Thursday, December 31, 2009

Scam fighting - 2010

As 2009 comes to a close and we enter into 2010 I wanted to share the New Year’s Resolution that we have at Scam Victims United . . . to bring scam education and awareness to people across the country.

One of the ways that we plan to do this is with events called Scam Jam. These events are the brainchild of Chuck Whitlock an investigative reporter, author and speaker. If you have ever been to a Home and Garden Show or Wedding Expo, imagine that same experience and setting focusing on scams and fraud. There are presentations, workshops and speakers on various topics such as

ID Theft
Internet Scams
Investment Fraud
Health Care Scams
Bank Fraud
Elder Fraud
Charity Scams
Mortgage Fraud
Phishing Scams
Credit Card and Check Schemes
Contractor Fraud
Food/Supplement Fraud
Mail Fraud

Presenters include local media personalities sharing their best investigative reporting stories that expose scams, law enforcement groups, lawyers and legal experts, and even former scam victims sharing their story of victimization to recovery. Beyond the workshops and presentations, people attending a Scam Jam can interact with Consumer Protection groups in the Exhibitors Room. These professionals can assist them with their scam and fraud related questions, and offer then resources to assist them recovery efforts. You may even be able to purchase one of Chuck Whitlock’s investigative books that exposes scams or books written by other presenters.

Scam Jam is a one stop shop for education and resources on scams, fraud and consumer protection.

We are currently scheduling dates for Scam Jam events for 2010. If your school, business or company would like to host a Scam Jam at your facility, or if you are a professional in the area of scam fighting and consumer protection that would like to be a part of a Scam Jam in your area, please contact us.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

End of the year review

I would like to thank our friends at the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) for their post yesterday.

Education Remains the Best Defense Against Internet Fraud

2009 is turning out be a banner year for the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Experts predict the Center will end the year with close to 350,000 complaints. That’s a heck of a lot more than last year in which a record 275,284 complaints were received. 2010 will probably set another record.

While there is no doubt IC3 has become one of the most recognized vehicles for reporting online fraud today, the numbers have to date, only scratched the surface. Many experts believe the number of people who fall prey to credit card fraud, online auction fraud, phishing scams and the like, is actually far greater than the complaint numbers would indicate and cyber thieves aren’t letting up. If anything, they’re increasing their efforts to separate you and I from our money.

Consumers need to educate themselves to prepare for the coming decade and the wave of sophisticated scams that are sure to follow. There are a host of Web sites available that can help including:

If you do fall victim to online fraud, contact your local police right away and file a complaint with IC3 at It only takes a couple of minutes and the information can help law enforcement bring the perpetrators to justice.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More on Nigerian man and attempted bombing

This week I blogged about the Nigerian man who attempted to blow up an airplane on Christmas.

This event brings up something that I have not really talked about for 6 years, because I did not want people to think that I was trying to start some conspiracy theory . . . where is all of the money from these internet scams going, and could some of them be going to fund terrorism? I have read that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man who attempted this bombing, is the son of a rich Nigerian banker, so he comes from a wealthy family and that is most likely how he had the money to fund his bombing attempt . . . but he also said that there were other like him, training to do the same thing that he did . . . how are those “others” getting the money to fund their training and the attempts that they may make? Every person that Umar knows that is training to learn to bomb the United States cannot be from a wealthy family . . . they have to be getting their funds from someplace. Isn’t it possible that the Internet Scam that we talk about on and this blog could be the resource for the money to fund these attacks? (We KNOW it is not going to pay for further education of the scammers on proper English, otherwise their emails would have gotten better by now.)

This is why I have felt for years that one of the ways that we could fight terrorism is to change the way we handle counterfeit cashier’s checks. If we make it harder for them to get the money to fund these attacks, then we will decrease the number of them that they can fund and go forward with.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mortgage Scam


There are scams related to foreclosure assistance and the home loan mortgage modification program as many homeowners in need of assistance are turning to anyone who appears to have the answers. Some lenders involved with the home loan mortgage modification process are causing frustration for homeowners, so they look for other sources of aid, but scams seem to be more and more common, so be on guard.

Foreclosure and home loan modification scams commonly are trying to take advantage of those who are seeking counsel or advice. There are countless resources, like, to help those in need of foreclosure assistance through a home loan mortgage modification. However, if someone is seeking to collect a fee for services on foreclosure avoidance or a home loan modification, they are either not reputable, seeking to profit from your misfortune, or both.

Never sign over the deed to your home to anyone other than your mortgage lender. Many foreclosure and home loan modification scams are trying to acquire your home for their own gain, so never transfer ownership of your home. Outside of your direct lender, there is really nothing anyone can do if you sign over your deed to your home.

If someone is seeking a mortgage payment and they aren’t your lender and haven’t been directly approved by your lender to receive the payment, do not pay. Scam artists will run cons where they spin the idea they can help you avoid foreclosure or obtain a home loan modification of you pay your mortgage to them, but this again is false.

Foreclosure is a horrible thing to face and the home loan mortgage modification process can be just as difficult, but it’s worth the trouble to save your house. However, realize there are individuals who would love nothing more to profit from the loss of your home, so unless you are dealing with an accredited lender, stay vigilant.

For more information, see:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Nigerian National Charged with Attempting to Destroy Northwest Airlines Aircraft

WASHINGTON—A 23-year-old Nigerian man was charged in a federal criminal complaint today with attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft on its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day and with placing a destructive device on the aircraft.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a Nigerian national, boarded Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam, Netherlands on December 24, 2009 and had a device attached to his body. As the flight was approaching Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Abdulmutallab set off the device, which resulted in a fire and what appears to have been an explosion. Abdulmutallab was then subdued and restrained by the passengers and flight crew. The airplane landed shortly thereafter, and he was taken into custody by Customs and Border Patrol officers.

A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive. Further analysis is ongoing. In addition, FBI agents recovered what appear to be the remnants of the syringe from the vicinity of Abdulmutallab’s seat, believed to have been part of the device.

“This alleged attack on a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. “Had this alleged plot to destroy an airplane been successful, scores of innocent people would have been killed or injured. We will continue to investigate this matter vigorously, and we will use all measures available to our government to ensure that anyone responsible for this attempted attack is brought to justice

Abdulmutallab required medical treatment and was transported to the University of Michigan Medical Center after the plane landed. He will make his initial court appearance later today.

Interviews of all of the passengers and crew of Flight 253 revealed that prior to the incident, Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for approximately 20 minutes, according to the affidavit. Upon returning to his seat, Abdulmutallab stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself. Passengers then heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed Abdulmutallab’s pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire. Passengers and crew then subdued Abdulmutallab and used blankets and fire extinguishers to put out the flames. Passengers reported that Abdulmutallab was calm and lucid throughout. One flight attendant asked him what he had had in his pocket, and he replied “explosive device.”

These prosecutions are being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The investigation is being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. The public is reminded that criminal complaints contain mere allegations, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A little humor for today

I found this online and I had to share it with you.

So even our favorite cartoon characters can become scam victims.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cashier's Check Survey

For some reason this poll is not working when I moved it into these space. Please scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to take this survey.

If you deposited a cashier's check into your bank account, at what point would you feel safe that the check is legitimate, and that you can use the funds from it with no financial risk to yourself?

(scroll to bottom of page to vote)

Answers will be posted in the following days so that you can check back and see if you are correct.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Free trial scams

The Federal Trade Commission has joined an effort to warn consumers about deceptive online marketing related to free trial offers that require people to cancel or opt-out of a recurring charge for future products or services.

The Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, David C. Vladeck, along with officials from Visa and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) are cautioning consumers about the free trial feature, known as a "negative option." In a negative option feature, a company takes a consumer's failure to cancel a free trial offer as permission to begin charging for the service.

The FTC says many businesses use this billing process appropriately, others pre-check consent boxes, bury details of the offers in fine print, terms and conditions, and make cancellations or returns difficult, landing people in a cycle of recurring charges for products and services they do not want.

"Free trial marketing can be convenient for consumers-if the terms are clearly spelled out beforehand," Vladeck said. "Legitimate marketers don't hide critical information about costs or cancellation policies to get their customers to agree to future charges."

The FTC, Visa and the BBB offer the following tips to online shoppers on how to spot misleading free trial offers and how to deal with unauthorized charges:

Take time to read and understand all terms and conditions, so a free trial doesn't turn into a costly purchase you didn't intend to make.
Pay particular attention to any pre-checked boxes before you submit your payment card information for an order. Failing to un-check the boxes may bind you to terms and conditions you don't want.
Review credit card statements when you get them for any unauthorized charges, and notify the card issuer promptly of any unusual activity or unauthorized charges.
Try to resolve the situation with the merchant. If you're unsuccessful, contact the card issuer immediately to dispute the charge.
Consumers who think they have been victims of deceptive marketing and who have not been able to resolve the issue with the merchant should call their credit card company to dispute the charge. Consumers can also file a complaint with the FTC or their local BBB.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Every home owner must read!

I am re-posting a blog from Denise Richardson of because I feel that this story needs to be seen by everyone.

Florida homeowners Sara and Moshe have been working tirelessly trying to save their home from a wrongful foreclosure brought about by BofA's erroneous accounting practices. Sadly, Sara and Moshe are just one of countless families across the country who reports their frustrations with big banks over bad accounting practices, mismanaged loans, and borrower loan modification runarounds.

In Florida the news is the same. Hundreds if not thousands of aggravated Florida homeowners filed complaints with Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum against Bank of America for stalled home mortgage loan modifications.

Below, Sara and Moshe share their ongoing frustrations over Bank of America's inability to properly account for their monthly mortgage payments -payments that were made timely AND at a Bank of America branch, but continue to be reported to the credit bureaus as late and even prompted a letter indicating their loan was now on an accelerated track for foreclosure.

As they continue to fight to protect their rights and force Bank of America to properly account for their loan payments, correct their inaccurate credit reporting they share their story here;

Bank of America has reared its ugly head and is making our lives miserable!
By Sara Yoel & Moshe Rozenblum

Bank of America is not only going after legitimate foreclosures, but they are now targeting innocent homeowners. We should know because we are one of them.

Let me tell you how bad BOA is and to what extent they are willing to go to increase their bottom line profits.

Our mortgage was obtained through "Countrywide" back in 2005 and BOA took over Countrywide earlier this year. After learning of President Obama's program to help homeowners modify their loans, we dared only ASK them back in March 2009 about a modification of our mortgage based on economic change and hardship. Nevertheless, we continued to make our payments every month and on time. We never missed a payment not one. However, all hell broke loose anyway. It appears that instead of helping us homeowners with the billions of stimulus money they received, they decided it would be more beneficial for them to ignore our request for possible loan modification and proceed to harass us.

First they claimed in March that they did not receive our payment, which was not true, because upon learning of their claim that they never receive a payment I made a second payment over the phone, and put a stop payment on the earlier payment. Oops! They suddenly found that missing payment and applied that too, along with late fees too. After months of arguing with them over this, they finally removed the misapplied fees.

On our July/09 monthly statement they showed that we owed them one month payment, we did not, because after they claimed they had not received our last month's check, as of June/09 we started making payments in person at their own bank and we have their receipt to prove it. Again, I was forced to make more calls and pleas for their help in correcting their erroneous accounting.

In August we all of a sudden received a "Notice to accelerate" our mortgage, which means they are going to proceed with foreclosure. Remember, we have NOT been late and do not owe them any past due monies -ever -we are up to date.

Feeling drained, emotionally beaten and fearful that our home was being stolen out from under us, we immediately went to consult an Attorney who made a call to them and lo and behold, they said it is all a mistake and they will correct it. Yes, they corrected it, but we would learn that would be just briefly.

Later on, after making our September payment, two weeks later we received a second "Notice to accelerate" for a different amount owed.

Through the months of March through August none of our letters (Certified!), faxes, emails and phone calls were ever returned. We sent a second letter (priority mail) from another Attorney in September/09 requesting an answer and correction, but they never bothered to respond.
The nightmare for us (the fun for them) was just getting started. Mid October we noticed again that our payments were not applied to our account, and have continued until the present (now December 2009). As of this month, they are showing that we owe them in access of $ 8,000 which is three months of mortgage payments; we do not owe a penny! We have made every payment we owe, and on time.

But the worst was yet to come.

They reported these erroneous late payments to all three credit reporting agencies and succeeded in destroying our excellent credit (in the high 700's score).

As a consequence, we have already been denied credit and or have had our credit cut off, due to the negative (erroneous) reporting in our credit file with the credit reporting agencies. You also think that filing a dispute with the credit reporting agencies might help while you can prove your innocence, No way! Absolutely wrong! We tried and still are trying. They refuse to help consumers. It is a joke to think that they will practice due process, or help us in correcting inaccurate information that harms our credit rating. It doesn't matter to them. They will continue to sell and disseminate this harmful and inaccurate credit file, whether it harms us or not because they profit from selling it.

We complained to every government agency possible: OCC of the Treasury Department that handles N.A. Banks, the Florida State Attorney General, the FTC, but none has come through yet with any help.

Bank of America has a duty to handle my mortgage properly, but they are not. We believe Bank of America is outright harassing us, intimidating us and trying to steal our home. Bank of America you can't steal our home, not without us fighting to do all we can to stop you from doing this to us and other innocent homeowners!

Just a reminder, they never even bothered to contact us or respond in any shape or form regarding the request for a loan modification. They are probably having a good laugh at our expense, but we hope that just maybe we will be the ones who will laugh last.

Sara Yoel & Moshe Rozenblum

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Adoption Scams

This morning I noticed an article in the paper about two girls who were being adopted from another county. I thought it was going to be a cheery story of how these two girls were saved from a life of poverty, but instead I found a story about an adoption scam.

From that story I found another about a lady that spent three years of her life and thousands of dollars on what she thought was a legitimate adoption process to find out that she was dealing with a baby broker.

This just goes to show that the scammers will use anything to get their money . . . even if that means playing with the life a child and the emotions of a couple that wants to be parents.

Detecting counterfeit checks

In my searching around on the internet for information on scams, stories of scams in the news I came across a story at written by Mike Fenton of Parascript. In the article he says
Automatic systems for signature verification can successfully rely on a shared image archive and improve customer service and satisfaction by enabling banks and retailers to proactively inform customers of potential fraud. Similarly, check stock verification software can be used in a shared image archive environment to protect financial institutions against the fastest-growing source of fraudulent activity surrounding checks today, responsible for 28 percent of all check-related losses in banks - counterfeit checks.
What I want to know is if this works just for personal checks, or if this system also works for counterfeit cashier's checks.

Here is some information from their site.
Parascript Expands Fraud Detection Capabilities with Check Stock Verification Software

Boulder, CO – May 18, 2004Parascript, LLC, an industry leader in recognition software, announced today the release of CheckStockXpert™, an anti-fraud software used to detect counterfeit checks. This new software complements Parascript’s check recognition and signature verification products to give banks and financial institutions a powerful defense against multiple types of fraud.

The American Bankers Association reports that attempted check fraud in banks nationwide surpassed $4.3 billion in 2002, and continues to be a major concern as criminals gain access to more sophisticated equipment and develop new tactics to attack institutions with weak defenses. This newest addition to Parascript’s anti-fraud product suite will help banks and financial institutions automatically detect suspect checks passing through the system. The full suite of products will address altered and counterfeit checks as well as random and skilled forgery.

“Parascript is committed to applying our advanced pattern recognition technology to all facets of the growing problem of check fraud,” said Mike Fenton, Parascript’s vice president of Total Recognition Solutions. “First with CheckPlus® andSignatureXpert®, and now with CheckStockXpert, Parascript is setting the pace for enhancing and streamlining fraud detection. As we have in the past, we will continue to advance our technology to combat any and all fraudulent activity against financial institutions, retailers and their customers.”

CheckStockXpert uses advanced pattern recognition to verify the full image of a check as well as preprinted objects on a check including headers of check number, date, payee, dollar amount, dollar sign, memo, payor block and payor bank field. This software scrutinizes the placement of each item and its relative distances between pairs of blocks, allowing banks to immediately identify even the slightest variations of a check. Multiplemethods of verification—including quantitative analysis, pattern recognition, analytical and geometrical analysis and neural networks—further increase accuracy. Asa result, banks and financial institutions can automatically detect copies or imitations of checks passing through the system.

Parascript’s three-pronged defense puts a stop to even the most sophisticated check-writing criminals.

CheckPlus, Parascript’s hallmark check recognition software, already used by leading financial institutions captures multiple fields on a check, including payee line, check number, dollar amount and date. Having this key information helps enhance positive pay or other fraud detection applications. Parascript’s signature verification software, SignatureXpert, uses the most advanced pattern recognition technology to detect random and skilled signature forgery. These two software products combined with CheckStockXpert help banks and financial institutions build a solid defense against all types of fraud.

Parascript’s suite of anti-fraud products is immediately available. More information is available at

About Parascript, LLC

Parascript’s Total Recognition® technology converts paper-based information into computer-usable data. It is the first complete technology that recognizes all character types — cursive, handprint and machine print — on all forms. Its unique capabilities allow organizations using forms to capture customer information to dramatically reduce their data entry expenses. With Total Recognition technology, companies can turn handwritten and print data, including legacy data, into electronic information that can be used to power web-based offerings and other marketing initiatives. Total Recognition technology is available via a number of channels: as software development kits, through Parascript’s on-line services, through onsite custom solutions, and from Parascript’s partners.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Great article on counterfeit cashier's checks

I wanted to share an article I found on the dangers of counterfeit cashier's checks with you. Not only does this article contain a lot of great information, but it mentions our site, Scam Victims United.

This article was originally published by MSN Money, on Friday, Dec. 11, 2009.

Did you get conned into joining a check-cashing scam? Even if authorities decide you're an innocent victim, you could find yourself owing a bank thousands of dollars.

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis

Cash a check, go to jail. Or at the very least, empty your own savings account and ruin your credit.

It's happened to hundreds of thousands of Americans who believed that banks don't make funds available unless the checks they've deposited are genuine.

It happened to Calvin Barnett, who could face 11 years in prison for doing what he said he thought was his work-at-home job.

As unemployment reaches its worst levels in generations, scammers are finding a growing pool of victims all too willing to deposit strangers' checks, then return part of the money by wire transfers.

"There's a knowledge gap that these scammers are clearly taking advantage of," said Susan Grant, the director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America. "Under federal law here in the U.S., financial institutions have to give consumers access to the money from checks and money orders they deposit pretty quickly, usually within one to five business days. It can take much longer for counterfeits to be discovered, by which time the consumer has already sent the money."

"The problem is the con men are very persuasive," said Nessa Feddis, a vice president and senior counsel at the American Bankers Association, which is working with the Consumer Federation to educate consumers about check fraud. "People are desperate. They want to work. They want a job."

How the scams operate

Fake-check scams lurk under a number of disguises, but they share a common framework that depends on:

  • A U.S. law that requires banks to make funds available to depositors in five business days or less -- more quickly than the bank typically can verify the check is genuine.
  • Willing victims.

A fake check -- often drawn on a real account but printed in some scammer's basement -- may arrive as part of a work-at-home job offer or a sales transaction that feels like the answer to a desperate prayer. The scam artist will instruct you to cash the check, keep a percentage and wire the balance to a designated account.

A Consumer Federation study found that 1.3 million Americans have fallen for fake-check scams, losing an average of $3,000 to $4,000 per victim. Fake-check scams are the No. 1 fraud reported to the National Consumers League. The American Bankers Association estimates that bank losses from counterfeit checks totaled $307 million in 2008, up from $252 million in 2006. More than half of the banks surveyed this year expect losses due to phony checks to rise in the next 12 months, Feddis said.

Why you're on the hook

When the counterfeit is discovered, you -- the person who deposited it -- are responsible for paying back the money. After all, the bank gave you the cash, and you chose to wire it to the scam artists. It's illegal for the bank to deny you access to the funds, even if a teller suspects the check may be phony.

"It's a balance between giving people access to their money and preventing fraud," Feddis said. "The consumer is in the best position to know that they should be suspicious. . . . The bottom line is, why are they asking you to wire money when they're sending you a check?"

In the Consumer Federation survey, 59% of people wrongly believed that the financial institution confirms a check is good before allowing you access to the money.

The most common consequences

If you fall for a check-fraud scam, when the bank discovers the counterfeit checks it will deduct that amount from your account or freeze your account if there aren't sufficient funds.

That's what happened to Harry Smith, 25, of Union City, N.J. Smith answered a Craigslist ad for a paper company purportedly based in England that claimed to need a U.S.-based worker to expedite order processing. He cashed three checks totaling $6,000, kept 10% and wired the balance to the "production managers."

"I figured if whatever check I did have wasn't good, it wouldn't go through at the bank," Smith said. "I had constant communication with this other person, so I felt there wasn't anything wrong."

But when he called the return phone number on the FedEx package containing the checks, the person who answered had no knowledge of Smith's supposed employer. He went to the bank and had to wait more than a week to confirm they were counterfeits. If he didn't repay the bank the $6,000, he would be reported to ChexSystems and wouldn't be able to open a U.S. bank account for at least five years.

"Luckily I opened another one before it got reported," he said. Now the $6,000 has been turned over to a collection agency, and "I pay about $250 a month for two years to pay it off."

When you become a criminal

Cashing a fake check becomes a criminal act when you are aware of the counterfeit. Typically, banks won't press charges unless it's clear you knew about the scam, Feddis said.

But just because you know you're innocent doesn't mean that law enforcement will see it the same way.

Earl Walls of Huntington, W.Va., 68, had never been in trouble with the law before he deposited phony checks and wired $3,000 to scam artists. After his arrest, the bank froze his account; he couldn't even pay a retainer to a lawyer. According to county rules, his income from Social Security was high enough that he didn't qualify for a public defender, but the bank wouldn't let him withdraw from his account.

"I had no money," said Walls, retired from a job as a supervisor in a corrugated-box factory. "I had to get out and borrow money from friends and relations to make a house payment."

Fortunately, his neighbor contacted the West Virginia Attorney General's Office, which recognized that Walls was a victim rather than a criminal, said Derek Walker, the chief investigator for the attorney general.

"He received instructions from this 'employer,' and he followed the instructions to the letter," Walker said. "His story checked out."

After state officials talked to the county prosecutors, Walls received a pro bono public defender, and all charges were dropped. But to this day he feels anxious when he sees a police car or even a FedEx truck -- like the one that brought the counterfeit checks to his door -- in his neighborhood.

Innocent or guilty?

Calvin Barnett wasn't as lucky. For two years he's been awaiting trial for cashing a $3,000 counterfeit check he received after answering a Craigslist ad for a payment processor job.

"I haven't told my family," said Barnett, 30, who had moved to New York City from Alabama in 2007 to seek work. "I was just embarrassed that I could be so stupid."

The police were suspicious because he received the check at a post office box and cashed it at a bank where he wasn't a customer, said his attorney, Damien Brown. A spokeswoman for the New York District Attorney's Office declined to comment on Barnett's case.

Barnett is free on bail but has had trouble finding work due to the criminal indictment against him. "My life is in abeyance," he said.

How to spot the scam

The best way to avoid being scammed is never to wire money to someone you haven't known for a long time, Walker said. Even then, confirm that the person you're sending money to actually is the relative or friend you want to help.

One West Virginia resident received an urgent call asking "Grandma" for help. She blurted out her grandson's name, and the caller said, yes, that was him. But after she wired the money, it turned out that her grandson was fine. She'd just been scammed, Walker said. (See "Beware fake grandkids calling for cash.")

Other tips include:
  • Never pay money in order to claim a prize. No legitimate lottery or sweepstakes will ask you to send money in advance before receiving your winnings. If you were actually a winner, you'd pay any taxes directly to the government after getting your prize.
  • Never pay for grants from foundations or the government. Genuine grants -- which mostly go to organizations -- don't charge for money and have lengthy application processes.
  • Never send money to anyone who asks you to cash a check or money order, whether in connection with the sale of an item, a work-from-home job or an Internet romance.
  • Never wire money to someone unless you have met him or her in person and have known each other for a long time.

To learn more about scams, contact the Consumer Federation of America, the Federal Trade Commission, and of the National Consumers League, Scam Victims United and Fraud Aid.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

reBlog from REDI-SET-GO Complaints; Trickery Used in Phone Orders

I found this fascinating quote today:

The holidays are a time of joy for many people. They are also, unfortunately, the perfect time for predators, identity thieves, and scam artists to pick off as many frantic shoppers as they can get., REDI-SET-GO Complaints; Trickery Used in Phone Orders, Dec 2009

You should read the whole article.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Are state consumer protection laws working?

This information was posted at CL&P Blog

A comprehensive new study of state consumer protection statutes was just published. The background for the study is described as follows:

During the 1960s there appeared to be increasing demand from the American public and elected officials for consumer protection laws. State legislatures responded by enacting a diverse collection of legislation commonly called Consumer Protection Acts (CPAs). Most CPAs were originally designed to supplement the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) role in protecting consumers from “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” Yet there is growing concern that CPA enforcement and litigation are qualitatively different than FTC enforcement and potentially counterproductive for consumers. Critics argue that CPAs generate a set of incentives that encourages plaintiffs and their attorneys to file claims of dubious merit. Proponents counter that CPAs are necessary to supplement FTC enforcement and provide incentives for individuals to bring suit to deter harmful conduct. While both critics and proponents of CPA enforcement make claims about the nature and quality of state consumer protection litigation, the academic and policy debates surrounding CPAs suffer from a remarkable void of empirical data.

The Searle Civil Justice Institute study attempts to provide this empirical data, but also makes several conclusions based on the data, which it asserts suggest that state consumer protection statutes are not working as they should. In my opinion, the data may also be viewed as supporting the conclusion that the Federal Trade Commission is not charged with protecting individual consumers, and state statutes are successfully meeting their goal of providing protection for individual consumers.

Here are the Key Findings of the study:

1. Litigation under CPAs has increased dramatically since 2000. Between 2000 and 2007 the number of CPA decisions reported in federal district and state appellate courts increased by 119%. This large increase in CPA litigation far exceeds increases in tort litigation as well as overall litigation during the same period.

2. Vague statutory definitions of prohibited conduct are a major driver of CPA litigation. Whether a CPA statute has vague language prohibiting some general type of conduct rather than a specific list of illegal actions is an important potential contributor to the level of CPA litigation in the state. States with vague definitions of prohibited conduct have more CPA litigation.

3. CPAs are becoming more favorable and generous to consumer litigants. Between 1995 and 2007, the expected value of recovery for potential plaintiffs increased dramatically as measured by CPA requirements to bring a cause of action and available remedies. In 2004, the state CPAs that were the most favorable to plaintiffs were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The states with CPAs that were the least favorable to plaintiffs were Colorado, Maryland, and Georgia.

4. States with CPAs that are more favorable to consumers have more CPA litigation. The expected value of recovery under a given state’s CPA appears to contribute to the amount of litigation that makes use of the act. States that allow more generous remedies and make it easier for consumers to win in court see more CPA litigation.

5. Most CPA claims would not constitute illegal conduct under FTC consumer protection standards. The Searle Shadow FTC found that 78% of a sample of CPA claims would not constitute legally unfair or deceptive conduct under FTC policy statements. While relatively few CPA claims would constitute illegal conduct under the FTC standard (22%), even fewer (12%) would result in FTC enforcement.

6. Almost 40% of CPA claims where the consumer plaintiff prevailed at trial would not constitute illegal conduct under FTC consumer protection standards.

7. In a sample of CPA claims where the consumer plaintiff prevailed in court, the Searle Shadow FTC found that 38% of these successful claims would not constitute illegal conduct under the FTC standard. Although most of these successful cases would meet the FTC illegality standards, only 23% would likely be enforced by the FTC.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

But they said it was "free"

We have all seen them, the commercials with the singing pirates telling you to go and get your free credit report. The Federal Trade Commission wants you to know something about those "free" credit reports. When you go to sign up for your free credit report, it asks for your credit card number "to establish your account". While you might not see a charge that same day, you will eventually receive a charge for this service. is the ONLY authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every twelve months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, but instead paid hidden fees or agreed to unwanted services. Don’t be fooled by TV ads, email offers, or online search results. Go to the authorized source when you request your free report
Here are two great videos from the FTC about the Free Credit Report scam

Americans for Fairness in Lending

While I was in Florida for the National Consumer Expo, I had the pleasure of meeting Sally Brzozowki who works for Americans for Fairness in Lending

Americans for Fairness in Lending (AFFIL) and Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) are partnering to reform the nation’s lending industry and financial system to protect Americans’ neighborhoods, homes and pocketbooks.

For too long, the rules of Wall Street have been written by the bankers themselves. This year, that has to change.

We are a coalition of over two hundred national, state and local consumer, labor, retiree, investor, community and civil rights organizations that have come together to spearhead a campaign for real reform in our banking and financial system.

AFFIL Members are individuals around the country who believe we need to reform the nation’s lending industry. You can join our mailing list and become a member today!

AFFIL’s Board of Directors is made up of leading consumer advocates from around the country. The Board is currently chaired by Cathy Lesser Mansfield, a professor of law at Drake University.

AFFIL has a tiny staff so that as many of its resources as possible are spent raising awareness and working for reform.

You can also check out their blog at

Find them on Facebook

Follow them on Twitter

Saturday, December 12, 2009

House approves consumer protection

It was close . . . 223 to 202 vote . . . but the House passed the bill that would create a consumer protection agency.

Pop-Up Security Warnings Pose Threats

Pop-Up Security Warnings Pose Threats

The FBI warned consumers today about an ongoing threat involving pop-up security messages that appear while they are on the Internet. The messages may contain a virus that could harm your computer, cause costly repairs or, even worse, lead to identity theft. The messages contain scareware, fake or rogue anti-virus software that looks authentic.

The message may display what appears to be a real-time, anti-virus scan of your hard drive. The scareware will show a list of reputable software icons; however, you can’t click a link to go to the real site to review or see recommendations. Cyber criminals use botnets—collections of compromised computers—to push the software, and advertisements on websites deliver it. This is known as malicious advertising or “malvertising.”

Once the pop-up warning appears, it can’t be easily closed by clicking the “close” or “X” buttons. If you click the pop-up to purchase the software, a form to collect payment information for the bogus product launches. In some instances, the scareware can install malicious code onto your computer, whether you click the warning or not. This is more likely to happen if your computer has an account that has rights to install software.

Downloading the software could result in viruses, malicious software called Trojans, and/or keyloggers—hardware that records passwords and sensitive data—being installed on your computer. Malicious software can cause costly damages for individual users and financial institutions. The FBI estimates scareware has cost victims more than $150 million.

Cyber criminals use easy-to-remember names and associate them with known applications. Beware of pop-up warnings that are a variation of recognized security software. You should research the exact name of the software being offered. Take precautions to ensure operating systems are updated and security software is current. If you receive these anti-virus pop-ups, close the browser or shut down your computer system. You should run a full anti-virus scan whenever the computer is turned back on.

If you have experienced the anti-virus pop-ups or a similar scam, notify the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by filing a complaint at

Money order scams

My good friend, Denise Richardson of Give Me Back My Credit just sent me a link to a story that I think all of you should read.

I love that the author starts off by calling this a case of the clueless banks, because this is the way that I have felt for years. When we were hit with our Counterfeit Cashier's Check Scam, which works the same way as the Money Order Scam the author talks about in this story, our bank told us that the cashier's check would be verified as good and clear in 24 hours. When we questioned that answer they assured us that 24 hours was all that it took for it to be "verified".

Back then, I assumed that this meant that someone at the bank actually did something to "verify" that the cashier's check or money order was good. You would think with all of the computer programs out there that they could have a system where you enter the check information and it would tell you if it that check was written on a bad account or if the account had enough funds in it to cover that check . . . and last time I checked, the phone system still worked for the bank to call the issuing bank to "verify" all of this.

So, a week after we deposited the cashier's check that we were sent, we got a call from our bank telling us that it was counterfeit and that we were liable for the entire amount. I asked them how this could be true since they told us that the check was "good", "verified" and that the "funds were available". They informed us that when we signed the check we became liable for the full amount, and that if we wanted to know for sure that it was good we should have called the issuing bank . . . funny . . . that is what I thought THEY were going to do when they said that they were going to "verify" the check!

But it gets better . . . as we were battling the bank and speaking with the Loss Prevention Department my husband asked them "So, how long does it REALLY take for a cashier's check to clear?" After asking her supervisor, the person we were speaking with told us "24 hours", to which we responded, "If that were true, we would not be having this conversation with you right now."

And that is why I agree with the author of this article that the banks are clueless.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of
There is strength in numbers!

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Support Scam Victims United by shopping at

The Truth About Money Order Scams | Smart Spending | Mainstreet

The Truth About Money Order Scams | Smart Spending | Mainstreet

Friday, December 11, 2009

Money Transfers

Money Transfers Can Be Risky Business

You’ve won a prize!
I’m in a foreign country, and I need cash.
We’re temporarily unable to accept credit cards.
Your dream apartment is available immediately at an incredible price!

Scam artists use a number of elaborate schemes to get your money, and many involve money transfers through companies like Western Union and MoneyGram. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, money transfers may be useful when you want to send funds to someone you know and trust — but they’re completely inappropriate when you’re dealing with a stranger.

Why do scammers pressure people to use money transfers? So they can get their hands on the money before their victims realize they’ve been cheated. Typically, there is no way you can reverse the transaction or trace the money. Another reason: When you wire money to another country, the recipient can pick it up at multiple locations, making it nearly impossible to identify them or track them down. In some cases, the receiving agents of the money transfer company might be complicit in the fraud. Money transfers are virtually the same as sending cash — there are no protections for the sender.

Many money transfer scams involve dramatic or convincing stories that play on your optimistic nature, your altruism or your thriftiness. But no matter how you parse it, they always cost you money. Here are some scams involving money transfers that you may recognize:

Counterfeit Check Scams

Someone sends you a check with instructions to deposit it and wire some or all the money back. By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. You are responsible for the checks you deposit, so if a check turns out to be fraudulent, you will owe the bank any money you withdrew.

Counterfeit check scams have many variations:

Lotteries and Sweepstakes: You just won a foreign lottery! The letter says so, and a cashier’s check is included. All you have to do is deposit the check and wire money to pay for taxes and fees. Oops: The check is no good. Although it looks like a legitimate cashier’s check, the bank eventually will determine that it is a fake. The lottery angle is a trick to get you to wire money to someone you don’t know. If you deposit the check and wire the money, the check will bounce — and you’ll be responsible for the money you sent.

Overpayment Scams: Someone responds to your posting or ad, and offers to use a cashier’s check, personal check or corporate check to pay for the item you’re selling. At the last minute, the so-called buyer (or the buyer’s “agent”) comes up with a reason to write the check for more than the purchase price, and asks you to wire back the difference. The checks are counterfeit, but very often, good enough to fool bank tellers. Acting in good faith, you deposit the check and wire the funds back to the “buyers.” Oops: the check bounces. You are liable for the amount you wired.

Mystery Shopper Scams: You are hired to be a mystery shopper and asked to evaluate the customer service of a money transfer company. You’re given a check to deposit in your personal bank account. Then, you’re told to withdraw the amount in cash and wire the money using a certain money transfer service. Often, the instructions say to send the transfer to a person in Canada or another foreign country. You’re then asked to evaluate your experience — but no one collects the evaluation. Oops: the check you deposited bounces. You are responsible for the money you withdrew.

Don’t wire money to:

  • a stranger — in this country or anywhere else
  • someone claiming to be a relative in a crisis — and who wants to keep their request for money a secret
  • someone who says a money transfer is the only form of payment that’s acceptable
  • someone who asks you to deposit a check and send some of the money back

Other Money Transfer Scams

Online Purchase Scams: If you are buying something online and the seller insists on a money transfer as the only form of payment, consider it a red flag: ask to use a credit card, an escrow service or another way to pay. No matter what story the seller tells you, insisting on a money transfer is a signal that you won’t get the item — or your money back. Find another seller.

Advance Fee Loans: Ads and websites that guarantee loans or credit cards regardless of your credit history may be tempting. The oops moment is when you apply for the loan or credit card and find out you have to pay a fee in advance. If you have to wire money for the promise of a loan or credit card, it’s likely you’re dealing with a scam artist.

Family Emergency Scams: You get a call out of the blue from someone who claims to be a member of your family and needs cash to get out of a jam — to fix a car, get out of jail or leave a foreign country. He begs you to wire money right away and to keep the request confidential. Check it out with your family. It’s likely they know nothing about it. If you absolutely, positively cannot ignore the request, try to verify the caller’s identity by asking very personal questions a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. And keep trying to reach the family to check out the story.

Apartment Rental Scams: Some scammers hijack bona fide rental or real estate listings by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the altered ads on other sites. Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to pique your interest with the promise of below-market rent. But once they have your attention, a skilled scammer asks you to wire an application fee, a security deposit or the first month’s rent. It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking.

If you’ve wired money to a scam artist, call the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. You can reach the complaint department of MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947) or Western Union at 1-800-448-1492. Ask for the money transfer to be reversed. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s important to ask. Then, file a complaint with the FTC. Visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.govor call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

MoneyGram class action

Last week I wrote about MoneyGram and the FTC, and how the FTC has found that MoneyGram knew that it's money transfer system was being used to defraud and scam people out of their money, and did very little about it.

Since then I have been contacted by a consumer rights attorney in California and he would like to bring a claim against MoneyGram to get money back to scammed consumers.

If you know of anyone in California that was scammed by MoneyGram, please have them contact me so that I can get them in touch with this attorney. He is willing to help the victims and work on contingency.

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through

Support Scam Victims United by shopping at

Giving Back at the Holidays

The Holiday Season is here, and as always at Scam Victims United we would like to help those out that are going through really tough times this year due to scams.

We call it our "Secret Santa Program" and here is how it works . . . If you are a parent who has recently been hit by a scam and is now wondering how you are going to provide Christmas gifts for your child, please send a private message to me with the subject "Dear Santa" and in it list the ages of your children and one gift that they would like to see from Santa this year, along with your complete mailing address. (Please remember that this is supposed to be for small children who still believe in the magic of Santa)

Everyone else that visits this site, if you would like to help to make Christmas better for one child, or one family, please send me a private message with the subject "Santa's Helper" and I will then forward you the information of one family that needs help this year. Please only contact me if you plan of following through . . . this could be the ONLY gift that some of these children get this year!

If you would like to help support this Holiday season you can send donations through PayPal
Purchase Scam Victims United merchandise at
Purchase books and movies at our Amazon Store
Purchase items from the retailers listed at
Retailers include
Best Buy
Napster plus many more!

Also, I want to tell you about another group that is helping people at the holidays

Robeez will donate a pair of soft sole shoes to K.I.D.S. with every soft sole purchased through December 23rd:

I personally love the Classic MJ Flowers - brown. It is a cute little shoe with a classy combination of brown with light pink trim and some small pick flowers.

To find out more about this program go to

Happy Holidays!

Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Consumer Education

The FTC has a new Consumer Alert, available on its Web site at, titled “Money Transfers Can Be Risky Business.” It includes useful information on how consumers can avoid telemarketing and money transfer fraud, including the following tips. Don’t wire money to:

· someone you don’t know, in the U.S. or in a foreign country;

· someone claiming to be a relative in the midst of a crisis and who wants to keep the
request for money a secret;

· someone who says a money transfer is the only form of payment that’s acceptable; or

· someone who asks you to deposit a check and send some of the money back.

Consumers interested in the process of redress administration should call 202-326-3755.

The FTC’s case was investigated with the assistance of the Toronto Strategic Partnership, Project Colt, Project Emptor, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Additional assistance was provided by the Durham Regional Police Service, Ontario, Canada, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre (PhoneBusters).

The Toronto Strategic Partnership includes the FTC, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Competition Bureau Canada, the Toronto Police Service Fraud Squad – Mass Marketing Section, the Ontario Provincial Police Anti-Rackets Section, the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the United Kingdom's Office of Fair Trading. Project Colt includes the FTC, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Surete du Quebec, City of Montreal Police Service, Canada Border Services Agency, Competition Bureau Canada, U.S. Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Project Emptor includes the FTC, the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Competition Bureau Canada, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

The Commission vote approving the complaint and proposed consent order was 3-0, with Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour recused. The complaint and order were filed on October 19, 2009, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. A stipulated court order is for settlement purposes only and does not necessarily constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Stipulated orders have the force of law when signed by the judge.

Copies of the complaint and stipulated order are available from the FTC’s Web site at and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.