Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Primer on Foreclosure Rescue Scams


Guest blog post
By Sarah Parr

Foreclosure rescue scam artists are some of the most heartless “businessmen” in the United States today. They entice desperate homeowners who fear losing their home with encouraging words and promised results, then run off with their money, their home or worse, both. Scam artists may look through foreclosure notices posted in public media and target clients from areas known as centers of foreclosure activity. They use common and widespread advertising methods to attract clients: fliers, radio ads, billboards, etc.

Foreclosure rescue and mortgage relief scams have proliferated in recent years, with an estimate of billions of dollars lost. There are three general schemes to look out for that could signal a foreclosure rescue or mortgage relief scam.

Upfront costs
Consumers often report unethical companies that charge clients for access to government programs and housing counseling. Qualification of specific government programs that aid in the loan modification process or foreclosure defense is free. It is also free to speak with a government agency-approved housing counselor, according to PreventLoanScams.org. Information on the latest government program or agency-licensed housing counseling can be found easily on the Internet. Additionally, a company could be fraudulent if it asks for a large amount of money upfront for access to the latest government program or a recent mortgage settlement. Homeowners should also watch out for companies that advise homeowners to pay mortgages to them and not to the loan provider.

Promise of definite results
Aid against foreclosure or the reasonable modification of a loan is never guaranteed, and access to specific government programs may only be available for certain borrowers. Alas, scam artists will do anything to convince consumers that loan modifications and foreclosure defense carried out by their company are guaranteed. A scam artist will almost always pose as a member of a fake organization licensed by, or affiliated with, the government and claim that a homeowner qualifies for a specific government program that aids in homeowner relief.

So-called professionalism
Scam artists will try any scheme to appear authentic and reliable. Non-attorneys often pose as attorneys from law firms that only offer loan modification services, reports the New York Times. Some law firms even disguise as non-profit groups that offer loan workouts or forensic loan audits. Consumers should be distrustful of these lawyers, especially because most law firms provide loan modifications as one of many services and loan workouts and audits have been proven useless.

Another kind of phony professional, in a “bait and switch” tactic, may convince a client to quickly sign paperwork that signs their rights to their house away and gives them to the scam artist. Others act generous and suggest the owner sign away the house, but stay in it until he or she has recovered financially. They will reassure the former homeowner that he or she will be able to reclaim the house once he or she has improved money-wise. However, the scam artist will be able to evict the victims and claim the home.

People on the verge of losing their home should be cautious of the common schemes covered above. Also, homeowners who would like a loan modification or who are at risk of foreclosure should never avoid any communication from their lender. Free housing counseling is provided by government agency-certified housing counseling agencies, or by contacting the Homeowners’ HOPE Hotline.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fraud is always prevalent where money is exchanged, especially in Forex

The Internet has been the great facilitator of change over the past decade, but it has also enabled many disparate consequences, as well. Whether we like it or not, there is a criminal element in our society that is always poised to use technology to separate us from our hard-earned money. Trading the world’s currencies over the Internet has been another area that has experienced explosive growth and popularity over this same decade, but fraudsters have been present every step of the way.

 Any service that involves money will attract organized crime, and foreign exchange was no different. Fraudulent brokers were the largest problem, but the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) stepped in and began ridding the market of fraudsters, regulating the forex market at large, and educating consumers as to the pitfalls and opportunities of forex trading. (For more info, go to ForexFraud.com). 

Despite performing a yeoman’s task, the CFTC, like other regulators, has a limited budget. They have reduced fraud to an acceptable level, but it still persists. Every investor should always be skeptical and cautious, especially since your so-called business partners on the Internet are anonymous and face-less. More due diligence is necessary, and awareness will always be your first line of defense. Here are a few tips on what to be wary of:

 • Unscrupulous Brokers: The CFTC has not eliminated all of the crooks. Beware of hard-to-believe marketing claims, especially from overseas brokers. Imagine trying to enforce your rights in another national jurisdiction. It would be a nightmare. Only deal with highly regulated, reputable domestic brokers that have been in the business for quite a while (For more info on forex broker reviews, click here);

 • High Yield Investment Programs (HYIP): This term is nothing more than a substitute for a Ponzi scheme. Potential investors are promised outrageous returns on a monthly basis, as if that were truly possible. Greed takes over, and the “mark” makes an initial deposit. He will be shown great early results on sophisticated looking reports with pictures of electronic trading rooms to seal the deal, causing him to recommend this wonderful service to his entire network of family and friends. There are no returns. There is no trading room. It is all a scam;

• Marketing of other Forex Services: From signal sellers to automated software to managed funds, you will hear marketing claims designed to get your adrenalin pumping immediately in your veins. Watch Out! There is no perfect system, “Holy Grail” technique, or super efficient fund manager out there. This fact, however, does not stop these folks from selling whatever beautifully sounding service or product offering they have that will revolutionize your trading experience and make you a millionaire over night.

 Did you notice the common thread in all of these scams? Every one of these approaches preys upon our desire to get rich quick. Greed is the motivating factor. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Forex trading is high risk and difficult. Currency traders must be wary of anyone that pretends otherwise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Give To The Max

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, many people are counting their blessings and looking at all of the things they are thankful for.  One way to show that you are thankful for what you have is to help others out.

November 15th, 2012 is Give To The Max Day.  Here is a statement from the Give To The Max website

Give to the Max Day was created in 2009 to increase giving to nonprofit organizations across the state and move more giving online. It is a day for Minnesotans to come together to raise as much money as possible for nonprofits and schools in 24 hours – starting at midnight on November 15, 2012 through midnight on November 16, 2012. By engaging as many donors as possible to give to their favorite Minnesota charities in one day – Give to the Max Day — GiveMN.org is showcasing Minnesota’s unparalleled generosity to the world!
We at Scam Victims United encourage you to Give To The Max.  You can donate to Scam Victims United and help to educate other about scams and fraud.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Determine if an Online Institution is Credible

Guest Blog Post by Brittany Lyons ~ 


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According to a November 2011 study by Babson Survey Research Group, more than 6.1 million students enrolled in at least one web-based class in 2010, an increase of more than 10 percent from the previous year. Online degrees offer educational credentials from the comfort of one’s living home—but experts say the convenience carries substantial risk. Fraudulent institutions that offer worthless degrees pose a threat to well-meaning young people who hope to receive a real education.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported that e-learning scams have snared hundreds of victims. Typically, these “schools” offer university and high school diplomas for cash. Students complete courses and receive a certificate in the mail, only to be told it holds no academic value by admission offices, employers and military recruiters. Unfortunately these “diploma mills” that have become more prevalent as online student numbers rise.

However that is not say all schools found online are scams. The BBB acknowledges that many online institutions are reputable and offer legitimate services, providing some students who may not otherwise been able attend school in a traditional setting an opportunity to enhance their education. BBB spokesman Steve Cox points out, “Education is one of the keys to advancing in life and having a diploma or advanced degree can certainly make a difference when it comes to getting into college or landing a higher-paying job.”

If a student does decide to attend an online school, a resource for accredited online PhD degrees explains that it is important for the student to thoroughly investigate the college prior to enrollment. The most crucial aspect to explore is whether the university is accredited and by whom. The BBB adds that one good way to determine accreditation is to crosscheck the program with the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, maintained by the U.S. Department of Education. If students still have questions about the program, they want to visit an admissions office at a state college or university to ensure that the degree will help applicants earn consideration from admissions departments in the future.

There are also a number of red flags that indicate a potentially shady institution. A course-load that rewards points based on “life experience” or unusually easy exams often denotes a scam. The same is true of any “guarantees” of completion made by the program to the student, or deals for those who sign up to earn multiple degrees at once. "People who want to further themselves see something that looks really quick and easy," Houston's BBB spokeswoman told ABCNews.com. "People should know that if they get a college degree, there is a lot of time involved."

Students should also note the program’s contact information. Illegitimate programs often list addresses with suite numbers and post office boxes, while the phone number may not be listed at all. Foreign offices should also be treated as suspicious, especially if the program’s description makes no mention of international culture or overseas-based curriculum.

The BBB shut down three fraudulent online degree programs last year, but the organization claims many more are still lurking on the web. Operated by the same parent company, Belford High School and Belford University are the biggest offenders—with 117 complaints from individuals in 40 states. The high school program offers a high school diploma based on “life experience;” according to its site, which also claims 99 percent of colleges accept the degree. The university program offers associate, bachelor and even doctorate degrees for no more than $1,400. However, the BBB says that in reality the degrees are not seen as proper credentials by colleges or military recruiters.

Another violator is MMDS Ltd., a company based in the St. Kitts. Their most popular program, Jefferson High School Online (JHSO), offers high school diplomas for roughly $200. Course results are determined by a “life experience” questionnaire, which asks students to list musical tastes and preferred weekend activities. Following the questionnaire, the student takes a multiple-choice test that provides hints and allows three incorrect guesses per question. More than a hundred JHSO “graduates” have complained to the BBB about numerous rejections from colleges nationwide.

As young men and women strive to earn a degree and enter the American work force, it is important for them to proceed with caution. Online college scams represent the most recent incarnation of fraudulent Internet practices that have evolved to match consumer trends and web activity. Luckily, the headaches associated with obtaining a worthless degree can be avoided with a thorough preliminary investigation, and an eye for sketchy web conduct.

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Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

Monday, March 5, 2012

When the Kids Are Away, the Scammers Come Out to Play

I was asked to share this information about scams related to students away on Spring Break.  That time of year is just around the corner, and this is something that all parents need to be aware of.  Much like the Grandparent Scams, this scam preys on an adult wanted to help out a child in trouble.


MoneyGram Offers Advice to Parents of College Spring Breakers 
To Avoid Fraud During Popular Travel Period

DALLAS (Feb. 22, 2012) – While most Americans will prepare to lose an hour of sleep when Daylight Saving Time ends in mid-March, many parents are preparing to lose something else: their peace of mind when their college-age children travel on spring break

According to MoneyGram (NYSE: MGI), a leading global money transfer company, spring break can end up “breaking the bank” if parents don’t stay alert to the “family scam” – when a scammer calls parents to inform them their child is in trouble in a distant location, asking for money for medical care or bail, even though the child is perfectly safe.

“Spring break can be a letting-go experience for parents of college students,” said Kim Garner, Senior Vice President of Global Security for MoneyGram. “But along with letting go, parents should hang on to their common sense, especially when it comes to helping their kids stay safe and avoid certain common scams.

Garner offers the following advice to parents of college students to safeguard their physical and financial health during spring break:

Check in before heading out: American students traveling internationally can register with the U.S. State Department’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will help with communications in the event of an emergency. Canadian students can register with their country’s similar program, Registration of Canadians Abroad.

Take a lesson from E.T.: Phone home: Parents should make a deal with their students traveling for spring break – a little freedom for a few phone calls and some extra phone numbers. Parents should establish specific times for phone calls to check in, so they will know where their students are and what they’re up to, and get cell phone numbers for the friends of their traveling children as a back-up means of communication.

Just say no: With personal belongings left scattered on beach towels, scammers often will use student IDs to find parents and ask for money to be wired in the aid of their child who can’t come to the phone. Garner of MoneyGram advises parents to say no – and never wire money to anyone they don’t know – instead checking in by calling the child’s cell phone or the local authorities where their child is vacationing.

Give them credit: Parents can temporarily add a child as an approved user to a credit card, and place a pre-set spending limit on the card as a way to prompt financial responsibility while the student is traveling.

Put a policy in place: To guard against a financial loss, parents should check with their insurance company to make sure their child’s possessions are insured on their homeowner’s policy while the student is traveling, especially if the child will be traveling outside the United States.

“The best way to ensure a safe spring break and avoid a scam is to talk to your child in advance about these types of precautions, and schedule regular contact so you can hear directly from them that they’re safe,” said Garner of MoneyGram. “And while the student is traveling, parents should focus on their own protection against scams by never sending money to anyone they don’t know, regardless of what the individual on the other end of a phone might be telling them.”

As part of MoneyGram’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers from wire transfer fraud, the company recently launched an enhanced version of its fraud prevention website – www.moneygram-preventfraud.com. MoneyGram recommends that before initiating a money transfer, consumers should:

· Know – Always know the person to whom you are sending money. Never send money to strangers.

· Show – Never show or share information about your money transfer to anyone but the recipient.

· Throw – Discard or throw away any offers that promise easy ways to earn money, especially if the offers require you to send money before earning money.


Consumers who suspect fraud associated with money transfers should contact their local law enforcement. Consumers should call 1-800-MONEYGRAM (800-666-3947) if they believe MoneyGram was used to wire money as a result of a scam.

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Another tip from Scam Victims United
When we were kids they taught us about "Stranger Danger" and avoiding becoming a victim of kidnapping.  We were told to never go with a stranger, even if they looked "nice" or said that they were a friend of your parents and your parents sent them to pick you up.  In my family, we had a "code word" so that if someone we did not know DID have to pick us up, they would have to know the "code word" before we would go with them.  Similar to this, create a code word with your child before they leave for Spring Break.  If someone calls saying that they are your child's friend you just need to ask "What is the code word?"  If they don't know it, you will know right away that they are lying.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Minnesota Bill HF343

I have mentioned the Minnesota Bill HF343 on this blog in the past.  It is one that several people who are concerned about the growing number of scams and fraud wish to see become a law.  Just this week it was sent to the General Register, which means it is one step closer to becoming a law.

To hear the audio from that meeting you can go here . . . http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/audio/archivescomm.asp?comm=87004&ls_year=87

I encourage all of you to read the bill and contact the Representatives that are backing this bill to thank them for their work and share with them why you believe this bill needs to become law.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Computer Assistance Scam

Most of us use our computers on a daily basis, and the idea of a virus in our computer is something that no one wants to deal with.  So what if a computer technical support service called you and warned you that they had detected a virus on your computer, and they were able to help you to rid your computer of that virus BEFORE it corrupted all of your files and documents?

This is one of the phone scams that is going around right now, and I know about it because they called my house twice this week.  When I answered the phone the person on the other end identified themselves as a Tech Support Specialist from Microsoft.  They knew my name and address, and they told me that they had detected a problem with my computer.  It just seemed strange to me that a company like Microsoft would be calling me to alert me to a virus on my computer, but I listened to what they had to say because I knew it had to be a scam and wanted to get some more information from them.  They wanted me to go to my computer and go to a website and that is when I told them that I knew that there was no problem with my computer.

After hanging up, I jumped on my computer and started doing some Google Research.  I found that this scam has been hitting people in the UK, Australia, South Africa and now it seems to have made it's way to the United States.  Had I stayed on the phone, the phony Tech Support caller would have directed me to look at some files on my computer that would have "proven" that I had the virus that they were calling about.  They would have then directed me to a website where I could download a file that would fix the issue, but what that file really does is allow them access to your computer!  Now they have all of your information!  And to top it off they will ask you to pay them for this service.

Microsoft has information about this scam on their website . . .


Once they have access to your computer, they can do the following: 
Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software. 
Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable. 
Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.
Neither Microsoft nor our partners make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or software fixes.
 As with anything, do your research first.  One intended victim indicated that when they spoke with the phone Tech Support person they indicated that they had 4 computers in their home, and asked which computer had the problem . . . the phony Tech responded that they could turn on any one of their computers to fix this problem.  This was a dead giveaway that it was a scam.

If you have been hit by this scam you should change your passwords, use a trusted malware scanner to remove any unwanted software from your computer and contact your bank and credit card companies.