Tag Archives: scam

iPhone 5 testers wanted?

For weeks I’ve been getting Facebook messages inviting me to an iPhone 5 testing event. In the message, you’re made host of the event. However, there’s only been speculation and no official announcement from Apple about the iPhone 5. Facebook is deleting the post from your page which is a sure sign it’s spam.

Plus, Apple doesn’t typically ask for testers of products. It’s announcement of the product is a big event and always produces speculation of what’s to come so having testers is simply not how the company works.

You know the saying — if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Naked Security says there’s also a text alert going around that reads “Apple needs iPhone5 testers! The first 1000 users who visit [LINK] and enter code 4444 will get to test & keep the new iPhone5.”

Also, a scam. Naked Security says it’s likely a way to get your personal information.

Deal or no deal?

Looking for a deal? How about this hot site offering prizes like an iPad for $39.99?

Or, having trouble paying your mortgage? How about a loan modification. The ModExperts offer a guaranteed loan modification.

While I’m always looking for deals, I can assure you these are not deals. They’re scams setup by the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation to teach you how to spot a fake.  When you click on the offer, you’re directed to a site alerting you that you just fell for a scam site.

Fake sites have cost Americans millions of dollars. Often consumers fall for the so-called “free trial” offers thinking the deal won’t cost them anything. Sometimes, the clock on the “free trial” period starts ticking before your package is shipped making it impossible to cancel in time without being charged.

If you see a price or promise that seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. You’re not going to buy a several hundred dollar iPad for just $39.99 no matter how good a deal site you find. It’s simply too good to be true. Check out the company’s return policy to find out if you can get your money back if there’s a problem.

Finally, use a credit card to pay for your purchase. If there is a problem with the product or service, you will gain added protections.

Zappos customers on alert after cyber attack – the lesson for all of us

Cyberfraud is always rampant, but what’s next this week? Online shoe retailer, Zappos, is warning customers that their personal data may have been accessed including your email address, name, billing and shipping address, phone number, and the last four digits of your credit card number, and maybe even a scrambled version of your password. Yikes!

The email sent to customers tells you to change your password. The company discontinued the passwords that were stolen in their scrambled form so accounts can no longer be accessed without a new password.

To reset your password on Zappos, you simply submit your email address and they send you a new password. Be warned – the new password doesn’t arrive in your email right away. Zappos says it’s had a large number of requests, obviously, and it may take up to 30 minutes.

Password management
Here’s the problem – if you use your Zappos password on other websites you may be vulnerable on other sites. The thieves dig for more information when they get a few pieces. Sometimes those pieces are enough to steal your identity or at least commit more fraud.

That’s why you are always told not to use the same password on multiple sites, but just like you I am guilty of that. It’s hard to create a different password for every site and remember it. That’s why some security consultants recommend a password management program like KeePass. It’s free software that manages all your passwords so you can use different ones on different sites, and it recommends more complicated passwords so your accounts are more difficult to hack.

Finally, don’t use public computers. There may be software installed on it that can steal your keystrokes. Think it can’t happen to you, think again. Click here to see that story. It will make you resist the urge the next time you are on vacation.

Damage control
At this point, the damage is done. The thieves hopefully won’t be able to unscramble the passwords they got, but who knows.  These attacks are very sophisticated and their capabilities seem limitless sometimes. With the last four digits of your credit card and address it may make it easier for thieves to hack into your another accounts.

Change the passwords on other accounts especially your bank and popular ones like Facebook and Twitter if you think they are similar to your Zappos account.

Also, be on alert and don’t fall for spam or phone calls that ask you to verify personal information.

Related links you may like:
Facebook and Twitter security
Erasing your digital footprint
Online hacking schemes – email and Facebook accounts exposed

Waiting for a package? Don’t fall for the fake

Waiting on a package from someone? Don’t fall for a bogus email about a delivery or you could install a virus on your machine or have personal information stolen.

These types of phishing emails make the rounds. Often, legitimate companies like banks or even the IRS are targeted. The thieves use the legitimate businesses to get you to click on the link.

The United States Postal Service says the email claims to be from them, but it contains fraudulent information about an an attempted or intercepted delivery. The USPS says you’re told to click on a link to learn more. The USPS says the link will download a virus that can steal your personal information like your user name, password, and possibly more.

Before you click on a link, check the sender. The thieves are getting sophisticated so they’re doing better about faking the email address of the sender. Also, hover over any links. This is usually the best sign of a scam. When you hover, you’ll see the real web address the link will direct you to. Finally, most companies won’t have you verify information through an email link. There is tracking offered by the postal service, but you probably won’t get a package unless you ordered it.


Traffic ticket scam email warning from Ohio Attorney General

If you get an email about a traffic ticket, the Ohio Attorney General says use caution before responding to it. The AG says the names of legitimate police departments are being used to trick consumers into a traffic ticket scam.

The email has a link which is allegedly a copy of the traffic ticket you need to fill out and mail in. However, the AG says the file is believed to have a Trojan horse or other unknown viruses embedded in the message. The Trojan gives the attacker access to your computer.

While I haven’t seen this email, many of these scams have warning signs. For example, if you hover over the link you’ll see the true address that the link will take you to. Often, it’s not an official site associated with the supposed agency that sent you the email. Also, check the return email address to see if it’s legitimate. Finally, most government and financial institutions will not email you and ask you to download a file or ask you to verify information over email. When you get a suspicious email, call the agency that supposedly sent it to you before clicking or giving any information as you may be handing it over to an attacker.

Related links you may like:
Erasing your digital footprint
Free service helps you get rid of a computer virus
FTC sending checks to scareware victims

BBB says Oslo & Winehouse tragedies linked to scams

The Better Business Bureau warns of scams tied to recent tragedies. There’s a bogus post on Facebook regarding the shootings in Norway, and the death of Amy Winehouse.

The Norway shooting tragedy link claims to take you to video from an Oslo security camera showing a car bomb detonating. The BBB says the post says “[Video] OSLO Security Camera Captures Blast!”

You’d think people wouldn’t fall for it, but Help Net Security says the scam is infecting one user per second.

The BBB says the other scam deals with the death of Amy Winehouse luring in victims with allegedly leaked video of her final moments. According to data security firm, Sophos, the post variations include “Leaked Video!! Amy Winehouse On Crack hours before death,” “Video leaked of Amy Winehouse’s death!!! Warning: Graphical Content,” and “SHOCKING – Amy Winehouse’s Final Minutes.”  The post has a link to the video but you have to like the page and take a survey before you can see the video.

The BBB says the scammers earn a commission off the survey you take, and you’re asked to like the page to keep the scam going.

If you fell for this, delete it from your news feed and likes and interests.  In general, don’t click on a link that doesn’t come from a trusted URL.

Better Business Bureau warning: hotel scam

If you got a phone call in your hotel room in the middle of the night asking for your credit card number would you divulge it? According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving east Texas, hotel guests are falling for the scam.

According to the BBB, the caller identifies themself as a hotel employee and tells the guest the hotel computer system crashed. The BBB says the guest is told their credit card information is needed, and a discount on the room is offered for the inconvenience.

There is no indication this is a widespread ripoff at this point, but it caught my attention because it’s unique. If I got a call in the middle of the night, I’d probably tell the hotel employee to call back in the morning. I wouldn’t get out of bed to grab my wallet in the middle of the night. However, when people are awoken they are not thinking as clearly so someone may fall for the ripoff.

Cell phone numbers WON’T go public next month



REMEMBER: Cell Phone Numbers Go Public again this month.

REMINDER….. all cell phone numbers are being released to telemarketing companies and you will start to receive sales calls.


To prevent this, call the following number from your cell phone: 888-382-1222.
It is the National DO NOT CALL list It will only take a minute of your time.. It blocks your number for five (5) years. You must call from the cell phone number you want to have blocked. You cannot call from a different phone number.

HELP OTHERS BY PASSING THIS ON .. It takes about 20 seconds.


IT’S NOT TRUE! Yet, I see this email making the rounds in different formats all the time.  This time around they added a nice graphic.  It’s still not legit!

It’s illegal for an automatic telephone dialing system or prerecorded voice message to call a mobile number where you’ll be charged for the call unless it’s an emergency or you gave express prior consent.

This email appears to have stemmed from discussion about a 411 directory.  However, the Federal Communications Commission says it would still be illegal to call a cell phone for telemarketing purposes even if the wireless 411 directory took effect.

The directory would be opt-in only, and the list of numbers would not be made available to telemarketers. It’s been talked about for a few years, and is still not a reality so you have nothing to worry about for now.

You can still register your cell phone number. It won’t do any harm. Click here to register or call 1-888-382-1222.

Logo for the United States National Do Not Cal...

Image via Wikipedia

There is another email that claims you need to update your number with the Do not Call Registry because it expires. This is not true.

You can check to make sure your number is on the list, by clicking here.

While the do not call list protects you from most calls, it won’t protect you from everything. There are exceptions.

If you have or had a business relationship with a company within the last 18 months, they can call you without being considered a telemarketer. Still, it’s your right as a consumer to ask them to take you off their list.

If you made an inquiry or submitted an application to a company, they can call you for three months. Again, ask to be taken off their list if you want them to stop calling. Most companies have an internal do not call list.

Religious and political calls are exempt which usually generates consumer complaints around election time. Charitable calls are also allowed.

Things to look out for
Be leery of sweepstakes or online forms that you may fill out. By signing up for something, you may be giving the company the right to call you. Make sure you read all the fine print before you release your information. Be stingy with that phone number.

There are also new rules that require companies leave an “opt out” option when automatically calling numbers. If you pick up and hear an automated message, after they tell you what it’s about you’ll hear an option to hit 1 or 2 etc. to be removed from the company’s phone list.

Check before you forward
Before you forward an email, check it out and make sure it’s legit. Snopes is a great website that makes it easy to figure out fact from fiction.

Related links you may like:
Avoiding sticker shock when you open your cell phone bill
Make free international calls
Get rid of phone books
Free 411
Are the days of free 411 over?

Top 10 scams to avoid

Better Business Bureau logo.

Image via Wikipedia

It’s always a good idea to take a look back to help us on the road that lies ahead. The Better Business Bureau put together a list of the top 10 scams and ripoffs from 2010. Glance through them, so you know what to look for in 2011.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I can tell you some of the same scams that existed when I started in this business still exist today and still “get” consumers everyday.  Below you’ll find tips to protect yourself.

“With the economy still on the mend, scammers had a field day targeting struggling families who were looking for work and trying to make ends meet,” said Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

1. The economy has put many people out of work. It’s heartbreaking to hear the stories of people with 20 years work experience who can’t find a job. Scammers prey on that desperation, and job hunting scams are a big problem.

The Internet is essential to finding a job, but it’s also made it easy for scammers to thrive. Don’t give out your personal information to a company until you background them. Don’t be lured in by the promise of making big bucks. Instead, “Google” the company and make sure it’s legit. Or, check it out with the Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce where it’s located. Make sure it actually exists and that it’s a company you’d want to work for before handing over your personal information.

I’ve also seen job applications that ask for social security numbers or require a credit check of some sort upfront. If it’s a legitimate company, you can get around this at the beginning. Just ask. Hold that information close to your chest and don’t reveal it right away.  If possible, wait for a face to face meeting or until you have verified it’s a legitimate company.

The Better Business Bureau says other companies ask you to pay a fee to be considered for the job. Reputable companies don’t charge you money for the possible opportunity to make money.

Consumers have also forwarded applications to me that ask for your bank account number so they can begin depositing money in your account for the job you’re pre-qualified for. Don’t fall for it. Companies are not going to give you seed money like this until they thoroughly background you. During that process, you should be doing the same with them.

Finally, try to do business with a U.S. based company. Don’t fall for a phony U.S. address. Verify who you are doing business with. Have I said that enough yet?  It’s because you’d be surprised how many people don’t follow that basic advice!

2. We all want to make a quick buck in this bad economy, but stuffing envelopes is not going to earn you much. I haven’t found a person yet that’s made money doing this work-at-home job. There are some legitimate work-at-home jobs, but  be leery.

Here’s some red flags: promises that seem to good to be true, a job that requires you to assemble products at home, or to hit the malls as a mystery shopper.

3.  Along those lines, be aware of those phony sweepstakes offers, lotteries, or checks that appear in the mail. You can’t win money if you don’t play the lottery or you didn’t enter a sweepstakes. The Better Business Bureau says the scammers even use legitimate companies like Reader’s Digest and Publisher’s Clearing House to get you to think they are legit money-making schemes.

4. Another component of this is when you post something for sale online, and the buyer sends you more money than the purchase price for the item. The BBB calls this the over-payment scam. You’re often told it was a mistake, and the extra money is to cover shipping fees, a middleman, etc. and you’re asking to wire the excess money. Then, the check you cashed bounces and you’re out the bank fees and the excess money you wired.

Don’t cash a check unless you know who it’s from. You are responsible, not the bank. That’s a hard lesson for consumers to learn. Verify the check is legitimate before you cash it if you are unsure. That’s as simple as calling the issuing bank.

5.The government has targeted debt relief services to try to put an end to debt relief and settlement schemes.  The Better Business Bureau says companies require upfront fees and may leave you in even bigger debt.  According to tentative year-end estimates by the BBB, complaints about this problem increased by 30% in 2010.

Click here to read all about these new debt relief rules

6. As the housing crisis continues, timeshare resellers are becoming a problem. People in many of the coastal cities have taken a huge hit on the market value of their property and they’re desperate to unload their timeshare or home. Don’t be too desperate.

The BBB estimates  timeshare reseller complaints increased by over 40% since 2010.  The BBB says owners are contacted by  a company who claims to have an eager buyer. The consumer has to pay several thousand dollars upfront to cover fees and then you never hear from the company again.

I’ve noticed a lot of these companies are start-ups so there may not be extensive information you can find about the company. Ask for references and call them. Make sure they are not the business owner’s neighbor or relative. Try to get the company to do something to earn your trust before you hand over fees.

7. Acai berry and other health cleansing companies were popular in 2009 and 2010, and they often were advertised as “free” to try to them out.  There are dozens of free trial offers that are not free.

Diet supplements are not the only category that’s targeted by these free trials. Penny auctions, money making schemes, and credit offers are also popular targets. Make sure you read the fine print to see how low-risk that offer really is.

Usually there is a promotional period, and I’ve seen some offers where you have to return the item before it ever arrives at your house. How is that possible? It’s not. That’s how these companies make money off their so-called “free offer.”  It’s often very difficult if not impossible to get a refund.

8. As spring arrives, be careful of door to door salesman and home repair contractors and roofers offering to work on your home.  The BBB says roofing complaints appear to have increased 40% according to early estimates of 2010 data.

This data is perhaps a little skewed, in my opinion, because of the problems with American Shingle. The BBB and consumer reporters across the company received many complaints about American Shingle. It went bankrupt and did not provide new roofs to customers.

Ask your insurance company for a good reference. Often if you go with a company they refer, the work is guaranteed.  Don’t hand over the entire insurance check before any work starts. If you’re a homeowner paying out of pocket, only pay a third upfront or better yet buy the supplies yourself. Finally, make sure you get a lien waiver before any work begins so if the contractor doesn’t pay a supplier or subcontractor you’re less likely to end up with a lien on your home.

9.  Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, and tough to recover from if you’re a victim. The BBB says look out for low-tech theft, phishing emails, vishing phone calls, and smishing text messages.

Bottom line, shred your information and never give out your personal information to someone you don’t know, and shred your information for the best protection.

Here are some good ID theft tips: Google yourself
Identity theft resources
Monitor your personal information

10. The BBB rounds out its list of top ten scams with advance fee loan scams. That’s when you’re told you qualify for a large loan but you need to pay upfront fees. The BBB says they’re often over a thousand dollars. A legitimate company won’t ask you for upfront fees. They’ll ask for the fees for the service (loan origination usually) at the time of closing, when you get your money, or roll it into the loan. In advance fee loan scams, the victim wires the fee money but never gets the loan.