Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Consumers who help AG's office could get up to $3K

I was just sent a link to this article from my good friend and fellow advocate, Denise Richardson ( and I just had to share it with all of you.
To summarize the article, The Indiana AG office wants victims of financial scams to be able to recoup legal costs through a program funded by violators of the state's consumer protection laws.  Personally, I think this is a GREAT idea.  I know that so many scam victims don't report the scams and just pay the money to make it go away instead of getting a lawyer to try to fight these cases . . . mostly because they cannot afford to get a lawyer.  This would allow them to get justice without it being an added financial burden on them.
Looks like there are a couple of lawmakers already backing this . . . Senator Richard Bray and State Representative Woody Burton.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa and ID Theft

I just got done reading a blog post called Is Santa A Victim of Identity Theft, and I had to share it with you.  The author makes a good point.

This time of year you see people dressed as Santa every where . . . one person's identity replicated over and over and then put out into the masses.  In some cases it is easy to see that it is an impostor, but in some cases you cannot really tell from first glance.  And then to add to it there are places that are selling all of the "supplies" so that even more people can assume this identity.  So how do you stop it?  Do you go after the person who it using the false identity?  Do you go after the people selling the identity?

The same thing holds true with actual cases of identity theft, and that is part of the reason that it is a growing problem.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advice from the BBB

Here is a little clip from a recent BBB newsletter.

The BBB Absolute 'No' for December
Every month, the BBB informs the public of an absolute ‘no,’ a fraudulent scheme or offer they should never consider or take part in under any circumstance. The absolute no for December involves online deals that seem too good to be true. In late November, the BBB began receiving complaints against OnSaleFurnitureDepot, an online furniture company which claimed to be operating out of an apartment in Fargo, North Dakota. Consumers reported that the company was offering furniture and swing-sets at heavily discounted prices, but then failed to deliver once payment was received. Also, customers were told they needed to pay for their merchandise Green Dot MoneyPak cards (essentially a money transfer service). Unfortunately, this left customers without any recourse to get their money back. For more information on this situation and BBB tips for shopping safely online, click here.
Moments Like This
This last June, the BBB began receiving complaints against Moments Like This, a bridal service company in Minneapolis. Complaints were from disappointed wedding parties who reported that on their wedding day they either hadn’t received linens or chair covers they had paid for or only received parts of their order. The BBB immediately began forwarding the complaints to the business owner, and by late June had updated the company’s report to indicate there was a pattern of a problem and customers considering doing business with the company should be aware of that. As of December 16th, the BBB had processed 22 complaints against the company. Eleven of those complaints were closed unresolved and another seven were closed with no response received from the company.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

5 Rules to Keep Your Identity and Credit Safe during the Holiday Shopping Season

Today we have a guest blog from Jon Ryan of

Your own shopping compulsions versus a limited budget isn’t the only threat during the holiday shopping season.  Use of your credit cards can really increase during this time of year. Without thinking you could be falling into habits that put your entire financial persona in jeopardy.

1.  Be assertive. Don’t be afraid to disagree, say no, or ask questions. If you are in a shop and the clerk want to take your plastic into the back room, speak up. You shouldn’t let that little piece of plastic out of your sight. If you have to keep other people waiting do so. They also know you are in a rush too. Fraudsters use crowds to mask their efforts and human emotions to force their efforts.

2.  Watch where you swipe. ATMs are extreme risky during the holidays. Fraudsters use a device called a skimmer to grab account numbers and PINs from a single card swipe. The skimmer can be placed on top of or within the original reader, thereby intercepting the digits or it can be placed in a separate location on the ATM in hopes a customer accidentally swipes there instead. If you need cash, the best practice is to avoid mall ATMs and go inside your bank to get the funds.

3.   Avoid giving. At lease right then and there. Any charity that wants your info and donation right then and there should be avoided. Don’t listen to the pleas. Any time you are going to give money away, there should be some research on the organization and where your money is going to actually go. The last thing you want to do is get surprised because you claimed a “fake” charitable donation on your taxes.

4.  Delve down when buying online. Think like a criminal here. Lines of encryption and a few bounces around to different IP addresses and then they are home free. There’s no face to attribute to the crime. Many people will avoid the crowds this year by taking their shopping lists to the web. If you choose to do so, don’t ever shop with your debit card. That is a direct line to your bank account. Under the federal laws, the credit card company can only hold you liable for $50 of any fraudulent transactions. The debit card could put you into overdraft fees and pose much more hassle and threat, so shop with your credit card or an alternative payment method like a prepaid check card or PayPal. Only buy on sites that have a secure server and a privacy policy and/or show the padlock icon in your browser’s bottom right hand corner. You can know your info is encrypted if the url goes from “http:\\” to “https:\\”. No email or search engine “shot-in-the dark” shopping. This will give you merchant’s with no researchable reputation.

5.  Beware of your surroundings & destroy everything. The two go hand in hand. Shoulder surfing and dumpster diving are still threats. People around you at the mall can probably heard you opening that new line of credit to cover your holiday expenses. Protect vital information from wandering eyes and ears. Write it down instead of verbally exchanging it. Afterwards take the slip with you and destroy it. Dumpster diving is still the easiest way for a low tech criminal to get hands on your personal info and steal your identity. Destroy/shred all these documents, especially those pre-approved lines of credit apps that come in the mail.

Follow these rules, and hopefully you will not become one of the 10 million who fall victim to identity theft every year. Also, remember less is more. Don’t leave the house with more cards or information than you absolutely need. It’s very important to watch your statements year-round, but this time of year you will be doing more spending than usual. So it stands to reason that more attention should be paid.

By Jon Ryan of, a blog hoping to spread awareness and provide identity theft protection tips.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dating Scam, from the Military Angle

I have talked about dating and romance scams in the past, but I recently came across an article dealing directly with Military Dating Scams that I wanted to share with you.

Since I am not a military person, and no one in my family has been an active military person since before I was born, I would not have known some of this information.

None of them use .mil email addresses that ALL military personnel have. These are just some of the tipoffs you should be aware of. 
This is good to know.  Just like when the scammer contacts a person pretending to be with a federal agency, but they are using a gmail account . . . this is a red flag.

Some of the other red flags are when the scammer asks you to help them to cash checks.  The author of this article points out that military personal do not need assistance from civilians to get their checks.  Another line the scammers will feed you . . . they are injured and need help getting home because they are stuck in Dubai.  The military will always pay for any flight home, and injured soldiers would not be transported to Dubai and just left there.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sample Secret Shopper Scam Email

Here is another sample of a Secret Shopper Scam email.  I do have to say, at least the grammar is better in this one than in the usual letters.


 Subject: Earn $200 Bonus For Each Assignment As A Secret Shopper This Christmas


We are a company that conduct surveys and evaluate other companies. We get hired to go to other peoples companies and act like customers in order to know how the staffs are handling their services in relation to their customers.

We all shop, and many of us enjoy shopping. But very rarely does opportunity present itself to do what we enjoy doing and getting paid for doing it. Imagine earning extra income just for going shopping and filling out a questionnaire!

Mystery shopping is basically a form of market research. You are asked to gather information, from a customer's perspective. Often times, this is done without the knowledge of the personnel where the shop is taking place. As a mystery shopper, you may therefore be asked to do some acting. This is not to deceive anyone but rather to assure that the information being gathered is representative.

The first thing to remember is that we are on the side of the client. You are not hired to catch anyone "in the act" or trap the employee. Rather, it is your job to answer specific questions in an unbiased and constructive way.

Confidentiality is also very important. In most cases, the establishment is not to know that a mystery shop is taking place. Additionally, the questionnaires may be protected by copyrights. Often, the employee evaluated will be informed of the results of your evaluation later and may even be allowed to read your comments. But this is for management to determine.

The information most often requested by management concerns employee to customer relations, employee performance, product quality or presentation of the establishment including cleanliness and convenience. This information helps management to identify areas of strength and weakness so they can take steps to correct the problem or potential problems before business is lost. The information can also allow management to monitor the success of a program designed to improve certain areas of concern. This can be a very advantageous tool to management in the extremely competitive business environment of today. Some companies will even inform employees that mystery shoppers will be visiting them but the employees will not know who or when the shop will take place. It may be considered a kind of report card and, as you can imagine, this can be a very effective motivational tool.

As a mystery shopper, you may receive assignments in a variety of establishments in your area. Most of them will be customer oriented retail establishments, which include chain stores, specialty stores and restaurants. Normally, it is the larger companies with many outlets and a central management office that use mystery shoppers. Statistics show that by far, the most important factor in competitiveness is customer service. Therefore, most of the information you will be asked to gather will concern customer service.

Obviously, mystery shoppers should appear to be a typical customer to the establishment. The mystery shoppers that consistently get new assignments, however, are those who are punctual and reliable. Mystery shopping companies want shoppers who also pay attention to detail and work well with others and have an appreciation of good service. You will be given specific questions to ask and perhaps specific products to shop for and/or purchase. You will be expected to promptly complete the questionnaire, neatly and concisely, and return it based on the instructions provided to you. Your job is not to be a problem shopper for the establishment but to gather specific and representative information.

Most of the time, the compensation for the assignment is established in advance and paid after the questionnaire is returned. As a mystery shopper, you are not an employee of the company that provides you an assignment--but rather an independent contractor. As such, there is no employee benefits and no taxes will be withheld from your pay. You are responsible for reporting your own income. However, you may want to consult your tax advisor as some tax breaks may apply.

Pay can range from $200 to $300 per job assignment, with an average of $100 per assignment. Additionally there is a stipend for purchases. The number of assignments per day vary but if you are assertive in seeking work-and work for several mystery shopping companies-you could garner up to 20 assignments per month. While most mystery shoppers consider this a part time or "hobby" job, if you approach the work as a full-time job, you can earn $4,000 to $5,000 per month.

Your job will be to evaluate and comment on customer service in a wide variety of shops, stores, restaurant and services in your area.
No commitment is made on this job, and you would have flexible hours as it suits you. If you are interested do send in these information:

FULL NAME:........................
ZIP CODE ................
TELEPHONE NUMBER:...................
MOBILE NUMBER:......................

So we can look at your distance from the locations which you have to put your service into, and your address would also be need for your payments.
Great Pay** Fun Work** Flexible Schedules**No experience required.If you can shop-you are qualified!
No start off fees is required
Must be above 18years old
Must be computer literate
Must be very honest and committed
pls note that this is a part time job

David Scott
Recruitment officer
Mystery Shoppers World

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Payday Loan Scams

This information was posted on the FBI website.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center has received many complaints from victims of payday loan telephone collection scams. Callers claim the victim is delinquent in a payday loan and must repay the loan to avoid legal consequences. The callers purport to be representatives of the FBI, Federal Legislative Department, various law firms, or other legitimate-sounding agencies. They claim to be collecting debts for companies such as United Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Advance, U.S. Cash Net, and other Internet check-cashing services.

According to complaints received from the public, the callers have accurate data about victims, including Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, employer information, bank account numbers, and the names and telephone numbers of relatives and friends. How the fraudsters obtained the personal information varies, but in some cases victims have reported they completed online applications for other loans or credit cards before the calls started.

The fraudsters relentlessly call the victim’s home, cell phone, and place of employment. They refuse to provide any details about the alleged payday loans and become abusive when questioned. The callers have threatened victims with legal actions, arrests, and, in some cases, physical violence if they do not pay. In many cases, the callers harass victims’ relatives, friends, and employers.
Some fraudsters have instructed victims to fax a statement agreeing to pay a certain amount, on a specific date, via a pre-paid Visa card. The statement further declares the victim will never dispute the debt.
If you receive these calls, do not follow the caller’s instructions. Rather, you should:
  • Notify your banking institutions.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus and request an alert be put on your file.
  • Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you feel you are in immediate danger.
  • File a complaint at
Tips to avoid becoming a victim of this scam:
  • Never give your Social Security number—or personal information of any kind—over the telephone or online unless you initiate the contact.
  • Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. The e-mail may include upsetting or exciting but false statements to get you to react immediately.
  • Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages that request personal information.
  • Ensure that your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been applied.
  • Check your bank, credit, and debit card statements regularly to make sure that there are no unauthorized transactions. If anything looks suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers.
  • When you contact companies, use numbers provided on the back of cards or statements

Friday, December 10, 2010

Secret Shopper Scams

With how hard it is to find jobs in today's economy, and the holiday's coming up, Secret Shopper Scams and other work at home offers seem to lure in more people.  They seem like a way that people can provide some extra income, and who does not need that right now.  Here is an example of a Secret Shopper Scam email.

 Subject: Mystery Shopping (Shoppers Needed)..  From:

We have a mystery shopping assignment.

Date:8th December,2010
"We have a mystery shopping assignment in your area and we would like you to participate"
Secret Shopper(R) is accepting applications for qualified individuals to become mystery shoppers. It's fun and rewarding, and you choose when and where you want to shop. You are never obligated to accept an assignment.
There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous
experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials via e-mail, fax or postal mail.
Secret Shopper(R) is the premier mystery shopping company, serving clients across America with over 500,000 shoppers available and ready to help businesses better serve their customers. Continual investment in the latest internet and communication technologies coupled with over 16 years of know-how means working with Secret Shopper(R) is a satisfying and rewarding experience.
Secret shopping as seen on ABC NEWS, NBC NEWS, L.A.TIMES.
Stores and organizations such as The Gap, Walmart, Pizza Hut, and Bank. One  amongst many others pay for Secret Shoppers to shop in their establishments and report their experiences. On top of being paid for shopping you are also allowed to keep purchases for free. Secret Shopper(R) NEVER charge fees to the shopper. Training, tips for improvement, and shopping opportunities are provided free to registered shoppers. Mystery shoppers are either paid a pre-arranged fee for a particular shop, a reimbursement for a purchase or a combination of both.
You will be required to interact with the shop clerk.
You may conduct the shop alone or as a couple.
The assignment will pay $200.00/ Assignment
Kindly Fill Out the application form below and we will get back to you
shortly with the assignment to this email (
First Name:
Last Name:
Street Address:
City, State, Zip Code:
Cell Phone Number:
Home Phone Number:
Days/Hours Available
Monday  .............................................
Tuesday .............................................
Wednesday .............................................
Thursday  .............................................
Friday .............................................
Saturday .............................................
Sunday .............................................
Hours Available: from _______ to ______
We await your urgent response.
Thank you for your help.
We look forward to working with you.
Frank James
Secret Shopper(R)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Investment Fraud

There was some news from the FBI this week about Investment Fraud.

WASHINGTON—Attorney General Eric Holder announced today the results of Operation Broken Trust, a nationwide operation organized by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to target investment fraud. To date, the operation has involved enforcement actions against 343 criminal defendants and 189 civil defendants for fraud schemes that harmed more than 120,000 victims throughout the country. The operation’s criminal cases involved more than $8.3 billion in estimated losses and the civil cases involved estimated losses of more than $2.1 billion. Operation Broken Trust is the first national operation of its kind to target a broad array of investment fraud schemes that directly prey upon the investing public.

In announcing the results of Operation Broken Trust, Attorney General Holder was joined by FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell, Deputy Chief Rick Raven of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Acting Director of Enforcement Vince McGonagle of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), and other members of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.

The interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established by President Obama to lead an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. Starting on Aug. 16, 2010, within a three-and-a-half month period, Operation Broken Trust involved 231 criminal cases and 60 civil enforcement actions. Eighty-seven defendants have been sentenced to prison, including several sentences of more than 20 years in prison.

“With this operation, the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force is sending a strong message,” said Attorney General Holder.  To the public: be alert for these frauds, take appropriate measures to protect yourself, and report such schemes to proper authorities when they occur. And to anyone operating or attempting to operate an investment scam: cheating investors out of their earnings and savings is no longer a safe business plan—we will use every tool at our disposal to find you, to stop you, and to bring you to justice.”

“This operation highlights the scope of this problem, and its impact on individuals from all walks of life,” said FBI Executive Assistant Director Henry. “This one sweep alone involves fraud schemes that harmed more than 120,000 victims. The schemes may change, but the underlying greed does not. Working with our partners, we in the FBI will use all the investigative techniques in our arsenal, including undercover operations, to bring those responsible to justice.”

“Fraud by well-known companies or high-profile executives gets the biggest headlines, but other scams are equally devastating to hard working families and retirees,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Victims want justice and don’t much care who the fraudster is or how unique the fraud.  Today’s actions underscore that law enforcement agrees and will pursue fraud in whatever form.”
Enforcement actions taken as a result of Operation Broken Trust involve a range of different investment fraud schemes, all of which prey directly on the investing public. The operators of these schemes often promise high returns to investors, but engage in little to no legitimate investment activity. Such schemes include Ponzi schemes, affinity fraud, prime bank/high-yield investment scams, foreign exchange (FOREX) frauds, business opportunity fraud, and other similar schemes. In some instances, operators of these schemes filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid claims by victim-investors.

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a long tradition of protecting postal customers from these types of investment and Ponzi scams and bringing those responsible to justice,” said USPIS Chief Postal Inspector Cottrell. “The Postal Inspection Service constantly strives to protect our customers and the general public from falling victim to these scams that claim millions of dollars every year.”

“The results announced today demonstrate the effectiveness of federal civil and criminal law enforcement in bringing to justice those who have engaged in financial fraud schemes,” said Acting Director McGonagle of the Division of Enforcement for CFTC. “The CFTC continues to devote substantial enforcement resources to combat financial fraud. We appreciate the partnership with the other members of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to protect the public from financial fraudsters.”

“Securities and investment frauds are serious offenses which have brought financial ruin to many citizens. Promoters of Ponzi schemes prey upon trusting investors and then steal their hard earned money,” said Rick Raven, Deputy Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to bring our forensic accounting skills to this joint venture with our law enforcement partners to put a stop to this and other types of white collar fraud.”

Operation Broken Trust was conducted in conjunction with various Department of Justice components—including the U.S. Attorney Offices, the FBI, the Criminal and Civil Divisions and the U.S. Trustee Program—as well as the SEC, USPIS, the CFTC, IRS-CI, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Secret Service, and the National Association of Attorneys General.

As a part of Operation Broken Trust, the task force is making the public aware of resources available to protect against these types of fraud and how to report fraud when it occurs. To learn more about investment scams, how to take steps to protect yourself from scams, or how to report investment fraud if you believe you have been victimized, go to The website includes links to a wide array of task force member resources.

The President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes. For more information on the task force, visit

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pot Calling the Kettle Black

As I opened my email this morning, the news items opened up and I had to take a second look at the title of this article . . . Nigeria Charges Dick Cheney in Corruption Case Stemming From Halliburton Bid.  My first thought was this is like the pot calling the kettle black!

In the article it states

An anti-corruption unit in Nigeria has charged former Vice President Dick Cheney in an alleged bribery scheme dating back to his days as CEO of Halliburton, the huge oil services company.
Halliburton and other firms are accused of paying as much as $180 million in bribes to win a contract to build a $6 billion liquefied natural gas plant in the African country's southern delta, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Okay . . . $6 billion is a LOT of money, but depending on which agency or report you look at, that is just a drop in the bucket to the amount lost by people to the scams and fraud coming out of Nigeria.  There are some reports that would show that $6 billion is not even one full year's work for Nigerian scammers.  Add to that the fact that many people do not report scams out of shame, and the true dollar amount just keeps getting higher and higher.

Back to the article . . . it goes on to say

Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission pointed specifically at a former Halliburton subsidiary, Houston-based KBR, which pleaded guilty last year in U.S. federal court to authorizing and paying bribes in Nigeria for plant contracts between 1995 and 2004.
If you go to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission's website you will see on the About EFCC page this information . . .

 The preponderance of economic and financial crimes like Advance Fee Fraud (419), Money Laundering, etc has had severe negative consequences on Nigeria, including decreased Foreign Direct Investments in the country and tainting of Nigeria's national image. The menace of these crimes and the recognition of the magnitude and gravity of the situation led to the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The legal instrument backing the Commission is the attached EFCC (Establishment) Act 2002 and the Commission has high-Ievel support from the Presidency, the Legislature and key security and law enforcement agencies in Nigeria.
My words to the EFCC . . . how about you go and clean up the crime, corruption and fraud in your own backyard before you start pointing fingers at others.  You have an office in Lagos, Nigeria which is the scam and fraud capital of the world.  How about making a REAL difference by shutting down the scam and fraud rings, and locking up the people running them so that they cannot just go out and open up a new location.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sample scam email

Here is an email that showed up in my inbox.  I am posting this as an example of a scam email.




The Skye Bank Nigeria Plc informed us the FBI, that they are through withthe first (1st) quarter transfer to beneficiaries, and that they are ready to start with the (2nd) quarter transfer to beneficiaries where your payment file belongs to now.

And since they are in the second quarter of fund released to beneficiaries, the bank states that the old payment code: to your inheritance contract funds has been changed and that the new payment code: to your contract funds will be (SBN/0098), take note of the new payment code: (SBN/0098), any e-mail you receive henceforth that does not have your payment code: (SBN/0098). Should be disregarded immediately and forwarded to us for immediate investigation.  Warning: Note that you are advised not to disclose the said inheritance contract funds with anyone until your said contract funds has been fully released to you, and ensure that you contact the bank ( with your payment code: (SBN/0098).

Immediately you receive this e-mail from us. Any e-mail that you receive stating that your inheritance contract fund is ready without the new payment code, should be disregarded immediately. CONTACT THE BANK AT THIS E-MAIL ADDRESS: (skyeban-knigplc09@live.comn) IMMEDIATELY.

Thank You And Have A Nice Day.

In God We Trust.

Robert S. Mueller III
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20535-0001, USA.