of Homeland Security: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/bulletins/SB14-258

Scam of the day – December 3, 2013 – Latest software vulnerability alert

The Department of Homeland Security through the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Vulnerability Database regularly issue Cyber Security Bulletins to alert you to vulnerabilities in regularly used software as well as provide links to security patches and updates to correct these problems.  The vulnerabilities are rated, High, Medium and Low with High, of course, being the highest priority.  Scammers and identity thieves exploit these vulnerabilities to cause us all harm so it is critical that you download and install the necessary patches as soon as they are available.  Some people are wary when they receive notices of security patches because they are not sure whether the notices are legitimate or are from scammers.  The links provided here at Scamicide are links you can trust.

TIPS

Here is a link to the latest Cyber Security Bulletin, which I urge you to look at and click on the links to download and install the patches for the software programs that apply to you.

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/bulletins/SB13-336

Scam of the day – April 16, 2013 – Boston Marathon attack scams

The horrible events at yesterday’s Boston Marathon where two bombs were detonated, killing and maiming innocent people is bad enough, but now scammers will be taking advantage of the curiosity of people about the event to make them victims of identity theft.  Every disaster, whether it is a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina or the Japanese Tsunami or unnatural horrible events such as the shootings in Newtown Connecticut bring out the scammers who will be looking to take advantage of both the public’s curiosity and its generosity to turn them into victims of identity theft and scams.  You can expect emails and Facebook messages that promise links to unique video footage of the events that will come laden with keystroke logging malware that can steal all of the information contained in your computer that will, in turn, make you a victim of identity theft.  Even if the emails or Facebook messages appear to come from someone you know, you can never be confident that someone has not merely hacked into your friend’s email account or Facebook account.  Phony charities will also be springing up to help the victims and once again, you can be sure that the scammers will be setting up many of these charities to play on your heartstrings and steal your money.

TIPS

Never click on links or download attachments unless you are absolutely sure that they are legitimate and even then, your friends and family may be unwittingly passing on links and attachments tainted with malware.  If you have any doubts as to the source of an email or a Facebook message, contact that person at a telephone number that you know is accurate to inquire if indeed they actually contacted you as well as to check on the source of the material that they, in turn, are passing on to you.  When it comes to videos of newsworthy events, stick  with well established, legitimate websites.  You can’t trust the other material found on the Internet.  As for charities, never give to a charity unless you have confirmed both that it is a legitimate charity and that it does not use too much of its contributions for payment of salaries of executives within the charities and fund raising activities.  You can find this critical information at www.charitynavigator.org.

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 Amazon.com 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 www.scamicide.com 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