Scam of the day – October 28, 2015 – Breast Cancer Awareness month scams

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and as we come to the end of the month, scammers are taking full advantage of the increased attention to this disease which is diagnosed in 200,000 women each year.  Actually, although the disease is commonly thought to only affect women, men can also get breast cancer.  Richard Roundtree, the actor who played Shaft in the classic 1971 movie of the same name; Peter Criss, of the iconic Hall of Fame rock group KISS and talk show host Montel Williams are just a few of the many men who have had breast cancer.  Just today I received a telephone call from a telemarketer seeking a contribution to a breast cancer charity or at least that is what she said.  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 and politicians to contact you.  However, 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 and 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 purposes.  Then you can make your contribution directly to the charity without any amount being deducted for fund raising expenses.

Scam of the day – September 1, 2014 – Phone scams

Although so much of our attention is focused on scams perpetrated on the Internet and through means of high technology, a recent survey confirmed that low technology, namely the telephone still is fertile ground for many scams.  According to the Truecaller/Harris survey more than 17 million Americans became victims of telephone scams during the past year at a cost of 8.6 billion dollars.  One specifically telephone connected scam is “cramming” where fraudulent charges are added to your phone bill and often go unnoticed by people who pay little attention to the detailed information provided in lengthy, monthly phone bills particularly for wireless service. There are many ways that these unauthorized charges make their way to a victim’s phone, sometimes, consumers actually unknowingly sign up for premium texting services that may be for things such as flirting tips, horoscopes or celebrity gossip.  Whatever the source of the charges, they are fraudulent and typically cost about $9.99 per month and continue to appear for months without end.  You can find more detailed information about cramming by putting the word “cramming” into the archives section of Scamicide.  Other telephone related fraud occurs when people provide personal information over the phone when called by scamming telemarketers or to scammers who entice or scare the person receiving the call to either provide personal information or make a payment, such as in the present scam in which you receive a call purportedly from the IRS demanding payment for outstanding taxes.

TIPS

In regard to protecting yourself from cramming, you should never click on links or sign up for anything unless you have carefully read the fine print to see what else you may be signing up for.  In fact, you should never click on links in an email or text message unless you have independently verified that it is legitimate.  As for calls from telemarketers, not all telemarketers are criminals, but unfortunately, you have no way of knowing when you receive a call whether or not the person on the other end of the conversation is indeed legitimate or not so you should never provide personal information or payment in response to a telephone call until you have independently verified the call.  You may even wish to put yourself on the federal Do Not Call list to avoid telemarketers.  If you do get a call from a telemarketer after you have put yourself on the list, you know that the person is not legitimate and you should ignore the call.  Here is a link to the Do Not Call list if you wish to enroll.  https://www.donotcall.gov/  You can still receive calls from charities even if you are on the Do Not Call List, but again, you cannot be sure that the person calling is really from the charity so never give money over the phone to a telemarketer who calls you on behalf of a charity.  It is also worth noting that when you do make a charitable donation to a legitimate charity telemarketer, the telemarketer takes a percentage of your contribution as a commission.  If you want your donation to do the most good, you should contact the charity directly to make your donation.

Scam of the day – February 21, 2014 – Telemarketing fraud is still with us

Although it may seem like telemarketing fraud has been replaced as a source of scams and identity theft by computer-based fraud, according to the National Consumers League, more than 36% of all consumer complaints last year involved telemarketing scams and this figure is an 11% increase from 2012.  The truth is that many times sophisticated computer programs are used in today’s telemarketing scams that enable the scammers to make their calls appear on Caller ID as if they are coming from a legitimate source, such as the IRS through a technique called “spoofing” where your Caller ID is manipulated so that it does not show the real source of the call.  Other times, computers are able to produce millions of illegal robocalls that trick victims into paying a scammer under many different pretenses.  Phony robocalls are actually quite easy to distinguish from legitimate telemarketing calls.  Robocalls are illegal in all instances, so if you get a robocall from Rachel from card Services or anyone else, immediately hang up.  It is a scam.

TIPS

It is important to remember that you can never be sure who is on the other end of a telephone call and if they are legitimate.  For this reason you should never provide personal information or send money in response to any telephone call.  If you do want to take the calls of a telemarketer, ask them to send you written material, which you can then investigate for legitimacy before making any payment.  You also may wish to be more proactive and sign up, if you have not already, for the National Do Not Call List.  Here is the link to go to sign up: https://www.donotcall.gov/

Scam of the day – October 11, 2012 – Think Pink Scams

Although National Think Pink day, the national day of breast cancer awareness, will not be coming up until next week, it is not too early to warn people about the scams that will be tied to this day.  Breast cancer is a terrible scourge and many legitimate charities and foundations are soliciting contributions to assist in the fight against breast cancer.  Unfortunately, many of the contacts that you may receive through phone calls, snail mail and email may be from scammers who have no intention of using your contribution for anything other than lining their own pockets.

TIPS

Charitable phone solicitation are allowed by law even if you are on the Do-Not-Call List, but if you do receive a charitable solicitation by phone you have no way of knowing from whom it is coming and whether indeed they are legitimate or fake.  In fact, many legitimate charities hire telemarketers who are paid a portion of what they collect as a commission so if you really want more of your contribution to go to a legitimate organization, send it directly to the organization through its website or through snail mail.  You also may wish to confirm that the charity is a legitimate charity by going to www.charitynavigator.org which is  a free website that will not only tell you if the charity soliciting from you is legitimate, but also how much of its funds go toward its charitable goals and how much goes for fundraising and salaries.  Some “legitimate” charities spend an inordinate amount of money on the salaries of its officers.