Fraud Target: Senior Citizens

by Rudolf Faix Saturday, July 11, 2015 5:56 AM

two seniors drinking red wineIf you are age 60 or older- and especially if you are an older woman living alone - you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone. Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins and health care products, and inexpensive vacations.:

  • Senior citizens are most likely to have a "nest egg," to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit - all of which make them attractive to con artists.

  • People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say "no" or just hang up the telephone.

  • Older people are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.

  • When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks - or more likely, months - after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events.

  • Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on. In a country where new cures and vaccinations for old diseases have given hope for a long and fruitful life, it is not so unbelievable that the con artists’ products can do what they claim.

There are warning signs to these scams. If you hear these - or similar - "lines" from a telephone salesperson, just say "no thank you," and hang up the telephone:

  • "You must act now, or the offer won’t be good."

  • "You’ve won a free gift, vacation, or prize." But you have to pay for "postage and handling" or other charges.

  • "You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier." You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.

  • "You don’t need to check out the company with anyone." The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone, including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.

  • "You don’t need any written information about the company or its references."

  • "You can’t afford to miss this high-profit, no-risk offer."

 

It’s very difficult to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the telephone. Before you buy anything by telephone, remember:

  • Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company. Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.

  • Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them. But, unfortunately, beware-not everything written down is true.

  • Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.

  • Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers. Verify the accuracy of these items.

  • Before you give money to a charity or make an investment, find out what percentage of the money is paid in commissions and what percentage actually goes to the charity or investment.

  • Before you send money, ask yourself a simple question. "What guarantee do I really have that this solicitor will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?"

  • Don’t pay in advance for services. Pay services only after they are delivered.

  • Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you. In reality, they are taking your money without leaving any trace of who they are or where they can be reached.

  • Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.

  • Don’t pay for a "free prize." If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.

  • Before you receive your next sales pitch, decide what your limits are-the kinds of financial information you will and won’t give out on the telephone.

  • Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It’s never rude to wait and think about an offer.

  • Never respond to an offer you don’t understand thoroughly.

  • Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.

  • Be aware that your personal information is often brokered to telemarketers through third parties.

  • If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.

  • If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies.

 

Work-At-Home Scams - Job One: Don't Take the Bait

by Rudolf Faix Friday, July 10, 2015 3:13 PM

Announcement; Earn $$$$ without leaving your homeEveryone’s seen them - seductive work-at-home opportunities hyped in flyers tacked to telephone poles, in newspaper classifieds, in your e-mail, and all over the web, promising you hundreds or thousands of dollars a week for "Ads/E-mail Processing", "Craft Assembly", "Data Entry", "Envelope Stuffing", "List with Clients for Sale", "Make Profit Now", "Marketing Kit", "Medical Billing Service", "Typing at Home", etc. And it’s just a phone call or mouse click away…

Might be tempting during these uncertain economic times, but beware of any offers that promise easy money for minimum effort - many are scams that fill the coffers of criminals.

In a nutshell, you find an ad, which tells you that you could turn your computer into a moneymaking machine (giving you the example of someone who already quit their 9-5 job - More details on this can be found in the "Mom Makes $.../ Day Scam"). They lure victims in by using phrases such as "Make an extra buck", "extra holiday money", "Make money online", or "Make money on the Internet", etc.

Here are a few of the most common work-at-home scams

  • Advance-fee
    Starting a home-based business is easy! Just invest a few hundred dollars in inventory, set-up, and training materials, they say. Of course, if and when the materials do come, they are totally worthless…and you’re stuck with the bill.

  • Making a couple of additional bucks doesn't sound any simpler than this:
    Simply pay an in advance, one-time charge (a couple of thousand dollars, maybe) to have somebody fabricate and host a working site highlighting different family unit products available to be purchased, from toothpaste to tissue; every time somebody purchases a thing, you gather a cut of the exchange. You should do nothing more than urge individuals to shop there - the rest (stocking stock, transporting the item) is taken care of for you. On the other hand, more probable, nothing is taken care of, and the criminal offering you the open door is a distant memory with your sincere cash before you've sold one tube of Crest.

  • Driver needed
    This trick, as of late promoted on Craigslist, has numerous varieties. For one situation, a man asks you to chauffer his wife, who is going to your territory. Sufficiently simple, however the installment terms are slightly convoluted. You are informed that you will get a check (or "cash gram") for, say, $2,500 via the post office. You will store the check, then instantly haul out the money - $700 to cover your charge and any subordinate costs, and the rest to be sent back to the trickster. Your bank most likely won't know for a day or two that you have saved a fake check.

  • Counterfeit check-facilitated "mystery shopper"
    You’re sent a hefty check and asked to deposit it into your bank account, then withdraw funds to shop and check out the service of local stores and wire transfer companies. You keep a small amount of the money for your "work", but then, as instructed, mail or wire the rest to your "employer". Sounds good? One problem: the initial check was phony and by the time your bank notifies you, your money is long gone and you’re on the hook for the counterfeit check.

  • The greater part of these telecommute plans guarantee up to a great many dollars for each week for preparing protection claims for specialists who are excessively occupied with, making it impossible to manage the printed material themselves. You'll get startup showcasing materials, programming, an instructional meeting and a "lead" rundown of neighborhood doctors - all for a charge, obviously. Too awful that product costs a considerable measure less, best case scenario Buy, your instructional meetings are put off uncertainly, your leads are vapor and nobody needs your service.

  • This may be the worst one of all
    Customers pay a charge to enroll with the business to get to a pre-screened rundown of "genuine" work-at-home employment postings. The con artist's promotions appear over the span of a "trick free employments at home" online inquiry, and they guarantee a discount to the individuals who neglect to get a vocation. In the wake of sending in installment, casualties are summarily bolted out of their records and never see a solitary opening for work.

  • Pyramid schemes
    You’re hired as a "distributor" and shell out big bucks for promotional materials and product inventories with little value (like get-rich quick pamphlets). You’re promised money for recruiting more distributors, so you talk friends and family into participating. The scheme grows exponentially but then falls apart - the only ones who make a profit are the criminals who started it.

  • Unknowing involvement in criminal activity
    Criminals - often located overseas - sometimes use unwitting victims to advance their operations, steal and launder money, and maintain anonymity. For example, they may "hire" you as a U.S.-based agent to receive and re-ship checks, merchandise, and solicitations to other potential victims…without you realizing it’s all a ruse that leaves no trail back to the crooks.

Add identity theft to the mix. As if these schemes aren’t bad enough, many also lead to identity theft. During the application process, you’re often asked to provide personal information that can be used to steal from your bank account or establish new credit cards in your name.

On the job. A host of law enforcement and regulatory agencies investigate these schemes and track down those responsible. But the most effective weapon against these fraudsters is you not falling for the scams in the first place.

A few tips:

  • Contact the Better Business Bureau to determine the legitimacy of the company.

  • Be suspicious when money is required up front for instructions or products.

  • Don’t provide personal information when first interacting with your prospective employer.

  • Do your own research into legitimate work-at-home opportunities, using the "Work-at-Home Sourcebook" and other resources that may be available at your local library.

  • Ask lots of questions of potential employers - legitimate companies will have answers for you!

  • Keep in mind that every successful business is successful because it has happy customers. Try to find those who worked with the company before, but do not use the "company's" own testimonials. That's where everybody falls, as they believe everything without doing research. There are over 1,000 forums on this topic on the Internet.

And if you think you’ve been the victim of a work-at-home scam, file a complaint at your local authorities.

 

Lottery Scams

by Rudolf Faix Friday, July 10, 2015 2:06 PM

Slot Machines"Congratulations! You’ve won the National Lottery! To claim your prize, just send us cash to pay the taxes in advance."

Sound familiar? It’s a classic Nigerian letter scam - originating in Spain - that bilks thousands of people around the world out of an estimated $24 million a year and opens the door to future identity theft.

How does the scam work? The names and addresses of targets - all outside of the named country - are collected through the Internet. Then you, the target, get a letter from the National Lottery claiming you’ve won about a few hundred thousand dollars in a special promotional lottery. An estimated six million letters are sent a year. The letters look legitimate, complete with official logos and contact information. They also include a form from the bank where the money is supposedly being held. You might even receive follow-up faxes and phone calls.

Then the hook: all you have to do is pay taxes from the country - between 0.5 percent and 2 percent of the winnings - to get the money. Just fax your completed claim forms with personal and banking information and wire the money within a couple of days. If you take the bait, chances are you’ll be asked to cover other expenses, too.

The Spanish National Police (SNP) has relentlessly pursued criminals in their country who has behind such a scheme. In July last year, they launched a massive crackdown that resulted in 300 arrests, 150 searches, and the seizures of nearly 2,000 cell phones, hundreds of computers and fax machines, plenty of fake documents, and $265,000 in cash.

This is truly a 21st century concept of policing: working internationally to protect you in your community.

You cannot win money or a prize in a lottery unless you have entered it yourself, or someone else has entered it on your behalf. You cannot be chosen as a random winner if you don’t have an entry.

Many lottery scams try to trick you into providing your banking and personal details to claim your prize.

You should not have to pay any fee or tax to claim a legitimate prize. Don’t be fooled by claims that the offer is legal or has government approval - many scammers will tell you this. Instead of receiving a grand prize or fortune, you will lose every cent that you send to a scammer. And if you have provided other personal details, your identity could be misused too.

A fake prize scam will tell you that you have won a prize or a contest. You may receive a phone call, an email, a text message or see a pop-up screen on your computer. There are often costs involved with claiming your prize, and even if you do receive a prize, it may not be what was promised to you.

The scammers make their money by making you pay fees or taxes, call their premium rate phone numbers or send premium text messages to claim your prize. These premium rate calls can be very expensive, and the scammers will try to keep you on the line for a long time or ask you to call a different premium rate number.

Avoid from getting scammed by these and similar frauds? Here’s an good advice:

  • NEVER give personal information over the telephone, mail, or Internet unless you initiated the contact.
  • Do NOT wire money to strangers.
  • NEVER send money to collect a prize if a fee is required.
  • If you think you’re being targeted, contact your local authorities.

 

Prime Bank Note Fraud

by Rudolf Faix Friday, July 10, 2015 8:34 AM

Old Bank GuaranteeInternational fraud artists have invented an investment scheme that supposedly offers extremely high yields in a relatively short period of time. In this scheme, they claim to have access to "bank guarantees" that they can buy at a discount and sell at a premium. By reselling the "bank guarantees" several times, they claim to be able to produce exceptional returns on investment. For example, if $10 million worth of "bank guarantees" can be sold at a two percent profit on 10 separate occasions - or "traunches" - the seller would receive a 20 percent profit. Such a scheme is often referred to as a "roll program".

To make their schemes more enticing, con artists often refer to the "guarantees" as being issued by the world’s "prime banks", hence the term "prime bank guarantees". Other official sounding terms are also used, such as "prime bank notes" and "prime bank debentures". Legal documents associated with such schemes often require the victim to enter into non-disclosure and non-circumvention agreements, offer returns on investment in "a year and a day" and claim to use forms required by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). In fact, the ICC has issued a warning to all potential investors that no such investments exist.

The purpose of these frauds is generally to encourage the victim to send money to a foreign bank, where it is eventually transferred to an off-shore account in the control of the con artist. From there, the victim’s money is used for the perpetrator’s personal expenses or is laundered in an effort to make it disappear.

While foreign banks use instruments called "bank guarantees" in the same manner that U.S. banks use letters of credit to insure payment for goods in international trade, such bank guarantees are never traded or sold on any kind of market.

Tips for Avoiding Prime Bank Note Fraud:

  • Think before you invest in anything. Be wary of an investment in any scheme, referred to as a “roll program”, that offers unusually high yields by buying and selling anything issued by "prime banks".

  • As with any investment, perform due diligence. Independently verify the identity of the people involved, the veracity of the deal and the existence of the security in which you plan to invest.

  • Be wary of business deals that require non-disclosure or non-circumvention agreements that are designed to prevent you from independently verifying information about the investment.

 

Identity Theft

by Rudolf Faix Thursday, July 9, 2015 4:08 PM

Comic Identity TheftIdentity theft occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform a fraud or other criminal act. Criminals can get the information they need to assume your identity from a variety of sources, including by stealing your wallet, rifling through your trash, or by compromising your credit or bank information. They may approach you in person, by telephone, or on the Internet and ask you for the information.

Identity fraud can be described as the use of that stolen identity in criminal activity to obtain goods or services by deception.

Fraudsters can use your identity details to: 

  • Open bank accounts.
  • Obtain credit cards, loans and state benefits.
  • Order goods in your name.
  • Take over your existing accounts.
  • Take out mobile phone contracts.
  • Obtain genuine documents such as passports and driving licences in your name.
  • Stealing an individual’s identity details does not, on its own, constitute identity fraud. But using that identity for any of the above activities does. 

The first you know of it may be when you receive bills or invoices for things you haven’t ordered, or when you receive letters from debt collectors for debts that aren’t yours.

The sources of information about you are so numerous that you cannot prevent the theft of your identity. But you can minimize your risk of loss by following a few simple hints.

Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft:

  • Never throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements in a usable form.

  • Never give your credit card number over the telephone unless you make the call.

  • If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call from what appears to be your bank or building society asking for your security details, never reveal your full password, login details or account numbers. Be aware that a bank will never ask for your PIN or for a whole security number or password.

  • Reconcile your bank account monthly, and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.

  • If you’re expecting a bank or credit card statement and it doesn’t arrive, tell your bank or credit card company.

  • Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.

  • Report unauthorized financial transactions to your bank, credit card company, and the police as soon as you detect them.

  • If you move house, ask your mail service to redirect your post for at least a year.

  • Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries and follow through until they are explained or removed.

  • If your identity has been assumed, ask the credit bureau to print a statement to that effect in your credit report.

  • If you know of anyone who receives mail from credit card companies or banks in the names of others, report it to local or federal law enforcement authorities.

 

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I'm since more then 35 years in the computer business (programming and technical support) and using the Internet since it has started. Since 2002 I'm programming solutions for Asterisk and since 2004 I'm in the call center industry.

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