Posts Tagged ‘Fraud’

Beware the $9.84 credit card scam

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director Northeast CONTACT
Posted Feb. 01, 2014, at 4:54 p.m.

The Better Business Bureau sent out a news release last week, reminding us all that we’re less vigilant than we ought to be.

The bureau said “scammers are banking on the fact that many consumers don’t check their credit card statements all that carefully.” The crooks are laughing all the way to the bank, as money from millions of fraudulent charges rolls in.

The scam has earned the shorthand name of the “$9.84 Scam,” based on the charges that are without exception under $10. Each charge is small enough not to raise many red flags on the part of card issuers or of many consumers who look over their monthly statements.

Those consumers may have noted small charges for a “service fee,” “maintenance fee” or other nonspecific terms. They may have felt that, while the charges were nothing they had authorized, it wasn’t worth the hassle of disputing. Multiply their apathy by a few thousand other consumers, and you’ll warm the heart of any scam artist.

Former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs writes extensively about cyber security. Krebs did some digging and found that the person who set up one website charging $9.84 for a supposed product or service had set up 230 other sites. Further research on some of those sites turned up a trail of $9.84 fees. Some of those domains were set up over a year ago, so it’s unlikely that the data breach of Target’s computers was the trigger.

There’s lots of speculation over where the scam began and where it might end. Once word got out, scammers likely changed the amount of their phony charges a little. The lesson for consumers is simple: check your statement carefully for false charges; if you find any, call the number on the back of your card and dispute them.

Unauthorized charges may mean your card information has been compromised. Err on the side of caution and ask for a new card. Security experts advise that you never lend your card to anyone, and don’t leave cards, statements and receipts lying around in your home, office or car.

As always, be cautious when ordering over the phone or online. When giving your account number over the phone, be sure the person you’re speaking with actually represents the company with which you’re doing business. Never sign a blank charge slip, and draw lines through blank spaces above the total so numbers can’t be changed.

You can read about the scam investigation in detail at Brian Krebs’s blog,

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

 

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New Year’s tips for consumers

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director Northeast CONTACT

Posted Dec. 29, 2013, at 2:17 p.m.

To all Maine consumers, we offer a few thoughts for a Happy New Year:

Take back your phone

“John” from “Medical Alert Services” is the new Rachel, a robot caller who’ll try to scam anyone who presses a button confirming the number called is working. Since they can “spoof” their own numbers and fool your caller id, just let the answering machine pick up.

Alert your friends and family that you’re doing this and that you’ll call right back. The Federal Trade Commission says it’s stopped billions of fraudulent calls angling for ways to steal your identity, but it can’t stop them all. And make sure you’re on the federal Do Not Call list (www.donotcall.gov).

Keep your identity safer

You already give personally identifiable and financial information only on secure websites you trust. You shred old documents, use strong computer passwords and use caution entering PINs. Take the next step, and offer up fewer details on social networking sites. Once on the internet, data can never really be deleted; that includes embarrassing photos potential employers might (and do) look at when considering new hires. Those photos may be tagged with GPS locations and other personal data.

Keep an eye on your credit

Find out how to check your credit report for free at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. That’s the truly free site that links to the three major credit reporting agencies. Check with each of them regularly (you’re entitled to one free report annually from each one, so you can get a report every four months). Get individual help with credit problems through the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection by going to www.credit.maine.gov or by calling 1-800-332-8529.

Beef up cyber security at work

Data breaches don’t happen just to the big chains. Find lots of user-friendly tips in a guide prepared by the University of Southern Maine’s Maine Cyber Security Cluster and Cyber Security Organization, a USM student group (www.maine.gov/ag/docs/Small-Business-Cyber-Security-Guide.pdf).

Scrutinize health claims

Just in the last month, studies were published showing that taking multivitamins to prevent major health problems is a waste of money and that soap and water is just as effective as antibacterial cleaners. Look hard at advertising, and do your own research before buying.

Give until it feels good, not until it hurts

Charitable giving spikes around the holidays and after disasters, and so do the scams. If you’re donating, make sure your money goes to a real charity. Find information about charities at the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (www.maine.gov/pfr) or by calling the Department’s Charitable Solicitations Program at (207) 624-8525.

Get a second opinion

Find a buddy, a family member, friend or other trusted person, to help you with “offers that sound too good to be true.” If they are, trash them and have a good laugh together; you can be a sounding board for your buddy as well.

Be a good neighbor

Keep an eye out for signs that a neighbor who is homebound or has mobility problems may need help. Our letter carriers alert superiors when mail piles up, and we can look for other signs of possible distress.

Use your resources

Read parts or all of the Consumer Action Handbook online (www.usa.gov and search “consumer handbook”) or order a free copy (by phone, 1-800-FED-INFO). The Handbook covers almost everything most consumers need to know. And visit our blog ( http://necontact.wordpress.com) for archived articles, consumer alerts and other helpful information.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Consumer Contact: Jamaican Lottery Scam — WABI-TV

Russ and Joy discuss the Jamaican Lottery scams, and how you can avoid being a victim of one.

You can check out the website bewareof876.com for more information on these scams and how to avoid becoming a victim.

If you have fallen victim to one of these scams that you should stop all communication at once. If you are feeling threatened you should call your local law enforcement agency to report the scam. Also do not travel to foreign countries to try to get back your money.

 

Don’t be tricked by scammers’ use of social engineering

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted Oct. 06, 2013, at 12:46 p.m.

Generally speaking, cops are tough. They know that bad things happen to good people, and they learn to deal with the hurt that victims endure.

Still, the sleaziness of some crimes gets to law enforcement officials. Lt. Paul Edwards of the Bangor Police Department says Internet criminals who prey on seniors really irritate him.

Edwards related the victimization of a kind-hearted Bangor resident who only wanted to help the stranger who called her asking for money. He seemed like a good sort who just needed a little help, so she withdrew money from her bank and wired him the funds he requested.

She got another call from someone else needing cash, and another and another. Each time, she believed the caller was in genuine need, and each time she responded like a good neighbor. As you’ve guessed by now, the callers were not in any real need; they were scammers, looking for a fast buck.

Such requests — whether by phone or email — tend to multiply. Once scammers get a positive response, they share contact information with other crooks. The requests are for larger and larger amounts and will continue as long as there’s a willing donor.

Edwards says members of the woman’s family urged her to stop, saying scammers were taking advantage of her good nature. The woman persisted saying that the callers were people who really needed her help. She had been taken in by what the experts call social engineering, and we need to learn how to avoid its traps.

Crooks use social engineering tricks to get you to do what they want. A caller might try to convince you that he’s a “friend of a friend” or a distant relative who’s gotten into a financial bind, and you’re the only one he can turn to. He may know a few personal details about you, which he weaves into your conversation. He’ll try to build a relationship as you chat, gaining your trust and ultimately getting you to send money by wire transfer. Impossible to trace, the money is gone forever.

Lt. Edwards said the woman’s family went to her bank, asking bank officials to try to talk the woman out of any large withdrawals she might make in the future. He believes those requests were only partially successful and that the woman has been parted with thousands of dollars over time.

“She wouldn’t trust her own children over this stranger she met over the phone,” Edwards said.

Another victim fell for the “grandparent scam,” where a caller claiming to be a grandchild said he/she was in trouble and needed money wired immediately, to “get out of jail,” “get my car back” or whatever. The manipulation was the same, and so, sadly, was the end result. After the money was wired, the victim checked with her children … the grandchild had been there, safe and sound, all along.

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Learn more about online safety at (http://www.staysafeonline.org).

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or emailcontacexdir@live.com.

Obamacare’s implementation provides opportunities for scammers

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director, Northeast CONTACT
Posted Sept. 29, 2013, at 2:06 p.m.
Millions of Americans now are just hours away from being able to sign up for healthcare coverage under provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare as it’s often called.

This newspaper has run a series of stories about places to get good information about the startup of what’s termed the Health Insurance Marketplace. That’s information that scam artists don’t want you to know; they’d rather spin their webs of lies about supposed requirements of the federal healthcare law.

We touched on the big lies just four weeks ago in this column, but they’re worth mentioning again. One whopper is that you should hurry and sign with that person who called you out of the blue, who asked for your bank account number or other information. Maybe that person promised some “special deal” good for a “limited time only.” Never mind that the law allows people to purchase between Oct. 1 and March 31 of next year to comply.

Then there are the “navigators,” short-term federal hires to help people figure out what coverage is best for them and their families. Some scammers have already been posing as navigators, even though the marketplace isn’t open for business. The posers are after your money, not trying to help you. Others are selling phony health insurance plans, which may pay little or nothing when you need coverage the most.

Also in the fraudsters’ bag of tricks: The “new Obamacare card” that you supposedly need. It’s a variation of the you-need-a-new-Medicare-card scam that’s been around for years. There is no Obamacare card, just another scam.

One more lie is that you could be sent to jail for failing to sign up. While the law says people who can afford it must have what’s termed minimum essential coverage, the penalty for failure to have health insurance in 2014 will be one percent of a person’s annual income or $95, whichever is higher. There’s no provision in the ACA for jail time.

The federal government website on ACA outlines the fine policy and explains some exemptions. It states that you will have minimum essential coverage if you have any marketplace plan. You’re also covered if you have health insurance through an employer, including COBRA, grandfathered or not. You need do nothing if you are already covered by Medicare, Medicaid (MaineCare) or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Also meeting minimum coverage requirements are people in the military who have TRICARE, those enrolled in veterans’ health programs and people with Peace Corps Volunteer plans.

There’s a lot of detail in the ACA, and scammers prey on people who might be confused. Eric Cioppa, Maine’s superintendent of insurance, urged Mainers not to give personal information to people who are selling them coverage. Cioppa said recently such people “should never request personal information, such as a Social Security Number or details related to financial accounts, when explaining health insurance policies.”

Call the Maine Bureau of Insurance at 1-800-300-5000 with questions or concerns. The Bureau’s website has individual and small group plans being offered in the marketplace. There’s also a PowerPoint presentation on the ACA and Maine’s insurance market.

Regulators in Maine and at the federal level are interested in cracking down on scammers. Report attempts and advise older family and friends who might be targeted by scammers where to get reliable information.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

Refusing to be a victim – feature from September 5th Today Show

We’ve written many times about scams perpetrated on the vulnerable. Here’s a different approach to  scams.

There are dozens of scammers that prey on the elderly, thinking they will be an easy target. However, one woman in Priest River turned the tables on the scammer and is not falling for what he keeps telling her over the phone.

Ruth O’Leary is an 80-year-old who loves to garden, rescue geese, and take care of her hens. However, she never expected to have to deal with a scammer calling her four or even five times a day.

“Ok James, like I told you, I won’t do anything until I see if the check clears,” said Ruth to the scammer over the phone.

For the past month, Ruth has been receiving calls from a man named James who says she has won $2.5 million dollars. All she has to do to claim it, is to first send him money for the winnings.

“You trust me,” said the scammer over the phone. “Then, you send me the money and then I’ll send you the amount back.”

However, no matter how hard he tries, this con-artist is not pulling a fast one on Ruth.

“I shouldn’t have to be begging you so much sweetheart, this is for your own good,” the scammer said.

Priest River Woman ‘Scams’ A Scammer – Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com.

Affordable Care Act Scams – WABI-5, Morning News

Russ and Joy discuss how to find the real information on the Affordable Care Act and how to avoid the scammers. (video)

For the real and correct information on the Affordable Care Act you should contact the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs at 1-877-353-3771 or contact the Health Insurance Marketplace Consumer Call Center at 1-800-318-2596.

The most common scams for the Affordable Care Act are The Obamacare Card. This is just a way for scammers to try and get your personal information and to steal your identity. The next scam is an information updated scam just as the Obamacare Card scam they are just trying to get your information and to try and steal your identity don’t give them your information. No one will contact you about the Affordable Care Act over the phone, you call them if you need assistance with the program. There are also scams about fake coverage and mandatory payments where the scammers just try to sell you a worthless policy and they try to get you to wire them money.

 

FTC warns of apartment scams, July 11, 2013

You can avoid falling for rental listing scams by remembering these tips:

  • Never wire money or send a check to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you’ve never seen. If you can’t meet the landlord in person because she’s living or traveling out of the country – and if you can’t see the actual apartment before you pay application fees, a security deposit, or sign a lease – keep looking. Wiring money is the same as sending cash – once you send it, you can’t get it back.
  • Don’t be rushed into a decision. If you receive an email pressuring you to make an on-the-spot decision for a rental, ignore it and move on. It could be a red flag.
  • The lower the price for a premium listing, the more likely it’s a scam. Below-market rent for a spectacular apartment in a great location with a million-dollar view? Rip-off artists love to attract people’s interest by making good enough to be true promises.
  • If you place an ad looking for a tenant to rent your property, be aware of scams involving fake checks. A bogus renter could reply to your ad saying they have a cashier’s check ready for you to deposit in your bank account for more than the rental price. They ask you to wire them the difference once you’ve deposited the check. Unfortunately, once the bank figures out the check you deposited is a fake, you are responsible for paying back all the money, including the cash you wired to the scammer.

If you’ve wired money and didn’t get the product or service you were promised, call the money transfer company right away to report the fraud and file a complaint. You also can file a complaint with the FTC.

 

Car wrapping scam – WABI-TV

Russ Van Arsdale and Joy discuss a scam alert press release from Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.  E-mail contact offers opportunity to make money with advertising wrapping of target’s car. The scammer then sends the individual a check asking victim to wire back most of the amount and to keep a few hundred dollars. This scam is known as an advance check scam.

To get help if a victim of this scam or to get more information on scams like these you can contact, Maine’s Office of Securities at 1-877-624-8551, or you can call the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection at 1-800-332-8529 or visit their website at credit.maine.gov

FTC website to check out about fake check scams.

VIDEO of appearance

Affordable Care Act Scam — WABI-TV

Watch Joy and Russ discuss the latest effort to steal your identity.

Scammers are trying to get people’s information by signing them up early for the Affordable Care Act.

Sign up for the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” doesn’t start until October 1st, 2013. If someone is calling to sign you up early, you are advised to just hang up the phone and to give them no information. Also please report the scam attempt if you have received a call.

Another scam associated with the Affordable Care Act is scammers are calling people telling them they can provide them with a government issued insurance card. People will need these cards when the Affordable Care Act kicks in but people calling about them now are just trying to get your account information. Again just hang up and give out no information if they are calling you about signing you up for a card.

Also always remember that government agencies already have your data and will not contact you for it.

The Federal Trade Commission has a website with a list of scams and where you can sign up for email notifications about new scams. The website is consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts…

 

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