Sunday, February 28, 2010

It starts tomorrow! The Call for Financial Reform!


Tell Congress to Hold Banks Accountable

Join Americans for Financial Reform and our allies around the country in our first National Senate Call-in Week, March 1 – 4, 2010.

AFR is joined in this effort by our large coalition of organizations, small businesses, and individuals.
As financial reform legislation moves through the Senate, we are asking our Senators to:
  • Crack down on irresponsible and reckless behavior by big Wall Street banks and hold them accountable;
  • Protect consumers by policing unfair and deceptive practices by credit card companies, mortgage companies, and predatory lenders, and create a strong and independent consumer financial protection agency to get the job done well;
  • Close the loopholes that allow secret and risky ‘shadow market’ deals where big banks enjoy the winnings of gambling with our money, and then expect us to pay when they lose.
If you’d like to be a part of this week of action, download the flier (pdf) and contact information by clicking here.
To RSVP for this event on Facebook, click here.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Take Action Cyber Security Awareness Reception

From, Tech America and

The Take Action Cyber Security Awareness Reception will be held on Tuesday, March 2 from 6pm - 8pm at B Restaurant and Bar Yerba Buena Gardens San Francisco

Give Me Back My Credit!

If you have not yet read the book Give Me Back My Credit! I highly recommend that you do.

This is the true story of one woman's battle with the banks to correct the errors, mistakes and problems that they created. Along the way she also finds out that she has become the victim of Identity Theft. Does she let this stop her . . . NO! She has the drive to continue on in her own personal battle, and on top of that goes on to help other consumers.

This story will inspire you.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Don't get mad, get even

So many victims of scam and fraud just get upset about it, but with the world if the internet it makes it so much easier for people to "get even" with someone that they feel did them wrong.  Their are sites like ours,, where people can post their stories.  There is the site Rip Off Report where people can report businesses that they have had issues with.  The other way to "get even" is to create your own website that sole reason is to share your story with the world.  That is the situation with tells the story of one person's battle to be heard and hold a business accountable for their actions.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Are you inviting people to rob you?

Re-posted from The Informant

Social networking has become wildly popular. It seems everyone’s tweeting, Google Buzzing, Foursquaring or Facebooking nowadays. It’s all about what you’re doing right now and where you’re doing it.

But this apparently insatiable appetite we’ve developed for information “as it’s happening” carries with it a hidden danger. When you “tweet” a friend or “Foursquare” a business associate that you’re en route to your favorite vacation destination, you’re also sending a message to criminals that you’re not at home and that your place of residence and all of its contents are theirs for the taking. That’s right. Thieves are keeping close tabs on status updates to help them select their targets. It’s been dubbed “Internet shopping for burglars.”

A new website called helps to highlight the potential dangers of location-sharing by simply combining publicly shared check-ins. In a hypothetical bid to accommodate would-be burglars and thus, raise awareness of the problem, check-ins are referenced as “recent empty homes” and “new opportunities.” With an estimated 40% of social network users routinely sharing information about their whereabouts, it’s no surprise that criminals regard these platforms as “target rich environments.”

When you share your location via a social network like Google Buzz or Foursquare, you are putting yourself and your family at risk. It’s probably best to skip on the details regarding your whereabouts and always refrain from sharing your address anywhere online. It’s either that or start telling everyone that your cousin- the Navy Seal- is staying at your place while he decompresses from his recent tour of duty in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who to contact

When you are dealing with a Consumer Protection issue, sometimes you just want a list of who to contact.  I found this page at the Consumer Action Website that has a listing of offices by State along with their contact information.

They also have a pdf of National Consumer Organizations at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why can't lawyers speak English?

Sorry to any lawyers out there, but all of that legal "blah, blah, blah" starts to sound like the adults on the Charlie Brown cartoons to me.  Why can't they just speak in plain English?

Even though this is in legal talk, I thought I would post it . . . 

Schultz v. United States,No. 08-17304, 2010 WL 431772 (9th Cir. Feb. 9, 2010).
A fraud victim, who had been awarded over $700,000 in restitution under the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), moved to intervene, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24, in a civil action involving the collection and distribution of defendant’s assets. The trial court denied the victim-creditor’s motion, and he appealed. In reviewing his appeal, the court found that the MVRA “clearly gives victims the right to self-help in collecting restitution ordered for their benefit,” but that the statute limits the mechanism by which a victim may enforce that right to filing an abstract judgment against defendant. The court recognized that such a remedy was not available to the victim because defendant had already satisfied his restitution obligation by assigning to the United States a judgment in his favor in a related matter. As the court stated, “[the victim] cannot collect a debt from a debtor who has already paid that debt, albeit not directly to [the victim] himself.” The court concluded: “The inutility of this remedy [under the MVRA] to [the victim], while unfortunate, is irrelevant to the statutory analysis. Because the remedy provided under the MVRA is exclusive, [the victim] may not use the provisions of Rule 24 to enlarge or modify his right to restitution by intervening in the California litigation.” As such, the court of appeals upheld the lower court’s denial of the victim’s motion to intervene.

A PDF of this decision can also be found at, under “New & Noteworthy Cases.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marketers of Unproven Weight-Loss Products Ordered to Pay Nearly $2 Million

From the FTC

Court Rules in Favor of FTC in Case of Diet Tea and Bio-Slim Patch

A federal district court has ordered the marketers of an herbal tea and a diet patch to pay nearly $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission for making deceptive claims that both products would allow users to lose weight quickly without diet or exercise.

For nearly two years before the FTC complaint was filed, Bronson Partners, LLC and its officer, Martin Howard, marketed Chinese Diet Tea, telling consumers they could lose as much as six pounds a week by drinking one cup of the green tea after each meal to “neutralize the absorption of fattening foods.” Advertising in national magazines such as USA Weekend and Clipper Magazine, the marketers charged $24.95 plus shipping and handling for a month’s supply.

Also during this time, the marketers sold the Bio-Slim Patch, a diet patch that contained extracts from the fucus, garcinia, and guarana plants. Instructing consumers to wear the patches 24 hours a day for at least three months, the marketers claimed that “repulsive, excess ugly fatty tissue will disappear at a spectacular rate due to the combination and synergy of these three natural ingredients.” The marketers advertised the patch in national magazines and in a company catalog, and consumers paid $24.95 plus shipping and handling for a month’s supply.

In addition to ordering the nearly $2 million payment, citing “obvious and widespread” violations of the FTC Act, Judge Stefan R. Underhill of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut granted the FTC’s request to prohibit the defendants from deceptively selling or advertising any weight-loss products. “Future violations of a similar nature would surely result in financial harm to consumers, and possible physical harm if consumers engage in risky weight-loss techniques in reliance on (the) defendants’ misleading representations,” the judge wrote in his December 2009 ruling and order. He also ordered the defendants to help the FTC identify consumer victims who lost money on the products, so that restitution can be made.

The FTC filed its complaint against Bronson Partners, LLC and Martin Howard as part of the “Big Fat Lie” law enforcement sweep in November 2004. The sweep targeted marketers of bogus weight-loss products, such as pills, powders, gels, green teas, and diet patches. In July 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut granted the FTC’s request for summary judgment against Howard and Bronson Partners, LLC – also doing business as New England Diet Center and Bronson Day Spa.

Copies of the November 2004 complaint and the December 2009 ruling and order are available on 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 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 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.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Business Opportunity Scams

Business Opportunity Scams are everywhere.  Here is a great video from the Federal Trade Commission that takes you behind the scenes with a convicted business opportunity scammer as he reveals the tricks he used to cheat people out of their money. You’ll also hear first-hand from two people who got caught up in bogus business opportunities and learn what questions to ask to tell if a business opportunity is a scam or the real deal.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Phishing scams

re-posted from The Informant, the blog of the National White Collar Crime Center

In recent years, a large number of computer users have wised up to the cons and come-ons of Internet thieves.  Most recognize the “we’ve found a problem with your bank account” and “you’ve won the lottery” ploys as standard tools of the criminal trade.  The “Danger” sign went up and people knew to stay away.  But a surprising number still haven’t gotten the message.

While it’s impossible to know just how many phishing emails are successful, a published report puts the number at between 1 and 5%.  That may not sound like a lot but when you consider the tens of thousands of spam emails that constitute a typical phishing campaign, the success rate is staggering. 

Phishers have learned to adapt to the ever-changing Internet landscape.  In addition to making their products increasingly more sophisticated, they “personalize” their emails using social engineering techniques.  By adding the recipient's name, professional affiliations and other personal information (most of which is available via open searches), phishers can disarm otherwise savvy consumers and trick them into providing their personally identifiable information (PII). That veil of legitimacy is the scammer’s secret weapon.  Without it, most people would probably just reach for the delete key.


This is why we at Scam Victims United  always tell people that if you get an email that says it is from a company that you do business with, call that business through their customer service number, which can be found on a statement or bill that you have from them . . . don't click on the link in the email.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New York: More Charges Filed in Largest Hedge Fund Insider Trading Case in History

re-posted from the FBI website

PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that additional charges were filed against RAJ RAJARATNAM and DANIELLE CHIESI in a 19-count Superseding Indictment involving conspiracy and securities fraud crimes stemming from their alleged involvement in the largest hedge fund insider trading case in history. RAJARATNAM was the Managing Member of Galleon Management, LLC ("Galleon"), and a portfolio manager for Galleon Technology Offshore, Ltd., and certain accounts of Galleon Diversified Fund, Ltd., and CHIESI was an employee of New Castle Partners ("New Castle"), formerly the equity hedge fund group of Bear Stearns Asset Management, Inc.

According to the Superseding Indictment and other documents filed in Manhattan federal court, and statements made during the guilty pleas of ANIL KUMAR on January 7, 2010, MARK KURLAND on January 27, 2010, and RAJIV GOEL on February 8, 2010:

RAJARATNAM, CHIESI, and others repeatedly traded on material, nonpublic information pertaining to upcoming earnings forecasts, mergers, acquisitions, or other business combinations ("Inside Information"). The Inside Information was given as tips by insiders and others at hedge funds, public companies, and firms. Today's Superseding Indictment charges trading in the following companies based on Inside Information: Intel Corporation ("Intel"); IBM; Akamai Technologies, Inc.; Polycom, Inc.; Hilton Hotels Corp.; Google Inc.; Sun Microsystems; Clearwire Corporation ("Clearwire"); Advanced Micro Devices ("AMD"); ATI Technologies Inc. ("ATI"); eBay Inc. ("eBay"); and PeopleSupport, Inc.

As a result of their insider trading, RAJARATNAM, CHIESI, and others earned tens of millions of dollars of illegal profits for themselves and the hedge funds with which they were affiliated. As previously reported, RAJARATNAM engaged in overlapping schemes with ALI FAR and ROOMY KHAN—both of whom have pleaded guilty to insider trading charges and are cooperating with the Government—as well as CHIESI and other co-conspirators to trade on the basis of Inside Information in several publicly traded companies.

Since the original indictment, ANIL KUMAR and RAJIV GOEL pleaded guilty to engaging in insider trading schemes with RAJARATNAM. In addition, MARK KURLAND pleaded guilty to engaging in an insider trading scheme with CHIESI.

Rajaratnam's Corrupt Agreement with Goel

As set forth in Counts Three and Nineteen, from 2007 through 2009, RAJARATNAM and GOEL engaged in an insider trading scheme in which GOEL obtained Inside Information relating to Intel and provided that information to RAJARATNAM. GOEL provided the Inside Information with the understanding that RAJARATNAM would trade on it, in breach of his fiduciary and other duties of trust and confidence owed to Intel. More specifically, GOEL tipped RAJARATNAM in April 2007 relating to Intel's quarterly earnings before the company's public announcement, and in 2008 relating to Intel's plans to invest in a joint venture involving Clearwire. GOEL provided Inside Information to RAJARATNAM because of his friendship with RAJARATNAM, from which GOEL benefitted in various ways, including financially. For example, in 2005 and 2006, RAJARATNAM gave GOEL money to help GOEL with personal financial matters, and, from 2005 to 2009, RAJARATNAM earned trading profits for GOEL by executing securities transactions in GOEL's personal brokerage account. After GOEL provided the Inside Information to RAJARATNAM, RAJARATNAM directed trading for Galleon and made at least $3 million in illegal profits.

Rajaratnam's Corrupt Agreement with Kumar

As set forth in Counts Four and Eighteen, from 2003 through October 2009, RAJARATNAM and ANIL KUMAR, a then-senior partner and director at McKinsey & Company ("McKinsey"), conspired to engage in insider trading. As part of that conspiracy, KUMAR obtained Inside Information from McKinsey clients and provided that information to RAJARATNAM with the understanding that Rajaratnam would trade on it and in breach of his fiduciary and other duties of trust and confidence owed to McKinsey and its clients. Among other things, KUMAR tipped RAJARATNAM about Inside Information relating to AMD, ATI, and eBay. More specifically, from March 2006 through July 2006, KUMAR tipped RAJARATNAM about AMD's planned acquisition of ATI.

During their conspiracy, RAJARATNAM arranged for Galleon to wire money to an offshore account for KUMAR's benefit, and that money was then reinvested in certain Galleon funds in the name of KUMAR's domestic worker. In January 2007, RAJARATNAM wired approximately $1 million to an offshore account controlled by KUMAR. After KUMAR provided the Inside Information to RAJARATNAM, RAJARATNAM directed trading for Galleon and made at least $24.5 million in illegal profits.

The Indictment charges RAJARATNAM with five counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and eight counts of securities fraud. The Indictment also charges CHIESI with three counts of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and seven counts of securities fraud. Each of the conspiracy counts against RAJARATNAM and CHIESI carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Each of the securities fraud counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of $5 million. If convicted, RAJARATNAM faces a maximum prison term of 185 years, and CHIESI faces a maximum prison term of 155 years.

The Indictment also seeks forfeiture of the proceeds of the charged crimes, specifically $49 million, which consists of $45 million in illegal profits and losses avoided by Galleon, and $4 million in illegal profits for New Castle.

RAJARATNAM, 52, and CHIESI, 44, both reside in New York, New York. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge RICHARD J. HOLWELL.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and thanked the United States Securities and Exchange Commission for its assistance. Mr. BHARARA also noted that the investigation is continuing.

Assistant United States Attorneys JONATHAN STREETER and REED BRODSKY and Special Assistant United States Attorney ANDREW MICHAELSON are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tell the FDIC to rein in Banks' reckless behavior

From Americans for Fairness in Lending

We know that the greedy, reckless behavior of banks and Wall Street titans created an economic meltdown that has cost millions of American jobs and trillions of dollars in lost wealth. Wall Street bankers continue to gamble with our money, reward themselves with huge bonuses when they win, and take billions in taxpayer bailouts when they lose. The system is rigged: heads they win, tails we lose.The FDIC wants to help change this. But they need to hear from us.

A while back, AFFIL members flooded the Federal Reserve Board with comments about why credit cards needed to be reformed. Together with other activists we generated over 60,000 comments -- and the Fed issued new rules. Later, Congress followed suit and passed the Credit CARD Act which will go into effect this Monday.

Now, we can send the same strong message by sending comments to another government agency, the FDIC. The FDIC---which insures bank deposits---is trying to do something about reckless Wall Street gambling.

The FDIC wants banks that hand out big bonuses for risky behavior to pay higher insurance premiums. Just as a reckless driver pays more for auto insurance, these banks would pay more if they insist on rewarding recklessness. It's only common sense.

The FDIC is taking public comments on the proposed new rule - but the deadline to submit a comment is today, February 18. And banks are pushing hard against it. Many of the comments so far are from bankers. The FDIC needs to hear from regular Americans who got stuck with the bill when these bankers wrecked the economy. Can you let the FDIC know you support the new rule by submitting a comment?

The FDIC takes these public comments very seriously, but usually only receives them from industry insiders. But this is a rule that would affect all of us. The FDIC needs to know that regular folks are watching and that we want accountability for the risky behavior that cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Go to Americans for Fairness in Lending to have your voice heard

Investment Advisor Who Ran a $45 Million Ponzi Scheme Sentenced to Nine Years’ Imprisonment

Re-Posted from the FBI website

Earlier this afternoon, at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, Edward T. Stein, an investment advisor based in Roslyn, New York, was sentenced to nine years of imprisonment for securities fraud and wire fraud. The sentence was imposed by United States District Judge Jack B. Weinstein.

On June 22, 2009, Stein pled guilty to operating a Ponzi scheme by inducing investors to purchase interests in several funds and partnerships that he controlled between 1998 and the date of his arrest in April 2009. While Stein falsely assured investors that he would make investments on their behalf with the funds provided to him, he used millions of dollars for other purposes, including personal expenses, investments in his own name, and to pay redemptions to other individuals who had invested money with him. The scheme resulted in over $45 million in losses to approximately 100 investors.

United States Attorney Benton J. Campbell expressed his grateful appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the agency that led the government’s investigation, and thanked the Securities and Exchange Commission for its assistance.

The government’s case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Scott Klugman, Winston Paes, and Claire Kedeshian.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spam 2 Scam - Book

This is a book about SPAM, e-SCAMs and how to be safe from them. Here is a book written in a simple style and straight forward language to suit every reader irrespective of his/her background. Plenty of information is already available on 'what' ranging from advisories to blogs to actual, published works. There are commercial products offering varying degrees of security too. However, the efficacy of those solutions depends on the 'awareness' of the user concerned, because you have to take the call ultimately on what is a real deal and what is a potentially fraudulent product or service. This book also attempts to provide the 'why' and 'how'. With over 30 illustrated examples, this book prepares readers to recognise patterns of fraud and thereby helps them not to fall victim to such schemes. Readers will also find some simple yet practical suggestions on fortifying their information environment easily too

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Wire Transfers and scams

So many of the online scams involve the scammer sending a counterfeit cashier’s check or money order, asking the victim to wait for it to “clear” and then wire a portion of the money on to someone. The scammers make up all kinds of stories to make the reason for having to wire money to someone else make sense, and of course since the bank has already told you that the check is “clear” you feel like there is nothing to worry about.

Did you know this . . . when you wire money to someone, even if you write on the documentation that the wire transfer is to be picked up in Detroit, Michigan if the scammer has the test/security question and answer along with the wire transfer information then they can pick up the money at any location in the world . . . like Lagos, Nigeria.

These test or security questions are a feature put in place for emergency situations, when the person picking up the money has lost their photo id, which is normally needed to pick up a wire transfer. But if you give the scammer the test/security question information that is how they bypass the need for a picture id when picking up the money. This happens every day on sites like Craigslist. The scammer will pretend to be within the United States so as to not raise any red flags with the potential victim by mentioning that they are really in Nigeria.

With so many scams using wire transfering services like Western Union and MoneyGram we at Scam Victims United would like to see these companies increase their security by making it mandatory that the money must be picked up in the destination zone. If the documentation filled out by the customer says that the money is going to Detroit, Michigan, then the money should not be able to be picked up outside of the state of Michigan, no matter what information the person picking the money up has. This would help to reduce the number of scams going on because the scammers would then have to tell the victims to wire the money to Nigeria for them to be able to pick it up, and with so many people this would be a red flag because of the information about Nigerian scams.

In addition, wire transfering services could have a Fraud Alert posted in their store locations, and when anyone does fill out a wire transfer form and indicates Nigeria as the destination for the money to be picked up they could point out the Fraud Alert or have the customer sign a secondary document saying that they are aware that there are many internet scams coming out of the country of Nigeria which involve receiving a cashier’s check or money order and then wiring money.

I would like to propose laws that would require wire transfer services to implement and follow such security measures.  Since we cannot go to other countries and arrest the people running these scams we must do as much as we can to provide the correct information to the American public to educate them about these scams. This means that everyone must do their part, including the wire transfering services that the scammers use as a part of their business.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Vote for my friend's blog!

I was so happy to hear that my good friend Denise Richardson's blog at
has been nominated in the Sun-Sentinel Best of Blogs in South Florida Contest!  Please help me out by voting for her blog!

Click here to vote for my blog on BOB - South Florida's Best of Blogs

(Help Denise win, but I cannot edit the button they supply)

Medium does it again - Identity Theft

Last month I shared with you that a popular CBS television show, Medium, did an episode that touched on the topic of Nigerian Scams.  Well, in Episode 14 of Season 6 they focused on the topic of Identity Theft.  The episode was called "Will the Real Fred Rovick Please Stand Up".  In this episode, after someone sent out an email with a attachment that allowed them to access your computer, everyone that Allison Dubois saw that did open that attachment looked like the person that was stealing everyone's identity to her.

Thank you, again, to the cast and staff of Medium who are choosing to take on topics that are really relevant to the times. I only wish at the end of the episode they would have posted something on where people can go to learn more about Identity Theft, like the FTC site.

Medium is based on the real life woman, Allison DeBois.  Below are some books about Allison and her life.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stop the scammers from calling

Here is a question that I get asked a lot . . .

"A scammer keeps calling me and demanding that I send him money. How can I get this to stop?"

In the past, people have told the scammer that the FBI is investigating the case and that their phone is tapped, so every time that the scammer calls it gives the FBI more information to find them. This has sometimes worked to scare the scammer out of continuing to call you.

The easiest way to get rid of these annoying calls is to block the scammer's phone number. This can be done with a service from your phone company that is called Call Block, or sometimes called Call Screening or Call Rejection. Check with your phone company to see if they charge for this service. If they do, it is usually for a small amount.

Once you know that you have the service, the process of blocking a phone number is simple. Dial *60 and listen to the prompting messages, which will ask you to enter the phone number that you want to block. If you do not know the phone number, what you can do is dial *60 immediately after hanging up from the call with the scammer. One of the prompts will ask you if you would like to block the last phone number that called you.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

reBlog from Cancer Patient Identity Theft Victim: "Day in Court Hangs on Supreme Court Decisions"

Here is a great article on Identity Theft that everyone should read:

Identity theft has many damaging effects, and one of the most problematic for consumers is the reporting of false or fraudulent information on their credit reports.  One would logically assume that US banks would be legally accountable to consumers for knowingly reporting false information on their credit reports, especially after notifying the banks that the information is false, a bank mistake, or the result of an identity theft., Cancer Patient Identity Theft Victim: "Day in Court Hangs on Supreme Court Decisions", Feb 2010

You should read the whole article.

Verify a check, and aviod being arrested

In the past, many places have advised that the best way to verify if a cashier's check is legitimate is to bring it into a branch of the bank it was issued by. The problem with this is that we are seeing an increase in the number of people being arrested for trying to defraud a bank when they do bring these checks into the branch locations.

So what is a safer option? Verify the check by phone, not by going into the actual bank. This way you can get the information that you need without the chance of looking like you are trying to cash the check and defraud the bank. Make sure that you do NOT call any phone numbers listed on the check itself, because these too could be fraudulent. Look up the phone number online or in the phone book and the call the bank and let them know that you have a cashier's check and would like to verify if the check is legitimate or that you are worried that it could be a counterfeit.

If you are sent a cashier' check for any reason, and are asked to wire any portion of it back to the sender or on to a third person, there is a 99.9% chance that the check is counterfeit.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Reposted from
It’s a busy time of year for the U.S. government. The IRS is processing tax returns and the US Census Bureau is preparing to distribute millions of census forms. All this activity creates the “perfect storm” of opportunity for Internet thieves.

If you receive an email notification asking you to download a census form, National White Collar Crime Center computer crimes expert Nick Newman says don’t do it! “These files aren’t actually from the census bureau, they’re from criminals abroad and the form they download is actually malware.” It’s also important to keep in mind that the Census Bureau will never initiate correspondence via email. Newman says your best bet is to simply stay out of the spam box!

Phishing schemes and malware tied to IRS forms are nothing new...criminals have been working on new and improved versions of that scam every year for more than a decade. During that time however, consumer awareness of the potential dangers has increased significantly. Consequently, the vast pool of potential victims has shrunk considerably. But the potential hazards linked to the census have received very little media attention and as a result, many Americans could wind up playing right into the hands of cyber crooks.

Thursday, February 11, 2010



In the wake of the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti, the FTC is alerting people to choose carefully when considering urgent appeals for aid. The best way to provide immediate help is to donate money directly to established national relief organizations that have the experience and means to deliver aid. The FTC offers these tips on giving:

* Donate to recognized charities that you have given to before. Be skeptical about those that have sprung up overnight. They may be well-meaning, but they lack the infrastructure to provide assistance. And be aware that some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations.

* You don’t have to donate to someone who contacts you out of the blue with an unsolicited email, phone call or text message. It’s better to give through a website or phone number that you know is legitimate. Do not give out your personal or financial information – including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers .
* Check out any charities before you donate. Contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at For more tips on donating wisely, visit

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

National Consumer Protection Week

News from the FTC

The 12th Annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is right around the corner: March 7-13. This campaign provides tips and resources at to help everyone take full advantage of their consumer rights. This year’s theme -- Dollars & Sense: Rated “A” for All Ages -- highlights the importance of using good consumer sense at every stage of life – from grade school to retirement. Check out the NCPW blog for short, timely features about helpful resources, leave a comment, and share your plans for promoting NCPW. The FTC and its NCPW partners will host a Congressional Fair for Members and staff, February 18 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am in the Rayburn Foyer. Get free constituent education resources for town hall meetings in your district. For more information about NCPW and the Fair, contact Derick Rill

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fighting fraud - meeting the challenges of new technology

UK Credit Card Fraud Conference

"Fighting fraud - meeting the challenges of new technology"
Tuesday 30th and Wednesday 31st March 2010
Royal Horseguards Hotel- London
next to Embankment Station - easy to reach from Waterloo and Charing Cross

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nigerian National Sentenced to Over Eight Years for Role in Fraudulent Check Scam that Victimized Nearly 500 Individuals

Reposted from

LOS ANGELES—A Nigerian national who operated a money-transfer business in Chino has been sentenced to 97 months in federal prison for his role in a scheme that bilked hundreds of victims out of more than $1.5 million in a scam that had schemers sending bogus checks to victims and falsely telling them they had won a sweepstakes or another lie to induce them to negotiate the fraudulent checks.

Alvin Chiemezie Asieru, 39, who resided in Chino prior to his arrests last March, was sentenced Monday by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered Asieru to pay full restitution to his victims.

Asieru pleaded guilty last year to one count of mail fraud, admitting that he participated in an international telemarketing scheme that defrauded almost 500 victims from across the United States. The scheme involving Asieru is a variation of a scam now commonly seen where fraudulent checks are sent to victims with false claims that they had for some reason received a windfall. Asieru’s scheme in particular involved sending bogus checks to victims, telling them that they had won a contest, had been chosen to participate in a promotion, or were being offered employment as “secret shoppers.” The victims were instructed to deposit the checks, wire most of the funds through MoneyGram, and report the MoneyGram transaction number to someone associated with the scheme. Armed with the transaction number, Asieru was able to collect the proceeds of the wire transfer through a MoneyGram terminal at his Chino business, SABIC Group. Asieru then shared the proceeds with co-conspirators in Ontario, Canada. Asieru also transferred over $680,000 of the proceeds to various banks in Nigeria. The victims later learned that the checks they had deposited into their bank accounts were fraudulent and that they were responsible for the money they had now lost.

As part of an investigation into MoneyGram transfers sent from United States consumers to Canada, Canadian authorities determined that the overwhelming majority of wire transactions involving more than $1,000 are the proceeds of fraud involving various scams and Internet purchases. The investigation identified several MoneyGram operators as being involving in a majority of the suspect transactions, including SABIC Group.

A number of Asieru’s victims learned that the MoneyGram transfers had been picked up in Chino, which prompted the Chino Police Department to open an investigation. In several instances involving bogus checks and wire transfers, MoneyGram advised the police that the money was picked up at SABIC Group within 30 minutes of the wire transfer. The Chino Police also learned that MoneyGram received 53 complaints of fraud against SABIC Group in 2008, with losses totaling approximately $103,500.

In sentencing papers, federal prosecutors argued that Asieru not only caused financial losses to his victims, but also caused law-abiding victims to be stigmatized with destroyed credit and what appeared to be criminal conduct. One victim discussed in prosecutors’ sentencing papers was arrested and spent a night in jail for passing the bad check sent as part of Asieru’s scam, an indignity that was noted by Judge Walter during yesterday’s sentencing hearing.

The case against Asieru was investigated by the Chino Police Department, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mortgages - Maxed Out

I ran across this article about the mortgage boom, and bust, and they mentioned the movie Maxed Out.  I first heard about the movie Maxed Out from Sally Brzozowski of Americans for Fairness in Lending.

To change the future, we have to learn from our past mistakes, and Maxed Out can help to teach us that history lesson when it comes to the topic of credit and finances.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

reBlog from Bank of America charged with Fraud

I found this fascinating quote today:

The New York Attorney General's office announced today that they're charging Bank of America and its former CEO Ken Lewis with fraud. The charges stem from BofA's disastrous merger with Merrill Lynch and their alleged failure to disclose important information about the deal to shareholders or the federal, Bank of America charged with Fraud, Feb 2010

You should read the whole article.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Atricure to Pay U.S. $3.76 Million to Resolve Medicare Fraud Allegations

Preposted from

WASHINGTON – Atricure Inc., a medical device manufacturer, has agreed to pay the United States $3.76 million to resolve civil claims in connection with the alleged promotion of its surgical ablation devices, the Justice Department announced today. Surgical ablation devices use focused energy to create controlled lesions or scar tissue on a patient’s heart or other organs.

The settlement resolves allegations that the West Chester, Ohio-based company marketed its medical devices to treat atrial fibrillation (the most common cardiac arrhythmia or abnormal heart rhythm), a use that is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Atricure also allegedly promoted expensive heart surgery using the company’s devices when less invasive alternatives were appropriate, advised hospitals to up-code surgical procedures using the company’s devices to inflate Medicare reimbursement, and paid kickbacks to health care providers to use its devices. The United States asserted that by engaging in this conduct, Atricure knowingly violated the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and caused the submission of false and fraudulent claims in violation of the False Claims Act.

"This settlement reflects our commitment to enforce the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and protect Medicare from the improper marketing practices of Atricure and other medical device manufacturers," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "We will continue to work with our partners at the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office and the FDA Office of Chief Counsel to preserve the integrity of our public health programs."

The allegations were made against Atricure in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private citizens, called "relators," to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the proceeds of any settlement or judgment. The relator will receive a total of $625,000 as the statutory share of the current settlement.

"The misuse of medical devices has the potential of exposing patients to dangerous procedures and taxpayers to payment of unwarranted claims against Medicare," said Tim Johnson, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas. "This settlement demonstrates the government’s commitment to maintaining safe and affordable health care for its citizens."

Assistant Attorney General West noted that the settlement with Atricure resulted from a coordinated effort by the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, and the FDA Office of Chief Counsel.

This settlement is part of the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud. One of the most powerful tools in that effort is the False Claims Act, which the Justice Department has used to recover approximately $2.2 billion since January 2009 in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs. The Justice Department’s total recoveries in False Claims Act cases since January 2009 have topped $3 billion.

Friday, February 5, 2010

From White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

This article can be found at

Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and here is an article she recently wrote.

For six months now, I have held the first-ever White House position dedicated to combating violence and sexual assault against women and continuing the important work of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Every morning when I’ve walked into the White House, I’ve brought with me the stories of the many survivors I have worked with over the years.

I’ve focused on raising the profile of violence against women issues across Federal Agencies, states, tribal communities, and localities; coordinating interagency collaboration on these issues; implementing victim assistance programs; and integrating these issues into Administration-wide programs such as the White House Fatherhood Initiative [1], the White House Council on Women and Girls [2], HUD’s fight against homelessness [3], and the Justice Department’s recent effort to better combat disproportionate violence in tribal communities [4].

Yesterday, I met with a group of 16 leaders of organizations that combat violence against women, provide resources for women who face domestic violence and sexual assault, and advocate for victims. During this meeting, I shared with these leaders the same information I am sharing with you — information on how the White House, through the President’s FY 2011 budget, is making combating violence against women a real priority.

Violence Against Women Act as a Budget Priority

The FY 2011 budget will provide a record total of $730 million to combat violence against women — a $130.5 million increase in funding from the previous fiscal year. The VAWA, passed in 1994, already provides thousands of victims with life-saving services, improvements in the criminal justice system and increased public awareness. The President’s FY 2011 budget not only continues this strong response, but bolsters current funding and responds to the emerging needs of communities.

Crime Victims Fund

The budget provides a $100 million increase from the Crime Victims Fund, specifically for emergency shelter, transitional housing, and other local services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. By focusing on both immediate safety and long-term housing assistance, we can help ensure that victims don’t have to choose between living with abuse or becoming homeless. Furthermore, the Crime Victims Fund does not consist of a single taxpayer dollar; it is self-sustaining and supported by criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, and penalties for Federal offenders. In addition to a fund increase from the Crime Victims Fund, the FY 2011 budget provides $140 million for battered women’s shelters and services, an increase of $10 million from the previous fiscal year.

Victim Resources and Legal Support

The $730 million also provides vital funding for victim resources. The National Domestic Violence Hotline and Teen Dating Violence Helpline are receiving increased funding of $4.5 million to ensure every call is answered. The budget also provides $30 million in VAWA funding for victims of sexual assault — a $15 million increase from the previous year — which will be utilized by the Sexual Assault Services Program to provide crisis intervention, advocacy within the criminal justice system, support during forensic exams, and other related assistance.

The FY 2011 budget bolsters legal support for domestic violence and sexual assault victims by providing $50 million in VAWA funding for legal assistance for victims, a $9 million increase from the previous year. The Civil Legal Assistance Program will use this funding to help victims more easily obtain protective orders and other assistance available through the court system.

To build upon the above improvements in the criminal justice system, the budget also provides $188 million in STOP grants that provide better training, improved data collection, specialized law enforcement and prosecution units, and courts specialized for domestic violence and sexual assault cases.

Support Across the Board

Ending domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority for President Obama and Vice President Biden. I’ve written about numerous fund increases and initiatives that are testaments to this fact. In my meeting yesterday, the White House’s commitment to violence against women issues was clear — we are increasing support for women across the board.

Read more about our efforts in the President’s FY 2011 budget. [5]

Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Google and the hackers

Reposted from

The world's largest Internet search company and the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity.

Under an agreement that is still being finalized, the National Security Agency would help Google analyze a major corporate espionage attack that the firm said originated in China and targeted its computer networks, according to cybersecurity experts familiar with the matter. The objective is to better defend Google — and its users — from future attack.

Google and the NSA declined to comment on the partnership. But sources with knowledge of the arrangement, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the alliance is being designed to allow the two organizations to share critical information without violating Google's policies or laws that protect the privacy of Americans' online communications. The sources said the deal does not mean the NSA will be viewing users' searches or e-mail accounts or that Google will be sharing proprietary data.

The partnership strikes at the core of one of the most sensitive issues for the government and private industry in the evolving world of cybersecurity: how to balance privacy and national security interests. On Tuesday, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair called the Google attacks, which the company acknowledged in January, a "wake-up call." Cyberspace cannot be protected, he said, without a "collaborative effort that incorporates both the U.S. private sector and our international partners."

But achieving collaboration is not easy, in part because private companies do not trust the government to keep their secrets and in part because of concerns that collaboration can lead to continuous government monitoring of private communications. Privacy advocates, concerned about a repeat of the NSA's warrantless interception of Americans' phone calls and e-mails after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, say information-sharing must be limited and closely overseen.

"The critical question is: At what level will the American public be comfortable with Google sharing information with NSA?" said Ellen McCarthy, president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an organization of current and former intelligence and national security officials that seeks ways to foster greater sharing of information between government and industry.

On Jan. 12, Google took the rare step of announcing publicly that its systems had been hacked in a series of intrusions beginning in December.

The intrusions, industry experts said, targeted Google source code — the programming language underlying Google applications — and extended to more than 30 other large tech, defense, energy, financial and media companies. The Gmail accounts of human rights activists in Europe, China and the United States were also compromised.

So significant was the attack that Google threatened to shutter its business operation in China if the government did not agree to let the firm operate an uncensored search engine there. That issue is still unresolved.

Google approached the NSA shortly after the attacks, sources said, but the deal is taking weeks to hammer out, reflecting the sensitivity of the partnership. Any agreement would mark the first time that Google has entered a formal information-sharing relationship with the NSA, sources said. In 2008, the firm stated that it had not cooperated with the NSA in its Terrorist Surveillance Program.


Sources familiar with the new initiative said the focus is not figuring out who was behind the recent cyberattacks — doing so is a nearly impossible task after the fact — but building a better defense of Google's networks, or what its technicians call "information assurance."

One senior defense official, while not confirming or denying any agreement the NSA might have with any firm, said: "If a company came to the table and asked for help, I would ask them . . . 'What do you know about what transpired in your system? What deficiencies do you think they took advantage of? Tell me a little bit about what it was they did.' " Sources said the NSA is reaching out to other government agencies that play key roles in the U.S. effort to defend cyberspace and might be able to help in the Google investigation.

Jan 13: Washington has demanded an explanation from Beijing over claims by Google that the internet accounts of human rights activists have come under concerted attack from hackers.

These agencies include the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Over the past decade, other Silicon Valley companies have quietly turned to the NSA for guidance in protecting their networks.

"As a general matter," NSA spokeswoman Judi Emmel said, "as part of its information-assurance mission, NSA works with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates to ensure the availability of secure tailored solutions for Department of Defense and national security systems customers."

Despite such precedent, Matthew Aid, an expert on the NSA, said Google's global reach makes it unique.

"When you rise to the level of Google . . . you're looking at a company that has taken great pride in its independence," said Aid, author of "The Secret Sentry," a history of the NSA. "I'm a little uncomfortable with Google cooperating this closely with the nation's largest intelligence agency, even if it's strictly for defensive purposes."

The pact would be aimed at allowing the NSA help Google understand whether it is putting in place the right defenses by evaluating vulnerabilities in hardware and software and to calibrate how sophisticated the adversary is. The agency's expertise is based in part on its analysis of cyber-"signatures" that have been documented in previous attacks and can be used to block future intrusions.

The NSA would also be able to help the firm understand what methods are being used to penetrate its system, the sources said. Google, for its part, may share information on the types of malicious code seen in the attacks — without disclosing proprietary data about what was taken, which would concern shareholders, sources said.

Greg Nojeim, senior counsel for the Center for Democracy & Technology, a privacy advocacy group, said companies have statutory authority to share information with the government to protect their rights and property.

Seller Beware. Cashier's Checks Not Always As Good As Cash

I love it when I find another person that thinks the same way that I do.  This article might be a few years old, but it is right on point.

Seller Beware. Cashier's Checks Not Always As Good As Cash

January 2005

By Susan N. LeDuc, CRCM

Many of us grew up hearing "a cashier’s check is as good as cash," and it has been true for decades; a cashier’s check, which is drawn by a bank on its own funds, cannot "bounce" or be returned for insufficient funds. A cashier’s check has been and still is a trusted method to conveniently transfer sums of money that are often larger than you would want to carry or transfer in cash. A cashier’s check is also more acceptable to those on the receiving end that do not want a personal check. Unfortunately, fraudsters are very good at finding and exploiting our trust.

By betraying our trust of banks, fraudsters are passing counterfeit cashier’s checks to unsuspecting individuals and businesses and tricking people out of large sums of money. Unfortunately, the trickster is not often caught, and individuals and businesses suffer the loss. That means that all of us — individuals, business and financial institutions — must change our behavior or risk being duped by a fraudster.

Cashier's check fraud scenarios

So how does this fraud loss happen? Often, an individual or business has some asset to sell, such as a car or a piece of equipment. You advertise the item in either a newspaper or on-line, an offer is made, and a deal is struck. You agree to sell your item for $12,000 in the form of a cashier’s check. Either your buyer arrives in person or, more typically, a cashier’s check arrives via mail. You make the deal (you take the cashier’s check, the buyer takes the item), and you promptly head to the bank and deposit the check. The check is deposited and you are told it will available tomorrow. At this point, you might use the money toward some other purchase. A week later, the bank calls you to say that the cashier’s check has been returned unpaid because it is a counterfeit check. The deposit has been reversed from your account [and you may have a negative balance]. You also do not have your asset (the car or equipment). You have been defrauded — tricked out of your money.

Another variation on the scenario is that the check the buyer used to pay for the item is for more than the agreed upon price. Using the example above, say the buyer arrived with a cashier’s check for $15,000. He gives you the check and a believable story and asks for you to mail him a cashier’s check for the difference. You think the buyer must be on the up-and-up because he trusts you to return the excess! You deposit the $15,000 cashier’s check, go back the next day and buy a cashier’s check for $3,000 and mail it as instructed. A week later, the $15,000 cashier’s check is returned unpaid because it is a counterfeit, and you now have a $15,000 loss, not a $12,000 loss!

Reasons for increase in bank check fraud

The number of counterfeit cashier’s checks deposited into banks has steadily increased in recent times. Much of this increase is attributed to the increase in private sales between individuals as facilitated by the internet and online auctions.

There are also inexpensive software programs that allow someone with a computer, a scanner and a good quality printer to "create" a document which looks like a genuine check. Some counterfeits are doctored copies of genuine checks; other counterfeits are complete phonies. Even banks have trouble identifying genuine and counterfeit cashier’s checks.

The situation is further complicated by federal bank regulations. The Expedited Funds Availability Act, which is implemented by Regulation CC (12 CFR 229), provides the maximum number of days that a bank can hold a deposited check before making the funds from a deposit available (i.e., can be accessed by check or other withdrawal) to the depositing customer. This rule was developed to prevent overly long holds that banks and others placed on deposited funds.

Because of the misdeeds of a few, now all banks and financial institutions must adhere to Regulation CC. This regulation does provide for certain exceptions, but generally, a bank is required to make the funds deposited via cashier’s check, "available" on the next business day after the day of the deposit if certain conditions are met. Making the funds from a check "available" means that the funds can be conditionally accessed, but the checks are still subject to final clearing and charge-back if the item is not honored.

Regulation CC obviously reflects that historic trust that cashier’s checks are as good as cash! Unfortunately, the only way Regulation CC deals with the possibility of counterfeit cashier’s checks is in the exceptions to the availability schedules. This means that unless the bank places a longer exception hold on a deposited cashier’s check, all parties involved — the customer, the fraudster, and the Bank, all know that the funds from that deposit will be available for withdrawal by the customer long before the bank knows whether the item will be returned or not. It can take up to 7-10 days from the time a check is deposited for it to be returned to the bank as unpaid.

Don't be duped! Protect thyself

Banks that issue cashier's checks. Expect to receive calls from individuals and businesses who are payees on official checks so that the bank can confirm that such a check was issued. A bank should also be able to verify the check number, the payee, the issue date, the amount, and the authorized signer. Confirmation that a cashier’s check was issued is not a guarantee that it will be paid. However, it does eliminate many risks associated with counterfeit cashier’s checks.

Individuals and businesses accepting cashier's checks for payment. Verify that the check is genuine. Call the issuing bank (use the phone book, the bank’s website or directory assistance — do not use a telephone number printed on the check — it could be a hoax) and confirm that the item was issued. If you can’t confirm that the check was issued, consider canceling the transaction or not releasing the purchased item until the check has cleared and the funds are available and not subject to chargeback.

Banks accepting cashier's checks for deposit.

Consider offering a service to depositors to confirm (i.e., call the issuing bank) that an official check was issued. Confirmation that a cashier’s check was issued does not guarantee that the check will be paid. However, it does eliminate many risks associated with counterfeit cashier’s checks.

Publicize the existence of counterfeit cashier’s checks and how to protect against them. Consider adding a link on your website to your federal regulator’s list of counterfeit cashier’s check notices.

If the bank cannot confirm the check’s issuance, place a Reg. CC exception hold (doubting collectibility) on the deposit. Properly notify the depositor of the hold.

Consider sending the cashier’s check for collection rather than depositing it into the customer’s account directly.

Advise individuals and businesses that deposit official checks that availability is not the same as "cleared."

Train tellers and Customer Service Representatives to make a distinction between available and cleared. Do not confirm that an item is cleared unless the bank is certain that the item will not be returned.

If an official check is returned unpaid as counterfeit, the bank should submit a SAR and file it with FinCEN, police and the state banking commission.

Remember: Genuine cashier’s checks issued by a bank are as good as cash, but the counterfeit ones look like the real ones. Suspect that a cashier’s check could be counterfeit, and independently confirm its issuance before accepting it.