THDP29 Online Scams

scamsThis podcast was first published as a .wav file as opposed to the .mp3 file it should have been.  We apologize for this programming mistake.  We have corrected the mistake and this podcast is now a .mp3 file.

Huge announcement!!

I am happy to tell you that we are going to celebrate National Podcast Day on September 30th by having a live Google+ Hangout.  You can get to our Google+ pages by clicking here.  It’s going to be Ed, myself, a special guest (I hope) Sean Smith who is currently on contract supporting one of the largest school districts in the country  I intend to open the hangout to the public and anyone who wishes can take part.  Subjects covered will be 1.) Podcasting, 2.) Microsoft Windows 9, 3.) Comcast and Time Warner buyout and anything else you may want to talk about.

You can get to our show notes by clicking on this link.

Hi everybody and welcome back.  This is going to be a quick episode because I wanted to get the scam info out (I frankly have dropped it down the priority list long enough) and because I also wanted to get the news out on how we at The Help Desk are going to celebrate September 30th….National Podcast day.  The thing is…..what do we cover first???????  Hmmmmmmmm

Ok, Internet Scams……there are a whole pile of web sites that can keep you appraised of current scams, what they are, how to avoid them and such….  Here is a partial list of sites that I could find quick and easy while researching this podcast:

CNET reminds us that the crooks are still using the fake Netflix/Microsoft scam.  The Netflix scam starts with a bogus email telling you your account has been suspended and tells you to call a toll free number to arrange to regain access to the service.  In both scams it can cost you up to $400 to “make this problem go away.”  On top of that…guess what…your personal information has been stolen too.

The Microsoft scam starts with maybe an email or maybe a pop-up box telling you something serious is wrong with your computer and you should either click on a supplied link or call a toll free number.  I have even heard of some people locally getting a phone call from a Microsoft representative.

Ok, number one:  neither of these organizations are going to have you call a toll free number for any reason.  Technical support especially.  My method of dealing with things like that is if anyone calls me or emails me first I end the communication immediately and then call back the company involved at a phone number I independently get online after a Google search.

Never, never, never follow a link in your email from anyone.  If it is a close relative or good friend especially.  Call them if you are curious and make sure they really sent it.  I never click on any link in an email no matter who it is from.  I have no curiosity about it no matter who sent it to me.  If it is a good friend or relative and it is important enough they will call me about it. shares this with us:  Fake check schemes.  The communication always says the same thing:  you’ve won millions or you have been offered a job as a mystery shopper.  All you have to do in order to claim your booty is send some money somewhere and your winnings will start to flow.  Yeah, right. spells it out here:

  1. If someone gives you a check or money order and asks you to send money somewhere, it’s a scam.
  2. Crooks often use well known company names to try to trick you. As I said before, look for the company info independently.
  3. Your bank or credit union cannot always tell if a check you deposit is good or not. They give you the cash and a couple of weeks later, it turns out bad.  You are stuck and the crook has your money.
  4. When a check you deposit bounces you are responsible to pay it back. This is so because you should know when you accept the check whether it is from a trustworthy source or not.
  5. If the crook wants you to send money via a money transfer, it is like sending cash. Once you send it is gone.  You can’t stop payment.

Want to learn more? Go to to read CFA’s Don’t Become a Target brochure, watch the funny videos about sweepstakes/lottery and work-at-home fake check scams, and check out the other materials on the Web site. Visit NCL’s, where you can take a quiz to see how well you can spot this fraud, send an ecard to warn other people, and find information to help you and people you care about avoid losing money to fake check scams.

The Minnesota State Attorney General lists the top 5 consumer scams:

  1. Foreign Lotteries: The Foreign Lottery Scam is initiated by a call, letter, email, or fax claiming that the consumer has won a prize in a foreign lottery or contest. The fraudulent operator typically requests that the victim disclose their banking information for a “deposit” but instead drains the account through unauthorized withdrawals.
  1. Advance fee fraud: Advance Fee Fraud is a long-running scam whereby an unscrupulous actor convinces a consumer to send payment or an “advance fee” in exchange for a line of credit.
  1. Fake check scams: we have already covered this.
  1. Foreign advance fee fraud: In this variation of the Advance Fee Fraud, the target of the scam receives a letter, email, or fax from someone claiming to represent a foreign government entity, attorney, or relative of a foreign dignitary requesting “help.”  In the latest twist of this scam, the fraudster poses as an American soldier trying to wire money out of Iraq.
  1. Phishing: Phishing begins with a call, letter, email, or fax purporting to come from the victim’s financial institution or another company that the consumer does business with. The correspondence typically requests that the consumer disclose or “verify” their private financial information. Often the correspondence includes an official looking logo, and asks the consumer to contact a “secure” telephone line or Internet site.

We are going to pause for a little break here.  We will start back up again with more great information concerning the online fraud that had better scare us all into being more careful out there.

Finally, let’s talk about Social Security fraud.  This information I get from KrebsonSecurity because (He says) if you receive direct deposits from the Social Security Administration but haven’t yet registered at the agency’s new online account management portal, now would be a good time take care of that: The SSA and financial institutions say they are tracking a rise in cases wherein identity thieves register an account at the SSA’s portal using a retiree’s personal information and have that retiree’s benefits diverted to prepaid debit cards that the crooks control.

Traditional SSA fraud involves identity thieves tricking the beneficiary’s bank into diverting the payments to another account, either through Social Security’s 800 number or through a financial institution, or through Treasury’s Direct Express program. The newer version of this fraud involves the abuse of the SSA’s my Social Security Web portal, which opened this last year and allows individuals to create online accounts with the SSA to check their earnings and otherwise interact with the agency relative to their accounts.

Earlier this year the SSA required all check recipients to take delivery of their payments with a direct deposit account.  The deal is that the crooks aren’t using the traditional method to steal your Social Security check anymore.  They instead, are using the new portal system to create a “my Social Security account” in your name before you do and therefore start receiving your checks.  The SSA only allows one “my Social Security account” per social security number so registering an account in your name will insure nobody will be able to open a fraudulent account in your name.

The SSA is quick to point out that their systems have not been compromised.  This is an identity theft scheme that tries to divert your payments into an account opened by the crooks (usually a debit card account).

So what does this mean to you or your loved ones?

  1. Be aware of the problem. Now, I know there are many retired folks who do not have a computer and want nothing to do with the Internet. So they are not going to want to set up a “my Social Security account”.  Help them.  Especially your parents and relatives.  Help them create an account thus assuring the crooks won’t be able to.  Will that keep their money safe from all fraud?  No but it will close that door.
  2. Many banks are now starting to refuse to help their retired account holders set up these accounts. Why?  Because of all the fraud.  The crooks steal your identity and so they have some pretty convincing information to back up their claimed identity.  The banks don’t want to be caught in the middle.  Solution:  have your retired person go to the nearest SS office.  They can help them there.
  3. Banks will usually alert their customers if the beneficiary account for the SS payments is changed. But apparently they are sent ou via snail mail and are sometimes overlooked by the account holder.
  4. Ya know, you can use all the tricks in the books to keep their accounts safe but you still must (as always) be sure your computer and network are safe. Otherwise all the preparation in the world won’t help. Just a thought here…..if you must use a computer that you cannot verify the safety of (in other words one you are not familiar with) you can help them set up an account by using a Live CD.

CNET supplies the following information:  If you recognize a scam attempt or believe you’re the victim of online scammers, you can file a complaint with the FTC if you’re a US resident, or with if you live elsewhere. You can reach the FTC’s complaint department at the toll-free number 1877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). Your complaint will be added to the agency’s Consumer Sentinel Network, which is accessed by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies for their investigations.

You can also file your complaint with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which features an FAQ on the complaint-filing process. The National Association of Attorneys General provides links to and contact information for all 50 state attorneys general.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *