Thursday, January 14, 2010


The bad economy is giving new life to an old, dishonorable trade – the scam artists. Scammers are coming out of the woodwork these days. The days when all we had to worry about was the Nigerian investment email scams are over.

An Oregon couple was recently duped by a “mystery shopper” scam that involved being sent money orders they were to use for making mystery shopper purchases, and for being paid. They were told to send the rest of the funds back, via Western Union. The money orders turned out to have been forged, so they actually sent their own money to the scammers.

The Better Business Bureau is seeing an increase in all kinds of scams:

Lottery and sweepstakes scam — Victims get a letter in the mail pretending to be from Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s Clearing House or a phony foreign lottery, claiming that they won millions. The letter comes with a check that represents some of the winnings. To get the rest, the victim has to deposit the check and then wire money back to the scam artists supposedly to cover taxes or some other fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.

Job hunter scams — Scam artists offer job hunters fake job applications in exchange for personal information, such as bank account numbers.

Google work-from-home scam — Scam artists offer victims materials to work from home using Google or Twitter, but, after the victims pay for the materials, they discover the at-home job is a hoax.

Given the current job market, it’s easy to see why folks would check out those “earn big bucks at home” ads that seem to be a staple in every newspaper and magazine. This Site gives helpful advice on how not to get scammed by work at home offers. One important piece of advice:
Do not pay anything. If you encounter a website or someone asking you to pay money to them for membership or other purposes before you can work, then it is most likely to be a scam. No one should ask for money just for you to be able to work. Most likely than not, they only want your money and you will not have the job you want. You will be just wasting your money.

Phishing Scams are another thing to watch out for. An email claiming to be from your bank, credit card company, or brokerage house may well be a phony. Don’t give out any personal information without checking first. The idea behind this sort of scam is to get your personal information for the purposes of identity theft.

Tech Republic tells us about 10 email scams to watch out for, including the Census scam:

Another recent email scam also involves the federal government, but instead of accusing you of a crime, it uses your knowledge of real, routine government activities against you. Everyone knows that the U.S. government conducts a census every 10 years, and 2010 is the year. Citizens are required by law to answer the census-takers’ questions. Most people also know that many government-related tasks can now be done online.
Scammers are taking advantage of this to send phishing emails that claim to be from the Census Bureau, making it “convenient and easy” for you to fulfill your census obligation, either by filling out an attached form and emailing it back or by visiting a Web site to fill in a form. The form asks for all sorts of personal information, including the social security number and date of birth of everyone in your household, which can be used for identity theft.

These scams involve either identity theft, or infecting your computer with malware or viruses.

The bottom line is – if an offer comes to you, it’s probably a scam. If it seems too good to be true, it’s definitely a scam! If you encounter a scam, or get caught up in one, contact your local Better Business Bureau, and your state’s Attorney General’s office. The BBB keeps a list of updated scams on their web page for your state, and many state AG’s offices keep a list online as well. In looking at my state’s BBB website, I found a warning to beware Haitian earthquake charity scams. Be sure to carefully check out any charity you are thinking about donating to in advance.

cross posted at blog

No comments: