Eight years . . .

Eight years ago this month my husband and I became victims of a counterfeit cashier’s check scam when our bank told us that a cashier’s check we received was good, clear, verified and that we would have no problems with it.  Off of that information, we went forward with a transaction.  One week later the bank contacted us to let us know that the check was counterfeit, and that WE were 100% liable for the money . . . even though they had told us it was good, clear and verified.
It was this situation that brought us to create the website ScamVictimsUnited.com, where we warn people about scams, offer resources and advice, and allow people to talk with other victims on our message board.  In the first two years of our site being operational we helped stop over $2 million dollars from going into scams.

Now, you would think that eight years later things would have changed.  Some things have, but even today we see victims coming to our site who brought these checks to the bank and were told that they were good, clear or verified . . . sometimes by more than one bank employee . . . so the exact same situation that happened to us eight years ago is still happening to people today.
Until laws can be changed to hold the banks accountable for telling the customers that these checks are good, clear and verified and then later hold the bank customer liable when it comes back that they are NOT a true check, education is the best way we have to fight these scams.

What can you do?

Write to your law makers and tell them that you want to see banks held liable for releasing funds on checks that they have told customers are good, clear or verified, and then later reversed those words to hold the customer liable.

Sign our petition to ask for stronger consumer protection laws.  If the banks are liable for the money lost, and not the customer, then they will change their practices and make SURE that every penny is accounted for before they release the money to the customer.

Contact your bank and ask them if you brought in a cashier’s check for $4000, how long would it take to know you could use the money, with no worries about the check.  If their answer included terms like “clear“, “good” or “verified‘ you may want to read the information we have on what these terms really mean, and then armed with that information you may want to speak to the bank manager about better education on counterfeit checks for his staff, or go and find a bank that already does understand these items and can therefore better protect you and your money.

 

LoveFraud ~ Should I warn the next victim?

The website LoveFraud is a site dedicated to helping those that have fallen in love with a con-man.  The owner of the site, Donna Andersen, knows this situation because she lived it.

When asked about warning the con-man’s next victim, Donna gives some great advice.  Make sure to be safe, think about your emotional state, and how the victim’s reaction may affect you.  She talks about all of these items in more depth on her site.

I’ve heard of cases where the victim was grateful for the warning and got out. I’ve heard of cases where the next victim has refused to listen and stayed with the sociopath. And I’ve heard of cases where the victim stayed for awhile, then started to see the bad behavior, remembered the warning, and got out.

I know that since I’ve posted the information about my ex-husband, James Montgomery, online, at least seven women have contacted me to thank me for the warning. They Googled his name, found Lovefraud, and dumped him. I don’t know how many may have dumped him without telling me. This makes me feel good.         ~ Donna Anderson

 

Old School Scams

Why do people still fall for the same old scams?  This article touches on that topic.
Old-School Scams We Still Fall For | Credit/Debt | Money/Investing | Mainstreet

Here is the thing, the scams are “the same old thing” to those of us who KNOW about them . . . to everyone else they are new and that is part of the reason that people believe the stories that they hear.  Why do scammers re-use the same old scams?  The same reason that some television channels play re-runs of old television shows . . . there is someone out there that has not seen/heard it before, so it is new to them . . . and THOSE are the people that they can suck into their scam.

Old-School Scams We Still Fall For

Why do people still fall for the same old scams?  This article touches on that topic.
Old-School Scams We Still Fall For | Credit/Debt | Money/Investing | Mainstreet

Here is the thing, the scams are “the same old thing” to those of us who KNOW about them . . . to everyone else they are new and that is part of the reason that people believe the stories that they hear.  Why do scammers re-use the same old scams?  The same reason that some television channels play re-runs of old television shows . . . there is someone out there that has not seen/heard it before, so it is new to them . . . and THOSE are the people that they can suck into their scam.

Legislation re-introduced to protect people from identity theft and account fraud

In today’s day and age, this one seems like a no-brainer to me. We NEED legislation to help protect people from Identity Theft and Account Fraud.

Senator Carper was one of the ones who introduced the legislation. The Data Security Act of 2010 would require entities such as financial establishments, retailers, and federal agencies to safeguard sensitive information, investigate security breaches, and notify people when there is a substantial risk of identity theft or account fraud.

Legislation re-introduced to protect people from identity theft and account fraud

It is changes like this that will help to protect people from becoming victims.

History of scams – part 2

The other day I posted information about how far back there are documented cases of scams.  Scams are a part of our history, so why have we not learned from them to make a things better in our current times and for our future?  I see several reasons for this.

1) The punishment vs the crime – For many scams, the people running them do very little if any jail time.  If there is not a stiff punishment for these crimes, then the money that they gain from the crimes outweighs the punishment for getting caught, if they get caught, so the criminal choose to take that chance.

2) Education – Information about scams and fraud NEEDS to be taught in our school systems . . . it is a part of our history, and I have always been taught that if we do not learn from our history we will be doomed to repeat it.  The fact that scams have been around for as long as they have is evidence enough that we have not learned from our past.

3) Not me thinking – Many people hear the word “scam” or “fraud” and think “I am too smart to fall for something like that.” so they just tune out and ignore the information.  Identity Theft is a type of fraud, and I think that everyone would agree that we know that ANYONE can become a victim of Identity Theft . . . it does not matter  where you come from, your income, or your level of education.

4) Assumptions about the victims – It is very hard for victims of these crimes to come forward because so often they are blamed for what happened.  This relates to the above “Not Me” thinking.  Many people assume that because you have become a victim of a scam you are greedy or stupid, or both.  To me this is the same as the thinking that a rape victim “got what she deserved” because she was wearing a short skirt and sexy clothing.  Why is it that we blame the VICTIMS!?!?!?

If we really want things to change in this world we need to take a step back and look at the big picture . . . scams and fraud have been around for for as long as man has been walking on this planet.  The invention of the internet has only made it easier for those criminals to connect with their victims.  If we do not look back to see the patterns and learn from the past, we will only continue to see scams and fraud continue to grow in the future.

TDoS attacks

I wanted to share the latest press release from the FBI on scams

06/21/10—The FBI Newark Division released a warning to consumers concerning a new scheme using telecommunications denial-of-service (TDoS) attacks.

The FBI determined fraudsters compromised victim accounts and contacted financial institutions to change the victim profile information (i.e., e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and bank account numbers).

The TDoS attacks used automated dialing programs and multiple accounts to overwhelm victims’ cell phones and land lines with thousands of calls. When victims answered the calls they heard dead air (nothing on the other end), an innocuous recorded message, advertisement, or a telephone sex menu. Calls were typically short in duration but so numerous that victims changed their phone numbers to terminate the attack.

These TDoS attacks were used as a diversion to prevent financial and brokerage institutions from verifying victim account changes and transactions. Fraudsters were afforded adequate time to transfer funds from victim brokerage and financial online accounts.

Protection from TDoS attacks and other types of fraud requires consumers to be vigilant and proactive. In Newark’s Public Service Announcement (PSA), they recommend the following guidelines for consumers to protect themselves:

  • Implement security measures for all financial accounts by placing fraud alerts with the major credit bureaus if you believe they were targeted by a TDoS attack or other forms of fraud.
  • Use strong passwords for all financial accounts and change them regularly.
  • Obtain and review your annual credit report for fraudulent activity.

If you were a target of a TDoS attack, immediately contact your financial institutions, notify your telephone provider, and promptly report it to the IC3 website at http://www.ic3.gov. The IC3 complaint database links complaints to assist in referrals to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration. The complaint information is also used to identity emerging trends and patterns

Scammers using the Make A Wish Foundation’s name

Scammers are calling people telling them that they have won a sweepstakes sponsored by the Make A Wish Foundation. This scam preys on the victims trust of the good name of the company that the scammers are hiding behind. There was a full article on this that you can read here.

Remember, you have to enter a sweepstakes in order to win, and if there are any fees connected with your winnings a legitimate company could take those fees from your winnings.  You would never need to wire them any such fees.

Oil spill and charity scams

Why is it that when there is a tragic event in our world it always seems to be followed by a new wave of scams? I feel that is because the scammers use our emotions and wanting to help others against us.  They know that if we think we are helping someone else out we are more willing to donate money or not check out the facts.

It is times like this that we usually see an increase in charity scams, where the scammer will pretend to be a representative of a charity collecting money to help the victims of a tragedy.  We as Scam Victims United recommend that you NEVER give money to a charity through an email link that was sent to you, a phone call or a person that knocks at your door.  If you really would like to help out the people suffering from a tragedy, then you should be the one to contact that organization to make the donation.  This way you will know that it is a real agency or charity and not just a person trying to separate you from your money.

How do you find the “real” charities? I would start by checking with the following organizations.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance
4200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22203
(703) 276-0100
www.bbb.org/charity

American Institute of Philanthropy
P.O. Box 578460
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 529-2300
www.charitywatch.org

Charity Navigator
1200 MacArthur Boulevard
Mahwah, NJ 07430
(201) 818-1288
www.charitynavigator.org

GuideStar
4801 Courthouse Street, Suite 220
Williamsburg, VA 23188
(757) 229-4631
www.guidestar.org

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