NOVA – National Organization for Victims Assistance

I wanted to thank NOVA for the wonderful conference that they put on in Salt Lake City, Utah August 22nd through August 25th, and for having me as a presentor for one of the workshops.  My co-presentor was Denise Richardson of GiveMeBackMyCredit.com

Not only did Denise and I get the chance to share our personal stories of how we went from victim to Victims Advocate, we attended several other presentations and were able to meet some amazing people, and I will be sharing that information with you in the upcoming days.

MoneyGram and Nigeria

On June 8th, 2010 MoneyGram released the following information. Because I feel so strongly about this topic, I would like to share the entire press release with you, along with my personal thoughts on it.

MINNEAPOLIS, Jun 08, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) –MoneyGram International (NYSE:MGI), a leading global money transfer company, announced today that First Bank of Nigeria Plc has selected MoneyGram to provide money transfer services in its more than 500 locations across the nation. First Bank, established in 1894, is Nigeria’s oldest bank and one of the largest in terms of network size. First Bank has locations in all key cities including Abuja, Benin, Lagos, Iabdan, Port Harcourt, and Warri as well as a significant presence in rural Nigeria, some operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making MoneyGram services even more convenient for Nigerians.

Is this really what we need?  for Money Gram services to be even more convenient for Nigerians?  I feel that it is pretty convenient for them just as it is.  Actually it is way TOO convenient for them to pick up money that people receive from counterfeit cashier’s checks, or for fake Secret Shopper jobs or that people believe that they are sending to someone within the United States.

“MoneyGram, which has operated in Nigeria since 1998, saw significant growth between 2006 and 2008 when it tripled its network in the country,” said Vicky Johnston, MoneyGram’s senior regional director for Anglo Africa and Middle East. “We are excited about partnering with First Bank as it is MoneyGram’s most recent and significant expansion which will allow us to provide a service to so many more people through the bank’s large number of branches.”

Ironically, during the same time period that MoneyGram increased it’s network in the country, the number of money lost to scams and fraud also increased.  You can see the increase on the chart below which is from the Annual Report put out by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov)

To commemorate the agreement with First Bank Plc, MoneyGram’s Chairman and CEO, Pamela H. Patsley is in Nigeria and will attend the official launch event scheduled for today. During her visit, Patsley will address the media as well as CEOs of MoneyGram’s agent banks in Nigeria, discussing the common goal of bringing needed financial services to the people of Nigeria and the growth opportunities there.

I have a better idea . . . what about discussing the common goal of fighting all of the scams and fraud that pass through MoneyGram every day, and how they can do more to save those customers from becoming victims.  Before we start looking at the financial needs of the people of Nigeria, I think we need to protect the financial needs of the people right here in the United States. 

“MoneyGram is pleased to partner with First Bank,” said Patsley. “Our partnership will help to ensure that our services are accessible and convenient for the people of Nigeria and that we can continue to meet the growing demand of consumers in this important remittance market.”

And why are their demands growing?  Because there are more and more scams going undetected or people just turning a blind eye to them. 

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is ranked in the top 10 receive countries for money transfers. The World Bank estimates that $10 billion USD in remittances was sent to Nigeria in 2009 – with the United States being the primary send country. Other top send countries include Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Spain, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

That is because Nigeria is also ranked in the top 3 countries for money wire transfer scams.  The other countries would be Canada and the United Kingdom, who are also ironically on the list above.  I wonder hom much of the $559.7 million dollars from the chart above that went out of this country in scams is directly a part of the $10 billion reported to be going into Nigeria in 2009? 

With the First Bank agreement, MoneyGram now has a total of eight bank relationships, thus further proving that MoneyGram is dedicated to providing reliable and safe money transfer services to Nigerians – wherever they may reside. Furthermore, agent banks in Nigeria have brought a positive experience to the remittance business with their individual pedigree in banking, service quality delivery and branch network, which provides a sense of ease for those receiving funds from family members working in other countries.

So we are going over and above to make sure that Nigerians have a reliable and safe money transfer service, but we are doing very little to offer that same kind of safety to the MoneyGram customers in the United States.  The last sentence in the above paragraph really gets me . . . . which provides a sense of ease for those receiving funds.  Why is it that we seem to care more about the people in another country, who are one of the main sources of these scams, than the people here in the United States that they are scamming? 

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
 
Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Sign our petition for Scam Education and Awareness Programs at
http://www.change.org/petitions/view/create_scam_education_and_awareness_programs

White Collar Crime Bill

I was reading a recent article on a white collar crime bill in Canada, and I wanted to share a few things with you. Here are a few quotes from the article

“Fraud can have a devastating impact on the lives of its victims, just as much as if they’d been mugged in an alley,” Nicholson said at a news conference at the Guy-Favreau Complex.

“We’d like to see a restitution or relief program put into place that we proposed to the government where a victim of white-collar crime can go to and seek immediate relief,” Davis said.

“We need this because when your money is stolen and your resources are robbed of, who do you to turn to? We think the government should be there but there are no policy or programs in place.”

I could not agree with this more!  We have been saying for years now that scam and fraud victims deserve the same attention and rights as the person that us mugged on the street.  There are plenty of places to report the scam or fraud to, but as of right now there is still not one source for victims of this crime to turn to for assistance such as emergency funds to live off of while they are recovering from these scams and fraud.

Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/montreal/story/2010/05/04/white-collar-crime-legislation.html#ixzz0nS45OkrE

Happy Birthday IC3

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is celebrating 10 years of crime fighting.

IC3 was established in May 2000 as a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The organization gives victims of cybercrime a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations. IC3 provides law enforcement and regulatory agencies at all levels a central referral system for complaints involving Internet-related crimes.

“Since its creation in 2000, we have seen the number of complaints coming into IC3 increase year after year. Cybercrime is not going away and, in fact, is only going to continue as criminals become savvier,” said Don Brackman, Director of the NW3C. “We are so proud to be partners with the FBI in operating IC3 to address this growing global issue.”

I am dying . . .

Here is an email that showed up in my spam folder.

From: jamesbradley08@web.de

To: jamesbradley@web.de

From: James Bradley

Reply to: jamesbradley04@gmail.com

Hi, my name is James Bradley from Sydney, Australia, I am an E.C. patient, and presently hospitalized, my doctor says I have a few months to live, and I desire to stay within the confinement of my hospital room and live out my last days on earth quietly. I asked that my hospital room be equipped with a laptop so that I can take care of some outstanding issues. One of which is my desire to donate a sizable amount of money to cancer research institutes and other deserving charity organizations, so I decided to go online and find some one remotely afar who can receive the funds from where it is presently deposited, and assist me in disbursing the funds to cancer research institutes and other deserving charity organizations. By the way the full meaning of (E.C.) is Esophageal Cancer, and don’t mind the time taken from your busy schedule to work with me on this sole act of charity, because you will surely be compensated.

Indicate your wiliness to assist me by sending an email to my private email box (jamesbradley04@gmail.com) by doing so I will be able to send you more details.

Kind Regards,

James Bradley

This is an angle that many scammers use . . . they play on a person’s sense of kindness and wanting to do the right thing . . . helping a man fulfill his dying wish by assisting him in donating his money to a charity.  If it were true, it would be a very kind gesture.  Here are some of the tips that it is not real.

  1. The use of several different email addresses between the from, reply to and the address within the email.  Scammers use multiple emails addresses because they may be spoofing a real address, because their email accounts get turned off once reported for spam so they need a back up, or because of the way their “ring” works . . . one person could be sending all of the emails while a totally different person works the scams once the victim is hooked in, and that second person is the one on the receiving end of the reply to address.
  2. He says that he only has a few days to live, but he is using it to email strangers?  How does he even know you will see this email before he dies?  Some people don’t check email daily, like I do.
  3. If a person truly wanted to donate all of their money to charity, they could easily contact the charity directly to set up this donation.  They would not need the help of a third party stranger to do this.

Compensation for Scam Victims

Don’t get too excited thinking that I am going to share with you the secret to recovering money that you lost to a scam. Nope . . . it is just the title for the scam email that I want to share with you this week.

From: dr.jfisher55@gmail.com;

COMPENSATION AWARD FOR SCAM VICTIMS

Hello,

I’m Dr. John Fisher… ed. T.H.Turner (London, 1855), Coll. No. *VIII, II, 263-272. 10) – Erasmus, Ep., I, 415, I’m 51yrs Old. I’m one of those that took part in the Compensation in awards many years ago and they refused to pay me, I had paid over $18,000 while in the London, trying to get my payment all to no avail.

So I decided to travel down to the Compensation and lottery company with all my compensation documents, And I was directed to meet Mr. Larry Gold, who is the member of COMPENSATION AWARD AUTHORITY and a Human Rights Activist (Lawyer), and I contacted him and he explained everything to me. He said whoever is contacting us through emails are fake.

He took me to the paying bank for the claim of my Compensation payment. Right now I’m the most happiest man on earth because I have received my compensation funds amounteing to $750,000 Moreover, Mr. Larry Gold, showed me the full information of those that are yet to receive their payments and I saw your email as one of the scam victims, that is why I decided to email you to stop dealing with those people, they are not with your fund, they are only making money out of you. I will advise you to contact Mr. Larry Gold

You have to contact him directly on this information below.

COMPENSATION AWARD AUTHORITY

Name : Mr. Larry Gold (Barrister)
Email: barristerlarrygold@lawyer.com
Telephone: +8613925551141

You really have to stop dealing with those people that are contacting you and telling you that your fund is with them, it is not in anyway with them, they are only taking advantage of you and they will dry you up until you have nothing.

The only money I paid after I met Mr. Larry Gold was just $350 USD for the paper works, take note of that.

Thank You and Be Blessed.

Dr. John Fisher… ed. T.H.Turner (London, 1855),
Coll. No. *VIII, II, 263-272. 10) – Erasmus,
Ep. Education: BS, Business Administration

dr.jfisher52@gmail.com

—————————–

So how do we know this is a scam? If there really was a way to recover the money lost in a scam the information would be all over the news and on every government website so that all scam victims could contact the correct people and recover their money.

Second, a Google search of the phone number shows that it is listed on MANY scam fighting sites, and that it is a phone number from China. Strange . . . the person in this email claims to be in London.

He even tries to tell you that you need to stop listening to the scammers because they will only lie to you and drain your funds . . . this is the only truthful thing in this email.

Hiding behind the email

You just got an email and it looks like it is really from a local business or organization that you know. Is it possible that it could be from a scammer? The answer is yes. Scammers use a technique called spoofing to do this.

What is spoofing? Well, if you want to go and read the technical definition of it, you can go here, but for those of you who are like me and some of the technical talk starts to sound like “blah, blah, blah” here are the spoofing basics.

Spoofing is when the person who sent the email makes it appear like the email cam from a different email address. One of the clues would be if the From line in the email has a different address than the Reply To line of the email.

Why would anyone want to do this? Well, the scammers take on many different profiles, and since they are trying to gain your trust, and your money, they have to make it LOOK like they really are who they say that they are. If they can spoof an email address of a well know business, and in their email they say they are with that business, there are some people who are not as internet savvy that will believe that the scammer is really who they say they are or associated with the company they claim to be with simply because the email address appears to be from that company.

Email spoofing is a common tool used by internet scammers, since it allows them to hide behind the identity of another person or company.

Look inside your emails

I have never claimed to be a internet or computer know it all, so I have learned to do some research and look to those who do know more on the “technical” side of how things work when I need to. When I decided I wanted to talk to my readers about the information inside of an email, spoofing, hacking and IP addresses I knew I was entering into a world that I am not comfortable with . . . seriously, all of the technical talk starts to sound like “blah, blah, blah” to me. So that is when I contact my friend and fellow scam fighter at CyberCrimeOps.com

Ironically, he wrote an article just this month about a LOT of the things that I wanted to touch on. Here is a sample . . .

Some of you reading this article may have seen news reports of people getting alarming email messages from their friends.

Tales such as “Help, I’m stranded in Nigeria and need money” have come to many people as a surprise in recent months, and the trend seems to getting more widespread. The messages are coming directly from the email accounts of someone you know, and at first glance it may seem real. The truth, once discovered, is that the email account has been taken over (hacked [link]) by a fraudster, and the solicitations for money being sent out are a simple fraud. One question that seems lost in all of these news reports is “how did this happen?” — Let’s investigate this a little further and shed some light into this dark corner.

From Hack To Phish

Hacking covers a wide range of techniques, such as Security exploit; Vulnerability scanner; Packet Sniffer; Spoofing attack; Rootkit; Social engineering; Trojan horse; Virus; Worm and Key loggers; but for the purpose of this article we will concentrate on only one of these, social engineering.

“Social engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. While similar to a confidence trick or simple fraud, the term typically applies to trickery or deception for the purpose of information gathering, fraud or computer system access; in most cases the attacker never comes face-to-face with the victim.” (Source Wikipedia: [link])

Phishing [link] of course, comes under the general umbrella of social engineering and is a technique of fraudulently obtaining private information. People may associate Phishing with financial institutions (banks, credit cards and credit unions), eBay, PayPal and others due to a great many reports in press. However, one form of this phishing hides in relative obscurity, and asks not for banking details, but for your email account login credentials. If you get one of these emails, it may actually look very real indeed.

To read the rest of this article, go to CyberCrimeOps.com

It starts with an email . . .

Here is a typical email that could show up in your inbox and start you down the path of becoming a scam victim if you don’t know what to look for.

Subject: You Have A Package

From: Brenda.Kellen@marshall.k12.mn.us

Reply To: info@fedexdelivery.com

You have a bank draft of $580,000.00 USD , which await the outstanding payment of $95.00 Contact our dispatch unit for dispatch immediately. Contact person: Mr. Celin Smith, Email: fdexcourierdeliveryltd01@gmx.com Tell: +234 807 363 6733

How do I know that this is a scam from just this small amount of information? Let me show you.

First, they tell you that you have a large amount of money just sitting there waiting for you, and all you have to do is just send them some money and they can release these funds to you.  This is used in inheritance and lottery scams on a regular basis.  If you really did have a large amount of money owed to you, and the only thing holding that money from getting to you was some sort of payment, they could take that payment from the amount owed and just send you your money.

Second, there are WAY too many email addresses going on in this email.  There is the one in the From line, which is probably spoofed or this person could have had their email account hacked into.  We will talk about spoofing and hacking later on this week.  Then there is a different email address in the Reply To line, which includes the term FedEx, but is not a legitimate FedEx extension . . . a simple Google search verified this.  Then, within the email there is a third email address, again with terms referring to FedEx, but if you look they are on the front part of the email address, the part after the @ is from gmx.com which is a free email service.  With free email services the person setting up the account has full control over the letter that appear before the @ in the email address.  I could go and create one right now that said WaltDisney@(insert free email service here) but that does not mean that the people who I am emailing are getting emails from Walt Disney.

Third, look at the phone number provided . . . Tell: +234 807 363 6733 . . . that is WAY too many numbers to be a United States phone number.  Another Google search tells me that 234 phone numbers are from Nigeria, and Nigeria is the number one country of these types of scams.

So what have we learned today?  Google is our friend, look at the email address and see if it is a free email service, and check your phone numbers.

BBB Top 10 Scams for 2010

From http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/bbb-stats-pedict-scams-january-12-2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The recession has thousands of people out of work, but the scam artists are hard at work. In year ahead, the Better Business Bureau says they are likely to come at you from every angle.

No one knows that better than the Bureau’s Dan Hendrickson.

“The people that are out there trying to get information dishonestly are very persistent, said Hendrickson. “And they will keep on coming at you and that’s way you always have to be on guard.”

The Better Business Bureau has looked at the past to try and predict what will happen in the future, in this case the next year. For 2010, it has put together its own Top Ten List of scams:

1. Winter Olympics Scams. This year’s Olympic Games are fairly close by in Vancouver, British Columbia. A little known fact is that U.S. citizens can buy event tickets only through http://www.cosport.com . Buy your tickets anywhere else, and the BBB says you risk losing your money. It also advises consumers to be aware of travel packages that don’t provide accommodations.

2. Census Scams. At its core the government Census is about counting people. For the crook it’s about counting something else. The BBB fears that under the guise of collecting data, scammers will try to trick people into giving out banking and other personal information. The Census WILL NOT contact you by email, and if a Census worker comes to your door, you have the right to ask for their credentials proving they work for the Census.

3. Green Remodeling Offers. President Obama and Congress are giving away tax credits for qualified remodeling projects that reduce energy consumption. When working with a contractor, homeowners should have a clear understanding of what makes a product or appliance green and if it benefits them. Also, check the credentials of the contractor with the Better Business Bureau or the state licensing agencies.

4. Job Scams. In this recession, scammers will try to rope people into fraudulent re-shipping schemes or offer jobs in exchange for an upfront payment.

5. Pre-Acquired Account Marketing Offers. It’s a high-brow term for a low-brow attempt to take your money. It happens when you buy something on line and you suddenly get a pop-up offering discounts to the store from which you just made a purchase. By clicking on these offers to save, customers unknowingly sign up for memberships which result in a monthly bill.

6. IRS Related Scams. These are typically by email. The message indicates it’s from the IRS asking for financial information. The IRS reminds taxpayers that it never discusses tax account information by email.

7. Wireless Security Breaches. Which business person or college student hasn’t fired up their laptop and gone online at a coffee shop? Yes, they are great places to hang out, but everything you transmit is viewable on an unsecured network.

8. Fake Online Classified Ads or Auction Sales. Think Craigslist. It’s a great site, but also a place where crooks can post fake ads to scam you out of your money. The BBB advises that if you buy from a online classified ad or auction site that you consider only making payment through third party transaction companies such as PayPal.

9. Gift Card Scams. The BBB says there are actually online sites where people can buy gift cards at reduced prices. Later they discover that the cards carry little to no value.

10. Smishing Scams. This works like Phishing on your computer, except Smishing takes place on your cell phone. It happens when a text message is sent to your phone indicating your bank or credit card accounts have been frozen and you need to call a certain number to rectify the accounts. The scammer is looking to collect your banking information. This actually happened in December of 2008 to many customers of a major Twin Cities bank.

The best advice from the Better Business Bureau is to be aware.

“We hear so many times people saying, ‘Well it sounded like such a good deal, or such a good offer, I had to do it,’” said Hendrickson. “And, you know we understand that. But the reality is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”