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Entries in Scams (12)

Tuesday
Feb052013

Scammers Hacking Victims' Computers by Calling on the Phone

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Con artists are using old-fashioned technology to gain access to consumers' newfangled technology.

Here's how it works: A crook calls you on the phone, poses as a technician from a big company like Microsoft, and claims he's detected a virus on your computer.  The crook then asks for access to your computer in order to "help" you.

From there, the scheme can devolve into several different money-making ploys, according to the Federal Trade Commission.  The con artist may:

  • Ask for remote access to your computer and then change your settings in a way that makes your computer -- or the information on it -- vulnerable.
  • Enroll you in an expensive -- but worthless -- computer security, maintenance or warranty program.
  • Trick you into installing malware that then snags your private information, like passwords or financial details.
  • Ask for your credit card information and steal it or use it to bill you for fake services or services that are readily available for free.

As ABC News' consumer correspondent Elisabeth Leamy points out, this is where her oldest and best advice -- "be the hunter, not the hunted" -- comes into play.  In other words, learn to be skeptical of any stranger who comes at you claiming urgency and demanding money.

Instead, take the time to do your own search, says Leamy.  Find a published help line number for your hardware or software manufacturer or Internet service provider and dial it yourself.  Don't rely on any phone number or website the caller provides, as it may be a fake.

And be careful where you look up the contact information you need, Leamy advises.  A large company's home page is a good place to start.  An online ad is not so reliable, because the FTC says con artists have begun boldly placing ads containing false information in order to build an aura of realism around themselves.

If you have already fallen victim to one of these schemes, follow these steps:

  • Use legitimate security software to run a scan and see if there is malware or virus activity on your computer.
  • If you gave the caller any passwords, change them for the account in question and any other accounts for which you use the same passwords.
  • If the caller charged bogus services to your credit card, call the card company and insist that those charges be reversed.
  • If you think personal financial information may have been stolen, order your free credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com, created by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and check for suspicious activity.
  • If you verify that you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission has an entire website to guide you through fighting back, and you can find it by clicking here.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec192012

Connecticut Shooting: Scammers Trying To Profit from Sandy Hook Tragedy

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Scammers may be looking to cash in on the public's generosity following the Sandy Hook massacre, the Better Business Bureau warned.

"It is a challenge to be on guard because public sympathy and emotions are running high," said Bennett Weiner, chief operating officer of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a group that helps charitable donors make informed decisions.

Weiner said it's difficult for scams to be detected in the first week following every national tragedy, however he suspects unscrupulous people are already out there, eager to cash in on the massacre.

How to Help Newtown Families:

False websites or phone calls soliciting help for the victims' families are two of the easiest and most common scams Weiner said he sees.

"They're hard to identify because people don't know they've been taken and they're not going to know until down the road," he said.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, countless Facebook pages for the victims, listings on crowdfunding sites and community drives have been established to solicit donations.

While many of them may be legitimate, Weiner warns people to do their research.

"You really have to be watching out for newly created things. There may be some well-intended effort, but you have no way to look at their track record," he said. "I can tell you from experience there are some cautions associated with it."

Any fundraising effort that makes vague statements, such as "we're going to help the victims and families," is another red flag to watch out for, Weiner said.

Whether it's fundraising for the Aurora theater victims or a local terminally ill child, Weiner said the BBB sees these kinds of scams "time and time again" and actively investigates them.

"It is a challenge to be on guard after a tragedy," he said. "But you shouldn't give to any organization without checking them out first."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec182012

Pie-Makers, Scammers Line Up to Aid Newtown, Connecticut

The World Needs More Pie/Facebook(NEW YORK) -- Even as Americans by the thousands are reaching out to help survivors of Newtown, Conn.'s, mass shooting, a few malefactors appear to be perpetrating scams to try to profit from it.

Gestures of support include credit card donations to a special website created by the United Way of Western Connecticut, which went live Friday night.  Since then, Executive Vice President Isabel Almeida tells ABC News, online contributions have totaled more than $795,000.  The Newtown Savings Bank says it has collected another $55,000 in the form of checks.

Other gestures have been highly personal.

Pie-maker Beth Howard of Eldon, Iowa, announced Friday on her website that she was loading up her RV with baking supplies and heading east.  Her plan: to spend a week in Newtown, baking pies and giving them away to anyone who wants one.

Reached by ABC News in Flanders, N.J., which she is using as a staging area, Howard says she expects to arrive in Newton on Wednesday, after having filled her pie-bunkers to the brim.  She intends by the weekend to have given away 750.  

The United Way reports that other highly personal donations have included grief counseling itself -- offered by doctors and other professionals, some of whom have been able to bring with them trained therapy dogs.  United Way Director David Deschenes says the dogs are proving to be an enormous comfort to affected children.

"They're really good for the kids," says Deschenes of the dogs.  "Something soft and warm and friendly to hang onto."

Other offers of help have come from overseas -- from as far as Portugal and as close as Canada.

Back in the states, a lady in Upland, Calif., called to tell Deschenes she had instructed all her friends not to get her any gifts this Christmas, but instead to give her money so she could donate to Newton relief.  

And, according to The New York Times, an unidentified North Carolina donor, when he learned the Newton firehouse was raising money by selling Christmas trees, bought 26 -- one for each of the children and adults killed.

While the Red Cross, United Way and other high profile charities are happy to be contacted, Almeida says anyone who wants to help should start by calling the phone number for Connecticut's social services hotline, whose staff are serving as a clearing house for matching good intentions with established needs.  People within Connecticut should call 211.  Persons outside should call 800-203-1234.

As for the possible malefactors: Website NotB4coffee.com reports that no sooner were the names of the first victims released, than Facebook and other web pages in their names began appearing, some soliciting donations.

Shea Wong, a columnist for the website Technorati, speculates that some fraction of these are illegit.  She says that even fraudulent sites that do not request donations can make money for their creators other ways: Simply by attracting clicks and Likes, a site can make its re-sale value climb, so that when the perpetrator eventually sells it, flipping it to someone else, he does so at a profit.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Dec062012

Top Five Holiday Scams to Watch Out For

Ryan McVay/Thoinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the holidays approach, many scam artists will be ramping up efforts to tap into your wallet.  

To better prepare consumers, the Better Business Bureau has created a list of the top five scams to be on the lookout for, along with some advice on how to avoid them.

"This is where we see the scams and con artists will take advantage of the giving spirit," said Carrie Hurt, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau.

1. Puppy Scams

What better holiday gift for your family than a new puppy under the tree?  The Internet is loaded with pictures of adorable puppies from "breeders" who are more than happy to arrange to ship your new best friend just in time for Christmas.  You wire them the money for the puppy and the airfare, they send you the flight information and you wait at the airport.  But there's no puppy, no one returns your calls and your money is gone.

2. Relationship Scams

Your grandson calls from Mexico to say he's been arrested while traveling and needs bail money wired to him.  Or you get an email from your best friend saying she was mugged traveling in Europe and needs money to pay her hotel bill.  Or you meet someone online and develop a long-distance romance, then he asks you for money or asks you to pick up a wire transfer for him.  All these relationship scams have two things in common: The scam artist gets close to you by pretending to be someone he or she's not, and they ask you to wire money, which is nearly impossible to recover.

3. Counterfeit Goods

Whether from a city street vendor, a deceptive website or the trunk of an acquaintance's car, it's pretty easy to pass off counterfeit goods, especially to those who can't resist a supposedly great deal.  Counterfeit goods are usually shoddy and poorly made.  In the case of electronics, they may not work for long, or at all.  And not only are you getting ripped off, you are stealing the intellectual property of the person or company that designed the real thing.

4. Gift Card Scam

If you get an email, text message or social media post saying you've won a gift card to Target, Walmart, Best Buy or another popular retailer, just hit the delete button.  Those contests are nothing more than scams to get you to reveal personal information -- information that can be used to steal your identity and drain your bank account.  Never share identifying information with someone who contacts you first.

5. Charity Scams

Charities are busy in December; that's when they raise a huge percentage of their funds from those who celebrate the season by sharing with those less fortunate and from those looking for one last tax deduction before the end of the year.  Be on the lookout for phony charities that sound and look like the real thing.  Websites are easy to fake and might even include real photos and heartwarming stories.  Don't reply directly to a solicitation you receive via email or social media; it could be a scam to get your bank or credit card information.  Go to give.org to check out the charity first.

"It's so important for consumers to do their homework on the front end," Hurt said.  "Make sure you're doing business with a legitimate company.  Make sure that the individual you're dealing with is reputable."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar262012

Outsmarting the Con Artists: Top 5 Ways to Avoid Scams

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Tom Arnold was a smooth talker.  In six years, he made $3 million in commissions selling supposedly rare and gold coins.  Arnold worked for a company called All American Coins, cold-calling potential investors and roping them in on the phone.

Arnold, who is awaiting sentencing on fraud charges, told former investigator Doug Shadel, "What you have to do is keep telling them that the coins went up no matter what's going on in the world.  Whether oil is doing good or oil is doing bad -- anything that is going on with the economy -- if there's a new president, the coins went up.  If it was snowing, the coins went up."

Shadel, who is now the Washington state director for AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), interviewed Arnold and other con men for a new book called Outsmarting the Scam Artists. How to Protect Yourself from the Most Clever Cons

Every con man has the same basic technique, Shadel told ABC News: "Their goal is to get you into a heightened emotional state."

Shadel says the scammers call it "the ether," a reference to the inhaled anesthetic sometimes used to knock out patients before surgery.  When con artists get you into the "ether," the rational mind goes out the window and the emotional mind takes over.

"If anyone spent five seconds thinking logically about any of these offers, they would never do it," he said.

So, Shadel warns, if someone is trying to pitch you on a deal, and your "heart is palpitating, you have sweat on your palms, you can't think of anything but this offer," you're in the "ether" and you need to slow down.

"I think the number one piece of advice," he says, "is never decide to buy something at the time you hear a sales pitch.  There's no deal out there that can't wait 24 hours."  Shadel says that allows you time to get out from under the "ether" and do due diligence.

So what should you do the next time a persuasive-sounding sales person calls you with a deal of a lifetime?  Shadel has five key pieces of advice to avoid being swindled:

-- First, as noted earlier, don't make financial decisions "under the either."

-- Second, learn to spot persuasion tactics.  Some of those used by con artists include promises that this deal will make you rich, and assurances that what you're about to buy is so scarce you have to purchase it up immediately.  Shadel says another common tactic is to promise there's a wealthy investor waiting in the wings to snap up your purchases at a big mark-up.

-- Next, Shadel advises, "Develop a refusal script."  He says many potential investors have trouble hanging up because they don't want to be rude to the salesman on the other end of the phone.  Memorize and practice a simple line to allow you to hang up quickly.

-- Fourth, before you buy, check to see if the company is registered with the state or federal governments.

-- Finally, beware if you're under financial stress at home or on the job.  You are more likely to jump at the chance to make a quick buck.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Copyright

Wednesday
Nov232011

Fake Food Stamp Websites Prey on Poor

Photodisc/Thinkstock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- In a new twist on Internet scams, federal officials say people desperate for government assistance are being taken in by food stamp sites that promise to get them benefits.

Phony websites complete with data, current food stamp news, and information submission pages have been flagged by the Florida Department of Children and Families and the U.S Department of Agriculture.

Joe Follick, communications director for the Florida Department of Children and Families, tells ABC News the scam was first brought to their attention last year when an applicant said they stumbled across a website that allegedly required a fee in exchange for information on applying for food stamp benefits, now known as the national SNAP program – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Soon after some dozen websites including getfoodstampsnow.org, govbenefitsonline.org, and foodstampsnetwork.net as well as many pop up ads tied to Google searches with phrases such as "Florida food stamps" were discovered. The Florida Department of Children and Families along with the U.S Department of Agriculture oversees and funds the national food stamp program – SNAP. Both government agencies contacted the Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General's Office and alerted them about these sites.

With over 45 million Americans depending on government food aid from SNAP, the Florida Department of Children and Families says the only way to apply for these benefits is directly through their state's department website or through local government assistance agencies. It's the same procedure in all 50 states.

Florida currently has over 3.2 million residents receiving food stamps -- that's 1 in 6 Floridians. The rate of increase has slowed but there has been an increase since last year nonetheless.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center which works in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White collar Crime Center has not received complaints of such food stamp websites, but they urge people to go to their website and be clear and thorough when providing information so that the FBI can establish trends and provide public awareness guidance on scam alerts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct202011

Former Beauty Queen Scammed Thousands, Says FTC

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A former beauty queen was part of an operation that allegedly duped half a million people into spending almost $30 million in a pair of fraudulent schemes, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

One scam lured people to pay for help in getting free government grants and another involved misleading claims about weight loss supplements, the FTC claims in a complaint.

Juliette Kimoto, 2006 Mrs. Nevada, owned four companies that offered a “bogus government grants service” and dietary supplements that made false claims about endorsements by Oprah Winfrey and scientific research, the FTC said this week. The FTC reached a settlement with Kimoto and another individual involved in the scheme. The settlement was first reported by Daily Finance.

Kimoto seemed to have a picture-perfect life. A mother of six, she had married her high school sweetheart who was named “Husband of the Year” in the same pageant where she won her title. She said she was actively involved in her Mormon church, according to the Las Vegas Sun.

Her husband, Kyle Kimoto, is serving a federal prison sentence of 29 years, ordered by an Illinois federal judge in September 2008. His telemarketing scam, which is separate from the FTC’s claims about his wife, made over 12 million phone calls to consumers with weak credit histories to sign up for a bogus credit card. Authorities said he victimized over 300,000 people out of $43 million. He was ordered to pay restitution of about $35 million. The FTC said litigation is continuing against him.

His wife hatched her separate scheme while he was undergoing his criminal trial, according to the FTC.

According to memos from the FTC, consumer injury exceeded $29.7 million. The credit line scam impacted over 500,000 consumers and the grant scam victimized over 50,000 people.

As part of a settlement with the FTC, Juliette Kimoto is banned from selling grant-related products or services, credit-related products, or work-at-home business opportunities, and taking consumer payments by pre-authorized electronic funds transfer, among other activities.

The FTC is also banning Kimoto’s companies from making “misleading health claims” related to dietary supplements. She is also required to pay more than $90,000 and to turn over various personal assets worth over $220,000. Those assets include “jewelry, a piano, and a 1967 Chevy Camaro, along with all the cash and other assets” owned by her companies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug162011

Unclaimed Money? Five Signs You're Being Scammed

Ian Waldie/Getty Images(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) -- A new scam has surfaced that uses the promise of finding unclaimed money to lure would-be victims.

The scam arrives in email form, with a message telling people they have "millions of dollars" in unclaimed property waiting, according to West Virginia state treasurer John Perdue. The fraudulent message purports to come from Jeff Smith of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, but it's a fraud. NAUPA is a real organization of unclaimed property chiefs from around the country, but it does not have control over any actual money -- much less the authority to dole it out to people.

"My office has worked diligently over the years to return unclaimed funds to rightful owners. It is very disturbing to know scam artists are trying to exploit our hard work and take advantage of those people who trust the state to return their money," said Perdue.

Officials in Nevada, Maryland, Louisiana, and Ohio have also heard from citizens who received the false email. The crooks make their money by tricking people into calling an overseas toll telephone number to retrieve their supposed funds, then using various schemes to keep them on the line as long as possible.

Mary Pitman, a staunch advocate of searching for missing money on your own and author of "The Little Book of Missing Money," offers these five signs that somebody contacting you about unclaimed money is illegitimate:

  1. It comes as an email. State unclaimed property offices do not use email to contact you. They simply don't have that information. It's too hard to verify that the email is truly yours.
  2. It claims to be from the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. NAUPA is an organization that unclaimed property administrators belong to. NAUPA does not do anything with reuniting people with their missing money.
  3. You get referred to someone else. State treasurers and comptrollers normally oversee unclaimed money and property. The work is never outsourced.
  4. You're asked for your bank account information. You may have to supply personal information such as your social security number to make a legitimate unclaimed money claim, but you will NEVER be asked your bank account information.
  5. There is a fee to file the claim. State governments do not charge money for searching their database of unclaimed accounts or for making a claim.


Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May182011

Beware of 'Get Rich Quick' Investment Scams

Ciaran Griffin/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Many companies prey on consumers, promising them a means to make money fast.  But as a scam involving a telemarketing firm shows, people need to be aware of these "get rich quick" investment schemes.

The Federal Trade Commission says many people were duped by a firm called American Precious Metals, which deals with gold, silver, and other precious metals.

Dama Brown, an attorney for the FTC, says the firm was "calling up consumers, generally cold calling consumers and promising them very high profits with very low risk in these leveraged precious metals transactions."

The firm, which has since been court ordered to shut down, ran its leveraged schemes by using borrowed money, putting consumers at great risk.

"Consumers have been induced to borrow money against their homes, take money out of their IRA accounts, borrow money from home equity lines, life insurance policies," says Brown.

She advises consumers to get on a "Do Not Call" list to cut their risk of being targeted.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Risk for Cyber Scams Up with Osama Bin Laden's Death

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The death of Osama bin Laden may not just mean an increased risk of terror attacks across the country, but the possibility of more cyber scams on the Web.

Following the news that bin Laden had been killed and buried at sea, computer researchers said cyber scammers were quick to set online traps for people searching for and sharing information about the terrorist leader.

In the day following the big news, Kurt Baumgartner, a senior security researcher for Kaspersky Labs, a security firm, said cybercriminals started using top search results related to bin Laden in Google Images to redirect people to pages filled with malware.

Baumgartner said if they searched for "Osama bin Laden" in Google Images, one of the highest results on the page could have taken them to a malicious website ready to infect their computers. Some poisonous pages try to convince users that their computer is already infected with a virus, and then prompt them to pay for and download fake anti-virus software.

Facebook users looking to share links and "like" stories and video face a different kind of risk.

Ads on the social network may promote offers celebrating bin Laden's death -- such as those for free tickets or free sandwiches -- but by clicking on the ads, users are just redirected to scam-filled pages that prompt them to turn over personal information, Baumgartner said.

As they "like" the ads or click on the fake links, they give online criminals a way to reach their Facebook contacts and spread the scam to their friends. They also help the crooks collect email addresses or other valuable information.

Security researchers at Sophos Labs said a "death video" scam related to bin Laden was spreading virally on Facebook. Messages leading to the video link claim there is banned video of bin Laden's final hours. But by "liking" and sharing the link (which doesn't actually point to video at all) Facebook users give cyber criminals access to their contacts while helping them collect money (Sophos says they get paid per click).

"People should understand on Facebook that when there are these great offers, usually the offers are too good to be true," Baumgartner said. "And just because something has been posted on a friend's wall it doesn't mean it's from them." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio