Stay safe from scams at the holidays

This information can be found at
http://www.ic3.gov/media/2009/091130.aspx

This holiday season the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI) is reminding people that cyber criminals continue to aggressively create new ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers use many techniques to fool potential victims including fraudulent auction sales, reshipping merchandise purchased with a stolen credit card, and sale of fraudulent or stolen gift cards through auction sites at a discounted price.

Fraudulent Classified Ads or Auction Sales
Internet criminals post classified ads or auctions for products they do not have. If you receive an auction product from a merchant or retail store, rather than directly from the auction seller, the item may have been purchased with someone else’s stolen credit card number. Contact the merchant to verify the account used to pay for the item actually belongs to you.

Shoppers should be cautious and not provide financial information directly to the seller, as fraudulent sellers will use this information to purchase items for their scheme from the provided financial account. Always use a legitimate payment service to protect purchases.

As for product delivery, unfamiliar Web sites or individuals selling reduced or free shipping to customers through auction sites many times are deemed to be fraudulent. In many instances, these Web sites or sellers provide shipping labels to their customers as a service. However, the delivery service providers are ultimately not being paid to deliver the package; therefore, packages shipped by the victims using these labels are intercepted by delivery service providers because they are identified as fraudulent.

Diligently check each seller’s rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100% positive feedback, if they have a low total number of feedback postings and all feedback was posted around the same date and time.

Gift Card Scam
Be careful about purchasing gift cards from auction sites or through classified ads. If you need a gift card, it is safest to purchase it directly from the merchant or another authorized retail store. If the gift card merchant discovers the card you received from another source or auction was initially obtained fraudulently, the merchant will deactivate the gift card number and it will not be honored for purchases.

Phishing and Smishing Schemes
Be leery of e-mails or text messages you receive indicating a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, you are directed to follow a link or call the number provided in the message to update your account or correct the problem. The link actually directs the individuals to a fraudulent Web site or message that appears legitimate where any personal information you provide, such as account number and PIN, will be stolen.

Another scam involves victims receiving an e-mail message directing the recipient to a spoofed Web site. A spoofed Web site is a fake site or copy of a real Web site and misleads the recipient into providing personal information, which is routed to the scammer’s computers.

Tips
Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.

Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.

Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Virus scan the attachments if possible.

Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.

Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link you are actually directed to and determine if they actually match and will lead you to a legitimate site.

Log on directly to the official Web site for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.

Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams, please go to the FBI Web site and sign up for e-mail alerts by clicking on one of the red envelopes. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.IC3.gov.

For more information on e-scams, please visit the FBI’s New E-Scams and Warnings webpage at http://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/escams.htm.

Scams and the Holidays

Thanksgiving is just over a week away, and it is time to start thinking about the Holiday Season. We at Scam Victims United usually see an increase in the number of scam victims during this time of year. Many people are looking for a way to make some extra money to pay for the gifts that they want to give to family and friends, so they may sell something they own at an online classified ad site, like Craigslist, or they may look for an extra part-time job. It is because of this need for the extra money to get through the Holidays that some people may let their guard down and become more vulnerable to online scams.

Common online scams include the overpayment scams, in the form of counterfeit cashier’s checks and money orders, or work at home job offers such as the Secret Shopper Scam. Let’s review the signs of both.

Counterfeit Cashier’s check or Money Order Scam

You are selling an item over the Internet – it could be a used car or motorcycle, jewelry or even bred animals. You receive an email offer to purchase your item and the buyer says he’ll send a bank cashier’s check. The buyer is from Nigeria or “West Africa”, but has a business associate in the United States who will send you the cashier’s check. Then you are told that for some reason the check was already made out to you for an amount larger than your asking price. The buyer asks you to please deposit the check, wait for it to clear, and then send him the difference — “but only after the cashier’s check clears, of course.”

You are skeptical – but, sure enough, the bank cashier’s check arrives by Fed Ex, it looks real, your bank accepts the check, and the bank assures you the funds are in fact available. So you wait the time the bank recommends to verify that the check is clear and then you wire the difference to your buyer in Nigeria and prepare to ship your item.

A week later your bank calls: “We’re very sorry, but the cashier’s check was counterfeit” — a superb copy, but worthless. Your account is frozen. You must pay the bank back the entire amount of the cashier’s check. You may even be considered a fraud suspect yourself.

Secret Shopper Scam

The scammer will either place an ad in a legitimate classified listing, online or in print, or they will collect their victim’s names and email addresses off of resumes posted online. Some of them are even making “copy cat” websites of legitimate Secret Shopper companies to use in their scam to help convince the victim that this is all legitimate. For a listing of legitimate Secret Shopper companies, go to http://www.mysteryshop.org/

 The victim will be told that they have been hired as a Secret Shopper and will be sent a cashier’s check or money order to cash and use on their assignments. One of the assignments is to review the service at a Western Union or Money Gram location. They are given a name and address to wire money to, from the check that was sent to them, and told to fill out an evaluation form on the service received and email or fax that back to the company they are working for.

Everything seems fine, and some victims may even complete a few “assignments” before the check is discovered to be counterfeit. On average, it takes about 10 business days for the bank to realize that the check is counterfeit, but we have seen some cases where it has taken over 6 months. Once the bank dose find that the check is counterfeit, they will contact you demanding the return of the money and deduct the full amount of the check from your bank account. This sometimes leaves the victims with negative bank accounts.

For more information on the check clearing process and the banking terms, please read http://scamvictimsunited.blogspot.com/2009/08/banking-terms-not-as-clear-as-they.html

Shawn Mosch

Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com

There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at http://shopittous.blogspot.com/

 

Check Fraud: Protecting Your Bank and Its Customers

From http://calendar.bollearningconnect.com/main.php?view=event&eventid=1256146442184

Many of the scams are obvious, but many are presented in such a way that the would-be victim (your customer) is more easily tricked into believing the claims of the fraud artist.

Each presentment of a fraudulent check presents potential problems for 1) the bank of first deposit, 2) the customer presenting the check, and 3) the paying bank. Knowing how to detect and reject bogus checks can protect both your bank and your customers. Knowing how to handle fraudulent checks that make it “under the radar” can save your bank from significant losses.

WHY?
This program is designed to help your bank recognize the signs of fraudulent check activity. Trained bank personnel can help save gullible customers from themselves by preventing the checks from being deposited. Keeping the customer out of trouble means avoiding problems for your bank, too. Responding appropriately when a fraudulent check is presented for payment or has been charged back to your bank can minimize the losses your bank will suffer.

CONTENT
Upon completion of the program participants will understand:

how Regulation CC helps make counterfeit check fraud “profitable”

how common check fraud scams work

how customer behavior can “red flag” a check scam

physical clues of counterfeit checks

the case for check verification

the arguments against verification

fatal errors in check verification

when a hold can be placed, and for how long

the “reasonable cause” exception hold

why holds often aren’t enough

counterfeits and the “midnight deadline”

how to handle late returns

how local clearinghouse rules may affect you

what NOT to tell a depositor about check clearing

what you MUST try to make customers understand

what to do when fraud is suspected

why customer education is your most effective tool

WHO?
The program is designed for teller supervisors and trainers, customer contact personnel, and anyone involved in your fraudulent check stop-loss efforts.

Seven years

Seven years ago this month my husband and I became victims of a counterfeit cashier’s check scam while selling his 1961 Buick Special online. So much has happened in those seven years.

We found that we were not alone, and that this was happening to others.
We started our website Scam Victims United to share our story with others.
We spoke out in the news about this issue.
We have worked with Consumer Protection Agencies to help spread the word about scams.
In the first two years of our site being operational, we helped to stop over 2 million dollars from going into the hands of scammers.

We have come a long way, but we still have so far to go. The Consumer Federation of America released the results of a survey in May 2009 which relates directly to information we at Scam Victims United work to educate people about. They found that fifty-nine percent of the respondents incorrectly believe that when you deposit a check or money order, your bank confirms that it is good before allowing you to withdraw the money. The number goes up to 70 percent among young adults age 18-24, and 71 percent of people with incomes under $25,000 and who did not complete high school. More than 40 percent of those surveyed do not know that they are liable if the checks or money orders they deposit or cash are counterfeit. Fifty-two percent age 18-24 and half of Hispanics incorrectly said the person who gave you the check must pay the bank back. This is precisely the type of information that we at Scam Victims United work to educate people about.

As you can see by the results of this survey, there is a great need for education in the area of banking terminology and the check clearing process. One of the major reasons that counterfeit cashier’s checkscams work so well is that when a bank customer hears the terms “the check is clear” or that it will be “verified in 24 hours” it gives them a false sense of security that the check is legitimate and that they can use the money with no repercussions.

And that is our mission.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

REI being used in scam emails

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

REI Statement on “Prize Winning Payout” Scam

Kent, WA – A company falsely identifying itself as REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) recently launched a scam sweepstakes claiming that individuals have won a “Consumer Promotion Drawing.” The company and promotion are not associated with REI in any way and the check included in the mailing is counterfeit.

REI is currently working with the Kent Police Department, the FBI, and the Office of the Washington State Attorney General. REI is also warning consumers in an effort to prevent additional victims of this fraud.

Consumers from several states have reported receiving letters stating that they have won $150,000 but must claim their winnings within 15 days. The mailing also includes a fraudulent check for $3,800 from “Recreational Equipment Inc.” to cover the “Non-Resident Government Tax” allegedly owed to a “British Tax Officer.”

Because the check is fraudulent, consumers themselves are personally responsible for any funds paid over for the check.

REI encourages consumers who have received this letter to contact their local police department and/or state’s Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division. The case number with Kent Police Department is 09-101-84. Consumers are asked to use this information with their local law enforcement as a reference.

Questions and concerns can be forwarded to Fraud@rei.com.

This information is brought to you by http://www.ScamVictimsUnited.com

Why do scammers love Craigslist?

Many websites have become infested with scammers, but Craigslist seems to be one of the places that the scammers really love to hang out. Why is that?

Variety of categories – In the past, when a scammer wanted to find a victim for their overpayment scams they had to go to a website were people were selling items, usually of large value. If they wanted to find a victim for an employment scam, they had to go to a site where people were posting their resumes. If they wanted to find a victim for a romance or dating scam, they would have to go to a dating website. If you wanted to find a victim for renter or roommate scam, you had to go to a site where people were posting housing information. With Craigslist, you can find all of those people in the different categories on the same site.

Includes the entire country – There are other classified ad sites that would have the same variety of categories that Craigslist has, but they are usually for a certain geographic location. If the scammer wants to try and find more victims, they would have to go to another classified ad site that is targeted towards another geographic location. With Craigslist all the scammer has to do is click on a new city and state for their search location and they have a entirely different group of victims to try and bring into their scam.

It’s free – Not only is Craigslist free for people to post or creating listings, but it is also free to people looking at those listings. This works to the scammer’s advantage. If the scammer is the one placing the listing, for a Secret Shopper job for example, they do not have to pay anything to place that advertisement. Many of the sites that require you to pay to post have a lower number of scams posted simply due to the fact that the scammer is there to make money, and not to spend it. It works the other way too . . . if the scammer is the one searching the posted ads for their next victim, they do not have to pay anything to have access to those listings.

Craigslist does have warning information on their site, and I think that some of their warnings should hold true if you are using their site or another classified ad site.

Deal with local buyers and sellers. If you sell your item and you need to have it shipped someplace you are taking a greater risk. If you deal locally, you can arrange to meet the person face to face to exchange money and the item for sale.

Never wire funds to someone you only know via email conversations. Scammers use services like Western Union and MoneyGram in their scams because they know that once the money is wired off and picked up on the other end there is no way to recover the money. Also, since they are overseas, our law enforcement in the United States cannot just go and pick them up for taking your money. It becomes an issue for the government and law enforcement in the country that they live in. This all goes back to jurisdiction, which we talked about in the past, and you can review here.

One thing that I think that Craigslist could add to their posted warning is that a cashier’s check could take 10 business days or more to go through the clearing process. Just because you take the check to the bank and they tell you that it has cleared, or that it will be verified as good in 24 hours does not mean that the bank knows for sure that this check was written on a good account and has the funds in that account to cover the check. This is the information that is missing from so many of the current internet scam warnings, but is also the piece of information that could save so many scam victims. So why don’t the places that post the warnings understand this and include this information? Personally, I feel it is because they are thinking as a “business” and not as a scam victims, and that is one thing that I can do since I have been there myself.

Had we known back in October of 2002 that the check could take up to 10 business days to go through the entire clearing process and that until that happened we would be liable for the entire amount of the check, then there is no way we would have wired any money off any sooner than 10 business days . . . actually, my husband and I had promised each other that what ever amount of time the bank said to wait to be safe we were going to double to be extra safe, so like I said, if they would have been honest with us there is no way we would have become scam victims.

Scam victim arrested – update

Back in August I told you about a scam victim who was arrested, and now I have an update on her case.

Her day in court came, and then the DA first started to read the documents in her file they commented “How could she not know” and “How stupid is she” . . . all while she was sitting just a few feet away. Then, as the DA continued to read their commnets changed to “Wow . . . he is very convincing!”. Too bad they did not appologize for his earlier comments.

When all was said and done the case was dismissed, which is wonderful. She is still struggling to find a job and to recover from the financial loss that she took due to this scam, but she knows that the worst is over.