TRIAD Of Rockland County

Reducing Crimes Against Seniors

To contact us:  Email us at info@rocklandcountytriad.org  or call us at (845) 638-5582

Frauds, Scams & Flimflams

WARNING!!!
MEDICARE PART –D- DRUG PLAN SCAM

Seniors enrolling in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan are warned not to give out their Social Security, bank account or Medicare numbers over the phone or via email. Medicare officials warn of a new phone and email scam called the “$299 Ring”, which is the typical amount of money Medicare beneficiaries are talked into withdrawing from their checking accounts to pay for a nonexistent prescription drug plan. The bogus callers will tell the senior victim that they can cover them with a drug plan at a modest cost. The victim is then requested to provide their bank account number, so money can be withdrawn from their account to pay for the plan. The first contact from these con operators may come to you either by telephone or email. This scam is currently being investigated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. CMS advises that legitimate Medicare drug plans are not permitted to ask for bank account or other personal information over the telephone. In addition, legitimate plans will not ask for payment over the phone or the Internet. They must bill the beneficiary for the monthly premium. If you’ve been contacted, we suggest you call 1-800-MEDICARE and report the incident to their fraud unit.

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ALERT – SCAM E-MAIL

A Rockland County senior citizen has contacted TRIAD, reporting that she recently received an email that was purported to be sent to her by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The email advised the senior that she was in violation of the U.S. Patriot Act and requested that she fill out and return a form that accompanied the email. The form requested personal information – specifically…. the name of her bank, bank account number and Social Security Number. This email warned the senior, that if she failed to provide the requested information, all of her FDIC insurance coverages would be canceled.

TRIAD’s investigation reveals that the FDIC Consumer Call Centers in Kansas City, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. have received a large number of complaints by consumers who received an email that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. The email informs the recipient that Department of Homeland Security reported on the recipient's bank account, due to suspected violations of the USA PATRIOT Act. The email further indicates that deposit insurance will be suspended until personal identity, including bank account information, can be verified.

This email was not sent by the FDIC and is a fraudulent attempt to obtain personal information from consumers. Consumers should NOT access the link provided within
the body of the email and should NOT under any circumstances provide any personal
information through this media.

The FDIC is attempting to identify the source of the emails and disrupt the transmission. Until this is achieved, consumers are asked to report any similar attempts to obtain this information to the FDIC by sending information alert@fdic.gov.

For your reference, FDIC Special Alerts may be accessed from the FDIC's Web site.

LOSS CONTROL RECOMMENDATIONS:

• Consumers should NOT access the link provided within the body of the email.

• Consumers should NOT under any circumstances provide any personal information through this media.

• If a consumer did respond to the email with personal information, he or she may become an identity theft victim. The member should do the following:

1. Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. The fraud alert requests creditors to contact the member before opening any new accounts or making any changes to his/her existing accounts. As soon as the credit bureau confirms the consumer’s fraud alert, the other two credit bureaus will be automatically notified to place fraud
alerts, and all three credit reports will be sent to the victim free of charge.

2. Close the accounts that are known or believed have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

3. Use an ID Theft Affidavit when disputing new unauthorized accounts.

4. File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC maintains a database of identity theft cases used by law enforcement agencies for investigations. The FTC also maintains a toll-free number for reporting. Please
call 1-877-438-4338.

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“LOTTO LATINO”

HA HABIDO UN CRECIMIENTO DE ESTE JUEGO DE CONFIANZA EN EL CONDADO DE ROCKLAND COUNTY Y NUESTRO CONDADO VECINO DE WESTCHESTER. EN VISTA DE ESTO, QUISIERAMOS PROVEERLE A USTED UNA OPINION CAPSULAR DE COMO SE JUEGA ESTE JUEGO.

VICTIMAS EN ESTOS CASOS SON NORMALMENTE HISPANOS Y LOS SOSPECHOSOS SON HISPANOS MASCULINOS Y FEMENINOS. ESTOS OPERADORES DE CONFIANZA CAMINAN LAS CALLES Y ESTACIONAMIENTOS EN VECINDADES DONDE LA POBLACION ES HISPANA, BUSCANDO VICTIMAS PARA CAZAR. LOS SOSPECHOSOS NORMALMENTE SOLAMENTE HABLAN ESPANOL MIENTRAS QUE JUEGAN ESTA OFENSA. TIPICAMENTE, LOS ARTISTAS DE CONFIANZA TRABAJAN EN PARES MIENTRAS APUNTAN A LAS VICTIMAS.

EL PRIMER SOSPECHOSO, PUEDE RECLAMAR BUSCAR A UN ABOGADO MIENTRAS SE ACERCA A LAS VICTIMAS EN LA CALLE. EL SOSPECHOSO LE DICE A LA VICTIMA QUE EL TIENE UN BOLETO DE LA “LOTTO” GANADOR DE MILES DE DOLARES, PERO TIENE MIEDO CAMBIARLO PORQUE ESTA EN EL PAIS ILEGALMENTE. EL SEGUNDO SOSPECHOSO, O UN TERCERO POSIBLE SOSPECHOSO SE ACERCA AL ESCENARIO Y LA HISTORIA ES CONTADA OTRA VEZ. EL PRIMER SOSPECHOSO OFRECE PAGAR A LA VICTIMA Y AL OTRO SOSPECHOSO UNA CANTIDAD SUSTANCIAL DE DINERO PARA PODER CAMBIAR EL BOLETO DE “LOTTO”, O VENDERLE EL BOLETO GANADOR A UN GRAN DESCUENTO. UNA VEZ QUE LA VICTIMA ESTA DE ACUERDO AYUDAR, EL SOSPECHOSO DEMANDA DESEAR PRUEBA QUE SABEN MANEJAR EL DINERO, O NECESITA DINERO PARA COMPRAR O REDIMIR EL BOLETO E INDUCE A LA VICTIMA QUE RETIRE VARIOS DE MILES DE DOLARES DE SU CUENTA BANCARIA. UNA VEZ QUE EL DINERO DE LA VICTIMA ES RETIRADO, ES COJIDO DE LA VICTIMA EN UN INTERCAMBIO, O MAS FRECUENTEMENTE ENVIANDO LA VICTIMA A UNA FARMACIA A COMPRAR MEDICINA. EN ESTE ESCENARIO, UNO DE LOS SOSPECHOSOS FINGE UNA ENFERMEDAD ATRAVES DE LA OFENSA, Y PRETENDE ESTAR ENFERMO CUANDO LA VICTIMA RETORNA DEL BANCO. LA VICTIMA ES ENVIADA A LA FARMACIA A BUSCAR MEDICINA Y LOS SOSPECHOSOS DESAPARECEN CON EL DINERO.

Health Insurance Frauds

Medical Equipment Fraud:  Equipment manufacturers offer "free" products to individuals. Insurers are then charged for products that were not needed and/or may not have been delivered.

"Rolling Lab" Schemes: Unnecessary and sometimes fake tests are given to individuals at health clubs, retirement homes, or shopping malls and billed to insurance companies or Medicare.

Services Not Performed: Customers or insurance providers bill insurers for services never rendered by changing bills or submitting fake ones.

Medicare Fraud: Medicare fraud can take the form of any of the health insurance frauds described above. Senior citizens are frequent targets of Medicare schemes, especially by medical equipment manufacturers who offer seniors free medical products in exchange for their Medicare numbers. Because a physician has to sign a form certifying that equipment or testing is needed before Medicare pays for it, con-artists fake signatures or bribe corrupt doctors to sign the forms. Once a signature is in place, the manufacturers bill Medicare for merchandise or service that was not needed, not ordered, or never provided.

Some Tips to Avoiding Health Insurance Frauds

1.     Never sign blank insurance claim forms.

2.     Never give blanket authorization to a medical provider to bill for services rendered.

3.     Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.

4.     Carefully review your insurer's explanation of the benefits statement. Call your insurer and provider if you have questions.

5.     Do not do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that services of medical equipment are free.

6.     Give your insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services.

7.     Keep accurate records of all health care appointments.

8.     Know if your physician ordered equipment for you.

If you have any suspicions or indications of possible health insurance fraud, contact your insurer and let your feelings be known.  Most insurers have special units within their company dedicated to investigating the merits of a questionable claim that has been submitted to them.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Some Tips to Avoiding Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

1.    Be mindful of appearance. Closely examine the packaging and lot numbers of prescription drugs and be alert of any changes from one prescription to the next.

2.    Consult your pharmacist or physician if your prescription drug looks suspicious.

3.    Alert your pharmacist and physician immediately if your medication causes adverse side effects or if your condition does not improve.

4.    Use caution when purchasing drugs on the Internet. Do not purchase medications from unlicensed online distributors or those who sell medications without a prescription. Reputable online pharmacies will have a seal of approval called the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS), provided by the Association of Boards of Pharmacy in the United States.

5.    Product promotions or cost reductions and other "special deals" may be associated with counterfeit product promotion.

 

Fraudulent "Anti-Aging" Products

Some Tips to Avoiding Fraudulent
"Anti-Aging" Products

1.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for "Secret Formulas" or "Breakthroughs."

2.  Don't be afraid to ask questions about the product. Find out exactly what it should do for you and what it should not.

3.  Research a product thoroughly before buying it. Call the Better Business Bureau to find out if other people have complained about the product.

4.  Be wary of products that purport to cure a wide variety of illnesses (particularly serious ones) that don't appear to be related.

5.  Testimonials and/or celebrity endorsements are often misleading.

6.  Be very careful of products that are marketed as having no side effects.

7.   Products that are advertised as making visits to a physician unnecessary should be questioned.

8.   Always consult your doctor before taking any dietary or nutritional supplement.

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DIVERSION BURGLARIES

Diversion burglaries are are committed by transient offenders who have recently emigrated from Eastern European countries, to North America. Major groups of these suspects are currently based in New York City and the Chicago area, but travel throughout the United States to commit their crimes. Their targets are upper middle class residential areas that have a large population of elderly residents.

The burglary teams are normally composed of two to four people and can vary in male/female makeup. In many instances, a male will drive three females to the targeted area. The females will normally scout the neighborhood on foot and the driver will park away from the area or cruise. These females will walk through the area, singularly or in pairs, searching for targets of opportunity. In heavily populated areas, the suspects may focus on elderly victims out shopping and follow them home or befriend them and accompany them home.

If an elderly homeowner is observed working outside of the residence, one suspect will distract the intended victim with any number of questions, while the unseen associates go through the house. When the victim is inside the home…..If the door is unlocked, the subjects simply enter the dwelling. If the door is locked, the suspects knock or ring the bell. When contact is made with the homeowner, (either when answering the door or if accosting the suspect inside the home) one or two suspects distract the homeowner and direct them toward the kitchen with such ruses as:

• Feigning illness and asking for a drink of water

• Pretending to have a package to deliver to a neighbor

• Asking for paper to leave a note for a neighbor
 
• Asking if the house is for sale, flowers for sale etc.
 
• Looking for a lost dog or cat

If at the front door, the homeowner is distracted. The suspects may hold up a sheet, blanket, or small rug to mask the entrance of other suspects. The unseen suspect(s) go through the house looking for any items of value – specifically, currency, jewelry and silver.

There are generally no or very little signs of ransacking, as the suspects very carefully and quickly go through the jewelry, etc., taking only the most valuable items and putting everything back into its place. After the suspects leave, the homeowner may not realize that anything was taken until days or weeks later.

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IMPOSTER BURGLARIES

The suspects are again, normally transient criminals, who will pretend to be legitimate workers, approaching senior citizen homeowners at their residences with a seemingly legitimate ruse. Their real purpose is to divert the homeowner while their accomplices search for currency and jewelry.

Some of the more frequently used ploys by these suspects are posing as:

• An employee of your local gas/electric company.

• Water department employee, to inspect the water pipes and/or to replace the water meter.

• Cable TV company employee.

• Roofers

• Paving company contractor.

• City or town inspector.

• Tree trimmer, looking for property boundaries.

• Fence installer, looking for property boundaries.

• Government personnel from a social service agency.

Many of these impostor burglars now have bogus photo identification cards, legitimate looking work uniforms, and vehicles made to look like government or company vehicles. They communicate with accomplices by hand-held radios or cell phones.

When posing as a utility company employee, the suspects may offer a partial rebate by giving the victim a $100 bill and request change. This allows the suspect(s) to observe and determine where the victim keeps their money in the home. The victim is distracted, either inside the house by turning a light switch on and off, knocking on water pipes, turning faucets off and on, etc.; or showing the victim damage outside of the home, determining property lines, etc. Once the victim is distracted, the unseen associate/s enters the home and removes the money and jewelry. In some cases, the suspects have also removed small safes from the home.

If you experience this type of contact at your home and you did not solicit or expect their service - DO NOT LET THEM IN!!! Instead, while they remain outside, contact the utility company or agency this person claims to represent and determine if they have employees working in your area. If you have any doubts – dial 911 and report it to the police.

Although diversion and imposter burglaries are normally considered non-violent, some suspects have gotten extremely violent with the victims in the past when the victim either refuses to cooperate with the distraction or attempts to stop them by calling the police.

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HEAR THIS!!! …..STRANGERS ARE NOT LIKELY TO CONFIDE IN OTHER STRANGERS REGARDING FOUND MONEY OR OFFER TO SHARE THEIR GOOD FORTUNE WITH YOU.

THE PIGEON DROP OR
"FOUND MONEY" SCAM

This crime very often occurs in a mall or shopping area. Normally, two female confidence operators will play the victim, who is usually an older female. On rare occasions, one or both of the con players may be males.

In one scenario. a well-dressed younger woman will approach the selected mark (intended victim). The younger woman will claim she has just found a bag, briefcase or envelope and ask the intended victim about the ownership.

In a second possible scenario, the targeted victim will be approached by a younger female who will casually start talking to the victim, attempting to befriend her by chatting about children or grandchildren. A third woman will then approach and claim to be looking for the owner of a bag or envelope she claimed to have just found, or, asking "Did either of you drop this envelope full of money?"

When the three look inside the bag for identification, they find what appears to be a large amount of cash with some indication or a note indicating the source of the found money is from an illegal activity, such as illicit gambling or narcotics sales. There is no label or identification present in the bag or envelope and the likelihood is that whoever lost the money probably came by it dishonestly and cannot claim it. So, after all three converse, returning the money to the owner is ruled out as an option.

The scheme now unfolds where the victim now believes that the two con women have really found a bag containing thousands of dollars and they want to share it with her.

First they will talk excitedly about how much money is in the bag and what each could do with the money if it was hers, skillfully drawing the victim into the benefits of the scheme.

One of the two younger women will probably claim that she works for a local lawyer or an accountant and he will know what to do with the lost money. They then try to draw the victim further into the process.

A phone call is made on the spot by one of the players and the victim is then told by con artists that she has consulted with her boss and he stated that if they want to share the money they will have to show proof that they have sufficient funds to support themselves during the time the boss supposedly complies with the law by seeking the true owner. The con artist will claim that her boss recommends that each person put up a certain amount of money of their own:

• to provide evidence of “individual financial responsibility”, as good faith.

• to show that all those involved are acting above-board.

The victim withdraws a large amount of cash from her bank and is instructed to place it in the bag with the found money and other "good faith" money supposedly already deposited in the bag by the two con women.

They then use a variety of tactics to dump the victim.

The one who claims to work for a lawyer or accountant offers to take the victim’s money to her boss and then returns, saying the lawyer wants to talk to the victim. They give the victim a name and address of the boss, which turns out to be bogus.

In a second scenario, the victim may be asked to take the bag containing the money to the bosses’ office while the con women park the car or go to the bathroom. Out of the victim’s sight, they have previously switched the bag for a duplicate one containing strips of paper of similar weight.

The victim - a pigeon - gets dropped…..holding a bag of paper scraps – thus the name of the game. The victim not only loses the hope of a quick profit, but also all of her own money.

In many instances, this crime proliferates because victims, who fear being labeled as incompetent, fail to report it to the police. Even if you are approached by con artists attempting to entice you into this game and you don’t participate…..report it to the police. You might save the next person from becoming a victim and losing their life savings.

HEAR THIS!!! …..STRANGERS ARE NOT LIKELY TO CONFIDE IN OTHER STRANGERS REGARDING FOUND MONEY OR OFFER TO SHARE THEIR GOOD FORTUNE WITH YOU.

 

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AVOIDING ANNOYING PHONE CALLS & JUNK MAIL
TELEMARKETING PHONE CALLS

You just sit down to dinner at home…..your phone rings……you answer and find it’s someone trying to sell you something you really don’t want or need. Can it be annoying?…You bet!!! You might not be able to eliminate the problem entirely, but you can reduce it somewhat. Try signing up with the “Do Not Call” registry. This is a free service. Just call 1- (888) 382-1222. If you have a personal computer, with access to the Internet and an email address, you can also register online at www.donotcall.gov. If you register online, the Do Not Call system will send a response to your email address with a link that must be clicked on within 72 hours in order to complete your registration.

Even though you’ve signed up, there are certain factors you should be aware of:

Your registration doesn’t last forever. It expires in five years. No expiration notice will be sent to you, so keep your own records.

Some callers aren’t covered. Nonprofit groups, charities, political organizations, and survey companies don’t have to use the national “do not call” list. But when charities use professional fundraisers to call, they must honor your request not to call again.

Some companies can still call you. Even if your number is on the registry, companies can call if: you purchased something from them or made a payment within the previous 18 months; you asked about a product or service or submitted an application in the past 3 months; or you have a “personal relationship” as a friend, relative or acquaintance. But you always have the right to tell them not to call again.

Be careful what you sign. Companies can also call with your written permission, so look at contracts, order forms, contest entry forms, and other things you sign carefully to make sure you’re not agreeing to be called without realizing it. You can withdraw consent anytime by saying, “don’t call me again.”

It may take a while to notice fewer calls. Telemarketers usually check the national “do not call” registry every 31 days, so it may take that long before your number is removed from their calling lists.

• If you don’t sign up for the national “do not call” registry, you still have rights. You can tell companies not to call you again on a case-by-case basis. Keep a record of their names and the dates of your requests.

Filing a Do-Not-Call Complaint

To file a complaint, your phone number must have been on the registry for 31 days. In addition to complaints alleging violations of the national do-not-call list, you may also file a complaint against a telemarketer who is calling for a commercial purpose (e.g., not charitable organizations) IF:

• The telemarketer calls before 8 AM or after 9 PM; OR

• The telemarketer leaves a message, but fails to leave a phone number that you can call to sign up for their company specific do-not-call list; OR

• You receive a telemarketing call from a company that you have previously requested not call you; OR

• The telemarketing firm fails to identify itself; OR

• You receive a pre-recorded commercial message from someone with whom you do not have an established business relationship and to whom you have not given permission to call you.

How to File a Complaint with the Federal Communications Commission

You can file a complaint by e-mail (donotcall@fcc.gov), telephone 1-888-CALLFCC (1-888-225-5322), or mail. Your complaint should include:

• Your name, address, and telephone number where you can be reached during the business day;

• The telephone number involved with the complaint; and

• As much specific information as possible, including the identity of the telemarketer or company contacting you, the date on which you placed your number on the national Do-Not-Call registry or made a company-specific do-not-call request, and the date(s) of any subsequent telemarketing call(s) from that telemarketer or company.

If you’re mailing a complaint, send it to:

Federal Communications Commission - Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554

JUNK MAIL & PHONE SOLICITATIONS

Is your mailbox at home jammed everyday with unsolicited sales flyers and offerings? One way of reducing the paper flow to your home is by filing a free written request to the Direct Marketing Association, asking to be added to a list of people that do not want to receive junk mail or phone solicitations. This won’t completely stop junk mail from coming into your home, but you should see a decrease. Write to the D.M.A. at these addresses:

Direct Marketing Association
Telephone Preference Service
P.O. Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9014

Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008

You need to send one letter to each of the above addresses. A sample format is as follows:

Dear Sirs:

I understand that the Mail Preference Service (or Telephone Preference Service) is designed to assist consumers who would like to receive less advertising mail at home (or less telephone sales solicitations at home). Please register the following name(s), address and phone number/s with the name removal file so they will be removed from unsolicited mailing lists (or unsolicited phone solicitation lists). Thank you very much.

Name:
Address:
Phone:

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CALLER ID

Is Caller ID a convenient service for the consumers who like to screen their incoming phone calls, or, has it become an avenue for the scam artist to rip you off? A new scam is called “Spoofing”.

Technology now exists that enables callers to manipulate the phone number and even the name that shows up on the unsuspecting recipient's Caller ID display, allowing them to masquerade as officials of legitimate companies, churches, banks, credit card companies and courthouses.

 Spoofing doesn't require any substantial investment, and there are a number of firms that specialize in selling the service. One such firm, with its motto "Be who you want to be," SpoofCard.com, sells calling cards for as little as $10 for 60 minutes of talk time.

This is how it works: SpoofCard has a dedicated toll-free number where a user enters a PIN, the desired fake caller identity and the number they'd like to call.

SpoofCard users also have the ability to select a male or female voice. The caller speaks normally, but the person on the other end hears the altered male or female voice selected by the caller.

Companies selling Spoofing services claim its markets include legitimate users such as private investigators, law enforcement officials and lawyers. For example, if a law enforcement officer is attempting to find a suspect and has reason to believe that person is at a particular residence, the investigator probably wouldn't want to place a call with telltale police department information showing up on the caller ID.

Another example could be a situation where the caller makes a call from their personal cell phone and doesn't want the recipient to have the cell phone number; the caller could use spoofing technology to display their office number instead.

But there is a dark side to spoofing that’s emerging at a high rate of speed. Scam artists are using this service, persuading consumers to reveal their Social Security numbers or other sensitive personal information.

For example - You receive an incoming call and your Caller ID display indicates the call is coming from your local courthouse. The caller tells you that you have failed to show up for jury duty and requests you pay a fine or provide your SSN or other personal data so the court may reschedule you for jury duty.

If you are contacted by a person claiming to be from a jury office, with your caller ID showing a courthouse number, requesting that you pay a fine or provide personal information because you missed jury duty, do not give that person any information.

Bottom line………DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY ASSUME THE INFORMATION DISPLAYED IN YOUR CALLER ID ACCURATELY IDENTIFIES THE CALLER.

In June, 2006, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan measure that would make it a crime to transmit misleading caller ID information with the intent to defraud or harm.

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THE BANK EXAMINER CON

The perpetrators of this type of offense specifically target senior citizens. The game is designed to take several thousand dollars in one or multiple transactions. The seniors are selected in many ways. These may may included criss-cross telephone books; random telephone surveys; previous obituary notices, or observation at banks and shopping centers. The following is a general description of the basic elements of the crime. Different suspects may use many variations to convince the senior they are dealing with legitimate law enforcement or bank personnel.

The senior receives a telephone call or a visit at their home from a person posing as a law enforcement officer, bank security, or other official. They are told that there is a "problem" at their bank. The criminal may claim that other accounts are also involved and others have agreed to assist in the investigation. The victim is often informed that a person at their bank is dishonest and is stealing from the accounts.

The player elicits the assistance of the senior and requests they withdraw money from their bank and not talk to anyone about the withdrawal. Throughout the offense, the suspect reassures the senior that their account will be replenished and they will not loose any money. He or she may tell the senior not to take a check, and if questioned, tell the bank teller/manager that the money is being used for a relative or other cash transaction.

The caller tells the senior they will be met by an officer after the withdrawal is made, either at a pre-determined location, or at their home. The victim is instructed to give the currency they withdrew to the officer who will take the currency for evidence. In multiple transactions, which may continue for several days or weeks, the senior may receive further calls informing them of the progress of the "investigation" and convince the senior to make further withdrawals to reinforce the case against the dishonest employee. Normally the same pattern is followed by the suspect when taking the seniors money.

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HOME IMPROVEMENT SCHEMES

Each year, when the weather turns nice, itinerant crews of roofers, pavers, driveway sealers and painters travel from city to city, driving through neighborhoods looking for victims. Sometimes they offer to pave or seal your driveway, repair your roof, or paint your house with supplies “left over” from another job. This is just a scam. The repair work is completed very quickly, the quality is poor and the “repairs” usually cost more than the original verbal estimate you were first given.

Warning Signs:

The repairperson drives an unmarked truck or van with an out-of-state license plate.
The worker has no business identification, local address, or telephone number.
You are offered a “special price” if you sign today.
The worker wants upfront cost or fees, or accepts only cash.
No written estimates or contracts are provided. The worker does not have any references.
The offer sounds “too good to be true.”
Generally, work that “adds to or subtracts from real estate” requires a licensed or registered contractor. If you are planning to hire a contractor, make sure the contractor is registered/licensed, insured and bonded. Check the contractor’s references. Solicit several written bids.

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CHARITY SCAMS

Many of us, especially seniors, care deeply about others and want to do something good for those who are less fortunate. Sadly, criminals will use these altruistic feelings to line their own pockets. The con operator will make you think you are giving to a good cause, but the result is that the money goes directly to them.

The Opening Pitch:

The mail and phone calls are often used as a source of contact in many scams seeking donations for everything from helping disabled veterans, to aiding injured animals, to feeding orphans in Africa, to lobbying Congress about Social Security, etc.. A common ploy is to take a current news event, such as a natural disaster, and claim to be collecting for that cause.

The Presentation:

The presentation is quite simple: the mailer or caller describes the charity or cause in vivid detail, making it seem worthy. The pitch may play on your feelings of guilt over the crisis or your desire to help others.

The Result:

It is often difficult to determine after the fact if the donation you made was to a bonafide charity and if the money actually got to the cause that was presented. Some charitable fundraisers keep over 80 percent of the money they raise.

How to Avoid It:

The best thing you can do before you give to any charity is to find out how much of the money you give goes to the charitable purpose and how much goes to the cost of fundraising. You can do this by contacting the charity or the Secretary of State’s office and asking for the registration number and financial reports for the charity in question. This should be done before you give.

Some charity minded people develop their own annual charity-giving plan. They select charities after investigating them thoroughly. As part of the plan, they decide how much and to whom they will give each year and then say no thank you when other charities call or write during the balance of the year. This strategy allows the givers to know where their money is going and to avoid being drawn in by a phony emotional appeal.

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“THE SWEETHEART SWINDLE”

This scam has gained momentum in recent years and is rated as one of the most profitable current crimes affecting senior victims. Unfortunately, it may be one of the least reported to law enforcement.

Transient male and female players, in the 30 to 50 year old age range, normally commit these crimes. Generally, the victims are elderly males and females – either unmarried, widowed or divorced and living alone. These victims are usually in their late 60 to 90 years of age. At these ages, some victims can be extremely vulnerable, manipulated, intimidated, and forgetful. The unsuspecting victim might have the ability for easier access to cash, possibly through savings or retirement accounts and credit availability.

The perpetrator knows that the elderly, living alone, are sometimes lonely. Usually, the victims have been widowed and may have lived alone for many years. The victim’s children are generally grown and middle aged. This could mean that their children might spend very little time with the victim, or at the very least, communication with children might be limited.

The whole scenario will start with a “chance meeting” between the player and the intended victim. This will probably take place in a supermarket; bank; shopping mall store, an Atlantic City or Connecticut casino, or any public place known to be generally frequented by our elder population. The player will lead the victim into a casual conversation, possibly flirting with him or her, or flattering them. During this initial contact, the player will attempt to find out the victim's name, living arrangements, and marital status. This is of course is done by clever conversation and in a way that is non-invasive. The player may offer to help the elderly victim in the future by taking them to the store or cleaning and repairing their house. He or she will try to exchange telephone numbers with the victim. Usually the elderly victim might be so starved for attention and conversation that they will easily provide their phone number. The player or one of their family members will then follow the victim to see where he or she lives.

The player will then start calling the victim and/or show up unexpectedly at the victim’s house. They will deliberately work on the victim's forgetfulness. At some point in the early stages, the player will then try to reel in the victim through a sympathetic story referencing the player’s lack of finances. This might be done with idle comments about not being able to get a job and their inability to feed their children. There may come a point where the player will ask to borrow some money. The elderly victim usually gives the player grocery money, either out of sympathy or feeling pressured. The player continues the sympathetic routine, continually escalating the finances needed. The player may claim he or she cannot afford to buy furniture and will take the elderly victim to a furniture store. Next, they will have the victim charge thousands of dollars in furniture. All charges are usually in the victim's name. This is sometimes followed by claims that the player’s trying to get a job, but needs a car to secure employment. The player will then take the elderly victim to a car dealer. In many instances, the victim walks away after purchasing an extravagant vehicle in the price range of $30,000.00 to $60,000.00 dollars.

At some stage of the sympathy routine, the player will claim to express love for the victim. They may make overtures of a possible future marriage to the victim. Vary rarely, if ever, will the player allow the victim to have a sexual relationship. The player will tell the elderly victim it's against his or her religion to allow such a thing unless they are married.

He or she will ultimately induce the victim into signing a Power of Attorney form, providing the player with the opportunity to drain all of the victim’s financial accounts or even sell the victim’s house right out from under them. In many of these cases, the player will also take out a very large life insurance policy on the victim, naming himself or herself or an associate as the beneficiary.

The sweetheart scam will continue until either the victim dies and/or the perpetrator fears that the police might become involved.

Very rarely will the victim call the police. Usually it's the victim's family that eventually discovers the scam and reports it against the victim’s wishes. If family members discover the scam, it's usually been operating for many months. When confronted by police, the victim may or may not remember every incident in which they have been scammed for money during this relationship. However, the victim will generally remember that the perpetrator promised to pay him back. The victim will also be reluctant to cooperate because they’re in love, scared, or embarrassed. The victim's memory may also be poor, making them a poor witness in a future prosecution.

If the transient criminal believes they are going to get caught, they will flee the jurisdiction, changing their identities in different states. However, if the player is caught, he or she will offer the victim "most" of the property or money back. The players will then tell law enforcement it wasn't their intent to steal from the victim and they promised to pay everything back. They will justify any items they wrongfully obtained as being “gifts”.

If you’re living alone and lonely, don’t get caught up in this situation. No good will ever come from this type of relationship!!!!

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INTERNATIONAL
LOTTERY SCAMS

Lottery and sweepstakes scams seem to be increasing at an alarming rate throughout the world and specifically, in the United States. Although many may have their origins in Canada, still many others are based in various parts of the world. These scam lotteries have been around for a long time and they remain a huge source of revenue for con operators.  Intended victims receive a mailed, e-mailed, or telephone notification, advising they have won thousands of dollars in a lottery. If in letterform, the letter comes with official looking seals and appears very authentic. The catch is that the "winner" has to pay a processing fee, taxes or some other amount before receiving the expected windfall.

Are you feeling lucky?  Every month bogus international or Canadian Lottery scams drain millions of dollars from a rather large number of Americans. A majority of the victims targeted by these con artists are senior citizens, on a fixed income, who are least likely to financially sustain or recover from the loss.

In the Canadian lottery-based scam, U.S. residents receive a letter, email or a phone call, stating they are on a winners list and are immediately eligible to participate and collect the entire share of the proceeds.  In order to collect the money, arrangements need to be made very quickly in advance.  “Winners” are told they must pay a variety of up front fees - (taxes, insurance fees, handling costs, etc.).  This amount can range anywhere from hundreds of dollars to many thousands.  The winner is told he or she must send the fees right away to remain eligible.  This gives the victim no time to think about the lottery or consult with a friend or family member for their thoughts.  Once the fees are sent to the scammer - reality sets in.  There are no lottery winnings

Some of these lottery scams may take place over the phone, so there is rarely a paper trail.  What’s important for you to know about lottery scams?  The best advice we can give you is - JUST SAY NO.  Think about it – if you didn’t play this lottery, how could you be a winner?  Legitimate lotteries will not require any prepayment of taxes,  insurance,  handling costs, or other fees.  These payments are taken directly from the winnings.  If you haven't gone to the foreign country to enter a sweepstakes -  you cannot win.

Here’s a scenario.  A targeted victim is contacted by phone or letter, stating they have been selected and won a huge amount of money in a sweepstakes.  The call or letter is followed by a check - possibly in the amount of $5,000 or more, payable to the victim.  Included with the check is an authentic looking certificate proclaiming that you won.  The certificate or letter will promise that remaining winnings will be distributed over the next few months.  The check will look very legitimate.  It may even be stamped “certified” and is drawn on a legitimate bank.  Look closely at the check and you will see there is probably no address or phone number for the account holder.  The victim then cashes the check and is immediately contacted again by the scammer who tells the victim that he/she must pay taxes, insurance, handling costs and other fees to start receiving their winnings.  The victim is then directed to wire money to a destination either inside or outside the United States.  Remember that lottery check for $5,000 or more that you cashed?  The check is eventually returned as bogus and the bank information on the check is no good.  Now the bank where you cashed that check is looking for you to repay that money back to them. 

Here are some of the common phrases that appear on a bogus lottery winner’s notification:

FROM: THE DESK OF MANAGING DIRECTOR
FROM: THE DESK OF THE DIRECTOR OF PROMOTION
FROM: INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION/PRIZE AWARD DEPT.
FROM THE DESK OF THE PROMOTIONS MANAGER,
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS AWARD DEPARTMENT
INTERNATIONAL PROGRAM INTERNATIONAL
INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMS
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION/PRIZE AWARD DEPT
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION/PRIZE AWARD DEPT.
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS / PRIZE AWARD DEPARTMENT,
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS/PRIZE AWARD DEPARTMENT
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS/PRIZE AWARD DEPARTMENT,
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS/PRIZE AWARD DEPARTMENT.
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS/PRIZE AWARD DEPT

 “All participants were selected through a computer ballot system drawn from 30,000 names from Australia, New Zealand, America, Asia, Europe, Africa, USA and North America as part of our International Promotions Program, which will subsequently be conducted annually”.

The mention of any kind of “claim agent.”

"Due to the mix up of some numbers and names, we ask that you keep this award strictly from public notice until your claim has been processed and your money remitted to your account. This is part of our security protocol to avoid double claiming or unscrupulous acts by participants of this program."

“Any breach of confidentiality on the part of the winners will result to disqualification."

"You are seriously advised to keep all winning lottery information and numbers from the public in line with
our company security protocol to avoid double claiming and unwarranted abuse of this program by unscrupulous individuals."

"All participants were selected randomly from World Wide Web site through computer draw system and
extracted from over 100,000 companies."

OTHER BOGUS LOTTERY FRAUD FACTORS:

The most important fraud indicator is a request for money.  Lottery scam letters are part of what is called an Advance Fee Fraud. If you have won a legitimate lottery, you do not pay any upfront fees to anyone…. at any time…. for any reason. You pay income taxes to your government only by filing your government's income tax forms and sending your money directly to your government yourself.  In a legitimate lottery from another country, any taxes or other fees are removed directly from the winnings - before the payout.

No legitimate lottery web site exists without their lottery rules posted. Legitimate rules can be verified by going to the web site of government-sponsored lotteries.

A statement that the funds will be sent to you by a courier or security service and that you have to pay the courier service for the delivery and/or storage.

You are told that you have to travel to the foreign country where the lottery was held in order to claim your winnings. This is just a trick to get you to say that you will not travel to any country to pick up your winnings. Their reply is to give you all kinds of phony reasons for paying these false fees in order to get the winnings to you.

The check they sent you is written on the account of a person or company you do not know, or, you are sent a cashier's check (bank check). Either way, you are told that you must deposit or cash the check and send or wire some or all of the money, either back to them, or on to another person. THE CHECK IS COUNTERFEIT and you will be held responsible for the full value of the check if it’s cashed.

The Federal Trade Commission offers this word of caution.  If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, you can expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment opportunities.  Your name will be placed on a "sucker list" that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.

DO NOT BECOME A VICTIM!!!  IF YOU DID NOT PLAY A LOTTERY – HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY BE A WINNER?

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Bogus promises for credit or loans

Con artists take advantage of consumers who are low on cash during the holidays by offering personal loans or credit cards for a fee upfront. Instead of alleviating financial woes, these scammers will make things worse by stealing
any “up front” money you provide.

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The Check Cashing Scam

This scheme usually involves the sale of expensive items. The legitimate seller finds a (crooked) buyer who sends a cashier’s check for several thousand dollars more than the purchase price of the item up for sale. The con artist then asks the seller to simply refund the difference by wire transfer. The original “cashiers” check is a counterfeit and so the seller loses the item and the “refund” since the bogus check often escapes detection (even by the seller’s bank) until after the refund is made.

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Medicare prescription drug scams

According to the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York, scammers, posing as private companies, are using telemarketing and email to try to steal money and financial information from Medicare patients. Legitimate Medicare providers are not allowed to market the drug plans via unsolicited emails or door-to-door. In order to contact consumers over the telephone, they must observe federal and state “Do Not Call” laws. Consumers who encounter anyone claiming to be a private company offering a Medicare drug plan should ask them to send information about their plan via regular mail. Do not give out any personal or financial information over the telephone. You can also verify the legitimacy of any provider that contacts you by calling the Medicare toll-free phone number, 1-800-MEDICARE (633-4227), which is open 24 hours a day.

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Skimmers: Credit card readers are found just about anywhere that money changes hands: at stores, restaurants, A.T.M.'s, or gas pumps. A simple swipe of your credit card can pass along your account number, name, address and phone number. On financial cards, the stripe on the back of the card has three tracks of data that contain information like account number, account holder's name, card expiration date and PIN code. There is also a field for discretionary data, which might include further security information or link the card to another account. If you haven't already heard, there's a more aggressive means of identity theft & credit card number snatching going on... thieves are now using battery-powered devices called “Skimmers” (also known as “Wedges”). These are basically the magnetic reader component of a credit card scanner device, married to memory, and made highly portable. (They range in size and shape, but are basically small enough to fit in your hand or your pocket). Using a “skimmer”, thieves scan one or more cards & download the full track data from that card into a PC/laptop.
 
When making a purchase, try to keep your credit card within your line of sight. Again, carefully review your credit card statements each month to insure no mysterious purchases or transactions appear.

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The Jury Duty Scam: This is a rather new scam that has hit the region. An angry caller contacts people by phone, informing them they failed to appear for jury duty as instructed. The caller might threaten the victim with arrest. The victim insists they never received a jury duty notice or summons. The caller then says the matter can be resolved if the victim provides personal information such as social security number, bank account information, or credit card information to verify their identity so that a new notice or summons can be sent or so that no penalty is imposed. Be aware that no local, state, or federal court ever contacts potential jurors by phone, asking for confidential information.

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Bogus Credit Card offers: A bogus telemarketer may tell you that you qualify for a credit card as long as you have an existing bank account. Once they have that account number, however, your money is stolen right from your account. You can identify these scams easily because it is against the law to charge upfront money for a credit card.

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Scamming: Through third-party marketing agreements, many trusted retailers may provide their customers’ credit card information to unscrupulous business partners. As a result, consumers may find themselves charged for products or services without knowingly agreeing to any purchase. It often happens when consumers accept a “free” coupon or “free trial” offer without being told their acceptance will result in a significant charge on their credit card. Carefully review your credit card statements each month to insure no mysterious purchases appear.

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THE GRANDPARENT SCAM

The elderly are particularly susceptible to scams and cons and new ones seem to pop up every day. The “Grandparent Scam” is specifically aimed at victimizing a
senior citizen. The scammer, posing as a grandchild, randomly telephones a senior an unravels a tale of woe, claiming they are in trouble and need some money sent
right away. Unfortunately, the internet provides many websites a thief can access to obtain information on anyone, including the elderly.

The phone rings and you answer. The conversation may go something like this:

Caller: “Hi Grandpa, do you know who this is?” The caller is fishing for information because he may or may not know the name of the supposed grandson.

Grandparent: Answers “Is this Tom?” Elderly person will respond, thinking it's one of their grandchildren.

Caller: “Yes Grandpa – it’s Tom and I’m in trouble”. The scammer then spells out a bogus problem, saying he is away from home and in a serious fix, needing some money right away, "and please don't tell my mom or dad." The caller may claim they are in jail for a minor offense and need bail money to get out, or, this con
artist convinces the grandparent to drive to a Western Union and wire him $550 so he could get his car out of the tow yard.

The grandparent obligingly wires a few hundred dollars or a provides a credit card number, thinking they're helping a grandchild.

Very few people will hang up on a caller posing as a family member. That is why this scam is effective and costly to the elderly.

What to do if you’re approached in this manner

If the person asks for money, be sure to confirm that it’s really a relative – ask a question or two that only a relative would know the answer to.

Go with your gut – if you don’t feel comfortable with the situation, say no and hang up the telephone.

The person that’s calling you is attempting to commit a crime –
REPORT IT TO THE POLICE.
 

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LIVING TRUSTS…..
CAN SOME BE SCAMS?

 

A living trust is a legal agreement where a person, called a grantor, gives property to a trustee to hold for the benefit of a beneficiary.  A living trust goes into effect while the individual is still living. A designated beneficiary receives the assets upon the person's death.  Living trusts can have an advantage over traditional wills.  Specifically, it might allow heirs to avoid probate court, which may be time-consuming and/or expensive.  As an alternative, you might wish to consider joint tenancy with right to survivorship and multiple party accounts with financial institutions.  These are common and inexpensive methods of avoiding probate.

The vast majority of financial services people are professionals and do a great job, but some may be out to rip you off.  Living trusts can be a useful estate-planning tool, but can also be used as a vehicle by unscrupulous salespeople to induce seniors into purchasing bogus trusts

If you're age 50 or older, you should be very careful when buying a living trust. This age group is often a focus area of salespersons whose only aim is to sell you something without carefully analyzing your needs.

A senior doesn’t want to leave a messy estate for his or her children.  Unfortunately, scam artists exploit these good intentions. They pressure people into buying things they don't need.  Sadly, some untrustworthy salespeople or insurance agents, generally functioning through what’s called a “trust mill” operation, will tell seniors horror stories about the probate process and exaggerate the benefits of a living trust as they seek to exploit a senior’s fears that probate costs will eat up their estates.

Living trust sales are a growing area of consumer fraud. Con artists make millions of dollars every year selling unnecessary or bogus trusts. Each year, thousands of senior consumers lose large sums of money through the purchase of living trusts.  Often, families can face potentially greater costs after the consumer's death, resulting from problems associated with a trust.

 TIPS TO AVOID SCAMS

  • Choose your financial planning advisor very carefully.  Ask for a written list of credentials. Qualified and capable attorneys, insurance agents and financial planners will provide a list of states in which they are licensed, along with the name, address and phone number of their employer, firm or company. To check on attorney licenses, call the New York State Bar Association; to check on insurance licenses call the state insurance bureau or commissioner; to check other licenses or certifications, call your state's consumer agency.
  • Be wary of telemarketing and mail solicitations, door-to-door sales and "free" seminars and workshops.
  • Often, con artists attempt to meet you in your home through offers of a free living will, a free power of attorney, or a free "estate analysis."  Many also offer unnecessary partnerships, limited partnerships, "family" partnerships, and limited liability companies.
  • Before you sign any papers to create a living trust, consult with a third party, such as a your accountant, an estate planning attorney, banker or respected financial advisor.   You should also be wary of high-pressure sales tactics and pitches for other insurance and investment products made along with a pitch for a living trust.
  • Avoid buying on impulse.  Do not fall victim to high-pressure "act immediately" sales tactics.  Legitimate advisors understand when you want more information about their services or products. 
     
  • Be very cautious of anyone who claims that a living trust as a sure-fire method to avoid taxes.
  • If you decided to obtain a living trust, make sure it’s properly funded.  If not, you’re stuck with a pile of worthless paper.
  • If possible, seniors might wish to involve their families in estate-planning decisions.
  • Never respond to an offer you don’t thoroughly understand.
  • Compare prices. Unlicensed sellers often claim their prices are lower than a lawyer’s fees, then charge as much as or more than a qualified attorney.
  • Be careful of those who claim a living trust will help you to avoid contested wills.  A "trust" and a "will" are separate legal concepts.  But, a trust just like a will, can be subject to challenge on the basis of lack of capacity, undue influences, and fraud.
  • The salesperson may claim that a living trust is helpful to avoid the expense of a guardianship in case of your future incapacity.  This can be a misleading statement.  In some circumstances, a power of attorney is a simpler and less costly way to achieve the same goal. However, you should choose between a living trust and a power of attorney after you have considered the advantages and disadvantages of each.
     
  • The seller may tell you that probate will take years to complete.  Again – a misleading statement.  Non-taxable probate estates generally only take a year or less to complete. There are rare circumstances where families and/or the IRS fight for an extended period after a death. Such disputes can cause delays in the administration of either a probate or a living trust. In most circumstances, the administration of a living trust is no more time efficient than the administration of a will in probate.
  • Take your time when making your decision.
BE ALERT!                            BE AWARE!

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"809" PHONE SCAM

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has become aware of a long distance phone scam that may lead consumers to inadvertently incur high charges on their phone bills.

The Scam Works Something Like This

·         You get an e-mail, voicemail, or page telling you to call a phone number with an “809”, “284”, “876” (or some other three-digit) area code to collect a prize, find out about a sick relative, engage in sex talk, etc.

·         You assume you are making a domestic long distance call – as “809”, “284”, “876” (and other three-digit area codes involved in this scam) appear to be typical three-digit U.S. area codes.

·         When you dial the “809”, “284”, “876” (or other three-digit) area code plus the number, however, you’re actually connected to a phone number outside the United States, often in Canada or the Caribbean, and charged international call rates. (In this case, “809” goes to the Dominican Republic, “284” goes to the British Virgin Islands, and “876” goes to Jamaica.)

·         You don’t find out about the higher international call rates until you receive your phone bill.

Minimize the Risk of This Happening to You

·         Check any area codes before returning calls.

·         If you do not otherwise make international calls, ask your local phone company to block outgoing international calls on your line.

File a Complaint with the FCC

If you are billed for a call you made as a result of this scam, first try to resolve the matter with your telephone company. If you are unable to resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC. There is no charge for filing a complaint. You can file your complaint using the on-line complaint Form 2000B found on the FCC Web site at www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html. You can also file your complaint with the FCC’s Consumer Center by e-mailing fccinfo@fcc.gov; calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; faxing 1-866-418-0232; or writing to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554.

What to Include in Your Complaint

The best way to provide all the information the FCC needs to process your complaint is to complete fully the on-line complaint Form 2000B. If you do not use the on-line complaint Form 2000B, your complaint, at a minimum, should indicate:

·         your name, address, e-mail address, and phone number where you can be reached;

·         the telephone and account numbers that are the subject of your complaint;

·         the name and phone numbers of any companies involved with your complaint;

·         the amount of any disputed charges, whether you paid them, whether you received a refund or adjustment to your bill, the amount of any adjustment or refund you have received, an explanation if the disputed charges are related to services in addition to residence or business telephone services; and

·         the details of your complaint and any additional relevant information.

Filing a Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

If you feel that you are a victim of an international phone scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC online at https://rn.ftc.gov/pls/dod/wsolcq$.startup?Z_ORG_CODE=PU01. You can also submit a complaint by calling the FTC toll-free at 1-877-382-4357 (voice) or 1-866-653-4261 (TTY), or writing to:

Federal Trade Commission
CRC-240
600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20580.

For More Information

For information about other telecommunications issues, visit the FCC’s Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau Web site at www.fcc.gov/cgb, or contact the FCC’s Consumer Center using the information provided for filing a complaint.

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“PHISHING”

Phishing or brand spoofing is a scam technique that uses email messages that appear to come from legitimate businesses that you may be dealing with, such as banks, insurance companies, credit card companies, investment brokers, online retailers, or online organizations such as eBay; PayPal; MSN; AOL; Yahoo; Earthlink; etc. These messages will look very authentic and display corporate logos and use formats similar to the ones used by the real companies. In certain scenarios, the scam message might ask for verification of certain personal information, such as account numbers and passwords, allegedly for auditing or updating their records.

 Unfortunately, a high percentage of people respond to these emails, sustaining financial losses; making them identity theft victims, or victims of other fraudulent activity.

 TIPS:

  • Watch out for any strange emails. If you have any doubts about the authenticity of an email, immediately contact the company the email claims to represent.  To check whether the message is really from the company or agency, call that company directly or go to its Web site (you can use a search engine to find it). DO NOT respond to the email and provide any personal information.  DO NOT click on links within emails that ask for your personal information. 
  • Beware of “pharming.”  This is a recent latest version of online ID theft.  A virus or malicious program is secretly planted in your computer and hijacks your Web browser. When you type in the address of a legitimate Web site, you’re taken to a fake copy of the site without knowing it. Any personal information you provide to the phony site, such as your password or account number, can be stolen and fraudulently used.
  • Never enter your personal information in a pop-up screen. In some occasions, a phisher will direct you to a real company’s, organization’s, or agency’s Web site, but then an unauthorized pop-up screen created by the scammer will appear, with blanks in which to provide your personal information. If you fill it in, your information will go to the phisher. Legitimate companies, agencies and organizations don’t ask for personal information via pop-up screens. Install pop-up blocking software on your computer to help prevent this type of phishing attack.  
  • Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up to date. A spam filter can help reduce the number of phishing emails you get. Anti-virus software, which scans incoming messages for troublesome files, and anti-spyware software, which looks for programs that have been installed on your computer and track your online activities without your knowledge, can protect you against pharming and other techniques that phishers use. Firewalls prevent hackers and unauthorized communications from entering your computer.  This becomes extremely important if you have a broadband connection because your computer is open to the Internet whenever it’s turned on. Look for programs that offer automatic updates and take advantage of free patches that manufacturers offer to fix newly discovered problems.
  • Only open email attachments if you’re expecting them and know what they contain. Even if the messages look like they came from people you know, they could be from scammers and contain programs that will steal your personal information.       
  • Know that phishing can also happen by phone. You may get a call from someone pretending to be from a company or government agency, making the same kinds of false claims and asking for your personal information.
  • If someone contacts you and says you’ve been a victim of fraud, verify the person’s identity before you provide any personal information. Legitimate credit card issuers and other companies may contact you if there is an unusual pattern indicating that someone else might be using one of your accounts. But usually, they only ask if you made particular transactions; they don’t request your account number or other personal information. Law enforcement agencies might also contact you if you’ve been the victim of fraud. To be on the safe side, ask for the person’s name, the name of the agency or company, the telephone number, and the address. Get the main number from the phone book, the Internet, or directory assistance, then call to find out if the person is legitimate.
  • Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly and asks for your personal information. It’s hard to tell whether something is legitimate by looking at an email or a Web site, or talking to someone on the phone. But if you’re contacted out of the blue and asked for your personal information, it’s a warning sign that something is “phishy.” Legitimate companies and agencies don’t operate that way.

Act immediately if you’ve been hooked by a phisher. If you provided account numbers, PINS, or passwords to a phisher, notify the companies with whom you have the accounts right away. For information about how to put a “fraud alert” on your files at the credit reporting bureaus and other advice for ID theft victims, contact the Federal Trade Commission’s ID Theft Clearinghouse, www.consumer.gov/idtheft or 877-438-4338.

Report any instances of phishing, whether you’re a victim or not. Tell the company or agency that the phisher was impersonating. You can also report the problem to law enforcement agencies.  The information you provide helps to stop identity theft.

Please refer to the "Links" portion of our website at the top of the opening page for the various websites that offer information on  the issue of Identity Theft.

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"PUMP & DUMP SCHEMES"

"Pump and dump" schemes, also known as "hype and dump manipulation," involve the touting of a company's stock (typically microcap companies) through false and misleading statements to the marketplace. After pumping the stock, fraudsters make huge profits by selling their cheap stock into the market.

Pump and dump schemes often occur on the Internet where it is common to see messages posted that urge readers to buy a stock quickly or to sell before the price goes down, or a telemarketer will call using the same sort of pitch. Often the promoters will claim to have "inside" information about an impending development or to use an "infallible" combination of economic and stock market data to pick stocks. In reality, they may be company insiders or paid promoters who stand to gain by selling their shares after the stock price is "pumped" up by the buying frenzy they create. Once these fraudsters "dump" their shares and stop hyping the stock, the price typically falls, and investors lose their money.

Check out the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.  Click on http://www.sec.gov/index.htm

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BOILER ROOM”
INVESTMENT SCAMS

Securities regulators estimate that investors may lose billions of dollars a year to investment fraud promoted over the telephone. High-tech schemes and self-employment scams are typical investment deals heavily pushed by "boiler rooms" or high-pressure telephone sales operations.

Detecting a "Boiler Room" Operation:

High-pressure sales tactics.  A salesperson may make repeated calls to you. If you express any hesitation about investing your money, the caller may become abusive and question the intelligence of someone who would pass up such a "sure thing."

Bogus promises of extraordinarily high profit at little or no risk.  The general  rule to follow is: The higher the return, the higher the risk. Listen for salespeople who claim it is possible to make extremely high (30, 40 or 50%) or even "guaranteed" profits, without any risk of loss. Most legitimate firms will provide written materials clearly disclosing the potential for loss in an investment, as well as the short- and long-term tax implications of an investment.

A demand for an immediate decision.  Boiler room salespeople want fast action before you have a chance to develop second thoughts or consult with a professional for advice. As a result, many deals will be "gone tomorrow," "sold out today" or have "just one or two remaining openings."

A reluctance to provide information about the sales firm or the investment.  If a boiler room is uncovered, it may be subject to state or federal action. Therefore, some telephone solicitors may be evasive when questioned about their sales operation or the investments they're promoting.

Statements about "inside information" or "secret" technology.  In order to close a sale, the voice on the other end of the phone may tell you that this is a "sure thing." A common claim is that celebrities, major corporations or banks will be investing shortly. Or the salesman may claim that a new geological report is coming out shortly. In other cases, the claim may be that the company is using some sort of hush-hush "black box" technology that makes it possible to process gold at a fraction of the cost paid by other firms.

Delayed delivery of the product and/or profits.  This is a  "red flag" of an investment scam. If you don't have your investment in hand or under your control in some other location, you have nothing for your money. Beware of promises involving delays of more than a few weeks for delivery of your investment.

Unusual arrangements for collecting funds from investors.  Some con artists try to avoid mail fraud charges by using overnight courier services. Other phone scam operations go even further - sending a courier or cab to pick up the check. No matter what unusual collection method is used, the purpose is the same: Don't give customers enough time to back out of sending money.

What to Do If You're Contacted by a "Boiler Room"

  • When hounded by high-pressure sales tactics on the telephone, simply hang up.
  • Don't be misled into believing that you've been "specially chosen" to receive the salesperson's offer. Salespeople often call hundreds of prospects daily with automated phone technology, and they may use the same sales script to tell everyone that they're getting a "special deal."
  • Don't be impressed by a salesperson's title. The "senior vice president" on the telephone line may really be just a junior employee of the firm. Titles can be easily handed out to salespeople without any relationship to their actual work experience.
  • Don't feel foolish for failing to act on a caller's sales pitch. If the caller truly had a great investment prospect, would he or she be phoning strangers?  Remember that salespeople make money through commissions on sales; if they don't sell you anything, they may not earn anything.
  • Do not make an immediate decision. Get written information first about the firm, the salesperson and the investment. Ask the salesperson to provide any promises or claims in writing.  Always feel free to seek independent advice about potential investments from a trusted professional (lawyer, accountant or broker).
  • Know your risk tolerance for a possible loss of your invested monies.
  • Avoid investments you do not understand. The greater your degree of ignorance, the greater the chance that you will be swindled. Be wary of investments in less seasoned companies, businesses that are long on promise and short on operating history.
  • Don't give out your credit card number or other personal financial information over the phone to strangers.

Contact the SEC to find out if the salesperson and firm are registered to do business.   A call to the Better Business Bureau in the city in which the firm is located may turn up calls from investors who have been victimized.

Note: many investments promoted over the phone are legitimate. Informed investors who follow these simple steps will be able to distinguish "good" from "bad" telephone solicitations.

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Advanced Fee Fraud - The Nigerian 419 Scam Defined

This is a worldwide scam, which has run since the early 1980's. It is also referred to as "Advance Fee Fraud", or "419 Fraud", named after a formerly relevant section of the Criminal Code of Nigeria. This is a crime where the perpetrators are West Africans, primarily Nigerians, operating globally from Nigeria and elsewhere.

Nigerian advance-fee fraud now seems to have reached epidemic proportions. Some consumers have told the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) they are receiving dozens of offers a day from supposed Nigerians politely promising big profits in exchange for help moving large sums of money out of their country. Apparently, many compassionate consumers are continuing to fall for these convincing sob stories. These advance-fee solicitations are scams.

The scam operates as follows:  the intended victim receives an unsolicited fax, email, or letter, often concerning Nigeria or another African nation, containing either a money laundering promotion or other illegal proposal. Common variations on the scam include:

·         "Over invoiced" or "double invoiced" oil or other supply and service contracts where the con operators want to get the overage out of Nigeria crude oil and other commodity deals (a form of Goods and Services 419).

·         A "bequest" left to you in a will (Will Scam 419).

·         "Money laundering" where your con man has a lot of currency that needs to be laundered and offers you a stake if you front some money.

·         Phony banks, where there is supposedly money in your name already on deposit.

·         Telling you you’re a winner in a fake foreign lottery.

·         Employment 419 (including secret shopper job offers.)

The variations of Advance Fee Fraud are very creative and virtually endless - do not consider the above as an all-inclusive list!

At some point, the victim is asked to pay up front money of some sort in the form of:

·         An "Advance Fee"

·         "Transfer Tax"

·         "Performance Bond"

·         Extension of credit

·         Send back "change" on an overage cashier's check or money order

·         Insurance fees

If the victim pays the fee, there are often many "Complications" which require still more advance payments, until the victim either quits, runs out of money, or both. If the victim pays the fee or extends credit on a given transaction, he/she is stiffed with no effective recourse.

Most 419 letters and emails originate from, or are traceable back to Nigeria. However, some originate from other nations - mostly West African nations, such as Ghana, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast ( Cote D'Ivoire ), etc.  In most cases, 419 emails from other nations such as Canada (even European nations like the UK, the Netherlands, Spain etc.) are also Nigerian in that the "Home Office" of the 419’ers involved is generally Nigeria, regardless of the apparent source of the contact materials.

If you're tempted to respond to an offer, the FTC suggests you stop and ask yourself two important questions: Why would a perfect stranger pick you — also a perfect stranger — to share a fortune with, and why would you share your personal or business information, including your bank account numbers or your company letterhead, with someone you don't know? The U.S. Department of State cautions against traveling to the destination mentioned in the letters. According to State Department reports, people who have responded to these "advance-fee" solicitations have been beaten, subjected to threats and extortion, and in some cases, murdered.

DO NOT RESPOND TO THE 419’er.  IF YOU RECEIVE ANY COMMUNICATION SIMILAR TO THE INFORMATION DETAILED ABOVE - DO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT APPLY TO YOU AS LISTED BELOW.

1.     NEVER pay anything up front for ANY reason.

2.     NEVER extend credit for ANY reason.

3.     NEVER do ANYTHING until their check clears.

4.     NEVER expect ANY help from the Nigerian Government.

If you have already lost money to one of these schemes, call your local Secret Service field office. Local field offices are listed in your telephone directory.

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DANGEROUS AND Bogus E-Mails

This is a focus on the 12 most current dangerous and bogus e-mails currently making the rounds.  Stay alert if you want to avoid everything from various financial scams and computer viruses or ID theft. Remember - there are variations on each of these cons, so be wary of anything even resembling what you read in the following pages....

 

F.B.I. Vs. Facebook
Facebook’s new redesign isn’t the only problem - watch for any e-mail with a message that says "F.B.I. vs. Facebook," which includes the below picture and has a link to download the Storm Worm botnet - a nasty piece of malware that connects infected computers and uses them for identity theft and spam. Make sure not to open any e-mail with this subject and make sure to delete it immediately. If you do accidentally open this e-mail, don't click on any links within it and delete it immediately. Lastly, before you open another e-mail, make sure you have some sort of anti-virus software installed.


 

CNN and MSNBC Alerts
Swindlers are now manufacturing fake custom alerts from CNN and MSNBC that looks pretty legit at first glance. The subject line, as you can see from the screenshot below says "CNN Alerts: My Custom Alert." If you click on "Full story," you'll be taken to a video player that tells you to download Adobe Flash, but instead turns out to be malware. The easiest solution is to delete it without opening it, but MXLab's Web site has more information on dealing with this nasty bit of e-mail.

The Hitman

Unfortunately,
this old con is still going on, only with slight differences. The FBI sent out another warning some time back, saying that now recipients are being threatened with kidnapping (instead of just killing), and that the new e-mails contain more personal information that fools some people into thinking it's a valid threat. The best solution to this e-mail? Just ignore it, but the FBI also encourages people to report any threatening messages they receive, which you can do via the FBI's Internet Crime Center.

Hurricane Charities
Sadly, disasters encourage scammers to prey on the charitable. Naturally, recent hurricanes such as “IKE” have spawned dozens of fake e-mails designed to rip you off. Pretty much every standard scheme has been renewed for each new storm.

Nigerian Scam

Just like an extra bogus sequel, another series of Nigerian scams continue to circulate, only this time it's using the a wave of 419 crimes to lure victims. This time, a Nigerian attorney claims to have large settlements for people defrauded by scammers, only accessible once people send in $675 and some personal information. Surprise – it's fake.

 

Airline Tickets
If you're not flying anywhere, be on the lookout for any ticket messages from airlines, including major ones like JetBlue, Frontier Airlines, and US Airways. E-mails are going out saying that your credit card has been used to purchase a ticket contained in an attached Zip file. If you open it, the file, it downloads malware that can be used to steal your personal information. Should you receive an e-mail like this, delete it immediately and contact authorities if you receive it or have already opened it.

 

Engine Optimization Offers
Whether it's business or personal, having your own Web site puts you at risk from scammers. Currently, companies offering better search results for your site are offering their services for a fee, although there's no real company. Like any unsolicited e-mails, don't respond to them without looking into the business first and don't give away anything personal before you find out if it's legit. In this case, the lack of company information and bizarre e-mail addresses are the most telling signs that it's phony.

 

Holiday E-mails
Major holidays means it's time to be wary of any greeting cards from unknown senders. Many of these e-mails provide a link to see a message or download some sort of file, but really all you're doing is downloading the Storm Worm. These e-mails can reference any major holiday. Last it last year at Valentine’s Day.  Be sure to keep a lookout for the creepy below pictured skeleton e-card.

 

Time Warner Cable Threat
If you're a customer of Time Warner, outages might not be your only problem. Clients in San Antonio, Texas, all of whom used the Road Runner Internet service, recently received e-mails sent with the company's name and logo asking them to provide account information or they would lose service. Time Warner says that people receiving these messages should delete them and contact the company.

Wall Street Woes
While there haven't been any confirmed cases yet, the creators of CertifiedMail issued a warning that spammers will most likely try to use the current economic crisis for phishing (a.k.a., online scamming) purposes. Just as with the hurricanes, the security experts at CertifiedMail believe criminals will capitalize on fear and the high profile nature of the story, so be warned.


Obama Sex Scandal
Phoney
news stories are the current rage and they've taken to politics for their latest sensational stories. In one of the more recent versions of the threat, an e-mail purports to have a video of Barack Obama having sex with a Ukrainian woman. Of course, you click on the video and it's malware. Please stick to legitimate news sites.

Cheaper Gas
Once again, scammers are going for what's in the news and people's strong desire to save some bucks by highlighting gas prices in spam e-mails. Either they're offering gas cards with locked in rates around $2.50 a gallon or they're hawking gizmos that increase your mileage. Just don't believe it.

 

 

IF YOU RECEIVE ANY E-MAIL, AND ARE UNSURE OF THE IDENTITY OF THE SENDER OR THE CONTENT – BE EVER SO CAUTIOUS!!!!

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IDENTITY THEFT  
You Could Be a Victim and Not Even Know It. Top Signs You May Have Been a Victim

One of the scariest things about identity theft is that you could be a victim and not even know it. Identity theft includes any act in which your identity is used fraudulently. We know you've heard of credit card fraud, where someone opens an account in your name or uses your credit card number without your permission. But other common identity theft scams include bank account fraud, phone or utilities fraud, government documents fraud and Social Security fraud.

Below is a  list four red flags that can signal that you are a victim of identity theft.

· Red Flag No. 1:  Your credit cards or other bills don't arrive when you expect them.
A thief could have changed your address with a financial institution and started using your credit card. Since the bills are no longer coming to your address, it will take longer for you to figure out the problem. Most financial institutions allow you to look at your accounts online. Do so regularly to avoid this problem. If you see charges you don't recognize, call your bank's customer service line immediately.

· Red Flag No. 2:  You start to receive credit cards for accounts you didn't open yourself.
A thief may have responded to a credit card offer using your name and credit history and been planning to intercept the card from your mailbox.  Don't hesitate one second. Call the financial institution that issued the card immediately and explain that the account was opened fraudulently.

· Red Flag No. 3:  You are denied credit even though you know you have a good credit history.
Whenever you are denied credit -- for any reason -- you are entitled to free copies of your credit reports from each of the three top credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. As part of that denial, you should get a letter that tells you how to obtain those free credit reports. Take advantage of this law and review your credit report to see what the problem is. If you find fraudulent accounts on your report, follow the instructions that explain how to get them removed.

· Red Flag No. 4:  You get a call from a store about a purchase you know you didn't make.
If you do get this type of call, don't give out any information because the call could be a phishing attempt (that's when thieves pretend to be calling or emailing from a store or bank in hopes you will disclose personal financial information – like your Social Security number or bank account password or PIN).

Find out as many details about the purchase as you can, as well as the caller's name and contact information. Look up a contact number yourself. Call the company after you've checked it out. Only after you know the company is legitimate should you give out any personal information. Then, call your credit card company and let them know that your card was used fraudulently.



DEALING WITH JUNK MAIL AND
E-MAIL SPAM

REDUCING JUNK MAIL

Have you ever had to sort through heaps of junk mail stuffed in your mailbox almost everyday?  We bet you have.  If so, you may have wondered why and how these advertisers have targeted you.

Most likely, your name and personal information have found their way onto marketing lists that are sold, "rented," and shared among companies eager to solicit you.

The following steps can help slow or stop the barrage of junk mail that hits your mailbox every day:

Remove your name from national mailing lists.   An avenue that may help to alleviate being bombarded with solicitations for donations or advertised items is DMA (Direct Marketing Association). DMA Mailing Preference Service is a no-charge service that removes names from many national mailing lists for up to five years. Be aware that this option may be effective, but may also stop catalogs and promotions you would still like to receive. It also may take a few months for there to be a noticeable decrease in the advertising mail you receive.  Send your name, street address, city, state, zip code, and approval signature, in the form of a letter, to:

Direct Marketing Association
Mail Preference Service Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

Compliance with DMA requests is not mandatory however, and you will continue to receive mail from non-DMA members.

Contact the companies that send you mail, junk or otherwise.  You may also consider contacting the customer service departments of the companies that send you unwanted mail and ask that they remove you from their mailing list. Again, mailing lists are often sold or rented to other organizations, so, you may have to call the companies first to ask where they got your information.

If you read the code on your mailing label, the company will be able to tell you the supplier of your name. Often, this is a list broker -  a company that specializes in selling mailing lists, but it also may be an individual company that rented or sold their membership or marketing list. You will need to call that company and ask that your name be removed from its list.

Contact all organizations/companies that you currently deal with through the mail, and ask them not to rent or share your name. Your credit card company, charities and other non-profit groups to which you send money, all potentially may rent or sell their lists to unrelated companies.

Be alert and proactive.  When first subscribing to magazines or ordering from catalogues, demand that the companies not rent, sell, or trade information about you. Be aware of what information you send companies. In many cases, you are the biggest source of information about yourself. For example:

Warranty or "product registration" cards are an easy way for companies to compile information about you and then sell the information. Many product-registration cards include surveys about your age group, income, interests, and even medical history. Most warranties do not require you to fill out a registration card with all that detail. Read your warranty. If it does not require you to fill out those portions of the card, don't do it. Instead, save your receipt as proof of purchase.

As previously mentioned, mailing lists are sold or rented. Consumers who respond  to requests for financial aid in the form of donations are tagged as "gold stars" and attached to "sucker" or "mooch" lists.

 

Some other techniques to try and reduce unsolicited mail might include:

  • If you donate money, order a product or service, or fill out a warranty card, write in large letters, "Please do not sell my name or address". Most organizations will properly mark your name in their computer.
  • Consider selecting a false middle name or initial for each charity or business you deal with. Keep track of which letter goes with which organization. You can also select a false road designator, "avenue, place, circle, street, highway, parkway, etc.". These steps can be very revealing when you receive future junk mail.

Toll free 800 and 888 number services can identify and capture your phone number when you call. If your phone is listed, the companies you call can use reverse directories to match your phone number with your street address. When calling toll free numbers, you cannot block the display of your number by pressing *67 before you dial. For other calls, however, you can use *67 telephone line blocking.

Discount cards scanned at the register can track your purchases and this information may be sold to marketers. If you have privacy concerns, ask for a written policy about how the information will be used. If you are unsatisfied with their privacy policy, don't use the discount card.

Consider having an unlisted phone number and address.
Companies accruing names for mailing lists make extensive use of regular phone books as well as "crisscross directories," or reverse phone books organized by address and phone number rather than name. You may also contact your local phone company to remove your listing from both types of directories.

REDUCING E-MAIL SPAM

The Internet is a great communications tool. Every day millions of Americans use electronic mail for almost instantaneous communication. Unfortunately, often mixed in with messages from business associates or friends, are junk E-mail messages - known as "spam." While some of this "spam" is simply unsolicited sales pitches, often it includes a means of identity theft, computer viruses, fraudulent schemes and even pornography.

It is difficult to block out every piece of junk E-mail, but the following tips can help you reduce the volume of "spam" you receive every day. 

Guard your E-mail address.  Prevention is the key to ensuring that you are not bombarded with junk E-mail.

To avoid "spam":

·         Before you register at a web site or before you buy on-line, check out the company’s privacy policy. Make sure it has a policy against selling your personal information, including your E-mail address.

·         Remove personal information from web service directories. Your E-mail address and other personal information may be accessible from the numerous "people-finding" search and directory services available on the Web. These include the major search engines Infoseek, Lycos, and Yahoo, as well as Bigfoot at http://www.bigfoot.com, Infospace at http://www.infospace.com, Switchboard at http://www.switchboard.com, and WhoWhere at http://www.1800whowhere.com. Choose the name-removal option (if available) to remove your name, E-mail address, and other information from the directories provided by these sites.

·         Open a second Internet account for chat rooms, public posting, subscriptions, and buying on-line. Some Internet providers will allow you a second E-mail address. Use one address for these public activities, and a second private address for E-mailing friends and business associates. This tactic will allow you to keep spam out of the E-mail account you use for communications.

·         Don’t reply to the spammer! Most "spammers" not only will ignore your request to be dropped from the mailing list, but they also will interpret your response as a positive sign that the message was actually read. Don’t encourage spammers by buying their products or responding to their E-mail.

·         Consider using a junk E-mail filtering program. Filtering programs can block E-mail from a specific list of addresses, or they will only accept E-mail from a list of users you specify. Some Internet providers have filtering programs already built in to their E-mail service.

Much personal identifying information comes from public information sources, such as phone books or public records, as well as non-public sources, such as credit headers. A credit header is the personal identifying information on a consumer's credit report. It consists of a consumer's name, name variations, address, former addresses, telephone number, date of birth and Social Security number. Unfortunately, the sale of credit header information is legal and unrestricted.

Many of these services provide you with the right to "opt out" or request that they not distribute some of the information these "look up services" make available for distribution. Check with each service or company directly for details.


ALERT – POSSIBLE CENSUS SCAMS

Over the next 18 months, 1.4 million U.S. Census workers will survey the nation's population to gather important demographic information about every person living at each address, including name, age, gender, race, ethnic origin, birth date, marital and employment status, and other relevant data.  The Census, which will count the country's population as of April 1, 2010, is used to allocate about $300 billion in federal funds every year based on population trend. Census results determine how many seats a state has in the House of Representatives.

Citizens are required by law to respond to the Census Bureau's requests for information. You may receive a letter, telephone call or visit from a Census worker inquiring about people living in your household.

Please be aware of the possibility of scam artists pretending to be Census workers in hopes of obtaining personal financial information.  Unfortunately, scammers know that the public is more willing to share personal data when taking part in the Census and they have an opportunity to ply their trade by posing as a government employee and soliciting sensitive financial information.

Official Census workers have three things: (1) a handheld computer; (2) a Census badge and (3) a shoulder bag.  They will also possess a confidentiality notice.  Ask to see these items before answering any questions.

Anyone claiming to be a Census worker but not having that equipment should not be allowed into homes, and residents should call police. Police have been alerted about when Census workers will be in their areas.

Authorized Census workers will never ask for a Social Security number or credit card and banking information. Census workers will not ask you for your Social Security number or your banking and financial information. Do not ever give your Social Security number, credit card or banking information to anyone who contacts you, even if the person says it is for the Census.

The Census will not use email to canvass residents, so people who receive e-mails purporting to be from the Census Bureau should ignore them.

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How to Avoid Psychic and FORTUNE TELLING Scams

 In this downturn economy, there is an increased demand for psychic, fortune telling, occult and metaphysical services. The connection to an outside power that is immediately available for guidance might be comforting in uncertain times. There are probably a number of good and respectable psychics or intuitive consultants (as some prefer to be called) that are able to help others. At the same time, there are some fortunetellers and palm readers who claim to be psychic, who are using this trend to con people who are seeking help. This drums up negative stereotypical images of psychics, driving away people who may or may not benefit from metaphysical assistance. The keys to avoiding psychic or occult scams are doing research before a consultation - knowing what you are paying for, and remembering that you have the power to walk away from a bad reading.

Doing your research:

When speaking to someone you are going to consult with, ask about how their service works, the price and the amount of time allocated for the session. Those who are doing this as a legitimate business will be upfront about the price and what they provide for the price. If at anytime you feel uneasy, allow yourself time to do more research. Psychic service should be a service for you, not consent to a high-pressured sales pitch or scam.

Knowing what you are paying for:

Psychic services are extremely varied in price. A palm reader can charge ten dollars or more for a fifteen minute reading, while a claimed psychic or medium on a website can cite $250 an hour. Be very wary of online psychics – a very large number of them are scam artists.  Metaphysical experts can charge even more for specialty services. Since there is no set guideline for pricing, this can scare people who are not sure what amount is the “right amount.”

It is important to note that just because one is charging more does not mean it is a scam. It may mean that their services are more in demand and their time has become limited due to the number of people wanting his or her services. Because of this, psychic work is most prone to the standard economic rule that the price goes up when the demand is higher. Remember -  “You get what you pay for,” and this often proves true in metaphysical work.

If you cannot afford what one person charges, do not feel pressured to pay it. Either wait for a time when you can afford it or find another service that you can manage within your means.

Know when to walk away, know when to run:

Hopefully, you find an alleged metaphysical person that you feel that you can work with. But during a reading, how do you know when things aren't quite right? Because every reader is different, it's difficult to look at the process and look at only accuracy. Examining the business professionalism of the reader is what can keep you out of trouble.

·         Does the person feel like he or she is rushing you even though you've paid outright for his or her time? If someone paid for half an hour, they should be wary of anyone who is creating excuses to leave around fifteen minutes into the reading. The reader should have been professional enough to schedule that privileged time with you or reschedule it for another time.

·         In the middle of the reading, does he or she attempt to use scare you with a foreboding vision that would cost more money to fix? This is a red flag. Someone telling you that it will cost thousands of dollars to fix your demon problem before they do harm to you should be met by walking away. This person does not have your best interest in mind.  Walk away if the psychic tells you that you have a “bad aura” or “curse” that can only be removed for a very high fee or over an extended series of visits.

·         Does the reader ask for more money after the service is rendered (provided that you did not extend your time)? The person should have been professional enough to state a higher rate upfront. Avoid giving in to ploys of guilt or hard luck after you agreed on a price.

Potential clients always need to remember that even though psychics and other metaphysical workers might have some sort of talents, abilities and other powers, all clients have one power that they don't have: The power to keep them in business.

If you feel a palm reader or fortuneteller is scamming you, it is paramount that you report it immediately to the police.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please feel free to contact TRIAD at (845) 638-5582.

 

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HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE SCAMS

The FBI is reminding Internet users who receive appeals to donate money in the aftermath of the recent earthquake in Haiti to be very careful before responding to those requests.

Past tragedies and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization and/or a good cause.

Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:
-Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming e-mails, including clicking links contained within those messages.

-Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as surviving victims or officials asking for donations via e-mail or social networking sites.

-Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by utilizing various Internet-based resources that may assist in confirming the group's existence and its nonprofit status rather than following a purported link to the site.

-Be cautious of e-mails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

-Make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.

-Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

 

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How to Avoid “Secret Shopper” or  “Mystery Shopper” Scams


If you are not familiar with “secret shopping” or “mystery shopping” offers, you might notice a lot of websites offering a list of secret shopping jobs for a fee. There are also companies that charge a fee to apply for a secret shopping position with the promise of making top dollars. Those who fall for such scams are usually disappointed when all they get for their money is a list of jobs in other cities or jobs that turn out to not even exist. The fact is, there are many secret shopping companies that are legit and won't charge you a dime to apply. Here are some tips for avoiding the scams when searching for a way to make a little extra money.


What to watch for:


1.      Avoid advertisements for secret shopping jobs, especially junk emails and pop-up ads on the Internet. These ads almost always lead you to a scam. Legitimate secret shopping companies rarely advertise like this.
2.      Reject secret shopping companies that require payment for anything. If you have to pay to see a list of jobs or pay for a website membership, it's a scam. You should not have to pay your employer, your employer should pay you.
3.      Pass on any secret shopping or mystery shopping opportunities that promises you huge amounts of money for little work. If you are told you will make $50 an hour as a secret shopper, you are probably looking at a scam. Chances are you will soon be asked for an application fee or membership fee. While some legitimate secret shopping or mystery shopping companies offer periodic bonuses for last minute jobs, most jobs pay $5 to $20 per assignment.
4.      Research each secret shopping company you find before filling out an application. There are many helpful secret shopping forums on the Internet where you can find valuable information from experienced shoppers.
5.      Beware of secret or mystery shopper jobs that require you to send a cashier's check or wire  funds. These jobs seem to pay big, but are actually scams that leave the applicant shopper with a financial loss.

 
If you become a victim of such a cyber crime, immediately file a report with your local PD and you may wish to also notify the Better Business Bureau.
 

 

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