Guest Blog and Scam Warning

Today I am sharing a blog post written by my good friend Denise Richardson

If you are looking for work-at-home opportunities –you may have already come across this deceptive marketing website dressed up as an investigative news site. A number of scam websites try to make themselves look legitimate through the use of bogus claims and website scripts that detect where visitors are browsing from and update portions of the site to mention their towns or cities.

Unfortunately, some websites try to take things one step further and attempt to pass themselves off as sources of legitimate news in hopes of tricking those who are looking for legitimate opportunities. It appears that The Consumer Warnings Weekly site at ConsumerWarningsReport.com does exactly this; it masquerades as a consumer website that purports to separate the scams from real opportunities, all the while being disguised as an investigative news organization.

The Consumer Warnings Weekly site features information about fake consumer investigations which claim to reveal a work-at-home program that isn’t a scam, and further claims that the one the site promotes has worked for people in the visitor’s hometown. Included are pictures of checks and a variety of comments which are most likely fake, along with “endorsements” from major news organizations such as CNN and MSNBC which are either taken out of context or are completely fake. Pictures on the site are stock photos, taken from free photo libraries and other websites to try and give the site the look of a more professional operation. Even the advertisements on the page are fake, directing users to other portions of the scam site when they think that they’re clicking on an ad to learn how to avoid online scams. To top it all off, the site even features a Facebook “Like” button so that unsuspecting visitors can share the scam with their friends and potentially draw in more victims.

Of course, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website then all of this is revealed to you in fine print. An “Important Consumer Disclosure” is located at the bottom of the page where many websites print their copyright information, obviously with the hope that it will be ignored by a number of visitors who routinely ignore similar text on other sites. This disclosure reveals that the site is in no way affiliated with any news outlet and that the story presented is only loosely based on an actual story. It goes on to reveal that both the comments and pictures are bogus and that the page receives compensation for any ad clicks or purchases made while on the site. To quote the disclosure, “I understand this website is only illustrative of what might be achievable from using this/these products, and that the story depicted above is not to be taken literally.”

A number of websites and products use fictionalized accounts of what their product may be like to avoid having to pay endorsement fees, but few of them attempt to pass themselves off as consumer news reviews. The way that the site presents itself is intended to trick users into thinking that they’ve stumbled upon a legitimate opportunity when the disclosure itself states that results like those presented on the site may only occur with the top 1% of users of the program.

A number of savvy opportunity seekers will see through the site almost immediately because they’ve seen similar scams and know to avoid them. Unfortunately, not everyone who’s searching for a way to make money at home will be as experienced in avoiding work-at-home scams. These are the people that the Consumer Warnings Weekly website is aimed at, those who will see supposed endorsements from major news networks and assume that the site is a legitimate opportunity instead of being nothing more than a scam.

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Denise is the author of the book Give Me Back My Credit

 

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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.

Social Security number

While watching the movie The Blind Side, my husband and I noticed something . . . when the main character Michael Oher gets his drivers license there is a close up shot of it, and his Social Security number is listed on the driver’s license!


I was shocked when I saw this, and I had no idea that some states actually did this since I have never lived in a state that did this.  Since I saw this as a HUGE risk to identity theft,  I asked a good friend of mine, Denise Richardson, who operates the website GiveMeBackMyCredit.com and is a wonderful resource on the topic of identity theft about this, and here is what she sent to me . . .


Can a state use my Social Security number as my drivers’ license number?
Not any longer. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 prohibits states from displaying your SSN on drivers’ licenses, state ID cards, or motor-vehicle registrations. The law went into effect December 17, 2005, and applies to all licenses, registrations, and identification cards issued after that date. If your license still uses your SSN as the ID number, you can request this be changed. You don’t need to wait until it expires to get one with a different number, though you may be charged a fee for the new issuance.


More information on the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 is available as follows:

Identity Theft

Here is a great article from my good friend Denise Richardson of GiveMeBackMyCredit.com

I feel that this is very important information for every teenager to read. At this time of year when everyone is thinking about graduations and going off to college, it is important for us to remember that scams, fraud and identity theft can happen to anyone at any time, and that we need to have the right information to protect ourselves.

Darrius Whitehorn, a Loyola University criminal justice student spent a week in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. Darrius learned the hard way that when it comes to identity theft, you are guilty until proven innocent. It seems his Social Security number and his birthdate matched that of a deceased, convicted robber named Kirk Davis.

To read the full article, go to
Identity Theft Sends Innocent Student to Jail – Denise Richardson

Identity Theft

As some of you know, I am a big supporter of Denise Richardson and GiveMeBackMyCredit.com, so I want to share her triumphs with all of you.

Denise was recently interviewed for an article called No One is Safe: Identity Theft in Modern Times.

Here is a portion of the article

When Richardson went to apply for a separate loan, it became shockingly clear that Shawmut Bank, her mortgage lender, had incorrectly calculated her monthly payments and, in some instances, simply didn’t apply the payments at all. Richardson then took the initiative to review the payment records — both her own via the coupon stubs as well as what little information that the bank had on file — but due to Shawmut’s repeated miscalculations, it became completely hopeless to verify the remaining balance on her mortgage account.

Richardson did not, however, sit back passively and allow the Shawmut Bank to take advantage of her. In fact, she filed a federal lawsuit against the company to amend their financial faults and hinder further maltreatment from happening to others.

Richardson’s history of inaccurate credit reports does not end there. In 2001 she again became a victim of fraud, this time in the form of $9,000 worth of airline tickets charged to her credit card by an unknown identity thief. Then again in December 2009, her credit card was charged with cable billing fees from a company other than her own cable provider. In regards to all three instances, Richardson remarks, “It’s something that I didn’t even do.”

To read the article in full go to No One is Safe: Identity Theft in Modern Times.

NOVA Conference

I will be presenting a workshop along with Denise Richardson of GiveMeBackMyCredit.com at the NOVA Conference this August in Salt Lake City, Utah.  The full list of workshops is now available and can be found at http://www.trynova.org/conference/2010/workshops.html

I hope to see you there!

F-R-E-E does not spell free

Today we have a guest blog spot from Denise Richardson of <a href=”http://www.givemebackmycredit.com/”>GiveMeBackMyCredit.com</a>

If you aren’t allowed to offer “Free Credit Reports,” that aren’t really free how about offering “Free Credit Scores”–with strings (dollars) attached, of course. Not happy with the way the FTC short-circuited the lucrative business of providing not-really-free credit reports (the ones that come with the hidden costs of credit monitoring services), Experian and others appear to have come up with what appears to be a clever and creative way to skirt the intent of the new regulations.

If you are one of the many consumers who have already been swept up in the many free credit report jingles, be warned–F.R.E.E. still doesn’t spell free.

Similar to the way credit card companies have found ways around the CARD Act rules, those companies offering free credit reports have cleverly discovered ways around the FTC’s rules as well. Seems everywhere consumers look for reliable, secure, and safe methods to obtain credit–or a loan modification–they seem to encounter a maze of deceptive practices. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) sought to stop deceptive practices over offering fake free credit reports, but the ruling only prompted companies to change their tactics, not their business.

New regulations set to take effect September 1st place restrictions on television and radio advertisements for “free credit reports,” -yet failed to note they couldn’t advertise strings (or dollars) attached credit scores. And you guessed it -like a magician with a calculated sleight-of-hand poof -free credit report ads will now be replaced with free credit score ads -and those free credit reports will now come with a nominal fee that goes directly to charity. Yes, charity. According to <a href=”http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/free-credit-report-score-sites-1270.php”>creditcards.com</a>:
<blockquote>
They no longer are advertising “Free Credit Report!” — a pitch that drew complaints from thousands of consumers because the offers typically came with costly strings attached. Instead, some of the top sites are now offering “Free Credit Scores.” And the best-known site, FreeCreditReport.com, says it’s still in the business of supplying credit reports, but that they’ll now cost $1 (that it will donate to charity).</blockquote>
Great marketing–or is it instead, as one email I received called it, “diabolical”? A reader duly noted that, in this scheme, consumers provide their credit card information believing they are only being charged a dollar. The catch is, the consumer then has to cancel the registration. If they don’t, they will find their card has been charged the $14.95 monthly fee. At least when it was F.R.E.E.–as one jingle claimed–some people avoided the trap as they opted NOT to provide a credit card. Will more people be caught in the web simply because they believe they are donating a dollar to a good cause?

Here’s how it appears to work. First of all, if you sign up for your free credit score, you enter into a 7-day trial that then evolves into a paid monitoring service. Is it easy to spot the fact that you are going to have to pay for this service? Well, if you can get past the words “FREE” and “no-obligation trial,” avoid scrolling down to the bottom of the page where most fine-print notices of fees are generally hidden, and instead look at the top of the page, then yes, you can spot the fact that it is indeed going to cost you $14.95 a month for this “FREE” and “no-obligation trial” that lasts only 7 days.

Second of all, if you opt to purchase your credit report for one dollar, you get the same deal: a $14.95 membership in a Triple Advantage Membership. It’s Groundhog Day all over again! You see, Triple Advantage is an Experian product, a.k.a. your freecreditreport.com, and it was this same $14.95 charge to Triple Advantage that outraged consumers and ultimately brought about FTC spoof video parodies, and more recently a class action suit hoping to stop this type of mass confusion.

Despite the recently created rules regarding fake free credit report offers, it appears that once again loosely written legislation allowed these companies to change their strategy -but not their business. It appears to be business as usual as these companies simply find new and creative ways to operate around the intent of the restrictions designed to protect consumers. It will unfortunately always be true that there are companies that operate right on the edge of the law. As consumers, we have to be aware of their shenanigans, avoid them if we can, and shine a strong light on them in the hope that someone–maybe the FTC again–will notice and take action.

Here’s how to get copies of your <a href=”http://www.givemebackmycredit.com/blog/2009/01/identity-theft-or-inaccurate-c.html”>really free credit reports!</a>