Grannie, Get Your Gun
Internet criminals are always looking for a way to take your money and anything else that you have of value. Many people have been the victims of internet theft, and it is on the rise. While all age groups are vulnerable, criminals especially like to target senior citizens because they often have a nest egg.
There are other reasons that the elderly are targeted. You can help keep them from being victims. Here is an article by the Federal Bureau of Investigation: Fraud Target: Senior Citizens
Criminals in search of a victim often start with obituaries, so keep an especially close eye on elderly loved ones when they are most vulnerable. All people are more vulnerable after the death of a loved one. Obituaries often give the name and general location of relatives.
You can find a person's age, address, and phone number with ease on the internet.
You can find out who has money by looking at charitable donations or property ownership or certain club memberships.
In a recent local case, a woman in her 90s who had never used a computer in her whole life was targeted by a theft ring who used computers to find her. They did the typical. They started with the obituaries. Her sister had just died. They found that she had made charitable donations. They found out she was 94. They found out she was a widow.
Playing on her grief, her age, and her widowed status, they telephoned her identifying themselves as FBI agents investigating the theft of her identity in a sophisticated scam that continued over several months.
They stole $70,000 from her, which was almost everything she had. And, even though these particular thieves were caught and arrested, only $3,000 of this was ever recovered.
This is just one example of a very real scam. There are many more. YOU NEED TO KNOW.
Many intelligent, well-informed people have been scammed.
People will often hide the fact that they have been scammed because they do not want others to know. They often think it will make them look stupid or gullible because they were a victim.
Actually, a person who has been ripped off is MUCH more likely to be scammed again. The criminals often sell lists of names of people that they successfully scammed.
Nondelivery of purchased item fraud is the #1 reported internet crime at this time in this country.
In North Carolina, the #1 reported internet crime is Identity Theft.
Buying and Selling on the Internet
Internet buying and selling sites are are a great playground for fraudsters. These sites include auction websites, product websites, newspaper classifieds, and many business websites.
Fraud Methods related to Buying and Selling
RED FLAG: The price is too good to be true. Quite often a price that is too low is because the item is counterfeit or stolen. This is called piracy.
In the following example, software that normally ranges in price from hundreds to over a thousand are being sold for under $100.
What should you do if you think you have found a pirated software site?: Send the link to email@example.com
RED FLAG: The seller posts the item as if he/she resides in the United States, but they are in some overseas location.
Be especially afraid if the items on auction are from Romania, for internet auction crimes are this nation's favorite.
The way to tell on this one is to ask the seller where the item is being shipped from before making a bid or a purchase.
Many overseas sellers go to great lengths to hide the fact that they are in Europe or Hong Kong or some other distant land.
In addition to the outright fraud, it can be very frustrating to wait for 2 or 3 weeks for an item that you were expecting in 2 or 3 days.
If the item is not what you were expecting, good luck to you.
RED FLAG: The seller asks you to send the payment to somebody other than the seller
RED FLAG: The seller asks you to pay with funding that cannot be recovered and leave you without legal recourse in the event of fraud. Funds that cannot be recovered include cash, Western Union, MoneyGram, and bank-to-bank transfers. Don't do it.
RED FLAG: The buyer pays you with cashier's checks, money orders, and other printed instruments. These are usually fake, and when they come back, sometimes as long as a year later, you have to cover the funds.
RED FLAG: Buyer that overpays the amount required, and then asks you for a refund of the difference.
RED FLAG: Buyers who ask you to ship using methods that avoid taxes or customs
RED FLAG: Sellers acting as authorized dealers or factory representatives in countries where there would be no such dealers should be avoided.
RED FLAG: Buyers whose credit card addresses do not match the shipping address.
Always receive the card holder's authorization before shipping any products.
Credit Card Fraud
The Internet Crime Complaint Center has received multiple reports alleging foreign subjects are using fraudulent credit cards. The unauthorized use of a credit/debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money or property is considered credit card fraud. Credit/debit card numbers can be stolen from unsecured websites, or can be obtained in an identity theft scheme.
Visit any of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, for more information or to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
There are many schemes that promise high profits for your investment or effort. These profits are often advertised as multi-level marketing or incredible "ground floor" opportunities. These opportunities are often actually pyramid schemes disguised as multi-level marketing programs. Do a lot of investigating before you send anyone any money.
In the Ponzi scheme, early investors are paid returns with the investment money received from the later investors. In the pyramid scheme, you make profit off those that you bring in under you. In either case, te system usually collapses. The later investors do not receive dividends and lose their initial investment.
Debt Elimination Schemes
These are EXTREMELY risky. They advertise that they are a legal way to dispose of mortgage loans and credit card debts. Just send thousands of dollars, all your loan information, and special power of attorney allowing the debt elimination company to enter into transactions regarding the title of your home.
Then. the debt elimination company issues bonds and promissory notes to the lenders that purport to legally satisfy the debts of the participant. In exchange, the participant is then required to pay a certain percentage of the value of the satisfied debts to the subject.
Not only do debt elimination schemes put you at risk of major identity theft, you may also face financial ruin because of it.
Employment and Business Scams
Employment and business opportunity scams abound during these rough economic times. Fake companies, domestic and foreign, are recruiting citizens in the United States. They offer things such as work-at-home employment opportunities or jobs that do not exist.
Some of these fake employment positions often involve reselling or reshipping merchandise to destinations outside the United States. They are actually trying to steal your identity and getting you to pay for reshipping stolen merchandise.
Prospective employees are required to provide personal information, as well as copies of their identification, such as a driver's license, birth certificate, or social security card. Those employees that are "hired" by these companies are then told that their salary will be paid by check from a United States company reported to be a creditor of the employer. This is done under the pretense that the employer does not have any banking set up in the United States.
The amount of the check is significantly more than the employee is owed for salary and expenses, and the employee is instructed to deposit the check into their own account, and then wire the overpayment back to the employer's bank, usually located in Eastern Europe. The checks are later found to be fraudulent, often after the wire transfer has taken place.
In a similar scam, some web-based international companies are advertising for affiliate opportunities, offering individuals the chance to sell high-end electronic items, such as plasma television sets and home theater systems, at significantly reduced prices.
The affiliates are instructed to offer the merchandise on well-known Internet auction sites. The affiliates will accept the payments, and pay the company, typically by means of wire transfer. The company is then supposed to drop-ship the merchandise directly to the buyer, thus eliminating the need for the affiliate to stock or warehouse merchandise. The merchandise never ships, which often prompts the buyers to take legal action against the affiliates, who in essence are victims themselves. Duh!
In addition, visit Escrow.com for security alerts and fraud prevention tips.
Identity theft is when your information is collected to commit theft or fraud. Some identity theft occurs when hackers penetrate organizations that store your personal information.
According to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), "confirmed breaches in the United States in 2009 resulted in 222,477,043 records containing personally identifiable information being exposed to potential identity theft. " ITRC Breach Lists
When you consider this number in light of the current population of the United States, what do you think the chances are that somebody has your personal information and could use it to steal your identity?
Another method of getting your personal information is to trick you into giving it out by sending you fake emails that appear to be coming from banks, financial institutions, government agencies. They will even offer you a job and ask you to fill out an employment application to get your information. Trying to get your information is called Phishing.
The perpetrators often will also display a page that looks just like the page that the business they are pretending to be. The fake web page that looks like the real web page but is a trick to collect your data is called pharming.
Typically, you will believe that you are giving your sensitive personal information to a legitimate business.
Here is an actual email that is an attempt at identity theft:
The general steps for protection are:
Another method of identity theft is accomplished with what is called a keystroke logger or keylogger.
A keylogger tracks everything you type. The virus form of keylogger is commonly used to steal user names, passwords, and intellectual property. They are often hidden in emails, especially greeting cards, or somebody installs a keylogger program with a USB memory stick.
There are even hardware keyloggers--a keyboard that has a secret built-in recorder. It is virtually undetectable--there are no programs involved.
Another method of identity theft is by use of cameras either on the computer or near the computer.To Catch an ID Thief (video--do not click if you have dial-up)
Extortion exists in many forms on the internet. One of the methods involves encrypting files and making them inaccessible until a ransom is paid. If you do not have a backup copy of the things on your computer, you could be in a world of hurt if your files are made inaccessible by an extortionist. Another method is to spy on what you are doing and then threaten to reveal it to others. For example, "Bob, we are going to send your wife a list of the porno sites you have been surfing unless you give us $1000." And still another method is to put up something annoying on your screen until you pay money, such as fake antivirus programs or scareware.
Investment fraud is an offer using false or fraudulent claims to solicit investments or loans, or providing for the purchase, use, or trade of forged or counterfeit securities.
The lottery scheme deals with persons randomly contacting email addresses advising them they have been selected as the winner of an International lottery. The Internet Crime Complaint Center has identified numerous lottery names being used in this scheme.
Here are two actual scam emails that are typical of the lottery scam:
Many financial scammers just love to have somebody else handle their financial transactions so that the money trail does not lead to them.
Unfortunately, many old people are being used for this purpose. When you move money for criminals, you become what is called a money mule.
Being a money mule in the USA can get you 10 years behind bars.
“One and done mules” are those people who get tricked by social engineering schemes to send money. Often times, after sending the money, they realize their error and self-report to law enforcement.
They have specific instructions on where to open bank accounts, what names and addresses to use, and when and where to send money.
On a related note, there is a similar trend in work-at-home schemes on websites. The scammers, usually foreign, post work-at-home job offers on popular Internet employment sites, soliciting for assistance from United States citizens. The subjects allegedly are posting Internet auctions, but cannot receive the proceeds from these auctions directly because his/her location outside the United States makes receiving these funds difficult. The seller asks the United States citizen to act as a third party receiver of funds from victims who have purchased products from the subject via the Internet. The United States citizen, receiving the funds from the victims, then wires the money to the subject.
Nigerian Letter or "419"
Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, the 419 scam combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, email, or fax is received by the potential victim. The communication from individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars, soliciting for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts. Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are out of the country. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationary, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a facsimile number provided in the letter. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim to send money to the author of the letter in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.
These are people that show up at your door claiming to be law enforcement or government agents, but they are not.
Before you open the door:
Better to be safe than sorry.
Right now, there are many identity thieves sending emails or going door to door saying that they are Census workers.Census Scams
The Census Bureau does NOT:
The Census Bureau never:
Social Networking Scams
One very popular social networking scam is to court you romantically, befriend you, or offer you a job. After you have been sucked in, you are asked to receive packages and forward them, often to a foreign country. The scammer will tell you something like his or her country will not allow direct business shipments from the United States. He or She then asks for permission to send recently purchased items to the victim's United States address for subsequent shipment abroad for which the unknown subject explains he/she will cover all shipping expenses. This is called "reshipping."
The goods that the scammer has delivered are stolen, but the reshipper does not generally know this.
Another scam involves hacking into and taking over an individual's social networking website.
The person who stole the account changes the password so that the actual owner can't access the account and then emails all the friends with a tale of woe along the lines of "Help! I'm stranded, Please send me money." So many people fall for this one. They see the name of an actual friend from the friend's actual social networking account, and they never suspect that they are sending money to a stranger.
Quite often, the latest natural disaster is used as the reason for being stranded. For example, "I'm stranded at the London airport because of the ash cloud from the volcano in Iceland, and I don't have enough money left to pay for a room."
Unfortunately, it is so very, very easy to hack into a person's social networking account.
Stock Market Manipulation
Surprise Extras with Freebies or Purchases
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