Scam of the day – May 2, 2012 – Extended Warranties

This is another oldie but goodie scam that continues to scam people out of hard earned money, but recently became the subject of new legislation in Missouri although the issue is a countrywide problem.  The problem are extended warranties for your automobile.  Actually, they are not “extended” warranties at all because if you read the fine print you will notice that although the notice looks official,  it is not from either the car manufacturer who issued your original warranty nor the car dealer who sold you the car.  The warranties themselves vary from scammer to scammer with some of the “extended” warranties being relatively worthless, but with all of them based on misrepresentations, how can you trust them, in any event?

TIP

Always read the fine print of any communication you receive regardless of how official it looks.  In regard to car warranties, it is always a good idea to check with your dealer as to what warranties cover your car.

Scam of the day – April 30, 2012 – Phony Medical identification cards

Most new scams are just variations on old scams and this one is no exception.  Many people, particular older Americans are receiving telephone calls from their medical insurance companies informing them that they will be receiving new identification cards for new expanded benefits which will now include dental and vision coverage.  Then comes the kicker.  All the company needs, you are told is just some bank account information for confirmation.  If you give the information to the scammer, you are giving them the keys to your bank account and making yourself a victim of identity theft.

TIP

Never give information to anyone over the phone  whom you have not called because you can never be sure who they are.  Also, consider why anyone, such as this person, would even require such information.  There is no reason your medical insurer would need your bank account information.  Whenever you have any question as to whether such a call is legitimate, merely call the number for the company with which you do  business at a number that you know is legitimate and you can confirm whether or not the initial call was a scam.

Scam of the day – April 28, 2012 – New Postal Service Scam

A new, but familiar scam is being used to lure unsuspecting victims into downloading dangerous malware that can steal all of the information on your computer and make you a victim of identity theft.  it starts with an email that you receive that appears to have been sent by either the United States Postal Service, USPS Global, Global Services or the United States Postal Service Customer Service.  The email is a phony.  It purports to tell you that a package is being held and that you are being charged for each day that you do not claim the package.  It refers to a phony reference number for the package and provides you with a link to click on to obtain further information.  Merely opening the email will not cause you any  harm, but if you click on the link, you will download the devastating malware.

TIP

Never click on links from sources of which you are not absolutely clear are legitimate.  If you have any question or doubt, call a telephone number for the legitimate company being used as the lure that you know is accurate to confirm whether indeed the email message is a scam.

Scam of the day – April 27, 2012 – Pre-IPO scams

The Securities and Exchange Commission has just issued a warning to investors about scammers who are purporting to sell shares in companies such as Facebook and Twitter in advance of the Initial Public Offerings of the stock of these companies.  As with many scams, there is a small kernel of truth in that the law does provide for small legitimate offers of pre-IPO shares under very limited circumstances to accredited investors.  However the chance of your getting in on these Pre-IPO offerings for such companies are slim indeed.  In 2010 the SEC obtained a judgment against a scammer who stole millions from people by offering fake pre-IPO shares in companies such as Google and just a couple of weeks ago a similar scammer was enjoined by the SEC from perpetrating a similar scam involving Pre-IPO shares of Facebook.

TIP

Certainly be skeptical of anyone contacting you with a proposal to sell you pre-IPO shares that you receive by a fax, email, text message or tweet.  Also check out the person trying to sell you the shares.  Go to the website of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority where you can check on the background of any broker  You can also check with the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website and finally you can even check the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator to learn if the person with whom you are dealing has every served time in prison.  A little skepticism and homework and save you from losing your money to a scammer.

Scam of the day – April 26, 2012 – Latest Craigslist rental scam

Craigslist can provide an easy opportunity for someone to legitimately and economically do business.  Unfortunately, it also can provide an easy opportunity for scam artists.  The latest scam involving Craigslist around the country occcurs when a scammer takes the photograph of a home that is listed for sale on the Internet and then lists it on Craigslist for rent often using the name of the actual owner.    Often the scammers ask for the initial rent and security deposit wired to them before they will show the home.  That is a dead giveaway that you are dealing with a scammer.

TIP

Never buy anything on Craigslist from someone whom you cannot meet in person and never rent a home without actually touring the premises.  Never sign a lease, pay rent or a security deposit without actually inspecting the property both inside and out.  Finally, always be wary of someone who wants you to wire money to them because if the deal is a scam, it is pretty much impossible to recover your funds.

Scam of the day – April 25, 2012 – Identity theft from the dead

Not even the dead are immune from identity theft and this particular type of identity theft is now on the rise.  One way this occurs is when scammers merely check out the latest obituaries and then go to a free totally available data bank called the Death Master File maintained by the Social Security Administration.  Using the Death Master File, the scammer is readily able to obtain the deceased person’s Social Security number which then can be used along with the information gained from the obituary to establish credit, make purchases or take out loans in the name of the deceased person.  This can bring about great problems in the estate settlement process

TIP

Limit the amount of personal information contained in any obituary in order to not provide information exploitable by an identity thief.  Also, the executor or personal representative of the estate should contact the major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and notify them that the person is deceased and not to issue any further credit.   All creditors, such as credit card companies of the deceased should also be notified of the death and the accounts closed as soon as possible.

Scam of the day – April 23, 2012 – Car logo advertising scam

Many scams lure us in because they seem so close to legitimate business opportunities.  It is true that companies pay people to advertise their logos in vinyl decals on individuals’ cars.  The vinyl decal is called an auto wrap and there are companies that legitimately pay for this service.  Unfortunately, there are also a number of scammers out there now representing themselves as working for Coca Cola, Monster Energy drink, Carsberg beer, Heineken beer and Red Bull.  But they do not work for these legitimate companies.  They are scammers.   They send you, the victim, a bank check or money order and instruct you to deduct your  payment and send the balance to a designated graphic designer who will be preparing the logo.  This is a typical scam where you are provided a check for more than what is owed you for whatever the service is and then instructed to send back the difference.  The problem is that the check to you is inevitably counterfeit, but the money you wire from your account is real and money that you have lost.

TIP

Never get involved with any deal where you have to send back money where you are told you are being sent an overpayment.  And don’t trust your bank when it tells you that you that the check has cleared.  What you initially received from your bank is only provisional credit after a few days.  It can take weeks for the actual check to be discovered to be counterfeit.

Scam of the day – April 22, 2012- Stock picking robot scam

The SEC has just filed charges against two brothers in England alleging that they scammed 75,000 people through a scheme in which they touted a penny stock picking robot that they had developed that could identify stocks about to double in value.  The two twin brothers, Alexander John Hunter and Thomas Edward Hunter began the scam in 2007 when they were only sixteen years old.  The stock picking robot was a scam, but people still paid subscription fees to their newsletter.  Meanwhile, they also sold their services to stock promoters claiming that they could send their stock prices soaring through their newsletters.  Of course, the public was unaware that the twins were using a scam called “pump and dump” by which they tout a stock and temporarily drive up the price while they then sell the stock at the artificially established high price before the stock falls back to its true value leaving the people taking the investment advice with large losses.

TIP

As always, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Always check out the qualifications of any investment advisor from whom you take advice.  Make sure that you are dealing with someone reputable.  Check with your state’s securities regulator or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority which maintains a BrokerCheck website.  Also make sure that any investment advisor you use is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC).

Scam of the day – April 21, 2012 – More medical identity theft

Following closely on the heels of the theft of the medical records of approximately 780,000 people in Utah that I reported on in the “scam of the day” for April 12th, another major example of medical identity theft has occurred, this time in South Carolina where approximately 230,000 Medicaid records were stolen.  In this case, the information contained names, phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, Medicaid ID numbers and Social Security numbers.  This amount of information dramatically puts those people whose information was stolen in grave danger of both medical identity theft and traditional identity theft.  While the Utah theft of information was perpetrated by outside hackers in Eastern Europe, in South Carolina it was an inside job with an employee accessing the information.  Medical Identity theft is becoming a huge problem with more than five million people being affected by medical identity theft in 2010 according to federal figures.  Medical identity theft can be particularly insidious because it can corrupt the victim’s medical records and cause the victim to receive improper medical treatment.  Traditional identity theft can also be accomplished simultaneously with medical identity theft thereby causing great financial damage as well to the victims.

TIP

Greater security is required of medical records from attacks both from outside the system and inside the system.  Greater screening of employees having access to information should be done and the number of employees with access to such information should be limited.  Much greater use of encryption should also be used and greater password protection and user codes should be implemented.  As for we the individuals whose records are in jeopardy, we should pay greater attention to every detail of our medical bills each month to identify possible breaches and also inquire of our medical care providers as to what they are doing to preserve the security of our information.

Scam of the day – April 20, 2012 – Phony Verizon Wireless bills

Many people are receiving emails purportedly from Verizon Wireless claiming extremely large amounts owed.  I received one of these phony bills today indicating that I owed almost $2,000 in charges.   The phony bills look exactly like a real Verizon bill and many people are tempted to respond to the bill by clicking on the links contained in the phony email.  This type of scam called, phishing lures you into clicking on a link in a legitimate looking, but totally bogus email in order to clear up what appears to be an obvious mistaken bill.  Don’t do it.  By clicking on the links you risk becoming a victim of identity theft by providing personal information or by unwittingly downloading malware that can read all of  the information in your computer.

TIP

Keep your security software up to date and include security software that recognizes phishing.  Never click on a link when you are not absolutely sure where the message came from.  In this case, if you had any question, you should call the telephone number for Verizon Wireless that you know is correct.  If you do receive one of these phony Verizon Wireless emails, forward it to phishing@verizonwireless.com.