Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thousands Scammed by Facebook Starbucks App

Guest Blog Post by Brittany Lyons ~ 

For many Facebook users, the offer of free Starbucks gift cards is simply too much to pass up. Recently, many users clicked on just such a link that popped up in their friends' status updates, after those friends had “liked” the page. Instead of taking them to a legitimate corporate website, the users were directed to a fraudulent website, where they gave up their private information in order to receive the non-existent gift cards.

Facebook scams like these are not a new occurrence. In August of 2010, the statuses of users' Facebook pages were flooded with messages letting people know that Justin Bieber was giving away free concert tickets. When users clicked the link, they went to a Facebook application page that asked for the user’s mobile phone number in order to enter a contest to win £50,000 (80,000 USD). The catch is that it was also a premium service that charged £4.50 (7 USD) to the mobile phone bill once a week.

The one thing that Justin Bieber and Starbucks have in common is an extremely large fan base, and thus more potential victims who scammers can target. This is also why scams will often be disguised as popular services like online PhD programs. That large number of potential victims is then multiplied by the number of friends that these fans have, and scams like these get passed along from friend to friend like wildfire. It is possible that thousands of people may have given up their personal information before the Starbucks scam app was removed by Facebook.

This connection between friends is what makes Facebook scams different than the email spam messages of the past. Email spam would just get sent to random people, typically by unknown senders, which made them relatively easy to block, filter or just ignore. Facebook scams, on the other hand, rely on trusted connections between friends in order to spread. Once someone has clicked on the link, the app re-posts that same link on their status, sending it out to all of their connections. Since a Facebook user would not be as suspicious of a message or link from a friend as they would with a random sender, there is a better chance of them opening the scam link or message and passing it on.

To avoid scams like this, it's important to know the posting habits of your friends. For example, if friends are posting links when they normally do not post links, or they are linking to something you don't think they are a fan of, there is a good chance that they have been scammed and didn't even post the link in the first place. Most of these links are actually rogue Facebook apps installed on a user’s Facebook page. If you are ever taken to a Facebook application install page, pay attention to whether or not the application asks for authorization to post on your wall, and think carefully before granting that authorization—your friends will thank you.

Users should also avoid giving out personal information as a rule, especially in the case of promotional offers. Check the security setting on your Facebook profile, so that you are using “secure browsing”--that means there is an “https://” in front of the page URL rather than the “http://” that's more common. Secure browsing has a tendency to block all apps, rather than just the scams, but the extra step it takes to open a link will prompt you to think twice about how secure it is. Finally, users can also keep track of ongoing scams and frauds by checking the Facebook page of Sophos, a company that monitors and reports scams, viruses and frauds that are spread throughout the Internet.

Overall, the best mentality to have when seeing promotions that offer gift cards and other goodies on Facebook is this: if something seems to be too good to be true, then it probably is.

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, October 3, 2011

Guest Blog Post ~ Shredding Documents

Today we have a guest blog post to share with you from Chris at

My parents and I were recently talking about ID theft and shredding over dinner. My father’s company purchased a Cross-cut Office Shredder from to shred all sensitive information on site. This sensitive information includes corporate information such as invoices and pre-printed company letter paper but also the personnel files of his employees.

My mother works in the HR department for a much larger company so a vast majority of the documents that needed to be shredded relate to individuals who work at the company. This includes their names, addresses, home telephone numbers, bank account details and many other pieces of information that you wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands. I asked how this information was shredded and expected one of 3 answers:

1. Each member of staff has their own personalised shredder
2. There was a large centralised shredder for each department
3. A specialist company comes and does the shredding for them on site

The actual answer left me stunned. They got another company to shred all of her documents FOR FREE! They put all of the documents that need to be shredded into bags and then these are left in a room for the company to collect. The company would arrive every Friday to collect the bags and take them away with them.

I asked why the company didn’t charge any money for this service and was told that it was because they make their money from selling the paper. I asked how she knew that the paper had been shredded and she very proudly told me that they received a certificate through the post a few weeks later confirming that the paper had been shredded!

I could not believe what I was hearing. Sensitive information is left for over a week in bags marked “to be shredded” and are then collected by a company who makes money from the contents of these bags.

There are two problems that I can see:

1. Imagine someone broke into the property overnight and saw these bags. It wouldn’t take a genius to realise that bags marked “to be shredded” contained sensitive and potentially valuable information.
2. What is to stop the company who collects these bags from selling them to someone else and then providing you with a false certificate?

That is not to say that this particular company acts in this way. I have no idea of their name and they may be the most ethical company in the World. However why take the chance? If they could collect the paper and get $5,000 for the recycled value or sell the information for $20,000 then unfortunately there are some members of society that would choose the latter.

Do you know what happens at your company? In the UK companies must comply to the Data Protection Act. The important part is the 7th Principal that states that “Appropriate technical and organizational measures shall be taken against unauthorized or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of or damage to personal data”. This is clearly not the case if your information is taken off site. In the US there is no equivalent legislation, however companies are encouraged to self regulate this to ensure that data does not fall into the wrong hands.

This has hopefully made you think about what your company’s shredding policy is.

It is your personal information that could be at risk and it is your identity that could be stolen so you are allowed to know what the process is. All companies should have a shredding policy in place. If they don’t then why don’t you put yourself in charge of creating one? If your Company has their information shredded off-site then show them this article and see if you can get them to change how they do things.
The golden rule applies in this case as it does with most things in life. If something sounds too good to be true then it usually is!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Internet Scam Victims - Real Stories

When I first became a scam victim I was embarrassed and did not want anyone to know . . . that lasted all of 5 minutes and then I was angry at so many things . . . the scammers for their greed, the banking system for not giving me accurate information about how long it takes for a cashier's check to clear, the wire transfer company for not having more warnings about these scams in their businesses and for turning a blind eye to the problem.

That is when I KNEW I had to do something.  I started to contact the media in order to get our story out there, and you know what . . . it HELPED!  It helped me to talk about it and get it out there, but it also helped so many other people.  My phone was ringing off the hook from people saying "The same thing happened to me" or from people who heard our story in the media in time for them to know the situation they were about to enter into was a scam and it saved them thousands of dollars.

If you are a scam victim, you could do the same thing for someone else.  I am contacted by the media in a regular basis asking for help in locating recent scam victims who would be willing to share their story.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to know that you saved someone else from going through the living hell that becomes your life when you discover you are a victim of a scam.

If you would like to be able to help to educate people about scams and fraud, and possibly save someone from becoming a victim, please email me and I will work to connect you with a media person that will do your story justice and help us to take a step forward in educating people about these scams.

Also, you can connect with me and follow our updates from

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Guest Blog and Scam Warning

Today I am sharing a blog post written by my good friend Denise Richardson

If you are looking for work-at-home opportunities --you may have already come across this deceptive marketing website dressed up as an investigative news site. A number of scam websites try to make themselves look legitimate through the use of bogus claims and website scripts that detect where visitors are browsing from and update portions of the site to mention their towns or cities.

Unfortunately, some websites try to take things one step further and attempt to pass themselves off as sources of legitimate news in hopes of tricking those who are looking for legitimate opportunities. It appears that The Consumer Warnings Weekly site at does exactly this; it masquerades as a consumer website that purports to separate the scams from real opportunities, all the while being disguised as an investigative news organization.

The Consumer Warnings Weekly site features information about fake consumer investigations which claim to reveal a work-at-home program that isn't a scam, and further claims that the one the site promotes has worked for people in the visitor's hometown. Included are pictures of checks and a variety of comments which are most likely fake, along with "endorsements" from major news organizations such as CNN and MSNBC which are either taken out of context or are completely fake. Pictures on the site are stock photos, taken from free photo libraries and other websites to try and give the site the look of a more professional operation. Even the advertisements on the page are fake, directing users to other portions of the scam site when they think that they're clicking on an ad to learn how to avoid online scams. To top it all off, the site even features a Facebook "Like" button so that unsuspecting visitors can share the scam with their friends and potentially draw in more victims.

Of course, if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website then all of this is revealed to you in fine print. An "Important Consumer Disclosure" is located at the bottom of the page where many websites print their copyright information, obviously with the hope that it will be ignored by a number of visitors who routinely ignore similar text on other sites. This disclosure reveals that the site is in no way affiliated with any news outlet and that the story presented is only loosely based on an actual story. It goes on to reveal that both the comments and pictures are bogus and that the page receives compensation for any ad clicks or purchases made while on the site. To quote the disclosure, "I understand this website is only illustrative of what might be achievable from using this/these products, and that the story depicted above is not to be taken literally."

A number of websites and products use fictionalized accounts of what their product may be like to avoid having to pay endorsement fees, but few of them attempt to pass themselves off as consumer news reviews. The way that the site presents itself is intended to trick users into thinking that they've stumbled upon a legitimate opportunity when the disclosure itself states that results like those presented on the site may only occur with the top 1% of users of the program.

A number of savvy opportunity seekers will see through the site almost immediately because they've seen similar scams and know to avoid them. Unfortunately, not everyone who's searching for a way to make money at home will be as experienced in avoiding work-at-home scams. These are the people that the Consumer Warnings Weekly website is aimed at, those who will see supposed endorsements from major news networks and assume that the site is a legitimate opportunity instead of being nothing more than a scam.


Denise is the author of the book Give Me Back My Credit

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The benefits of using Cross Cut Shredders

Today we have a guest blog post to share with you from Chris at

The benefits of using Cross Cut Shredders 

Identity Theft is a buzz word in today’s World with endless mailings and adverts telling you to shred sensitive information that you don’t need (remembering to keep documents required by the tax man) and to take out an ID Theft insurance policy. Doing these, they lead you to believe, will protect you from ID Theft and let you lead a happy scam-free life.

However what they don’t tell you is that not all shredders will keep your information secure. When purchasing a shredder you need to choose between a “Strip” or “Cross” cut model. Strip Cut (or Ribbon Cut) models shred your documents into long strips of a certain width (depending on the model). If someone had the time and patience they could piece together your document and read the contents. Cross Cut (or Confetti/Particle/Crypto Cut) models shred your documents both length and widthways leaving you with small particles that look like confetti. Depending on the security level of the machine you could end up with between 300 and 1500 tiny pieces of confetti from each piece of paper that you shred. This makes the final information much harder to piece together for a potential criminal. Can you imagine trying to join together pieces of confetti only a few millimetres in width and length to recreate a document, particularly if that document has been shredded along with others?

Any shredder owners out there will tell you how annoying it is to constantly empty the bin of your shredder. Fortunately Cross Cut shredders will cause the shredded waste to compact into the waste bin more than Strip Cut models meaning that the bin has to be emptied less frequently. This all seems to mean that Cross Cut shredders are the best thing since sliced bread, however, as with everything; they do have some disadvantages as well.

The first of these (and probably the most important) is that due to higher manufacturing costs, these machines are usually more expensive than the equivalent strip cut models and in some cases can be over double the price. Another drawback is that the higher the security level of the machine (and therefore the more shredded pieces you get from each piece of paper), the fewer sheets can be shredded at one time. An office level Strip Cut machine may be able to handle 30 sheets at once, but an equivalent Cross Cut model may only be able to handle half as many, meaning more time spent standing at the shredder and less time doing something constructive!

Unfortunately the downsides don’t end there. Due to the special nature of their cutting blades, Cross Cut shredders need to be oiled with special lubrication oil on a regular basis to prevent the machine from jamming or shredding even fewer sheets per pass. A busy office would find it necessary to oil at the start of every day, although occasional home users can get away with only doing so once every month. The final downside can be found out by trying to empty a Cross Cut shredder into an outside bin whilst it’s windy outside. Having done this myself I can confirm that the result is a disaster! Waste sacks can also be purchased but this will further increase the cost.

Fortunately there is help with these costs as UK users can visit where you will find various special offers that give you Free Shredder Oil and Free Waste Sacks (on certain models) so that the cost of switching to a Cross Cut shredder is reduced. They have some of the lowest prices in the UK around and a unique Shredder Wizard will help narrow down the machine that would meet your individual needs.

Non-uk users looking to buy a shredder could check out the wizard to choose your model (as most models are available across the world) then do some research in your home country to find the best price.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Better Business Bureau Tips for Consumers - June addition

The BBB sends out tips for consumers, and here is their June addition.

BBB Advice on Avoiding Wedding Scams

Love is in the air as many couples prepare for their long-awaited wedding day this summer. When preparing for the big day, the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) advises people to proceed with caution when it comes to buying a wedding dress online, choosing a photographer and selecting a wedding planner. Doing so will help you ensure your wedding goes off without a hitch.

Asking for referrals and doing a little research can make a big difference in helping your special day go smoothly. Last year alone, the BBB received more than 970 complaints against wedding-related businesses. Services like wedding planners, bridal shops, car or limousine rentals, DJs, wedding photographers, florists, and jewelers all made the list. Many of the common complaints were centered on the company’s unwillingness to honor cancellation and refund policies after a deposit had been paid.

From choosing a florist to picking out the perfect wedding gown, more and more couples are opting for online retailers. While most venues have the brides’ best interest at heart, it’s important to recognize the danger signs before shelling out hard-earned cash to unreliable businesses.

“With the cost of today’s wedding averaging around $28,000, you want to make sure you get everything you pay for,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB. “It’s important to do your research before securing your wedding vendors and paying any upfront fees.”

The BBB recommends couples consider the following when planning for their special day:

Research all online vendors. When choosing to go with an online retailer for your wedding services or products, start with a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can often lead you to unscrupulous websites or phishing scams.  Also, look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized “trustmarks” on retail websites. Click on the seals to confirm they’re valid. Confirm that your online purchase is secure by looking for the “s” after “http” in the URL or the lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Be sure to check the company out with the BBB at before doing business with them. 

Review all terms and conditions. Whether you’re dealing with an online firm or a brick and mortar store, review the terms and conditions of the contract carefully. What are the company’s refund and exchange policies? What is their cancellation policy?  What happens if the company can’t hold up their end of the bargain?  Who will perform the service on your special day? Be sure you understand your rights as a consumer before doing business with the company. 

Keep documentation of your order. For online orders, save a copy of the confirmation page or e-mails confirming the order until you receive the item or service and are satisfied. If you’re dealing with a company representative in-person, be sure to get all details in writing, including specific dates, products, prices, cancellation and deposit policies and signatures from both parties.

Pay with a credit card. Credit cards offer consumers the added protection of disputing any charge over $50 within 60 days of the purchase. Most established businesses accept major credit cards, so use them whenever possible, including payment for deposits Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on the card, and many card issuers have “zero liability” policies if someone steals your card number and uses it. Never wire money.

Consider purchasing wedding insurance. Wedding insurance can cover a range of prospective problems including vendor no-shows, cancellations, inclement weather, military deployment, medical emergencies, travel delays and more. Many policies start at $200 and can potentially save you thousands of dollars.

For more consumer tips you can trust, visit

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Breaking down what MN HF0343 will really do for you

I know that a lot of you who read this blog and come to our website do so because you consider yourself the “average consumer” and know you can come to us to get the real information on things, without all of the legal or technical terms that only end up confusing you even more.  Recently I told you about Minnesota Bill HF0343, but let's look at it even closer.

Yes, you can do a search for Minnesota Bill HF0343 and find the online information, which allows you to read the bill text as it was introduced. Let me save you the time of searching . . . just click here and here for the State's information on this Bill.  Unless you have a background in law, you might read this and say “So what does that really mean, for me?”

In 2007 the MN Department of Alcohol and Gambling started a website called Why is the Department of Alcohol and Gambling even interested in scams and fraud? When Minnesotans were becoming victims of Lottery Scams, they began to reach out to the Minnesota Department of Alcohol and Gambling for assistance. In the video below you can watch an in-depth report on the great lengths that Minnesota law enforcement went to in order to track down these scammers.

This Bill would give the Department of Alcohol and Gambling greater power to subpoena and increase the variety of variations of these scams that the Department would have power to then go after.

This Bill will focus in on money transmitters, like Western Union and Money Gram, would have to have a anti fraud program, including a background check of agents and employees. This will raise the bar for these companies, and force them to look at the way that all of their authorized location are operating, and if one of those location are not upholding the rules and standards set forth, the company can be held accountable. If you have read up on scams and fraud, you have heard the stories of the employees working in a variety of businesses that have “turned a blind eye” to the fact that there are fraudulent transactions filtering through their company only to say “there is nothing we can do about it”. Even worse, there are cases when the employee is actually profiting from the scam.

In 2009 the FTC investigated Money Gram on charges that it allowed their system to be used for fraudulent activity. Money Gram ended up paying $18 million to settle.  According to the FTC, Money Gram was aware of the issue and turned a blind eye to the problem. There are many variations of the scams, and while businesses that carry out wire transfers do normally have information about these scams on their websites or on the bottom of their transfer forms, in very small print, these are normally not things that the average customer will see before they become a victim. This Bill will force for more attention to be put on this issue on the defensive side by spotting the warning signs and helping the customer to see them also. Really, it is about good customer service.

The part of this Bill that I am most impressed with is the portion that addresses that the money should go to who you designate on the form, and that they must pick it up where you designate. Now this might sound obvious . . . of course you want the money to go to the person you intended for it to go to, and to where you sent it, but it is not that simple. Right now, if I send money via wire transfer to Joe Schmo in Dallas, Texas and someone else knows the Wire Transfer Number and the Secret Question and Answer, they can pick up that money in any location in the world without having to show valid identification.   The Better Business Bureau pointed out this fact in one of their warnings on this type of scam.

How is this possible?!?!?! Well, here is the reasoning behind this “loophole”. What if my friend Joe Schmo had his wallet stolen, so he did not have any valid identification with him that he could show, and he needed that money to pay his bills. Joe would need a way to “prove” that he knew about the wire transfer and that it was intended for him. If I give him the Wire Transfer Number and tell him what the Secret Question and Answer are, he will now have that information, right? Problem solved. Wrong! Now you have just created a NEW problem. What if someone who is not Joe gets a hold of that information? They too can now go and pick up that wire transfer anywhere in the world, and once the money is picked up the transfer cannot be reversed . . . the money is gone.

The scammers understand this, and they use it to their advantage. They can use a pretend name and tell you that they live within the United States. They can tell you that you are sending the money to someone that is their accountant, client or shipping company . . . whatever fits their story that they have used to bait you into this scam. All of the warning signs of a scam alert you to sending money overseas, but you are just sending money to a shipping company in New York, so what do you have to worry about. This Bill would help to close that loophole and require that your money is only being sent to who you designate and that they are where you designate that they are.

It is sad that the scammers know all of this information better than the average American, but this is why these scams work so well. Besides the truth about how the money transfer businesses work, another point that the scammers seem to be better educated on than the average American is how the check clearing process works.

This is why we at Scam Victims United have been working since 2002 to educate people on scams and fraud, and especially the real way that wire transfers and check clearing works. Education is the key to fighting these scams, and you can sign our petition asking for the creation of Scam Education and Awareness Programs.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I put out the request for people to take a survey the other day, and it seems like there was a "glitch" in the system that would not allow some people to complete the survey.  I spoke with the person in charge of the survey and it has been fixed.  The survey can be accessed here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Survey on Scams and Fraud

A post-graduate researcher has asked us to help them with a survey they are doing.  I have personally taken this survey and feel it is safe for all of you to take, otherwise I would not even ASK for your help.  It does NOT ask for any personal information at all, just some questions on your feelings and thoughts on different real life situations.

Here is a link to the survey

And here is a link to some more information on the person doing this research if you are interested

Thank you for your help!  Please spread the word to other scam fighting websites that you know.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's your story?

I am being contacted by media personal, and I want to have a little info about people that may be willing to speak with them about why the topic of scams and fraud is so important to them. I was thinking of "sorting" them by states, since I usually get a media contact that wants someone in their state.

If you would be willing to speak to a media person about YOUR PERSONAL connection with the topic of scams and fraud here is an example of what I am looking for . . . mine would read like this

Shawn and Jeff Mosch
full mailing address for contact
best phone number for them to contact you at
best email address to contact you at

Shawn and Jeff Mosch are scam victims turned Victim’s Advocate who work to educate people about internet scams. After their personal experience with a counterfeit cashier’s check scam in 2002, they found a lack of information and resources available at the time. This was the motivating factor in creating their website, They continue to be passionate about this issue and work with other agencies to bring more awareness to the topic of scams and push for laws that will help to protect people from these scams.


It does not need to be long . . . if you were a victim it can just be the type of scam you were a victim of, when it happened and how much you lost.

Please send it directly to me from my blogger contact info
or contacting us through the Feedback page or our site which goes to our main Admin email address.

If you could put Summary and your name in the subject line that will help me find them all in my inbox


Thursday, May 19, 2011

More on MN Bill HF0343

Things have been so busy I feel like I have neglected my scam fighting blogger friends.  I did want to give you a quick update on a topic that is very dear to my heart . . . laws to protect scam victims.  As anyone who has read my story, website, blog or who has any interaction with me personally in the past 8+ years since I have started down this road of scam education and awareness knows that I am passionate about this issue.  I have been asking for laws to be changed from day one.  In the beginning, people just laughed and said that there was no way to change those kinds of laws or do anything to help scam victims, but that did not make me give up . . . I just kept talking to different people until found someone that DID listen to me. 

Then things started to turn around.  I was able to speak with someone at Senator Franken’s office and they really listened to what I had to say.  We had several phone and email conversations, bouncing ideas off of each other.  Then around the same time I was asked by AARP of Minnesota and the BBB of Minnesota to come to a meeting that they were having to look at legislation that could help scam victims, or better yet, protect people from BECOMING scam victims.  I could not believe it . . . things were falling into place.  At that meeting I shared all of the ideas that my husband Jeff and I had from day one of beginning our site.  I told them that I am not a legal expert, but I know what would have saved us, and the people that come to our website for assistance, from becoming scam victims.  I showed them the “loopholes” that I saw in the way that things were currently run, with both banking institutions and money transfer companies.  I said that if they could close these loopholes, we could dramatically reduce this type of scams.

So I made sure that my contacts at the BBB, AARP and Senator Franken’s office all were connected to each other, and then I waited.  There were a few more emails and conversations, but after a while things kind of stopped going and I wondered if the whole idea fell through.  Then, at a Fraud Fighter’s Forum organized by the Minnesota AARP I saw it for the first time . . . HF0343.  If you would like to read the Bill, you can do so at this link.

Many of the items in this Bill are things that I have been talking about for years, so to see it becoming a reality was HUGE for me.  There are other scam fighting sites out there that are also backing this bill.  I think that is great that we can all join together on one common issue.  It does not matter who told you about HF0343, just that you know about it, and that we get it passed.  If it passes in Minnesota, we can then all work together to see it get passed in other states.

I was also able to be at a recent hearing about this Bill, and I shared with everyone there why I am so passionate about this issue and that if this Bill would have been law in 2002, I would not have been sitting in front of them speaking to them as a scam victim . . . if this Bill works as it is written, it would have saved my husband and I from becoming victims.

Also, there are some that have recently accused me of “stealing their thunder” and I believe most of it is due to a recent post I made telling all of you about this bill and asking you to send letters in to the authors.  This other group was asking people to send in letters, and instead of “re-inventing the wheel” I passed that information on to all of you.  I felt that I could do this because

1)      I also had been working with the same groups mentioned in the context of the letter
2)      I also feel passionately about this topic
3)      This group was asking for help in getting the word out
4)      Had I know that letters to the authors would “help” I would have put the word out a LONG time ago

To me, scam fighting and changing the laws is not about who “gets credit” for it . . . it is about all of us working together for the best outcome.  If I have some good info, and you want to share it, go ahead . . . share away!  That is how we get the word to spread and educate more people.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hearing on bill

If you are in Minnesota and can attend, there is a hearing on a bill that could help scam and fraud victims
Commerce and Regulatory Reform

WEDNESDAY, May 11, 2011
2:30 PM
Meeting Time Note: The committee will meet until 4:30 p.m.
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Joe Hoppe 
Agenda: HFXXXX (Hoppe) Telecom Access Reform
 HF343 (Atkins) Identity theft and related fraudulent activity enforcement capabilities enhanced. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Laws to fight scams

I have been working with some people here in Minnesota, and we are making some progress on scam fighting. There are currently some laws being proposed and if we get them to pass here in Minnesota we are hoping that other states will follow our lead.
This is where we need your help . . . we are being asked to send the authors of this bill letters or emails telling them why this bill is so important. Some suggested speaking points are

That you have been scammed
That you lost X amount (we want the authors to realize the extent of these crimes)
Thanking them for caring and taking the time to sponsor this bill
Hoping that it will be passed.

Here is a link to the text of the bill for you to read
Here are the names or the people we need to contact, and links to their sites with their contact info

Could you help me by not only contacting these people and telling them how much we need laws like this to protect people from scams and fraud, but also share this information with ANYONE that you know that might also be willing to contact the above people . . . share it on blogs, message boards, Facebook, Twitter . . . anywhere you can!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Things that are certain

I am going to guess that most of you have heard the quote from Benjamin Franklin who said, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes."  Well Ben, I would like to add one more thing to that list . . . scams.  No matter what the season, reason or situation, scams will continue on.  The scammers may change the story, but once you peel back the layers of the story, the scam that remains is the same.

Here is an example of what I am talking about.  This is an email telling the recipient that they overpaid in their taxes and are entitled to a refund.  

Overpayment Notification
Date of this Notice: MAR. 06, 2011Taxpayer Identifying Number: xxx-xx-xxxxForm: 1040
Tax Period: DEC. 31, 2010

Subject: Taxpayer Overpayment on Tax Refund
Dear Taxpayer:
Our records show you were overpaid on your Federal Tax Refund under Social Security Number xxx-xx-xxxx, therefore $380.00 of the overpaid Tax Refund must be returned.
This memorandum serves as notification of an overpayment of Tax Refund that you received and the subsequent repayment that is your responsibility.

The overpayment totals $380.00 for 1040/2010 filing period you were overpaid in error because of an incorrect Tax Adjustment causing an incorrect refund.

You are offered the following options of repayment within five (05) business days from today Mar. 11, 2011. Failure to respond timely will result in the immediate recovery of the overpayment, fines, and possible criminal prosecution.

If you disagree with the amount listed below, you have the right to an immediate Pre-decision Meeting with a person who has direct access to the agency appointing authority for this purpose.

A summary of the overpayment is as follows:

Here are your Re-payment Options:   1. Submit payment within five (05) business days of the "date of demand" to the account:    Name(s) on Receiving Account: C    Street:    City:     Zip Code:     State:     Country: United States    Bank name: FIFTH THIRD BANK
    Bank Account Number:     Electronic ABA Routing Number(ex. Direct Deposit/Automatic Payment):    Wire ABA Routing Number:     Bank Address:348 Lincoln Highway,    North Versailles,    PA, 15137    Bank phone #:1-800-972-3030
   2. Write on transfer reference: "Payment of Erroneous Refund" and your SSN.   3. Failure to comply within the given time frame will result in stiff penalties and interest accruals in excess of what is owed.

Sincerely yours,

WILLIAM C. MALAHAI19-06693Tax Assessment Supervisor

Friday, March 11, 2011

Internet Crime Complaint Center's (IC3) Scam Alerts

The Internet Crime Complaint Center is the BEST place for people to report Internet Scams to, since it is connected to several other agencies and can channel the information on to the right places.  It also allows for the IC3 to gather information on new twists in old scams and then update consumers through their newsletters.

Here are some recent updates from the IC3


The IC3 has received several complaints regarding a romance scam originating via a dating website. Generally, in romance scams, the subject claims to be out of the country for a business trip and in need of money. The subject asks potential victims to wire funds for various reasons including paying for a hotel, returning to the states, or paying for a lawyer.
Recently, the scammers have added a layer of supposed law enforcement involvement in an attempt to convince the victim the scam is legitimate. In one such IC3 complaint, the "investigator" says he is using his private e-mail because the IC3 database is under maintenance. To convince the victim to wire the requested funds, he claims to be assigned to the case and assures the victim that the subject has been "interrogated and investigated" and that he is a safe, "legit business man."

Other complainants reported having difficulty canceling their membership to the particular dating site, which reportedly offers a "3-day free membership" for their service. The membership is reportedly "automatically" renewed after the three days unless canceled. Complainants reported that the website renewed their membership and charged their credit card over $59 despite the complainant's attempts to cancel the membership. Some complainants said the company did not answer their calls, e-mails, or voice mail messages, while others claimed the company admitted the "error" and offered them free service, but refused to refund the charges.


In October 2010, articles were posted online warning consumers about phishing e-mails purportedly from the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) claiming the recipient's federal tax payment was rejected. The IC3 has received over 150 complaints reporting this matter. Although different versions of this spam campaign exist, many complainants reported that the e-mails they received were titled "LAST NOTICE: Your Federal Tax Payment has been rejected." E-mails stated, "the problem is that system doesn't process your company ID on holidays and we moved your tax payment batch to a waiting list." Recipients were then directed to click on the link provided to obtain more details about their company's status and tax payment batch file. Some complainants reportedly use the electronic system to pay their estimated quarterly taxes, so the e-mail appeared relevant.

Other related phishing e-mails claimed, "the identification number used in the Company Identification Field is not valid." Recipients were directed to visit hxxp:// and "check the information and refer to Code R21 to get details about your company payment in transaction contacts section."

A recent complaint filed with the IC3 reported the same type of phishing e-mail except this time, the e-mail directed the recipient to open an attachment contained in the e-mail. The e-mail was titled "Your Federal Tax Payment Notice." Like the others, it claimed, "the identification number used in the Company Identification Field is not valid." To entice the recipient to open the attachment, the e-mail stated, "check the attached information and refer to Code R21 to get details about your company payment in transaction contacts section."


The IC3 has received several complaints from victims who reported a telephone scam in which the caller purports to be an employee of a major online company, which develops, manufactures, and supports software along with other products and services. Victims reported that a caller with an Indian accent claimed their computers were infected with viruses. The caller advised the victims they were sending the viruses to others via the Internet, and instructed victims to go to websites such as hxxp://,hxxp://www.go4support.orghxxp://, and hxxp:// When the victims navigated to one of the websites, they were further instructed to click on live support or live connect for assistance in removing the viruses. Some victims were instructed to download a program once they were on the hxxp://www.ammyy.comwebsite. After the victim clicked on the link or downloaded the program, the caller gained control of the victim's computer. Victims watched as the caller explored personal files, pointing out files that were infected. Some victims reportedly believe the caller copied their files and obtained their personal information. In some cases, the caller tried to sell the victims' software. Many victims reported loud background noise during the call, indicating a possible boiler room-type operation. Some victims reported the scam to the online software company. The company has an alert on their website warning consumers about this matter.

For more information regarding online scams visit the IC3 Press Room page for the most current Public Service Announcements.

Powerful Words

"Grandma . . . I need your help."

These are powerful words.  Grandparent's will often do ANYTHING for their grandchildren, even if they know that it might not be the best idea . . . letting them stay up late, eat something that Mom and Dad say they can't have, or watch a movie that they shouldn't watch.  They do these things because they are Grandparents and they will do anything for their grandchild.

So what happens if this Grandparent gets a call in the middle of the night that their grandchild has been arrested and needs money for bail?  Many of these Grandparents will do what they always do with their grandchildren . . . react to fix things and help and then figure out the details later . . . their grandchild is all that matters!

This is what gets so many into trouble with the Grandparent Scams, like the one that hit the elderly couple in this story.  When I was reading the story, I noticed that the Grandmother stated that after she wired the money she called her grandson to verify that the got the money . . . she realized she had been scammed when her grandson did not know what she was talking about.

This is why we need to teach everyone, especially our Grandparents, that if they get a call like this the first thing that they need to do is tell the caller they will call them right back, then hang up the phone and call their grandchild.  If it was really their grandchild on the phone, they will answer the phone and Grandma and Grandpa can still be there to help them out.  If it was not their grandchild, the worst thing that will happen is that they will be waking them up in the middle of the night, but at least that way they can go back to sleep knowing that their grandchild is safe.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Your Family’s Money Matters: Make the Most of Your Finances In Tough Economic Times
Saturday, March 26, 2011
8:30 – 11:30 A.M.
The Wilder Center
451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul
Choose from workshops about:
  • Financing a small business
  • Planning for Retirement
  • Getting the most from your tax return
  • Creating healthy financial habits
  • Preventing home foreclosure
  • Understanding your credit report
Space is limited! To register, send an e-mail to or call (651) 221-1016. Please indicate which two workshops you would like to attend.
Workshops will be presented by partnering organizations:
AARP, AccountAbility Minnesota, Lutheran Social Service, The Minnesota Home Ownership Center, U.S. Small Business Administration, WomenVenture.
Senator Franken will give opening remarks.

Below is the link to the flyer for this event.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Let your voice be heard

Are you one of those people who will stand up and say something about an issue that you think is wrong?  How do you go about finding others who also feel the same way that you do?  Blogs and social networking sites can be a great way for you connect with like minded people so that you can join together to try and make an impact to change the issues that are important to you.

Since I have a Twitter account I get a notification when I get a new follower, and I always check out that new follower's page to see if they are connected to any resources that might be a good fit to team up with.  Here are a few recent ones that I wanted to share with you.

 LoanFraudVictim - This Twitter user has a website at detailing the story of her battle to hold Wells Fargo accountable for the damage they did.

NetWatchDog - This Twitter user is from the website which is filled with information on internet scams and fraud.

WFmortmodscam - Working to keep Wells Fargo Home Mortgage or another lender from stealing your home? It's time to fight back! Blogging at

BanksGoneBad - Florida mortgage pro who has seen banks fraudulently foreclose on homeowners as well as perpetrate fraud on investors and bond holders. I'm helping 2 fight back

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What would you do?

I wanted to share the following link with you.  The show What Would You Do sets up scenarios and sees if people will jump in to assist.  The one that aired last night had a segment on Nigerian Scams.  The producers of this show actually had contacted me some time ago because they wanted a scam victim to speak with, but we were not able to find one that was willing to speak with them.

You can watch the video of the episode at
or read the transcript at
I would also encourage you to leave your comments on the topic at the link with the transcript.  

Scammers use fear to get money

When a potential victim thinks that they might be on to the scammer, the scammer may use fear to try and get the person to send them the money.  Sometimes it is the fear of "I know where you live" and sometimes it is the fear of arrest, as once scammer tried to use in the email below . . . .

From: Charles Boothe ;

This is to inform you that due to your illegal action in the process of the Cleaner job offer to you concerning the check issued to you. I was informed by my bank that the check issue has been cleared and yet i haven't got any reply from you,
For your information as you know all your contact details is with me so i have get the FBI informed,i also gave them your contact details for them to locate you. You may have any explanation to tell them and any information you may be holding for them concerning the payment i sent to you.I know they will get you soon,You may think that i have acted so rude by doing this but i am very sorry.You make me act like that because you never let me know what is going on.
I am very sorry for any inconvenience that i might have cause concerning this job offer and the way i act. Get back to me to confirm you get this email.
Best Regard

No matter what the scammer says, do not send them the money.  They did not contact the FBI, because the check that you were sent was counterfeit.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Warning for all who sell crafting items!

Here is one of those times where my two internet lives collide . . . I have my crafting blog and my scam education and awareness blog . . . and this topic will be posted on both of them.

I was made aware by a post on our scam fighting message board that recently several Stampin' Up demonstrators have received emails from people wanting to purchase items and pay with a cashier's check.  This is a scam that we have seen variations of for years on our website, and if the scammers are doing it to Stampin' Up consultants, it is only time before they start to target other places that sell crafting items.

The scammer will request to purchase items and send a cashier's check as payment.  If the check arrives, and it is for more than the amount of the items, the scammer will apologize for the error and ask you to deposit the check and wait for it to clear, and then wire the extra money back to them.  If the check is for the correct amount, once you have received the check and deposited it, the scammer will contact you letting you know that they need to cancel the order and will request that you return the money to them by wire transfer . . . they may even tell you to keep a portion of the money for your time and trouble.

If this situation matches one that you hear of, it is a scam.  The cashier's check will come back as counterfeit later on and you will be held liable for the entire amount of the check.  Just because the bank has told you that the check is "good", "clear" or "verified" does NOT mean that the money from that check is "real" and that you are safe . . . in most cases, in about a week or two, the bank will contact you and hold you liable for the money.  People have lost thousands of dollars due to these scams, and there is no way to recover this money because the scammers are in another country . . . it would have to be the law enforcement and government in that country that would have to do something about these scams.

To learn more about these and other scams, go to my website

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Search Warrants Executed - Cyber Investigation

Search Warrants Executed in the United States as Part of Ongoing Cyber Investigation

Washington, D.C.
January 27, 2011 FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691

FBI agents today executed more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an ongoing investigation into recent coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations. Also today, the United Kingdom’s Metropolitan Police Service executed additional search warrants and arrested five people for their alleged role in the attacks.

These distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) are facilitated by software tools designed to damage a computer network’s ability to function by flooding it with useless commands and information, thus denying service to legitimate users. A group calling itself “Anonymous” has claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions. The attacks were facilitated by the software tools the group makes available for free download on the Internet. The victims included major U.S. companies across several industries.

The FBI also is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability.

The FBI is working closely with its international law enforcement partners and others to mitigate these threats. Authorities in the Netherlands, Germany, and France have also taken their own investigative and enforcement actions. The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) also is providing assistance. The NCFTA is a public-private partnership that works to identify, mitigate, and neutralize cyber crime. The NCFTA has advised that software from any untrustworthy source represents a potential threat and should be removed. Major Internet security (anti-virus) software providers have instituted updates so they will detect the so-called “Low Orbit Ion Canon” tools used in these attacks.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

PayPal scam

I wanted to share a PayPal scam email that I found in my inbox, and how you can tell that it is a scam.

Dear PayPal customer,

Our company has intended a new feature that will improve the Online Banking security. Upgrading our systems will help protect our customers accounts from 3rd-party access and reduce fraud. This process has started on 14th January, 2011 and will be closed on 19th January, 2011.

All our members are required to update their account profile for the new databases. Filling our online form will take about 3-5 minutes from your time.

To access our profile update form click on the following link to login to your account:

Click here to go to the online form

Please note that failure in updating your profile will result in account suspension.

Alison Grudzinski,
IT Assistant Manager,
PayPal Inc.


Now . . . how to tell that this is a scam email

First, companies like PayPal or credit cards will NEVER send you and email asking you to update your information.  

Second, if there was a new PayPal feature upgrade, there would be information on it when you logged into your account.  No need for an email if you just tell people about it when they log in.  

Third, the window of when it started to when it ends is VERY small.  They do this to make you want to rush and go and update your account right away, instead of keeping the email in your account for months.

Fourth, the click here to go to the online form.  Again, if there really was an upgrade, they would ask you to log into your account, and you would already know how to do that and where to go, so no need for a link.

And last, the link itself.  I have removed the link from the "Click here" wording so that no one will go there, but when it was active you could hover your cursor over it, and you would be able to see where it REALLY points to, and it is NOT a PayPal site.  

Here is an image of what the site would look like if you would have clicked on the link.

They make it look like it really is PayPal, but the URL address is not PayPal.

These types of scams are called Phishing scams (pronounced Fishing)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What would you do?

Every day we make choices . . . grab some fast food for breakfast, or have some fresh fruit . . . walk up the stairs or take the elevator . . . you can follow the crowd or stand alone. What would you do?

This is the basis of the television segment What Would You Do on ABC.  They set up scenarios that are supposed to make you stop and think, and then they let the hidden camera roll to catch on tape what people really do in these situations.

Now, you might ask what this show has to do with this scam blog.  It turns out that they are looking to do a segment where one of the scenarios will be a person that is entering into a situation that is clearly a scam.  Will people warn them or just let them go on believing that this is all real?

They would also like to partner this with an interview with real life scam victims who would be willing to share their story.  If you are a scam victim who is willing to share your story please contact me.  They would prefer someone in the New York Tri-State Area, since that is where their production studios are located.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Sophistication of Scams

I just got done reading the article Scams achieve a new level of sophistication which does a good job at pointing out that anyone can become the victim of a scam.  Here are my two cents that I added as a comment to the article . . .

These scams have been evolving for years now, and the WORST part about any of the counterfeit cashier's check scams is the fact that when someone wants to find out if the check is legitimate and they take it to the bank for them to look at . . . because of course the average person would assume the bank can spot a counterfeit check . . . the banking customer is told that it is "good", "clear", "verified" and that "funds are available".  Look up good, clear and verified in the dictionary and by definition the average person would then assume that there is no problem in cashing and using the money from a check that is "good", "clear" and "verified".  But this is where we as banking customers make a mistake . . . we trust our banks are giving us accurate information.

These checks can come back weeks and even months later as counterfeit, and the bank CUSTOMER is held liable for the entire amount, the the bank, who verbally told us it was "good", "clear" and "verified".

How about the banks start telling people the truth?  That it could take 10 business days or more for the check to be "good", "clear" and "verified".  Is that too much to ask?