Last Update - 05-11-2019

PAGE INDEX:
*6 Active Scam Short Articles;
      Get a one-ring call? Don't call back! - - New 05-11-19 - -
      What to do about robocalls? - - New 04-28-19 - -
      Trying to make cash off robocalls? - - New 03-17-19 - -
      FTC Halts Another Phantom Debt Collection Scheme
      Get-rich scheme sold to wannabe Amazon sellers
      Watch Out For These New Tax Scams

*Blue Cross Warns of Telemarketing Prescription Scam;
*Fake calls about your SSN;
*Asked to pay by gift card? Don't!;
*Shimming; The New Way Thieves Can Steal Your Credit Card Data;
*State Says Skimmers Still A Problem At Michigan Gas Pumps. Card skimmer found          at Byron Township gas station July 17, 2018!; Updated 07-22-18
*More Victims In Home Buying Wire Scams;
*Business Hacked, Phony Invoices Sent Out To Clients;
*Smartphone Scam Targets Victims;
*Craigslist Renters Rent The Same Home;
*Youtube Video Tricking Consumers On How To Pay Bills Using Social Security;
*Hotel Front Desk Credit Card Scam;
*State Treasury Officials Warn Of Summertime Scams;
*Scammers Steal Donated Rewards Or Claim They Are Government Workers;
*Student Loan Repayment Scams;
*FBI Warns Phony Job Scam Targeting College Students;
*Holiday Scams;
*Dial Back Scam Hitting Cell Phones;
*The 5 Worst Social Security Scams;
*Car Buyer Note On Windshield Scam;
*Phone Caller Demanding Money or You / Family Member Will Go To Jail Scam;
*Thieves Target Shoppers Who Use Supermarket Self-Checkout;
*Read Many Many More Older Articles


The U.S. Government's Federal Trade Commission has a pretty good web site to help you with all kinds things like Scam Alerts, Money & Credit, Homes & Mortgages; Health & Fitness, Jobs & Making Money, and Privacy, Identity, & Online Security. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information


Active Scam Short Articles:

Get a one-ring call? Don't call back! A while back, we warned you about the "one ring" scam. That's when you get a phone call from a number you don't know, and the call stops after just one ring. The scammer is hoping you'll call back, because it.s really an international toll number and will appear as a charge on your phone bill - with most of the money going to the scammer. Well. the scam is back with a vengeance, and the FCC just issued a new advisory about it. Read the FCC's advisory for more detail, but the advice from both agencies remains the same if you get one of these calls:
1 - Don't call back ! !
2 - Report the robocall to the FTC at www.donotcall.gov and to the FCC at www.fcc.gov/complaints
3 - Always check your phone bill for suspicious or unusual charges

May 7, 2019 by Michael Atleson


What to do about robocalls? The FTC worked with AARP to create a series of videos about imposter scams - including robocalls, IRS imposters and Medicare scams. While the videos are aimed at older Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the tips apply to everyone. For three Fridays, we've highlighted these videos: first Medicare scams, then IRS imposters, and now robocalls. In this week.s video, you'll hear about imposter scams that come by robocall, and some steps you can take. The robovoice may claim to be a utility, a government agency, or even a foreign consulate. Don't believe them. Instead:
1 - Hang up on illegal robocalls. Is the recording trying to sell you something? Did you give your written permission to get calls from that company? No? Then that call is illegal. No need to feel like you're being rude when you hang up. :
2 - Consider protecting yourself with technology like a call blocking app or device. You also can ask your phone provider if it has call-blocking tools. To learn more, go to ftc.gov/calls. :
3 - Report the call. Report robocalls at ftc.gov/complaint. The more we hear from you, the more we can help fight scams. :

To read the article and access the video links plus more info click here!

March 29, 2019 by Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, FTC Attorney.


Trying to make cash off robocalls? If you are tired of getting "robocalls" on your cell phones, you aren't alone. We get the calls here at the station too, both at our desks and on our work phones. So, when we saw this story from FOX 29 in Philadelphia, we were interested and we passed it along to you, via our sharing partnerships with other Fox stations. It also raised some questions. Robocalls.cash claims that with a $47 kit, they can help you fight back against robocallers and actually demand that they send you cash as payment for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The concept is that by breaking this rule, the company that made the call would be willing to settle with you, the victim, for anywhere from $750 to $5,000.

We asked the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan if this works. They told us via email that it could work if real companies, who are afraid of getting in trouble, make the calls. However, since most scam callers don't care that they are already breaking the law, the likelihood that they'd look to settle a dispute is probably unlikely. The procedure to try and get payments from a company involves trying to get information from the caller where you can determine what company is calling and where they are located. As it turns out, we received a call Friday afternoon and tried to get the information out of the caller, but they hung up on us.

In general, you will need to do some real work to get your money.

From Fox 17, March 15, 2019


FTC Halts Another Phantom Debt Collection Scheme.

Getting a call about a debt you don't owe - or even recognize - can be annoying. It can be downright scary when the caller claims to be a lawyer and threatens legal action if you don't pay. Such are the ploys of phantom debt collectors : lies, harassment, intimidation and threats. Don't let debt collectors - real or phony - scare you. Know your legal rights, so you can spot when something isn't right. By law, debt collectors have to send you a validation notice in writing, within five days of contacting you. If they don't, that's a red flag. And if a debt collector threatens, harasses or intimidates you to pay a debt, that's illegal, too.

Today, the FTC filed a lawsuit against Global Asset Financial Services Group (GAFS) and fifteen related defendants for operating a fake debt collection scheme. The FTC's complaint says that GAFS employees claimed to be lawyers or affiliated with law firms. In truth, they were not lawyers and had no authority to collect debts. The fraudulent scheme bilked millions of dollars from consumers for debts they did not owe. At the FTC's request, a federal court has temporarily halted the operation and frozen its assets. This action is part of the FTC's continuing crackdown on abusive and phantom debt collectors.

If you, or someone you know, has gotten a suspicious debt collection call, report it to the FTC. We've stopped a lot of bad debt collectors. Help us stop more.

By Colleen Tressler; FTC published on February 8, 2019


Get-rich scheme sold to wannabe Amazon sellers:
"Get started selling on Amazon and make $5,000 - $10,000 in the next 30 day; even if you've never sold anything online before." That's one of the pitches the promoters of a large get-rich scheme used to lure people into a bogus business opportunity. In ads and live seminars in English and in Spanish, Amazing Wealth Systems - also known at different points as AWS, FBA Stores, and Online Auction Learning Center - claimed that people who used the company's "system" would generate thousands of dollars in sales on Amazon.com. Not so, says the FTC in a lawsuit against the company. In fact, the defendants didn't have anything to do with Amazon.

The FTC says it was really Amazing Wealth Systems that made money - by enrolling people. Those who followed the system did not make anywhere close to the advertised income, or any income at all, according to the FTC's complaint. On top of that, the FTC says many people received warnings from Amazon.com or got their Amazon seller accounts suspended because what the system instructed them to do was against Amazon's policies.

Read the entire article at the FTC Consumer Information page.

By Rosario Mendez


Watch Out For These New Tax Scams :
They're at it again... tax scammers scheming new ways to steal personal information and money.

In the first scenario, identity thieves file a fake tax return and have the refund deposited into your bank account. The thieves then contact you, often by phone, and posing as the IRS or debt collectors for the IRS; demand you return the money to the IRS. But following the thieves' instructions actually sends the money to them.

In another version, after you get that erroneous refund, you get an automated call, allegedly from the IRS, threatening you with criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant, and "blacklisting" of your Social Security number. The caller gives you a case number and a telephone number to call to return the refund.

Don't take the bait. If you or someone you know gets an unexpected tax refund, follow the guidance outlined by the IRS for how to return the funds to the agency. The steps for returning paper checks and direct deposits differ.

For more information and other Tax Scams, read the entire article at Watch Out For These New Tax Scams.

By Colleen Tressler Consumer Education Specialist, FTC March 12, 2018

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Blue Cross Warns of Telemarketing Prescription Scam

When you think about the things in your life you want to protect, your mind probably goes to your home, family, and financial information. But now, more than ever, it's also important for you to be vigilant in protecting your personal medical information. Recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's Corporate & Financial Investigations team fielded complaints from members who received unwanted medication, supplies and durable medical equipment (DME) mailed to them. Usually, receiving unexpected packages can either mean a belated birthday gift from Aunt Sally or an online shopping purchase you forgot you made. But imagine checking your doorstep to find a box full of blood glucose meters and diabetic testing supplies you did not request or are not medically necessary for you.

After an investigation, Blue Cross learned that some telemarketing companies were soliciting insurance information and primary care physician's contact information directly from patients through phone calls, emails, social media and online or mail surveys. These companies then faxed fake prescriptions to the prescriber's office to obtain authorization and place an order. Other times, pharmacies called requesting authorization from the prescriber to change a medication. Once the authorization was received, the members unexpectedly began receiving mailed deliveries of medications or durable medical equipment supplies. The member would receive the order, and the cost of the unnecessary medication or equipment was paid by the member's employer group coverage.

In 2018, Blue Cross identified numerous physicians and pharmacies involved in this scheme. Information was shared with other Blue Cross plans as well as law enforcement agencies to help raise awareness of the scam. Blue Cross also blocked several prescribers and pharmacies from being able to continue this scheme.

Avoid Being a Target
These high-cost scams could also lead to higher insurance costs for members. So, how can you protect yourself (and your wallet)? Start by following some basic tips:

  • Know the source. Be wary of any communication from a doctor or other entity (such as an online prescription service) who initiates contact with you. If you have a medical issue, you should visit your primary care physician or a referred specialist.
  • Keep it personal. Don't give out personal or insurance information online. Unsolicited phone calls, surveys or emails asking for your insurance or doctor's information should be a red flag.
  • Don't be tempted by freebies. Be wary of anyone giving away free medication on social media or someone who offers a reward for filling a prescription. What looks free at first, may end up costing you and your employer more money in the longer run.

    Members who have been caught up in this scheme reported difficulty getting the dispensing pharmacy to stop sending medications. Therefore, it's important to learn how to avoid becoming involved in the onset.

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    Fake calls about your SSN

    By Jennifer Leach; FTC, December 12, 2018

    The FTC is getting reports about people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) who are trying to get your Social Security number and even your money. In one version of the scam, the caller says your Social Security number has been linked to a crime (often, he says it happened in Texas) involving drugs or sending money out of the country illegally. He then says your Social is blocked; but he might ask you for a fee to reactivate it, or to get a new number. And he will ask you to confirm your Social Security number.

    In other variations, he says that somebody used your Social Security number to apply for credit cards, and you could lose your benefits. Or he might warn you that your bank account is about to be seized, that you need to withdraw your money, and that he'll tell you how to keep it safe.

    But all of these are scams. Here's what you need to know:

  • The SSA, or any part of the U.S. government; will never ever call and ask for your Social Security number. It won't ask you to pay anything. And it won't call to threaten your benefits. NEVER!

  • Your caller ID might show the SSA's real phone number (1-800-772-1213). but that's not the real SSA calling. Computers make it easy to show any number on caller ID. You can't trust what you see there.

  • NEVER, EVER, NEVER give your Social Security number to anyone who contacts you. Don't confirm the last 4 digits. And don't ever give a bank account or credit card number - ever never ever - to anybody who contacts you asking for it.

  • Remember that anyone who tells you to wire money, pay with a gift card, or send cash is a scammer. It always, always, always is a scammer!!! No matter who they say they are.

    If you're worried about a call from someone who claims to be from the Social Security Administration, get off the phone. Then call the real SSA by dialing their number yourself: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Do NOT hit 'redial' as it will call the scammers back, not the SSA. If you've spotted a scam, then tell the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

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    Asked to pay by gift card? Don't!

    By Jennifer Leach, FTC

    Has someone asked you to go get a gift card to pay for something? Lots of people have told us they've been asked to pay with gift cards by a caller claiming to be with the IRS, or tech support, or a so-called family member in need. If you've gotten a call like this, you know that the caller will then demand the gift card numbers and PIN. And, poof, your money is gone. Scammers are good at convincing people there really is an emergency, so lots of people have made the trip to the Walmart or Target or CVS to buy gift cards to send these callers. And scammers love gift cards; it's one of their favorite ways to get your money. These cards are like giving cash; and nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.

    So here's the most important thing for you to know: anyone who demands payment by gift card is always, always, always a scammer. Try this gift card buying exercise out at home; especially when anyone asks you to pay with a gift card:

    Q: Should I buy an iTunes, Google Play, Steam, Kroger, Walgreens, BestBuy, Amazon, CVS, Rite Aid or ANY OTHER gift card for someone who demands payment? For any reason?

    A: NO!
    Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. If you've bought a gift card and lost money to someone who might be a scammer, tell the company who issued the card. (The contact info might be on the card, but might require some research) Call or email iTunes or Amazon or whoever it was. Tell them their card was used in a scam. If you act quickly enough, they might be able to get your money back. But; either way it's important that they know what happened to you. And then please
    tell the FTC about your loss. Your report helps us try to shut the scammers down.

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    Shimming; The New Way Thieves Can Steal Your Credit Card Data

    By Tracy Scott from moneytips.com Published: July 2, 2018

    According to Visa, the introduction of the EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) chip card in late 2015 resulted in a 76 percent decrease in counterfeit fraud in less than three years. Visa claims that the use of chip cards is incredibly effective against fraudulent activity. Other major financial institutions praise chip cards as the gold standard for consumer credit card protection. EMV chip cards addressed the vulnerability of magnetic strip credit cards, namely credit card skimming. In this scam, a device is physically attached to a gas pump, ATM, or point of sale machine to capture your account information without your consent. Once this information is obtained, a counterfeit card can be created to make purchases or withdraw cash from your account.

    However, consumers who upgraded to chip cards may have prematurely breathed a sigh of relief, because thieves have found a new way to exploit chip-enabled cards through credit card shimming instead of skimming. An important distinction is that skimming devices read information from the magnetic strip on the back of the card, while shimmers contain microchips specifically designed to capture data contained in the EMV chip as soon as you insert your card into an ATM or point of sale machine. Credit card skimmers are often bulky and wobbly, but shimmers are paper-thin. While you might be able to identify a credit card skimmer since it sits on top of the original card reader, the unfortunate truth is that you cannot see a shimmer with your naked eye. It is installed in the card reader itself, often by a crook pretending to make a transaction. The shimmer's chip-reading ability enables it to capture data from not just your credit cards, but also your chip-enabled debit cards. Other information besides your bank account details can be garnered from these cards, including your PIN. As soon as they have your information, crooks can begin making withdrawals and charges. If the thieves aren't caught promptly, they may sell your data on the Dark Web.

    While this might sound like the EMV cards have failed, there is more to the story. Chip cards still contain an additional level of security that magnetic strip cards lack, but if a bank fails to perform a critical verification step, then you might have a problem. Aquila Wealth Advisors Owner and Financial Planner Eric Maldonado, CFP, MBA, CKA, reassures consumers that the sky is not falling. Maldonado says we shouldn't let fear drive consumer actions, but stresses that timely reporting of suspicious card activity is key to resolving potential identity theft issues. "A new card can always be issued by the credit card company, but this can be a bummer because (all payees) linked to the card will need to be updated," acknowledges Maldonado.

    What can you do to prevent fraudulent activity on your account?
    Miguel Segura, Regional Director of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) in San Antonio, Texas, advises cardholders to pay inside. While this may seem simple, it can be a powerful step in preventing credit card identity theft since outdoor card readers appear to provide a greater opportunity for thieves to attach a skimmer or shimmer without attracting much attention. Segura also advises, "Monitor bank accounts at least once a month. (The) BBB has received reports of repeated fraudulent transactions totaling several dollars on the same account. Pay attention." It might be easy to dismiss a $2.49 charge from Walgreens last week and another $4.32 charge from 7-Eleven the week before, but Segura warns that it's this type of unchecked activity that keeps criminals just under the radar. Several dollars' worth of charges each day on thousands of stolen accounts will add up quickly.

    Set up alerts on your credit card and debit card accounts, so that you are notified every time a transaction takes place. The sooner you become aware of fraudulent activity, the better your chances of recovering your losses and avert further theft.

    What if you aren't making a purchase and merely want cash from your card? Should you stay away from ATMs completely? Recommends Sahil Vakil, CFA, CFP, President and Wealth Advisor at MYRA Wealth, "Withdraw money at a teller versus an ATM; if it's after-hours, use an enclosed ATM with CCTVs (closed-circuit televisions) versus a standalone ATM."

    One tactic to fight identity thieves recommended by all the experts was to use near-field communication (NFC) payment apps such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. NFC payments can be made with an iOS or Android phone. NFC technology allows two devices near each other to exchange data. When using mobile payment apps, a random code is generated to process the transaction instead of your actual credit card number. Mobile payments usually take a few minutes to set up using your credit card with bank verification being a normal part of the initial set-up process.

    Until we stop using plastic, remain vigilant and practice caution in all your card transactions. Where possible, mobile app payments may be the best way for you to protect yourself in the ever-changing landscape of credit card identity theft.

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    State Says Skimmers Still A Problem At Michigan Gas Pumps

    Credit card skimmer found at Byron Township gas station July 17, 2018!

    Kent County dispatchers say the device was found on a pump at the Mobil gas station located on 76th Street near US-131 in Byron Township. The owner of the gas station, J&H Oil, said the skimmer was found during a routine check of the pumps. Skimmers are electronic devices that are hidden inside gas pumps and steal your credit or debit card information, allowing scammers to charge your account.

    If you used the pumps at an affected gas stations, make sure you check your accounts to make sure you don't have any erroneous charges. Crooks often install skimmers on pumps farthest from gas station stores to avoid being spotted, so you're best off using one close to the building and that the clerk can see from inside. Additionally, many stations now put security seals over the doors to the pumps that change color or read "void" when they have been tampered with. If the sticker looks like it may have been removed, don't use the pump and tell the station clerk. And, of course, you can always simply pay inside.

    If you notice anything abnormal on your credit card statement and think you may be the victim of a skimmer, call your credit card provider, local law enforcement or the Weights and Measures Division at 517.655.8202.

    Skimmers Still A Problem; FOX 17, September 1, 2016, by Robb Westaby

    LANSING, Mich. More than a year after the first credit card skimmer was discovered inside a pump at a Grand Rapids gas station, skimmers are still a problem, says the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the state agency that inspects commercial gas pumps. Skimmers copy your credit card information for use in fraudulent purchases.

    "Approximately 70 credit card skimmers have been found and removed from gas pumps statewide since last year," said MDARD Director Jamie Clover Adams in a statement issued Thursday. Adams urged gas station owners to increase inspections of their pumps while authorities try to crack down on such consumer fraud. Adams said station owners should change locks, use security cameras, and use tamper-proof security tape.

    MDARD posted a YouTube video in 2015 demonstrating a pump inspection and offering tips for consumers, such as frequently checking credit card statements.

    DANGER; HIDDEN GAS PUMP CREDIT CARD SKIMMERS

    A new scam involving credit card skimmers hidden on the inside of the gas pump has made it to the West Michigan area. The thieves have obtained master keys to the gas pump access doors and are attaching credit card skimmers on the inside of the pumps where no one but a trained professional would be able to detect them. Unfortunately there is almost no proactive way to avoid this type of skimming. Here are a few tips to lessen the risk and damage:

    PROACTIVE:
    Most of these skimmers are attached to pumps that are the farthest away from the building and hidden from a direct line of site of the clerk. Usually on the road side and on stations that are not open 24 hours a day. Take a look at the pump door to see if anything is out of normal like a damaged lock, scratches or dents from a pry bar, door not closed properly. If you see something report it to the clerk and use a different pump.

    REACTIVE:
    Go online and check your credit card transaction history often, perhaps once a week depending on how often you buy gas, to see if there are any unauthorized charges. Dispute those charges and restrict or cancel that card immediately. It is not unusual to see a thief run a small sale first to see if the card still works and then max the card out. Naturally I am sure that you always keep your receipts and balance your account once a month to avoid problems.

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    More Victims In Home Buying Wire Scams

    Nina DeSarro 13 on Your Side

    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich-- It's tough to find and buy a house in Grand Rapids, so when you are able to snag one, you probably want to go through the process of closing as quickly as possible so you don't run the risk of it falling through. Kent County Sheriff's Department said that's exactly what happened in this case.

    "It was a couple who was preparing to close on a loan for a house," Sgt. Joel Roon with the Kent County Sheriff's Department said. The e-mail, which looked like it came from the bank, told them they needed to wire $180,000. "People tend to want to comply because they don't want to hold up the closing and potentially lose a house," Roon said. The couple wired the money, but fortunately, their bank's fraud department caught the wire and immediately froze the account.

    "You have all these things to keep track of and it might be the first time you bought a home or dealt with this in a long time so you're not able to think about it in a way to protect yourself," Phil Catlett, President of the Better Business Bureau serving West Michigan said.

    Catlett isn't surprised. "I think these hackers, or these crooks are just saying 'OK, where's the money and where can I get a big chunk of it all at once,' and buying a home would certainly fit that," Catlett said. He said this kind of thing is only going to get worse.

    "Virtually every one of us, our private information is out there to some degree or another," Catlett said. "Because of the technology and the software programs that we can buy and create just about anything that we want."

    In this particular situation, the email address was fraudulent. There was a very small difference between the fake one and the legitimate bank email address, which is easy to overlook. The sheriff's office is urging people to double and triple check everything that is asking you for money.

    Both the Better Business Bureau and the sheriff's department encourage any wire transaction to happen in person, at the financial institution to verify that it is legitimate.

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    Business Hacked, Phony Invoices Sent To Clients

    Here we go again. The new targets for scammers to get your money is to hack a business you used and send you a fake invoice with instructions where to send the money to them. As always follow the rules to stay safe:

  • 1. ALWAYS VERIFY EVERY BILL YOU RECEIVE. If you're not sure you owe the money, contact the business with the address or phone number in your personal address book or last legitimate invoice. NEVER use the contact info on a suspicious invoice.
  • 2. NEVER USE A PREPAID CREDIT CARD EVER ! ! NEVER ! ! This is the biggest scam warning sign EVER ! If they are demanding a prepaid card you can be 99.99% sure it is a scam. Always use your personal or business credit/debit card or paper check. You have ZERO, ZIP, ZILCH recourse in the case of fraud with a prepaid card. You do have some limited recourse with your personal or business credit/debit card or paper check. Sometimes the electronic fraudulent payment can be reversed if caught soon enough.

    Read the article at Business Hacked, Phony Invoices Sent Out To Clients

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    Smartphone Scam Targets Victims

    A new smartphone scam targets victims of phone theft. First, someone steals your smartphone and passes it off to a hacker who can figure out your phone number. The hacker then messages you on your new phone or another device synced to the cloud claiming that the stolen phone has been recovered. The text asks you to click a link and enter your user name and password. If you enter this information, the hacker can unlock and erase the stolen phone.

    Self-defense: If your smartphone gets stolen or lost, be suspicious of any links that ask you for login information. Always error on the side of caution. Instead of logging in, ask to meet at the local police station to get your phone back. Don't be too bashful about offering a small reward for its safe return, just in case the thief might jump at an easy $50 today.

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    Craigslist Renters Rent The Same Home

    Sarah Sell, WZZM TV December 06, 2017

    At least four renters may be the victims of fraud after they signed leases and paid rent on a home listed on Craigslist. Each person says they jumped at the chance to rent what they thought was a decent, affordable home in Grand Rapids for $550 a month. They soon discovered that they weren't the only ones planning to move in.

    "I heard the door open. I'm like, this isn't happening", says Henry House. A woman walked into what he thought was his new apartment. "He's like 'why do you have keys to my apartment?' I'm like, why do you have the keys to my apartment? Why are you in here?", says Marisha McFarland.

    Both planned to move in to the Davis Avenue home on Dec. 4. Both say they signed leases, paid the first months' rent and were given a set of keys to the house. As they reviewed the paperwork, they discovered Jaleeiah Davis was also on the lease. All three found the listing on Craigslist.

    "I was apartment searching. I was in a one bedroom. But, I'm six months pregnant so, I wanted a 2 bedroom for my daughter."

    They all say that the man they talked to went by the name Michael Alan Hite. A quick property search shows the real owner is Victoria Zwart. She says Hite is the tenant and currently in jail. She found out other people were living in the home. "We were trying to evict everybody here", says Zwart. One of them is Robert Tyler the third.

    McFarland, Davis, and House all identified the man as Tyler, who they say, was posing as Hite. They paid him a total of $1,100 each. "He signed Mike Alan Hite's name, not Robert Tyler the third, which is his real name", says Davis. Tyler has since moved out of the house.

    When 13 on your side talked to him on the phone, he declined an on-camera interview, but says what he did, was legal. He said he was providing a service and what they gave him were "fees" for finding them a house. He also denies signing Mike's name to those receipts.

    "We feel bad because a lot of people got hurt. That's a lot of money", says Zwart. Davis says, "That's why I'm really mad. You just don't mess with people's livelihoods like that. I worked hard for that money".

    We also asked to speak to Tyler's attorney. He said the attorney told him the documents were legal and binding. Tyler wouldn't give us the man's name, but said he would have him give us a call. So far, we have not heard back.

    In the meantime, Grand Rapids Police are investigating this as a potential case of fraud.

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    Youtube Video Tricking Consumers On How To Pay Bills Using Social Security Numbers

    From WZZM TV 13 On Your Side

    Here's some sorry news this summer: There's no secret cash stash out there to pay your utility bills or your old outstanding debts with the state.

    Consumers are getting swept into some scams across the country that promise a way to use special bank routing numbers supposedly from the U.S. government to cover their bills. In some cases, they're watching a You Tube video published by "Money Boy Filmz" called "I paid my bills using my Social Security number." Another is titled: "Believe you can pay bills with your Social Security." One website notes: "Pay all bills now with your no-longer secret Social Security Trust Account."

    Ron Leix, a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Treasury, said the state collections department spotted a pattern of payments in the past month that seemed strange. By re-examining the account numbers being used to pay bills, staff members noticed that individuals had been trying to pay old state debts by using routing numbers from two U.S. Department of Treasury bureaus; the financial management service and the bureau of public debt.

    "Individuals are using these federal routing numbers with their Social Security Number as the checking account number and listing the bank as either FMS or the BPD," the state treasury department said. Leix said the strategy seems to be one promoted by tax protest groups and others. Groups reportedly are holding seminars throughout the U.S. to fraudulently teach consumers how to use these tricks to resolve their outstanding government debts. "It just won't work," Leix said. "It's just not a valid method of payment for any outstanding debt."

    A similar type of alert went out by Alabama Power this summer. Ike Pigott, a communications specialist for Alabama Power, said more than 140 Alabama Power customers since early July have followed the unusual payment advice on websites and videos that promise to pay your bills somehow via a Bureau of Public Debt. People are being told that your Social Security number is all that you need to unlock payment from a "corporate account" that was established by the government in your name.

    Since mid-July, DTE Energy has seen about 1,000 payments that have been returned as a result of customers attempting to use the Federal Reserve routing number. "These payments initially came back to us as a "returned payment" which is similar to a NSF (non-sufficient funds)," said Jill M. Wilmot, manager of corporate communications for DTE Energy. She said that when the utility discovered the reason for the returned payments, DTE implemented a safeguard with its payment processing partners that results in a real-time payment rejection when the customer tries to submit a payment using the Federal Reserve routing number.

    DTE also contacted its internal security group and its financial institution to make them aware of possible fraud issues. "Any customer who tries to use this routing number will receive a rejected payment notification, and is still expected to submit payment with a legitimate payment method," Wilmot said. Not paying the bill can result in a shut-off notification followed by termination of service.

    The idea that anyone might fall for this could sound laughable, if some people weren't naturally hopeful to find an easy way out of their troubles. "Any video, text, e-mail, phone call, flyer or website that describes how to pay bills using a Federal Reserve routing number or using an account at the Federal Reserve Bank is a scam," according to a statement by the bank.

    The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta issued an alert this summer stating that the Fed has receive a "number of unauthorized transactions in which consumers have tried to use the Fed's routing numbers and their Social Security numbers to pay their bills." The Fed's routing numbers are used to sort and process payments between banks.

    If you try to use a Fed routing number that you find online to pay a bill, it might look like it was approved initially in some cases. But ultimately the utility, state treasury or other entity is going to reject the payment and return it as unpaid. And you could be subject to late fees or other penalties.

    Consumers Energy said it hasn't seen its customers attempting to use federal routing numbers to resolve outstanding bills. But Consumers Energy is aware of another scam. Callers can pretend to be from Consumers Energy and demand immediate payment using a gift card or prepaid debit card. "We're aware of over 1,300 reports of such scam attempts this year, with customers paying out over $45,000 to scammers," said Brian Wheeler, senior public information director for Consumers Energy.

    Remember:
    There is NO secret account you can tap into to pay your bills.
    There is NO government grant program to pay your utility bills other than Section 8, Welfare, WIC, and others that you must FIRST apply and then qualify for in advance.
    There are NO secret routing numbers.
    If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't. But it is a SCAM ! ! - Webmaster.

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    Hotel Front Desk Credit Card Scam

    As published in Bottom Line Personal.

    Yet another reason NOT to give out your personal info to an unknown caller. Always, Always, Always just tell the caller you will take care of it and HANG UP ! ! Then contact the company from the number in your personal contacts list the scammer claimed to be representing and ask if there is a problem. Or go down to the front desk and ask. - Webmaster

    You arrive at your hotel and check in at the front desk. Typically when checking in, you give the front desk your credit card to scan (for any charges to your room). You go to your room and settle in. All is good. The hotel receives a call and the caller asks for (as an example) room 620 - which happens to be your room. The phone rings in your room. You answer and the person on the other end says the following: 'This is the front desk. When checking in, we came across a problem with your charge card information. Please re-read me your credit card number and verify the last 3 digits numbers at the reverse side of your charge card.' Not thinking anything wrong, since the call seems to come from the front desk you oblige. But actually, it is a scam by someone calling from outside the hotel. They have asked for a random room number, then ask you for your credit card and address information.

    They sound so professional, that you think you are talking to the front desk. If you ever encounter this scenario on your travels, tell the caller that you will be down to the front desk to clear up any problems. Then, go to the front desk or call directly and ask if there was a problem. If there was none, inform the manager of the hotel that someone tried to scam you of your credit card information, acting like a front desk employee.

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    State Treasury Officials Warn Of Summertime Scams

    From Advance Newspapers July 16, 2017

    Michigan Department of Treasury officials are encouraging residents to be alert for aggressive and threatening phone calls made by criminals impersonating state tax officials. The department observes scam phone calls throughout the summer, officials said. Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be tax officials and ask for cash through a wire transfer, prepaid debit card or gift card. The criminals may leave "urgent" callback requests through robocalls or phishing emails.

    The Michigan Department of Treasury doesn't initially contact taxpayers through the phone. "Our first interaction is generally done by mail," said Deputy Treasurer Glenn White, head of the department's Tax Administration Group. Scammers may alter their caller ID numbers to make it look like the call is coming from the Treasury Departments the Internal Revenue Service or another agency. The callers may use employee titles, a person's name, address and other personal information to sound official. Treasury Department officials say they never:
    > Initiate a phone call to ask for personal information.
    > Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the department first will mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
    > Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law- enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
    > Demand taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
    > Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

    Taxpayers who don't owe taxes should hang up if they receive one of the calls. People who owe taxes may call 517-636-4486 to learn their account balance information. Taxpayers who have received a call from a scammer should report the case to the IRS by calling 800-366-4484.

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    Scammers Steal Donated Rewards Or Claim They Are Government Workers

    Scammers are offering to help people donate unused frequent-flier miles or hotel rewards points to charity. The scammer's e-mail or website asks for a fee and/or asks you to cash in your miles or points for an airline ticket or hotel voucher in the name of someone the scammer pretends is associated with a real or phony charity. That person, who may have paid the scammer for the ticket or voucher, then uses it.

    The right way to donate frequent-flier miles or hotel rewards points: Most major airlines and some hotel chains partner directly with charities and provide donation options on their websites. Some large charities, take airline-mile donations directly. Always call the business or charity directly or go to their web site and ask about their specific rules about donating.

    Beware: The IRS does not allow you to take tax deductions for the value of miles or reward points you donate to charities and nonprofits.

    Scammers are posing as government health workers to get personal information and steal your identity. The thieves make phone calls which show a false caller ID such as "HHS Tips" or "Federal Government". The scammer asks for your personal info; and if you give it to them they will steal your identity. The Department of Health and Human Services (AND ALL U.S. GOVERNMENT AGENCIES) do NOT use the phone to collect any personal information! The U.S. Government ALWAYS initiates contact by U.S. mail. You must instruct them to call you in the future, but any legal business MUST be done by U.S. mail. If you get a scam HHS call, report it immediately to the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP and to HHS at 800-447-8477 or by email at spoof@oig.hhs.gov .

    REMEMBER: you can call the federal government any time you want, but the federal government can NOT call you without your permission.

    Compiled from Bottom Line Personal articles.

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    Student Loan Repayment Scams

    Consolidated from Bottomline Publications

    The Internet is littered with ads promoting the Obama Administration's Student-Loan Forgiveness Program. There have been TV ads about it, too.
    The only problem: No such program exists. Federal student-loan forgiveness is in reality very rare. available only in extremely specific circumstances, such as for certain people who become teacher or who work in the public service or nonprofit sectors for extended periods.

    If you respond to one of these ads, the company behind it likely will push you to pay hundreds of dollars in hopes of having your loan payments modified or your loan forgiven entirely. If you hand over this money, the company probably will do nothing more than complete a simple form to consolidate your federal student loans into a single paymen or perhaps apply for a legitimate federal loan forgiveness program on your behalf; a program for which you almost certainly will not qualify. And you could have easily done either of these things for free by yourself. An especially disreputable company also might sell your personal information to ID thieves.

    What to do:
    Ignore ads or e-mails promising student-loan forgiveness, reduction, and/or consolidation. If you want to consolidate multiple federal student loans into a single loan, visit the US Department of Education website
    StudentLoans.gov (click the "Managing Repayment" tab, then select "Direct Consolidation Loans"). But doing so is not always wise. It might make bill paying a little easier, but it also means that you will no longer have the option of accelerating your payments on the particular loan that has the highest interest rate, a smart way to reduce the overall cost of debt. And because the interest rate on your consolidated loan will be the weighted average of your existing loans rounded up to the next one-eighth percentage point, consolidation often leads to slightly higher, not lower, total loan payments.

    Beware of promises of instant forgiveness of loans or notices that you are prequalified for lower payments. Never pay high up-front fees to seek to a federal repayment or forgiveness program. It costs nothing to apply. Avoid any offer that says "it is about to expire" or that tells you it is about to expire or that tells you specifically how to handle your loans instead of letting you decide what is best for you.

    Never give out your Federal Student Aid ID or National Student Loan Data System PIN to a third-party payment company! These contain personally identifying information that can use to gain control of your loan and pocket the payments you send them.

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    FBI Warns Phony Job Scam Targeting College Students

    January 24, 2017, by FOX 17 News

    WASHINGTON, DC - Colleges and universities around the country are warning their students of an online scam that promises jobs but only seeks get money from students. The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an alert on the scam last week. Here's how it works:

    1. Job opportunities are posted online seeking college students for positions.
    2. After the student accepts the "job", they receive counterfeit checks and instructed to deposit them in their personal account.
    3. The student is instructed to withdraw the money and send it to a third party, such as a "vendor" to pay for equipment and software needed for the job.

    Since the checks provided to the students are fake, the bank eventually identifies them as fraudulent and closes or freezes the student's account. It's possible the defrauded student becomes responsible for paying back the bank for funds withdrawn, and the student's credit record can be negatively affected.

    Recommendations from the FBI:

    1. Never take a job that requires you to deposit checks into your account or sending money to others.
    2. Watch for poor English, because many of these scammers are not native English speakers.
    3. Forward suspicious to IT personnel at your college or university and to the FBI.

    Internet scams can be reported to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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    Holiday Scams

    There is a lot of press lately on holiday scams. The truth is the scammers are out to get you 24-7-365. They never stop, never sleep, and never show mercy. The best defense is to NOT trust anyone! That's right, do NOT trust anyone. Do NOT trust that letter, phone call, or email saying you have won a gift card, grand prize, and lottery, NEVER believe there is a problem with a package delivery, your credit card, or a love one needs bail money without verifying the info. Unless you entered a lottery, drawing, raffle, are expecting a package; IT IS A SCAM ! !

    Never ever NEVER call someone back on a number supplied by a caller or email, do NOT go to a web address they gave you.

    ALWAYS always always go to your address book and use that info to directly contact your bank, credit card company, Amazon, local retailer, and everyone else. A few minutes on the web verifying the correct web address or phone number is well spent if you do not have the info already on file. I had to do just that to verify a phone number and company name who was an authorized third party to receive a phone call about a problem I needed to solve. I would rather be suspicious and verify the info than trying to deal with identity theft or a drained bank account.

    Even the I.R.S. understands: If it sounds too good to be true; it probably is NOT true.

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    Dial Back Scam Hitting Cell Phones

    A scammer leaves a phone message saying that there has been a death in your family and to call for details or someone in your family needs bail money or the I.R.S. calling about back taxes or ... or ... or ... The message asks you to add *72 to the beginning of the call-back number. When you dial a number begining with the *72 code, you are telling your cell-phone service to forward all future calls to the number after that code. This lets anyone call the crook by using your number and you are charged for each call, which you don't realize until the bill arrives. Self-defense: Do not use *72 or any other code before calling a number that you do not know or do not recognize.
    From
    Scambusters.org.

    Come on people, we have seen similar scams before! Read the next article.

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    WARNING

    THE I.R.S.; D.E.A.; F.B.I.; IMMIGRATION; STATE POLICE; SHERIFF; CITY POLICE; COURTS & COURT EMPLOYEES, AND ALL OTHER FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES WILL NOT SEND YOU AN EMAIL, TEXT, OR CALL YOU ON THE PHONE AND ASK FOR MONEY OR ELSE YOU OR A LOVED ONE WILL GO TO JAIL ! NOR WILL THEY CLAIM TO HELP YOU FILL OUT A WILL, COURT DOCUMENT, OR ANY TYPE OF FORM WITHOUT CONTACTING YOU BY U.S. MAIL FIRST ! !

    If you think one of your children, grand child, or other family member is calling for help in posting bond, paying a fine, or ticket and need you to get them a prepaid credit card, money order, Western Union money gram, gift card, etc. or else they will go to jail; play along! Get all the info you can, record it if possible. Tell them you need some time to get the money and make an appointment to have them call you back. Then check it out by calling your relative on their cell / home phone number that you already have in your personal phone book. Or call another family member they live with, or your local police. Never ever call them back to verify their story on a phone number they give you! ! When you find out it is a scam, call your local police and give them all the info.
    HINT : If someone is in police custody, you usually have to down in person to pay the fine in CASH or with personal credit card and sign them out.

    HANG UP ! ! !

    IT IS A SCAM ! ! ! !

    If a utility, service provider, or anyone else calls you on the phone demanding a payment on a prepaid credit card or that you give them your credit card / bank account number over the phone :
    HANG UP!

    IT IS A SCAM! !

    No legitimate utility, service provider, court personnel, or government agency would do this. There has been a great deal of these phone calls lately in West Michigan.

    THESE ARE ALL 100% SCAMS! ! !

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    The 5 Worst Social Security Scams

    You're At Risk No Matter What Your Age

    By Steven J. Weisman, JD Scamicide.com Bentley University published in Bottom Line Personal APRIL 15, 2016

    Your Social Security account is a tempting target for scammers whether you are already collecting benefits or will be in the future. Few people understand all the ins and outs of this complex government program, and the bad guys have developed ways to exploit this confusion. Watch out for these five scams...

    SCAMS THAT APPLY TO EVERYONE
    Online account hijacking.
    The Social Security Administration is encouraging beneficiaries and future beneficiaries to set up "My Social Security" accounts on its website, SSA.gov. If you set up an account, you can check on the size of future Social Security benefits or make changes to your account, such as altering your mailing address or bank information, without visiting an office or waiting on hold for a phone rep. Unfortunately, this system is proving convenient for scammers, too. They have been setting up accounts in the names of benefit recipients (and people who are eligible to receive benefits but have not yet done so) and then routing benefits to the scammers' bank accounts or debit cards. Scammers can do this only if they know a victim's Social Security number, date of birth and other personal information, but thanks to recent data breaches, that information often is easily accessible. If a scammer hijacks your benefits, Social Security will reimburse you, but it could take months to sort this out, during which time you could have financial trouble if you depend on your benefits.
    What to do: Set up an account at SSA.gov/myaccount before a scammer sets up a bogus account in your name; the sooner, the better. You can set up an account even if you have not yet reached retirement age and/or do not yet wish to start receiving your benefits (accounts may be set up only for people who are at least 18 years old). When you set up your account, click "Yes" under the "Add Extra Security" heading on the online form. That way, a new security code will be texted to your cell phone each time you try to Log onto your account. Access to the account will be allowed only if you enter this code, making it extremely unlikely that a hacker would be able to hijack your account.

    Fake data-breach scam.
    There have been so many data breaches in recent years that it would hardly come as page 12 a surprise if the Social Security Administrations database were hacked. Scammers use this fear of data breaches to their advantage.
    It works like this:
    The scammer contacts a victim, claims to work for the Social Security Administration and says that its computers have been breached. The scammer says that in order to find out which accounts have been hacked and altered, he/she must check whether he has the correct bank and account number for the beneficiary. He gives account information that he knows does not pertain to the victim. When victims say the account mentioned is not theirs, they are asked to provide the correct bank information and perhaps other information as well. In reality, victims who provide the requested information might have their bank accounts robbed and their benefits and/or identity stolen as well.
    What to do: Always ignore calls and e-mail messages about Social Security data breaches the Social Security Administration never initiates contact with recipients via phone or e-mail. If you receive a letter claiming you must take action because of a data breach, this, too, could be a scam. Call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 (not at a number provided in the letter) to ask whether the letter is legitimate. Be extremely wary if someone who contacts you about a Social Security data breach asks you to provide sensitive information, such as bank account details; the real Social Security Administration would never ask for this.

    SCAMS THAT APPLY ONLY TO CURRENT BENEFICIARIES
    Cost-of-living adjustment scam.
    Social Security benefits increase in most years to keep pace with inflation. This year was an exception;falling energy prices kept inflation down last year, so there was no 2016 cost-of-living adjustment. To scammers, this exceptional situation represents an opportunity. Victims receive an e-mail, text, letter or phone call explaining that the Social Security Administration has noticed that they did not apply for their cost- of-living increase this year. Apply soon, these victims are warned, or this benefit boost will be forfeited. An application form might be provided or possibly a link to a website. In reality, victims who supply the requested information will have their identities and/or Social Security benefits stolen.
    What to do: Ignore any notices or calls suggesting that you must apply for a Social Security cost-of-living adjustment. These adjustments are made automatic ally in years when they occur. And never assume that a phone call is legitimate because your phone's caller ID says that it is coming from the Social Security Administration. Scammers have ways to fool caller-ID systems.

    Social Security card scam. It seems perfectly reasonable that the old paper Social Security cards might be due for an upgrade, after all, the latest credit cards contain computer chips. In fact, Social Security card modernization is a scam. Scammers contact benefits recipients, claim to work for the Social Security Administration and say that no further benefits can be issued until the beneficiary's old, out-of-date paper card is replaced with a modern, chip-enabled card. These scammers offer to expedite replacement card requests if the beneficiary provides some identification details. If this information is provided, the victim's benefits and/or identity will be stolen.
    What to do: Ignore anyone who says you need a new, high-tech Social Security card. There is no such thing.

    Fake-scam scam. Scammers have come up with a way to steal Social Security benefits by exploiting people's fear of being scammed. The scammer contacts victims, claims to work for the Social Security Administration, and says the Administration's scam-spotting software noticed a suspicious change to the victim's account; did the victim recently reroute his benefits to a bank account in a different state? When the victim says no, the helpful Social Security "employee" warns that a scammer must have hijacked the victim's account. The scammer says that he will help the victim fix the problem, but the person must act fast. As part of the process, this fake government employee will request information such as Social Security number and bank account details that will allow him to steal the victim's benefits and/or identity.
    What to do: Never provide any information to anyone who contacts you with a warning that you might be the victim of a Social Security benefits scam. Instead, contact the real Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213, describe the warning you received and ask if your account is truly at risk.

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    Car Buyer Note On Windshield Scam

    The Battle Creek Police Department also posted a scam alert on its Facebook page last Monday. The police department says they have received a few calls from people who have found a suspicious note on the windshield of their cars parked in lots around the Beckley area. The note reads: "I have a serious buyer for your car. Please call me at 928-279-9608. Thanks Leon."

    If you have found one of these notes on your windshield you are urged to call police.

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    Thieves Target Shoppers Who Use Supermarket Self-Checkout

    From MoneyTalkNews By Karla Bowsher on February 8, 2016

    Scammers with skimmers who have traditionally targeted ATMs and gas station payment terminals are shifting their focus. They're now targeting the payment terminals at supermarket self-checkout lines, CBS MoneyWatch reports. The publication explains how skimmers enable thieves to steal financial data that is then used to replicate debit and credit cards:
    The devices are hidden electronics that sit inside or over a card slot. When consumers swipe their cards, the skimmers scan the information and steal the data. Fake keypads or small cameras then record the customers punching in their PIN.

    Terminals at self-checkout lines share remoteness in common with ATMs and gas station terminals, as they are generally unattended by a cashier or other employee. That remoteness provides criminals the opportunity to install their devices with less chance of being noticed. The cyber-security blog Krebs on Security - which recently published a photo of a skimming device that was removed from a Safeway supermarket in Maryland - notes:
    The device could be attached in the blink of an eye (and removed quickly as well).

    One way to avoid being defrauded by a scammer's skimmer is to pay with a so-called "chipped" debit or credit card. These cards have a small computer chip (sometimes called an "EMV" chip for "Eurocard, MasterCard, Visa") embedded in the front. Instead of horizontally or vertically swiping the magnetic strip that's on the back' you "dip" the side of the card by inserting it face-up into a slot, then leaving it there for a while. As we explain in "What You Need to Know About Your New 'Chipped' Credit Cards," dipping is safer because each time you use a chipped card, it creates a unique, single-use code. So even if thieves figure out how to copy the code, it won't do them any good, because the code can't be re-used.

    But not all retailers have switched over to terminals that accept chipped cards. If you have a chipped card but find yourself at a terminal that is not enabled for "dipping," try tugging at the face of the terminal. While this tip is not fail-safe, a loose terminal is considered a possible sign of a skimmer.

    If you don't have a chipped card or are otherwise in the market for a new or better credit card, visit the Money Talks News Solutions Center, where you'll get help finding the perfect credit card and tackling other financial issues.

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    *Ransomware Thieves Come Up With Creative New Schemes;
    *Beware Of Odd Friend Requests On Facebook;
    *Don't Get Caught In Facebook Scams;
    *Phone Credit Card Fraud Warning Scam.
    *ID Theft and Social Media Scam
    *The Clean-Credit Scam
    *Three Warning Signs of Malicious Email
    *Fake Companies on Google Scam
    *Phone Scammers
    *More Scare Tactics to Get Your Money

    *Apartment / Home Rental & Mortgage Scam
    *The Word on Passwords
    *Obama Care Help Scam
    *Package Delivery E-Mail Scam
    *Cyber Bandits Use Your Cell Phone To Rob Your Home
    *Bank Text Message Scam
    *False Friends on Facebook
    *GPS Thefts And Your Home Security
    *Craigslist Scams
    *Electronic Pickpockets
    *Problem with your Credit Card scam
    *Hackers Spread Virus with Swine Flu Vaccine Offer
    *Rejected ACH Transaction scam
    *Changed Your Security Settings scam
    *I.R.S. Unreported/Underreported Income scam
    *Fake Antivirus / Spyware
    *Phone Credit Card Fraud Warning Scam
    *Telephone Jury Duty Scam
    *Credit Card Cash Back Scam
    *Internet Car Sales Scam
    *Car Auction Scam

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    Ransomware Thieves Come Up With Creative New Schemes

    Robert Lemos PCWorld Nov 19, 2015

    Current ransomware typically encrypts victims' data and then threatens to delete the key if payment is not made. The latest variant of the prolific CryptoWall malware, however, now scrambles the filenames on infected computers, making it even more difficult for victims to recover without buying the key from the attackers.

    Potentially worse, another ransomware operation, known as Chimera, has threatened to publish the data of any non-cooperative victim, whether business or consumer, to the Internet. The operation, which currently aims at German targets, demands the payment of almost 2.5 bitcoins, or more than US $800, according to German cybersecurity site Botfrei, which reported the initial attack.

    An Empty Threat That May Still Signal A Trend.

    Subsequent analysis has found that the program does not actually steal data. While this makes its threat largely toothless, it also raises questions about whether such tactics are a possible escalation in ransomware.

    It would be a logical move in the cat-and-mouse game between data-encrypting criminals and security experts. In the past, online blackmail schemes have taken one of two paths. In the oldest type of schemes, criminals hack computers or use malware to steal or create sensitive or embarrassing information and then demand a payment for not publicizing the information. More recent schemes involved denial of service, the criminals use encryption to deny access to data, or use packet floods to overwhelm Web sites.

    "Ransomware has always been a two-pronged attack," says Adam Kujawa, head of malware intelligence for Malwarebytes Labs. "One being against the technology of the system and the other against the psychology of the user." The claimed abilities of Chimera combines these two attacks, denying access to data but promising to embarrass any victims that do not pay.

    Ransomware has become a significant threat to both businesses and consumers online over the past three years. The malicious software targets Windows and Macs, and even Linux servers and systems are not immune to attack. In August, Dell Secureworks researchers estimated that more than 600,000 computers had been infected by one type of ransomware, CryptoWall, in the first six months of 2015, and at least 0.27 percent of victims paid the ransom, garnering more than $1 million for the operators.

    Security experts have also identified two fundamental hurdles to any ransomware schemes that threaten to publish data. Currently, ransomware operators only encrypt data and then store the key to that data. Uploading copies of all of a victim's data, or even a subset, is most resource intensive and will make the ransomware more noticeable, says Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor with security firm Sophos. "There is nothing stopping them from saying they are going to go through your files, but are they really going to spend all that time for a few hundred dollars?"

    Finally, publishing some or all of a person's data to the Internet undermines the other part of the ransomware threat losing access to the data. A victim could just not pay and then download their data from the information posted online, says Malwarebytes Kujawa. Yet, future ransomware could turn the threat into a real tactic.

    So what's the latest advice? Security experts have a few recommendations:

    1. Attend to your systems' security.
    The first line of defense is to not get infected by ransomware. Users should avoid clicking on links or opening attachments in suspicious email messages and beware of dodgy Web sites, but also harden their systems. Update your software regularly, especially the ubiquitous code often targeted by attackers, such as Adobe's Flash, Oracle's Java and Microsoft's Office formats.

    In addition, users should maximize their chances of detecting malware, which is changed frequently to try to avoid security software. "There is a lot of money on the line, so these guys are working hard to keep their malware dynamic." Sophos's Wisniewski says.

    "Users should make sure to turn on the advanced settings in their security software.", he says.

    2. Back up your data.
    Historically, security firms have recommended that that businesses and consumers restore their files from backup, but not all businesses; not to mention consumers; back up their files regularly, leaving payment as the only option. In addition, it is often cheaper for a company to restore files using the encryption key rather than from backups.

    "We always tell people to have backups and we tell people to never pay, but that is not always realistic." says Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor with security firm Sophos.

    The FBI recently gave a nod to this reality. Joseph Bonavolonta, assistant special agent in charge of the Cyber and Counterintelligence Program in the FBI's Boston office, told a recent conference, "To be honest, we often advise people just to pay the ransom."

    3. Encrypt data even on your own hard drive.
    Even security experts have had their files and email stolen by hackers and posted to the Internet. Increasingly, businesses are encrypting their most sensitive data and any sensitive email discussions. While encryption will not necessarily protect the content of messages, if the computer itself is compromised.

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    Beware Of Odd Friend Requests On Facebook

    Fox News November 23, 2015

    TAMPA, Fla. - A lot of folks are getting odd friend requests on Facebook. People from all over the world, who you don't know, are asking to be your friend. A University of South Florida professor says that those "friends" want access to your personal information and might be trying to steal your identity and your money.

    Information systems professor Grandon Gill says that there may be no precise answer to why strangers are sending you friend requests. But, you should be cautious. "For example, if there happens to be someone from the military in these networks, they might be able to start to pick up information from their profile that would identify for example who they are' where they are." Gill tells WTSP-TV.

    Those friend requests may also be part of a scam to get your money. The Better Business Bureau reports that friend requests are a good way for someone to access your personal information. If you add them as a friend they can start messaging you. Facebook is an easy way for scammers to reach networks of people, and in this case, under the guise of someone they trust. If you happen to add a scammer, they have access to information that could lead to identity theft or other fraudulent activity. In this case, it seems like the "fake friend" was after money (aren't they all, really?) through a loan scam. Those "Friends" may also be looking to steal your identity.

    The BBB offers these tips:

  • Always double check friend requests: Don't just automatically click "accept" for new requests. Take a few moments to look over the profile and verify that account is a real person, not a scam. Scan your list of current Friends to see if any show up twice (the newer account is going to be the scam one).

  • Don't blindly trust friends' recommendations: Just because a link, video, or other information is shared by a friend doesn't mean that it's safe to click. It could be a fake account, a hacker, or mean that your friend hasn't done his or her research.

  • Watch for poor grammar: Scam Facebook posts are often riddled with typos and poor English.

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    Don't Get Caught In Facebook Scams

    By Kim Komando Komando.com. as published in the G.R. Press 11-29-15

    What online site lets crooks, hucksters, and scammers potentially reach more than a billion people with a single post? You guessed it, Facebook. Right now, three specific Facebook scams are rampant. If my News Feed is any indication, normally "smart" people are falling for them. Don"t do the same.

    "Secret Sisters" Holiday Gift Scam
    Here's a fantastic deal: Buy a $10 holiday gift and send it to one person. In return, you'll get up to 36 gifts back. This generous offer is courtesy of something called the "secret sisters gift exchange." There's a similar post focused on a book exchange for kids, but the premise is the same. The instructions clearly detail a classic two-deep pyramid scheme. You begin by sending a gift to the first secret sister. Then, move the second secret sister to the first position, send the instructions to six other ladies, and on and on. At the end, you're promised gifts in about two weeks.

    But stop right there.
    With each level, you need more people to keep it going. By the time you hit the 11th level, you need the entire population of the United States participating to make it work. Pyramid schemes are technically illegal because they violate the federal Lottery Statue and might get you fined or imprisoned. Many states also have laws against these kinds of schemes.

    How to avoid this type of scam:

  • Keep in mind anyone offering a huge return on any investment is probably trying to fool you.
  • You don't get something for nothing. Of course, if it sounds too good to be true, it is.

    Lottery Scam
    If you get a message from a Facebook friend saying that they've won a $30,000 lottery on Facebook, watch out. In a case from Nevada' someone on Facebook named Theresa Paddock contacted her to tell her she won the lottery. To get her money, however, she'd have to wire $150 to cover "insurance" and other fees. She did, but didn't get her winnings. Instead, an unknown man started reaching out to her to try and get more money.

    How to avoid this scam:

  • If a friend tells you they won something and you can too, call or email them and make sure you're actually talking to them.
  • Don't send money to someone with the promise of getting money or a prize back. It's called an "Advanced fee" scam, and it never ends well.
  • Never wire money to anyone, whether it's through Western Union, MoneyGram or another service. Once you wire money, it's gone forever.

    Airline Ticket Scam
    If you're in the mood for travel, you might be tempted with the news that British Airways is giving away free flights for a year. You just have to share the photo, like the page and comment to win. It's coming from the "British Air" Facebook page, so it must be legitimate, right? Nope. Sadly, this is a common scam, often using Delta. The two latest "Delta" scams tricked 65,000 and 22,000 people respectively.

    How to avoid this scam:

  • Your first clue this isn't a legitimate offer is that British Airways' real name is "British Airways." If you see "British Air," "British Airway" or some other variation on Facebook, you're looking at a fake.
  • The real airline page will have a blue checkmark next to the name indicating it's a verified profile. Hover your mouse over the checkmark. It should pop up a little box that says "Verified Page".
  • Very few companies run contests exclusively using Facebook. If a company posts about a contest, you usually need to click a link to visit a contest signup page.
  • Even if a Facebook post has a link to a standalone contest page, still check that it's really a contest from that company by finding the contest through the company's home page.

    Another Ticket Scam
    Occasionally, people will post on Facebook groups saying that they have a $200 (or another amount) voucher for an airline that they can't use before it expires. It's your lucky day because they're willing to sell it to someone for half price. Of course, if you do send the person the money (requested as a wire transfer), you'll never get the voucher.

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    ID Theft and Social Media Scam

    From - azcentral.com by Mark Pribish via AMAC - Association of Mature American Citizens

    Have you ever received a warning from your bank making you aware of fake websites designed to impersonate theirs, looking to steal your personal information? Has your business ever received a demand to "pay up" in order to prevent your customer data from being released? Welcome to the Internet of Faking and Extortion - a growing new cyber-threat arena that exploits businesses and consumers at an alarming rate, according to law enforcement and security experts.

    Here are key points from three recent and very informative articles that I highly recommend:
    In "Fake Persuaders", an MIT Technology Review article, learn how "fake accounts can inflate follower counts, suppress political messages, and run stealthy social marketing."

    The basic concept in social media advertising is that people can be "profitably influenced by promotional messages in between updates from their friends."

    According to Tom Simonite, fake accounts often are used to inflate follower counts, push spam or malware, or even skew political discourse. The tactic appears to be pervasive and growing in sophistication.

    "Once a fake account is established, the simplest way to make money with it is by quickly inflating the numbers of things like followers or "likes". It is easy to find sites offering 100,000 new Twitter followers for as little as $70. Instagram and Facebook "likes" and Pinterest "pins" are also easily bought. Having more followers or likes helps people and businesses look good. It can also influence the algorithms used by social networks or other companies to recommend influential accounts, according to Simonite.

    In "Fake LinkedIn profiles lure unsuspecting users," originally published by InfoWorld, you will learn how a fake LinkedIn network "was created to help attackers target victims via social engineering. The group relied on the fact that people tend to trust people within their personal network and would be more likely to fall for a spear phishing email if it appeared to come from a fellow member. The victims would also be more likely to visit a website if a member of their network suggested it."

    The fact is ID-theft criminals and hackers use social media and networking sites to steal our personal information by customizing targeted attacks through fake LinkedIn profiles. The deception increases their success. Examples of fake accounts on social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram can be someone pretending to be your business, brand or employee to sell a fraudulent product or service, distribute malware, broadcast false information, or steal account credentials.

    Finally, in "Beyond the breach, "Michelle Kerr of Risk and Insurance writes that "with credit card data flooding the black market, criminals are now more likely to hit a company directly by threatening to vaporize data or cripple operations."

    According to Kerr, "the 'old-fashioned' data breach is alive and well, but it has declined in profitability as the black market for credit card and Social Security data has become oversaturated."

    Instead, the new frontier of cyber-extortion - where ID theft criminals and hackers threaten businesses by demanding cash in order for the "privilege" of not having their customer or employee information destroyed, manipulated, or shared publicly - is the new frontier.

    Mark's Most Important: Cut your cyber- and ID-theft risks by recognizing and learning about the Internet of Faking and Extortion occurring through social media, as it has become a new profit center for ID-theft criminals.

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    The bad guys are STILL out to get you in any way they can. They use all types of tricks and traps to get your personal info. Most involve "SCARE-WARE" tactics that try to get you to panic and link out to their phishing web site, which may look very similar to the real legitimate company site. Here are some tips to avoid being a victim and some of the active scams I have seen recently.

    When you get an e-mail, phone call, or letter that just doesn't look right; is asking for personal information or confirmation of personal information that the company should already have - STOP ! ! It is probably a scam! Especially if the e-mail is claiming it is urgent or trying to scare you into acting right away! You should always have in your address book the names, address, and phone numbers of every service provider you use. Companies like your bank, utilities, internet provider, doctor, credit card provider(s), broker, and etcetera. Use these numbers to contact the provider directly and inquire about the questionable e-mail, phone call, text, tweet, or letter.

    For more info on Identity Theft Prevention see our Identity Theft page

    If you know of an e-mail scam Click to let me know. - Brian

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    The Clean-Credit Scam

    By John Ulzheimer as published in BOTTOM LINE PERSONAL March 15, 2015

    It sounds like a tempting offer to hide your credit problems by obtaining a credit-privacy number (CPN) to replace your Social Security number and use it when you are applying for credit. But CPN5, which are also called Credit Protection Numbers or Credit Profile Numbers, are always a scam. Scammers pretend to be from credit repair firms and solicit customers through ads on the Internet. The scammers tell you that by using the nine digit CPN instead of your Social Security number, you can build a brand new "clean" credit history, thereby hiding any bad credit or a past bankruptcy. The cost for this CPN? Hundreds and sometimes even thousands of dollars.

    Reality:
    The Social Security Administration does not issue any such numbers, and credit bureaus don't accept anything other than legitimate Social Security numbers when they compile credit reports. The numbers sold as CPN5 often are Social Security numbers stolen from children or from people who have died. Or the scammers may have you apply for a federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) that the IRS issues for employment tax reporting, and they may tell you, incorrectly, that the EIN can be used as a CPN. If a CPN turns out to be a stolen Social Security number, you could be charged with identity theft. Anyone using a CPN on a credit or loan application could be found guilty of bank, mail and/or wire fraud.

    What to do:
    If you have a troubled credit history, use legitimate, government approved credit counseling services to help you negotiate payment plans with creditors. Also, dispute erroneous items on your credit report and rebuild your credit score using legitimate means, such as by paying your bills on time and paying off your credit card debt.

    Bottom Line/Personal interviewed John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at CreditSesame.com, based In Mountain View, California, which offers free credit scores, credit reports and credit monitoring to consumers. He is founder of Credit ExpertWitness.com.

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    Three Warning Signs of Malicious Email

    First remember the EMAIL RULE! ! ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS use your stored personal contacts to reply to any email unless you are 100% sure it came from a trusted service provider.

    HOW IS IT ADDRESSED? If you see an email addressed to "Dear customer", "Your email address", or no salutation at all that asks you to follow a link to fill in your account details, chances are it's a phishing scam. That's not to say that you should automatically trust any email specifically addressed to you. But you can be sure that if you get an email from a company you do business with like a major bank, retailer, or technology company, they will address you by the name they have on file in any email.

    HOW TO TELL IF A LINK IS GENUINE - 1st Hover your mouse over the link WITHOUT clicking on it.
    2nd Look at the lower left corner of your browser or email client. You should see the exact address of the link you're hovering over.
    3rd Read the entire URL. With a long and complicated URL how do you tell what's authentic and what's not? Here's a good rule of thumb: keep reading a URL until you hit the back slash "/". Once you hit the back slash, back up until you're at the first period before the backslash. Everything you see to the left of that period is the full address of the webpage you're headed for. To the right of the period is the domain extension and page of the website.

    Theinfopage.net.tosomewhereelse.youdonotwanttogo.ascammer.com/gotyourmoney

    If you're not playing close attention, you'd see Theinfopage.net at the front of that link and just figure this was an email from theinfopage. Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. In this example it doesn't lead to Theinfopage.net, but a subdomain of ascammer.com/gotyourmoney. Even the domain extension of ".com" is wrong.

    IT HAS AN ATTACHMENT Here's a classic example I came across recently. A message supposedly from Booking.com landed in my inbox with an invoice attachment asking for final payment on an overdue item. This message was playing on the sudden emotional horror at thinking you may have an unpaid item with a service you use. Without thinking twice, you may soon be downloading an attachment just to make sure the company didn't make a mistake. That's when you need to stop and breathe.

    Another solid rule of thumb is to NEVER download an attachment you're not expecting, no matter who it's from.

    Complicating this issue, however, is there are a few people that you may expect to send you unsolicited (or semi-unsolicited) attachments such as your child's teacher or a co-worker with an animated GIF obsession. In those cases, it will be up to you to decide whether or not it's risky to open up those attachments. If nothing else, make sure the message from your child's teacher is well written and makes logical sense (Christmas party plans in January? I don't think so). And if you do decide to download the attachment, save it to your hard drive and scan it with an antivirus tool before you open it.

    Email is far less risky to use than it used to be. Nevertheless, it's still an extremely popular attack method for the bad guys. So it pays to keep your email sleuthing skills sharp for those times when the bad stuff gets through your email provider's defenses. And be sure to check out PCWorld's guide to dodging the web's most devious security traps to stay outside of your inbox, too.

    Adapted from Ian Paul's article in September's PCWorld.

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    Fake Companies on Google Scam

    This scam is meant to separate you from your money without getting the service you paid for. Say you need a locksmith. You grab your trusty phone and Google "Locksmith in Wyoming, Michigan" and call the first name on the list. But are you sure that company is a local or even a properly licensed and insured legitimate company? It could be an out-of-state reseller who will charge you more for contracting a local company to help you. Or a scam artist who will take your money and run.

    Unfortunately it is really easy to set up a fake company on Google, or an out of area service reseller company. I have noticed many service companies that advertise they are a "local company" and turn out to be an out-of-area company. After a little digging you will find that the corporate address is not local and the local address is a P.O. box. No local shop, no local employees, no local service trucks. Now that may not all bad, but you are probably going to pay more. And I prefer to buy locally, as in from neighbors and friends right here in my home town. At worst it is a scam artist who will take you money and run leaving you with nothing, a job half done, or badly done and in need of major repair work.

    What can you do to protect yourself? If you recognize the name, go ahead and call. If not seek the advice of friends and family or look the business up at the BBB website. Your insurance provider may have a list of good service providers, or a go to a trusted customer reviews web site. You can also Google the company name plus the word "Scam", or use a trusted anti-scam website. Always ask to see a service provider's license and proof of insurance. If they are offended by your asking, maybe you should choose someone else. It is worth doing a little research to prevent a big problem.

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    Phone Scammers

    Caller ID Spoofing

    I have been reading about 'Caller ID Spoofing'. This is where your caller ID displays a legitimate phone number and company / charity say from your bank or a favorite charity. Problem is it is not from them; the scammers are just displaying a false caller ID. Yes it is against the law, just like calling your phone number when it is on the government's 'No Call List'. Like that really works.

    So what can you do? NEVER NEVER NEVER give out personal or financial information to an unsolicited phone caller, NEVER NEVER NEVER! ! Tell them you can't talk right now because the toilet is backed up, car is running, etc. and ask for a call-back number and their name. Write it down and then call the company / charity back with the phone number from your personal phone book and ask if that was a legitimate call. NEVER call the scammers number or use the redial / call back button!

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    Phone Rings Only Once

    I have noticed an increase in the number of times my home phone rings just once or twice. If you see a missed call on your caller ID with no message left; it is from a robo-call computer. It is either a telemarketer or a phone scammer. You really do NOT want to call either one back. At best your phone number will be sold to other telemarketers and scammers so that you will be flooded with bogus calls. At worse you will be connected to a pay-per-second phone scammer and receive a huge charge on your next phone bill and your phone number will be sold as a live sucker number.

    Here is what is happening -
    Telemarketer's computers dial several numbers at once. The 1st one to pick up gets the sales pitch and all others are dropped.
    Scammers do the same thing and hope the others who got hung up on will call them back. Either way they charge you by the second an exorbitant amount of money just like a 1-900 number. The problem is the numbers look vaguely like a US regular phone number with an area code you might not recognize. No country codes or extra digits, just the usual 10 digit US / Canada phone number.

    Therefore -
    Never call back or answer a number you do not recognize.
    If it was a legitimate caller they should have left you a voice mail. I always tell people and service providers to please leave a message as I work in a noisy factory. If it is from an area code you do recognize, you might try it. But don't complain I didn't warn you.
    Best defense is to Google or reverse look-up the number before calling back. If you do fall victim to a scammer; hang up immediately and call your service provider to report the scam and possibly get the charges removed.

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    More Scare Tactics to Get Your Money!

    Scammers Claiming to be Police:

    You get a call that goes something like this; Cop calls and says you have an unpaid parking/speeding/red light ticket and they are going to arrest you unless you pay the fine right now with your credit card or checking account number over the phone. Or Cops/FBI/DOJ are trying to catch a counterfeiter/embezzler and need your help to catch them. They need you to withdrawal some money and meet with them so they can check/mark the money. Or the thief poses as a family member in trouble with the law and needs you to wire them some money to pay a fine or they will go to jail.

    Lets get real! The Police, FBI, DOJ, Boarder Patrol, etc, DO NOT conduct business by phone. They DO NOT announce when and if they are going to arrest someone. They have plenty of undercover officers, interns and trained volunteers so they won't ask you for help in such things. And if you question that so called relative, you will find that they really do not know any personal details that they should know about you or your family.

    Utility Scare:

    Beware of someone calling and saying that they are going to turn off your utilities because they have not received your payment. BUT, if you give them your credit card/bank account info they will make the payment instantly and cancel the shutoff order.

    Yeah right. Hang up and call your utility provider directly. See the above page introduction paragraph.

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    APARTMENT / HOME RENTAL & MORTGAGE SCAM

    There is a growing scam concerning renting apartments and houses. The scam artists hijack a legitimate ad or create their own bogus ad and require a deposit or advance fee of some kind BEFORE you can see the rental unit. Usually everything is conducted by phone, e-mail, or text and the rental 'owner' is out of town and needs to rent the unit fast. This is a scam, or at best a very bad owner. NEVER SEND MONEY OR PERSONAL INFO in advance of meeting the 'owner'. If they can't meet with you or send a representative to meet with you within a few days - RUN AWAY!

    HOME / APARTMENT OWNERS - this can happen to you! Scammers can hijack your ad or fraudulently try to rent out our home. If someone contacts you about renting when you are not trying to rent out our apartment or home, try to find out where they saw the ad and report it to the police and the place where the ad was published.

    There are also reports of scammers taking out fraudulent mortgages too. So be wary of odd things happening with regard to your home and rental property.

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    UPDATE:
    It takes a modern processor only a few hours to crack a 5 character password as opposed to more than 10 days to crack a 7 character password. Just think how hard it would be to crack a 12 character password. Length appears to be the key to security especially if the characters are random. But it is really hard to remember random stuff. So create your own special formula to generate 12 or more character passwords. Say you use your middle name, 1st four letters in the site name, and year. That would be - namethei2013. Any way you do it, the harder you are to crack the sooner they give up. And don't forget to change the your passwords once a year or more.

    Passwords are meant to keep your personal data safe. Unfortunately most people do not understand how to make a good password. And with the new generation of GPUs (Graphic Processing Units) which are made to handle huge volumes of data for games and video, cracking your measly password is simpler than ever. Here are a few rules to help you make better passwords :

    1. Simple words like 'password' are the first thing scammers try. Nowadays there are dictionary programs that simply try every word in the dictionary until it hits upon your password. Same thing for simple number passwords like '1357'.

    2. And please don't use your birthday, anniversary, pets name, address, or anything else that is public knowledge or on your Facebook page. Talk about making it easy for scammers.

    3. Size does matter. 4, 5, or 6 characters long? HA!! The new GPUs break a 7 character password easily. 12 characters is the minimum size. The longer the better especially for financial passwords.

    4. What is a "Character"? Anything on your keyboard that the program will accept - letters(caps and lowercase), numbers, and symbols. And mix it up! Use them all. Something like - 1f^mo91%&(5A or B1l8u%e2T6w(o .

    5. Never keep your passwords in a simple 'Word" file on your computer. Scammers look for this with 'Trojan Horses'. If you write them down, do it in longhand and store them in a plain old unmarked file folder in a safe location away from the computer. Or you can buy a 'Password Manager' program. These programs will also help you generate very strong passwords.

    6. No legitimate web site or business will ever ask you for your password unless you are logging into their site. If someone on the phone, email, or online wants your password, just hang up. It is a scam. *See Text Message and Email Scams below.

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    Obama Care Help Scam

    The bad guys are calling people offering to help them sign up for Obama Care. DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS! HANG UP!! It is a phishing scam! See the above page introduction paragraph.

    Contact your current insurance provider, health care provider, or your local county health agency for information on Obama Care.

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    PACKAGE DELIVERY E-MAIL SCAM

    You receive an e-mail saying the US Post Office could not deliver your package and to 'click here' to arrange delivery. Yes it is a phishing scam. The US Post Office will ALLWAYS put a notice card in your mail box. They NEVER contact you by e-mail unless you request it.

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    Cyber Bandits Use Your Cell Phone To Rob Your Home

    Cyber Bandits can use you cell phone and tweets / Facebook / online pictures to find out where you live and when you are not home so they can rob you in peace. That's right, your GPS enabled smart phone reports your whereabouts continually and the info is NOT very secure. Thieves can actually track your movements. Also paying bills via your cell phone is not much safer. Thieves can easily hack into your signal and copy your account info and passwords.

    Have you ever wondered why so many people you don't know want to be your friend on Facebook? Because if you post / tweet your whereabouts continually they know when you are not home. Now all they need is your address which they can usually get with a quick Google search and rob your home. Even those digital camera pictures are encoded with the GPS co-ordinates of where it was taken and time & date.

    So be wary of 'friends' you do not know, and what you post. You might be helping a thief rob you.

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    There is a new text message scam sweeping West Michigan. The text looks like it is coming from your bank. 5/3rd bank customers are currently getting hit. It says your account is being 'suspended' and call this number. DON'T DO IT!! IT IS A PHISHING SCAM ! ! NEVER EVER NEVER respond directly to any email, text, or phone call saying there is a problem with your bank account. If you are worried by receiving these texts; 1st delete the text, email, or hang up. 2nd ALWAYS contact your bank using the phone #, email address, or web site address that you already have in your personal address book.

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    Watch out!! Scammers are out to hijack your Facebook account and 'friend' list. Then they go after your credit card number. Beware of videos or links from a friend that say 'Is this you? LOL!!'. It may be legit, but it probably is a scam. The link will probably take you to a phishing site or a site loaded with spyware and malware designed to harvest your personal and financial info. Then it will use your contact list to spread itself to all your friends. So beware of juicy sounding links and video posts. Especially those that take a very long time to load. That might mean you are being bounced from one server to another and another to hide the identity of the scammer.
    And NEVER EVER NEVER re-enter your password or personal info once you are properly logged into Facebook. That means you are DEFENATLY on a phishing site! Facebook shares your login info with legit partner sights automatically, or ask if it is ok for Facebook to share your personal info with them.
    Better to miss a funny video than become a victim of identity theft.

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    While not a scam, this is a growing problem. Many thieves are breaking into cars and then using the personal information programmed into your GPS to find and rob your house. A good rule to follow is to NEVER program your home address into your GPS. Use the local gas station, supermarket, or you work location into the 'home' or 'starting' position. After all you already know how to get there and how far it is away from your house.

    About car break-ins, some thieves are using a more subtle method of breaking into your car. They will punch or drill a small hole in your car door just below the handle on the passenger door. Then jimmy the lock and take only a few things without trashing your car so you won't be instantly be aware of the theft. This gives the thieves a few days before you realize some things are gone and report it to the police.

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    Sorry I didn't post this sooner, guess what happened to me :

    Check Fraud

    I listed my old Canon 35mm SLR camera for sale on Craigslist. Received this email:
    "Still up for sale ? Carl." From 'gamed78@gmail.com'.
    I replied and received a 2nd email :
    "Ok,I'm presently on vacation but I will instruct my assistant to prepare and mail a Money Order which you will receive in the next 3 - 5 business days. I'll add $20 extra for the delay.If this is acceptable by you, Send your info i.e your full Name to cash,mailing Address and also your phone Number so payment can be mail out immediately. I will make arrangement for pick-up after you must have received and cashed the Money Order. Awaiting your info. Thanks Carl." From 'heart4allsoul2000@gmail.com'.

    Yes I was immediately suspicious. After a little research I found several postings confirming that this email address has been trying this scam for almost a year.

    The point here is be very suspicious when you get someone who asks no questions, doesn't ask for a lower price, and wants to send you a money order for more than you are asking for. AND NEVER NEVER NEVER refund an overpayment!! IT IS A SCAM!! These checks take 2 weeks or longer to clear all the way to the issuing bank and YOU WILL BE LIABLE TO REPAY ALL THE MONEY BACK!!

    Employment Fraud

    While there are many legitimate employment ads on Craigslist, there are lots of scammers.
    Rule #1. NEVER pay up front training fees!
    Rule #2. NEVER pay up front background check fees! It is usually a scam. Unfortunately a few employers are doing this because they are a revolving door. They are constantly hiring (and losing money on background checks) because people are constantly leaving. Think very carefully about working there.
    Rule #3. NEVER give out personal bank account numbers or information over the web before you are hired! I don't care how legitimate the web site looks, IT IS A SCAM ! ! Legitimate employers only need this info after you are hired and have signed the proper documents.
    Rule #4. If the pay is higher than other similar employers it is probably a scam. Remember the I.R.S.'s advice - If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't true! 99.99% of the time you CAN NOT make $50,000 a month or even a year part time. It just doesn't happen unless you are a rock star or semi-retired doctor, lawyer, or president.

    Free Stuff

    Sometimes that 'free stuff' ad was not true. Several times people have posted other peoples stuff as free when it was not. One burglar even posted that a store's merchandise was free to cover his crime. Guess who is in jail?
    ALWAYS CONFIRM the 'free stuff' posting with the owner of the free stuff.

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    A thief with an RFI reader can steal your credit card number from your Tap-n-go credit card right out of your pocket without touching you or your credit card. All they need to do is get their stock commercially available RFI reader within 3 inches of your credit card. If they juice up the power on their reader, they may be able to get it from several feet away. Check out this story ELECTRONIC PICKPOCKETS.

    Electronic skimmers are getting to be a major problem, especially at gas stations and ATMs. Thieves can skim your card number and transmit it to them via Bluetooth or WIFI. Always look over the terminal before you put your card in. If there is anything loose on the card reader, the cover, clear plastic, etc., DO NOT use the terminal. It may have been compromised. You know I love my debit card, but most credit cards keep you safer as they do not have direct access to your bank account. Always read the fine print about your liability if your card or card number is stolen. Some card issuers offer little or no protection if your card number is skimmed and used electronically (not physicaly swiped).

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    This scam sends a text to you about a problem with your credit card, loan, bank account, or ??? account. BEWARE - this is just another phishing tool for the scammers! DO NOT reply!! I don't care how official the email looks, DO NOT reply!! If you want to make sure there are no problems call the number on your last statement and tell them what happened. Never use any number or link provided by a questionable source. If there is a problem with your account, most banks will suspend your account until they can reach you, or you call / visit them. You may want to call your bank / service provider and discuss what would happen if there were an unusual or unauthorized transaction happening. That way you know their procedures and how to contact you if this ever happens.

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    Here we go again. Remember if it is too good to be true; it is NOT TRUE! ! Hackers are now using headline stories like swine flu to get you to visit there phishing / malware / bot sites to rip you off or use you to rip others off. The government does NOT initiate contact with emails. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE use your brains not your fear! Here is the complete article complete article

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    NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association - has issued an advisory to financial institutions about phishing emails designed to appear as if they were sent from NACHA warning users about failed ACH transactions. The e-mail includes a link that, if clicked, redirects the individual to a fake web page that appears to be a NACHA website and contains a link that almost certainly leads to a Jabber/Zeus malware download.

    DO NOT CLICK ON ANY LINK OR RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL! ! Call your bank or credit card provider directly to verify any potential problem.

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    If you get an e-mail supposedly from your e-mail service provider stating 'We have changed your security settings. Please click on this link to confirm.' or anything closely resembling this from your Internet Provider, Facebook, etcetera - DO NOT CLICK ON THAT LINK! ! !
    This is a scam to get control of your email account. Call or contact your service provider using the previously recorded phone number or address in your personal files. DO NOT under any circumstances click or call any link or phone number provided in the fake e-mail. I called my provider when I got this e-mail and the asked me to forward it to them. Then they e-mailed me back confirming it was a scam and thanked me for the call.

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    There is an email scam going around that claims it is from the I.R.S. Here is an example:

    Taxpayer ID: lbstump-00000174073547US
    Tax Type: INCOME TAX
    Issue: Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)
    Please review your tax statement on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website (click on the link below):
    review tax statement for taxpayer id: lbstump-0..........US (not a valid link, Brian)
    Internal Revenue Service

    This is a phishing site. If you go there the bad guys will steal your identity ! ! ! ! !
    The United States Internal Revenue Service NEVER EVER NEVER will initialy contact you via email about a problem. The real U.S. Government I.R.S. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS initiates all contact with taxpayers by United States Mail ONLY ! ! !

    PROTECT YOURSELF - NEVER EVER NEVER CLICK ON THOSE LINKS! ! !

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    With names like Antivirus 2009 and AntiSpyware 2009 they sound legitimate. BUT they are phishing sites! Designed to collect your personal data to steal your identity, credit cards, and bank accounts. Always use a trusted vendor recommended by a friend or trusted magazine like PC World. Don't be sucked in by free offers, low rates, or unbelievable claims of protection. Always do your research!!

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    This one is pretty slick since they provide YOU with all the information, except the one piece they want.
    Please Note: The callers do not ask for your card number; they already have it!!

    The scam works like this: Caller: 'This is (name), and I'm calling from the Security and Fraud Department at VISA. My Badge number is 12460. Your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and I'm calling to verify. This would be on your VISA card which was issued by (name of bank). Did you purchase an Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 from a Marketing company based in ??' When you say 'No', the caller continues with, 'Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497, just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards. Before your next statement, the credit will be sent to (gives you your address), is that correct?' You say 'yes'. The caller continues - 'I will be starting a Fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 1- 800 number listed on the back of your card (1-800 -VISA) and ask for Security.' You will need to refer to this Control Number. The caller then gives you a 6 digit number. 'Do you need me to read it again?'

    Here's what the scammer needs to complete the theft of your Credit Card:
    The caller then says, 'I need to verify you are in possession of your card'. He'll ask you to 'turn your card over and look for some numbers'. There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are part of your card number, the next 3 are the security Numbers that verify you are the possessor of the card. These are the numbers you sometimes use to make Internet purchases to prove you have the card. The caller will ask you to read the 3 numbers to him. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, 'That is correct, I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen, and that you still have your card. Do you have any other questions?' After you say No, the caller then thanks you and states, 'Don't hesitate to call back if you do, and hangs up.

    DO NOT GIVE THOSE 3 VERIFICATION NUMBERS TO THEM!!!

    If you receive one of these calls record or write down all the info they give you. DO NOT GIVE THOSE 3 VERIFICATION NUMBERS TO THEM!!! Simply hang up and contact your card issuer using the phone number on the back of the card or on your last statement. Tell them what happened and ask if there is really a problem. NEVER EVER NEVER give out those 3 verification numbers unless you are trying to buy something online or by phone. If you did not initiate the contact, it is probably a fraud.

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    The caller claims to be a jury coordinator. If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Give out any of this information and bingo, your identity was just stolen. The fraud has been reported so far in 11 states, including Oklahoma , Illinois , and Colorado . This (swindle) is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving information by pretending they are with the court system. The FBI and the federal court system have issued nationwide alerts on their web sites, warning consumers about the fraud.

    If you get one of these calls DO NOT GIVE OUT ANY INFORMATION!! Ask what court (i.e. 6th Distric court of Nowhere Michigan) and tell them your lawyer will be calling to straighten it out. Then hang up, look the number of that court up in YOUR phone book and report it. If they give you a phone number, great. DO NOT USE IT! Include it in your fraud report.

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    This may or may not be true Credit Card Cash Back Scam BUT it reminds us of the importance of checking out your receipt before you leave the store. Accidents happen, machines malfunction, and there is the occasional crook out there.

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    The Michigan Secretary of State is warning about fake internet sights that are claiming to be repossession agents or dealerships selling cars at substantial discounts for banks and loan agencies. You are supposed to send them the money and they will deliver the car in 3 to 5 days.
    NO THEY WON'T!
    THEY ARE NOT LICENSED BY THE STATE!!
    IT IS A SCAM!!!

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    Beware of Car Auctions that offer to sell your car for you. They have you ship your car to them, negotiate a contract, and then steal your car. My friend in Louisiana lost 2 classic muscle cars to an auction in Murphysboro. They sent him a letter stating they sold the cars for substantially under the agreed amount in violation of the contract. He has spent thousands of dollars to recover 1 of the cars. Seams they were "sold" without the title, laundered thru Ebay Motors, and Ohio (for a new title), plus several different owners and dealerships in just 2 months. He found them in Lansing at a dealer who offered to sell them back to him. He presented the original title and police report to the MSP and recovered the stolen vehicle.

    NEVER SELL ANYTHING THRU AN AUCTION YOU DO NOT KNOW. ESPECIALLY OUT OF YOUR STATE. NEVER SURRENDER YOUR VEHICLE'S TITLE UNTILL YOU GET THE MONEY IN YOUR HAND! !

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    To report a DEAD LINK


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