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

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.

Google it!

I think that Google is a wonderful scam fighting tool. On a daily basis we will have people come to our site and post on our message board that they did NOT become a scam victim because they ran a Google search on something from the scammer’s email . . . their name, email address, company, phone number . . . and that search brought them right to a post on our message board. Once they see this information on our message board they know for sure that it is a scam.

If you ask me, it is better to be over cautious . . . Google everything! You never know what information you might find out. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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

Social Networking Friend Scam

This is from a Press Release from the FBI today

No, Your Social Networking “Friend” Isn’t Really in Trouble Overseas

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), there has been an increase in the number of hijacked social networking accounts reported to http://www.ic3.gov.

One of the more popular scams involves online criminals planting malicious software and code onto to victim computers. It starts by someone opening a spam e-mail, sometimes from another hijacked friend’s account.

When opened, the spam allows the cyber intruders to steal passwords for any account on the computer, including social networking sites. The thieves then change the user’s passwords and eventually send out distress messages claiming they are in some sort of legal or medical peril and requesting money from their social networking contacts.

So far, nearly 3,200 cases of account hijackings have been reported to the IC3 since 2006.

Cyber thieves are also using spam to promote phishing sites, claiming a violation of the terms of service agreement or creating some other issue which needs to be resolved. Other spam entices users to download an application or view a video. Some of these messages appear to be sent from friends, giving the perception of legitimacy. Once the user responds to a phishing site, downloads an application, or clicks on a video link, the electronic device they’re using becomes infected.

Some applications advertised on social networking sites appear legitimate but install malicious code or rogue anti-virus software. These empty applications can give cyber criminals access to your profile and personal information. These programs will automatically send messages to your contacts, instructing them to download the new application too.

Infected users are often unknowingly spreading malware by having links to infected websites posted on their webpage without the user’s knowledge. Since the e-mail or video link appear to be endorsed by a friend, social networking contacts are more likely to click on these links.

Although social networking sites are generally a safe place to interact with friends and acquaintances, keep in mind these suggestions to protect yourself while navigating the Internet:

Adjust website privacy settings. Some networking sites have provided useful options to assist in adjusting settings to help protect your identity.
Be selective when adding friends. Once added, contacts can access any information marked as viewable by all friends.
Limit access to your profile to only those contacts you trust with your personal information.
Disable options, such as photo sharing, that you might not regularly use. You can always enable these options later.
Be careful what you click on. Just because someone posts a link or video to their wall does not mean it is safe.
Familiarize yourself with the security and privacy settings and learn how to report a compromised account.
Each social networking site may have different procedures on how to handle a hijacked or infected account; therefore, you may want to reference their help or FAQ page for instructions.
If your account has been hijacked or infected, report it to by visiting www.ic3.gov or www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center is a partnership between the FBI and National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).

Scams and Social Networking Sites

The following information was issued by the IC3 and can be found at http://www.ic3.gov/media/2009/091001.aspx

Techniques Used By Fraudsters On Social Networking Sites

Fraudsters continue to hijack accounts on social networking sites and spread malicious software by using various techniques. One technique involves the use of spam to promote phishing sites, claiming there has been a violation of the terms of agreement or some other type of issue which needs to be resolved. Other spam entices users to download an application or view a video. Some spam appears to be sent from users’ “friends”, giving the perception of being legitimate. Once the user responds to the phishing site, downloads the application, or clicks on the video link, their computer, telephone or other digital device becomes infected.

Another technique used by fraudsters involves applications advertised on social networking sites, which appear legitimate; however, some of these applications install malicious code or rogue anti-virus software. Other malicious software gives the fraudsters access to your profile and personal information. These programs will automatically send messages to your “friends” list, instructing them to download the new application too.

Infected users are often unknowingly spreading additional malware by having infected Web sites posted on their Webpage without their knowledge. Friends are then more apt to click on these sites since they appear to be endorsed by their contacts.

Tips on avoiding these tactics:

Adjust Web site privacy settings. Some networking sites have provided useful options to assist in adjusting these settings to help protect your identity.

Be selective of your friends. Once selected, your “friends” can access any information marked as “viewable by all friends.”

You can select those who have “limited” access to your profile. This is for those whom you do not wish to give full friend status to or with whom you feel uncomfortable sharing personal information.

Disable options and then open them one by one such as texting and photo sharing capabilities. Users should consider how they want to use the social networking site. If it is only to keep in touch with people then perhaps it would be better to turn off the extra options which will not be used.

Be careful what you click on. Just because someone posts a link or video to their “wall” does not mean it is safe.

Those interested in becoming a user of a social networking site and/or current users are recommended to familiarize themselves with the site’s policies and procedures before encountering such a problem.

Each social networking site may have different procedures on how to handle a hijacked or infected account; therefore, you may want to reference their help or FAQ page for instructions.

Individuals who experienced such incidents are encouraged to file a complaint at www.IC3.gov reporting the incident.

Mrs. Bernie Madoff

Well guess who I got an email from today . . . Mrs. Bernie Madoff! Okay, it was from a scammer pretending to be Mrs. Bernie Madoff. Does anyone else see the irony in the fact that someone who runs a scam fighting website got an email from a scammer pretending to be someone that operated the largest and most talked about Ponzi Scheme to date?

 Subject: My Great Compliments /Can I Trust You?

From: mrsruthmadoff03@googlemail.com

Reply To: mrsruthmadoff@hotmail.co.uk

Mrs. Ruth Madoff West, Liverpool, London. My Great Compliments, I’m Mrs. Ruth Madoff, 67, wife to Mr. Bernard L. Madoff, of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, who pleaded guilty to operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, is worth up to $826 million, according to a document filed with a federal court on Friday 13th March 2009.

Just last 2Month my husband pleading stealing billions from investment from his clients and he was ordered to jail Thursday 12th March 2009, after pleading guilty to all 11 criminal counts in one of Wall Street’s biggest swindles.

Now the Federal investigators in the USA are working around the clock to freeze all my assets, fearing that I’m trying to flee the country which I have done shortly after my husband was sentenced, I have $93 million in my name beyond their reach.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is working with federal prosecutors in Manhattan to prepare a filing asking a judge to formally freeze all of my assets as soon as possible.

My husband deposited the sum of (USD$25.000.000.00 Million) in a Finance Firm in Europe some years ago in my name, I need you to collect this funds and distribute it to both of us since the Federal investigators are working around the clock to freeze all my assets. Meanwhile all documents related to transfer of this fund to your account is with the bank

Presently, I’m in a hard out here in UK as the Federal investigators as well the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking for me to freeze my entire asset as well prosecute me like my husband.

Please reply back to me on this e-mail as I will like if you contact my bank directly so that he will direct you on the way forward. Please due send to me all your contact details as I will like to speak with you before we commence on the transaction. Please Keep this transaction secret and confidentail for now. You can read my story on this website: http://www.nypost.com/seven/03152009/news/regionalnews/ruth_in_crosshair_159631.htm

God bless you.

Best Regards,

Mrs. Ruth Madoff

Reporting Scams

“How do I report that I have been a victim of an online scam?” is a question I hear on a regular basis, either on our message board, through emails or left as comments on other sites. There are plenty of places that you can report that you have been a victim of an online scam. The main place that I would recommend would be the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) which is a combined effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).   As you can see, you get the resources of three larger agencies all from one place, and to me, that much better than reporting with multiple agencies individually.   To file a complaint with the IC3, go to http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

The following information is right from the IC3 site Frequently Asked Questions section . . .

Q: How are complaints resolved?

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) thoroughly reviews and evaluates each complaint so that we may refer it to the appropriate federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agency. Every complaint that is referred is sent to one or more law enforcement or regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over the matter. Once we refer a complaint to the appropriate agency, it may then be assigned to an investigator. We, therefore, ask that you provide a telephone number in the event an investigator needs to contact you for additional information.

IC3 cannot guarantee that your complaint will beinvestigated.

Why can’t they guarantee that your complaint will be investigated? It all comes down to jurisdiction . . . who has the power and authority to address this sort of crime in the location that the crime was committed. Now, you might say that the crime was committed in what ever city or state that you live in, but since this person did not come to your home and take the money from you that is not true. They were sitting in front of a computer in another country and through the information sent to you over the internet they defrauded you. Being that the crime took place over the internet, with the place of origin being the foreign country where the scammer is, it would be the law enforcement and government in that country that would have to address this crime. (why other countries do little to nothing is an issue for another time)

 Now, I am not in ANY way discouraging anyone from filing a complaint . .. quite the opposite!  I feel that it is VERY important for every victim of a scam to report it. This will bring more attention to the growing problem and history shows us that when enough people feel that something is a problem they will try to do something to change it. So if you area victim of a scam please report it. http://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx

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