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  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 6, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , check washing, ,   

    Don’t leave your outgoing bills in your mailbox 

    Don't leave your outgoing bills in your mailbox

    When we talk about scams, we mostly warn our readers about online or phone scams. The reason these scams are so prolific is that everyone has a smartphone and a lot of people use weak passwords on their accounts. However, that doesn’t mean that analog scams have disappeared. One such scam recently turned up in reports that use one of the oldest forms of communication in the US to find victims, good old fashioned snail mail. We all know that tampering with someone’s postal mail is a federal offense, but it hasn’t stopped some scammers from taking that risk.

    A couple in Alabama recently found that someone had accessed their bank account and several unauthorized payments were made from their account. They weren’t the victims of any kind of electronic fraud. Instead, someone had stolen their outgoing mail from their mailbox. In that mail were a few bills that they were paying by check. The scammers are then said to have committed what is known as check washing. Check washing is when someone dips an already written or even canceled check in chemicals and removes the handwritten ink from the check. They then put in whatever information on the check that they need. As long as there is enough money in the account the check can be cashed.

    There are ways to prevent check washing from happening. The first is to switch to electronic payments to pay your bills. However, if for whatever reason you have to write checks, there are special pens that you can buy that are resistant to check washing. Instead of leaving outgoing mail in your home mailbox, you may want to take it to the post office instead so you know it gets into the hands of the US Postal Service.

    With a number of relatives writing checks to send as Christmas gifts, this time of year could be especially bad for stolen checks. If you have an older relative that may not be able to get to the post office, offer to take their bills to the post office for them. It’s a little inconvenience for peace of mind.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , terrorism   

    The FTC doesn’t really think you’re a terrorist 

    The FTC doesn't really think you're a terrorist

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one of the government organizations that try to protect consumers from scams. So, it’s kind of ironic that the scammers are posing as the FTC to commit one of the more disturbing scams to date. It’s a variation of the law enforcement impersonation scam. In that scam, the scammers will call you and claim to be calling from local or federal law enforcement. They’ll then tell you that they’ve found suspicious criminal activity has been connected to your financial accounts but you can pay money to make the charges go away. However, this new scam takes it one step further to scare the victim into paying.

    The FTC is warning the public that some people have received letters on official-looking FTC letterhead. The letters say that your financial account information has been linked to terrorist activity and money laundering. The letter will then be followed up with a phone call with scammers asking for money to resolve the phony issue. While the FTC hasn’t commented on this part of the scam, it’s more than likely that the scammers will then instruct the victims to purchase various gift cards to make the ‘payment’. As we have said in the past, gift cards have become the currency of scammers due to the fact that gift cards are almost always untraceable once the money is spent.

    The FTC says that they will only send out letters if someone writes them first. However, they will never send a threatening letter to the public. The FTC would like to remind the public that no government agency will ever ask for payment by gift card, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. Anyone who asks for that form of payment is more than likely a scammer. If you receive one of these letters, you’re asked to contact the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or their website.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 4, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Romance scams thrive during the holidays 

    Romance scams thrive during the holidays

    For many people, being alone during the holidays can be a painful experience. So, in their search for companionship, they may turn to dating apps or social media to try to find someone to share the holidays with. Romance scammers are counting on this as with many scams the holiday season is their most lucrative time of the year. With many people being in such a vulnerable emotional state, people from all sorts of educational and economic backgrounds can be potential victims of the scam. Not only could it leave them with a broken heart but potentially an empty bank account and possibly jail time.

    Just in case you’re not familiar with romance scams, it’s where someone meets someone else online but never in real life. The new person in their life will start asking the victim for large amounts of money while professing their undying love for the victim. In too many instances, the victim is broke before they realize they’ve been scammed. Even worse, some victims continue to pay their scammers even though all evidence points to them being scammed. Some victims of the scam have paid their scammers hundreds of thousands of dollars while some others have embezzled from their employers to keep the money going to who they perceive as their online significant other.

    The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be aware of these scams this holiday season. If you meet someone online and they claim to be interested in you, do a thorough web search to make sure they are who they claim to be. Use the picture they send you to do a reverse image search to make sure they haven’t been using in other scams. If their social media or dating profiles have missing information, that can be another red flag that they’re a scammer. Most importantly, if they ask for money while simultaneously giving you excuses as to why you can’t meet, that’s almost guaranteed to be a scam.

    While the feeling of being wanted is always nice, it’s not worth ignoring the red flags that could lead to crippling financial damages.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 3, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , ,   

    Is your city in the porch pirates’ top 10? 

    Is your city in the porch pirates' top 10?

    Another type of Grinch that wants to ruin your holiday season is the heartless porch pirate. This is the term used for thieves who will steal package deliveries straight from your porch or mailbox. With more and more people eschewing brick and mortar stores for online Christmas shopping, the problem of stolen packages is becoming more and more prevalent. It’s gotten so bad that there’s not a lot of what police departments can do once a package is stolen. If you’ve had a package stolen from your porch, you may think that your city is the worst. However, a study done by a home security company claims to have found the top ten cities where porch pirates are most prolific.

    According to home security company Safewise, they have looked at not only FBI statistics but also web searches for things like stolen or missing packages. They’ve determined that the top ten cities and metro areas for porch pirates are San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Portland, Baltimore, Seattle-Tacoma, Chicago, Austin, Denver, L.A., and Sacramento. Not surprisingly, a number of these cities are large tech hubs where more people tend to buy things online than in stores. Also, California is more represented on this list than any other state.

    It’s better to prevent porch theft than it is to try to recover a stolen package. While a doorbell camera or home security camera may catch the thieves in the act, it doesn’t seem to discourage them from stealing your deliveries. Instead of having packages left at your doorstep, you may want to consider having them delivered to your place of work, or to a neighbor’s house who is home more often. With their permission, of course. You may also want to consider renting a post office box at your local mail supply store. Not only does this give you a street address to use for deliveries, but they can also sign for packages for you. If you’re having an item shipped directly, try to have it delivered at a time when someone will definitely be home. Also, the US Postal Service has many free services available to you to prevent porch piracy such as having your mail held so you can pick it up at the post office.

    Just a few preventative steps will help you have a theft-free Christmas.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on December 2, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Homeland Security warns of counterfeits for Christmas 

    Homeland Security warns of counterfeits for Christmas

    If you’re looking for a very special Christmas present like a Louis Vuitton bag or a Rolex watch, you have to traverse through the minefield that are counterfeit goods. More often than not, when buying a well-known luxury brand item you’ll have to deal more with fakes then you will the genuine article. Besides being possibly ripped off, the high-end counterfeit goods market has been linked to every type of criminal activity from human trafficking to organized crime and funding terrorism. In the past year alone, the Department of Homeland Security has confiscated over $500 million in counterfeit goods.

    DHS has issued a warning about these phony products flooding the market during the holiday shopping season. They say to beware of websites offering deep discounts for normally expensive items as that’s a good indicator that the products are knock offs. A number of these sites offering these goods could also be just a front to gain your financial information and not even send you a product. DHS also wants people to know that knowingly buying a counterfeit product is also a federal offense and could land not only the seller but the buyer in jail as well.

    If you’re looking to buy these products first-hand, then only deal with reputable merchants and keep all the documentation that comes with it including receipts and confirmation emails. If you’re buying these items second-hand, any person selling these items should have all the documentation that goes along with them as they’re a common form of confirmation of the item’s authenticity. Some second-hand markets even have authenticity programs for high-end goods in order to try to prevent fraud. And while it may be fun to own a knock-off as a form of entertainment, keep in mind that buying one is not only illegal but you never really know where your money is going or what it’s funding.

    So, to keep everybody safe and happy during the holiday season, only buy genuine.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    How to avoid online Black Friday scams 

    How to avoid online Black Friday scams

    In the past, we’ve advised against going to brick and mortar retailers on Black Friday. Not just for safety reasons but also because many retailers engage in misleading business practices by using limited stock to try o get you to buy more expensive items. Usually, these so-called doorbuster deals can be found for the same price or lower later into the holiday shopping season. In the past few years, we’ve advised shopping online rather than braving the crowds on Black Friday. However, even online Black Friday shopping comes with its own pitfalls.

    While many of the big-name online retailers are safe to shop through, scammers will try to trick you into believing you’re using one of those retailers, but it reality you may not be. Scammers will send out phishing emails using the actual logos of famous shopping sites but will leave a link in the email that will take you to a phony site that resembles the real thing. They’ll then try to gain your financial information for possible identity theft and other potential abuses. Along the same vein, scammers will pose as retailers and send you an email asking you to download something in order to get a deal. This will instead infect your device with malware which could allow bad actors to access your device remotely and steal as much information as they want from it. Always go directly to a retailer’s website rather than clicking on anything in an email.

    As the video above mentions, if at all possible, use a credit card over a debit card when making purchases. While both debit and credit cards offer protection against scam purchases, credit cards have better protections and won’t take any money directly from your bank balance. Also, keep an eye on both your debit and credit card accounts to make sure that no unauthorized purchases have been made on them. Many of these services can be set up to send you a notification every time the account is used. While the notifications may be a bit annoying, they can go a long way in preventing fraud on your accounts.

    And as always, keep in mind that gift cards are the currency of scammers and you could be ripped off in a number of ways when buying gift cards. You can check our previous post here about what to look out for when buying gift cards.

    Once again, we wish you a happy and headache-free holiday season.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Some tips to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving 

    Some tips to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving

    With so many people cooking, traveling, or both for Thanksgiving, it’s time to once again for tips on how to keep your Thanksgiving safe. If you’re traveling by car this week, please drive carefully as Thanksgiving rivals New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July as far as alcohol-related accidents go. And even though it should go without saying, if you have too much to drink this week please make the proper arrangements so you don’t find yourself behind the wheel. Also, for your personal safety, you may want to let a friend or relative know your travel route in case something happens where you can’t get to a phone. If the unfortunate happens and you do have an accident, if the car can still move please move it to the side of the road to help prevent further accidents.

    As far as the kitchen goes, Thanksgiving is the worst day of the year for home fires. In general, you should always have a fire extinguisher in the home but you should especially have one for Thanksgiving. If a fire starts on the top of the stove, use a fire extinguisher to put it and out. Never use water as it could make a grease fire even worse. If a fire starts in the oven, close the oven door and dial 911. However, the biggest fire hazard for Thanksgiving seems to always be from deep frying turkeys.

    While deep-fried turkey may be delicious, it has the potential to be very dangerous if not done properly. Fires from deep frying turkey incidents have caused millions of dollars of damage to homes over the years and have the quickest potential to spread. Always make sure that the turkey is completely thawed before putting it in the deep fryer as the extra moisture will cause a hazardous situation. Deep frying should also be done outside and at least 20 feet from the home.

    With that please have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Family with leukemia afflicted baby targeted in rental scam 

    Family with leukemia afflicted baby targeted in rental scam

    Further proving that scammers will stoop to any level, a family in Southern California is scrambling to find a new home after falling victim to an online rental scam. If you’ll recall, scammers will copy the online ads of homes for sale then post the ad in online marketplaces as a home for rent. The rent requested will often be well below market value. In most cases, the scammers will try to pressure you to make some kind of large payment without being able to see the property. In other cases, the scammers will also make you fill out a lengthy application they’ll use for identity theft.

    That’s what happened to the family from California. Their 14-month-old son has been diagnosed with leukemia and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. They are looking for a home closer to the hospital where the baby is being treated. In terms of Southern California travel, the hospital is too far away from their current residence. While looking for a new home, they found an online ad for the perfect place. They responded to the ad and filled out an application with all their personal information. It was after a friend looked into the property they found out that it wasn’t actually available for rent. Now, they’re busy trying to find a new home while worrying about not only their son but also having their personal information exposed like that.

    If you’re looking for a new home and you find one that’s too good to be true, it probably is. In order to avoid such scams always do a reverse image search on the photos in the ad to make sure the ad isn’t stolen from someplace else. You should also check with the county assessor’s website or office to verify who the true owner of the property is. And don’t be taken in by convoluted stories about why the property can’t be shown or why the supposed landlords can’t meet you. Lastly. never pay or wire money for any property sight unseen. If you would like to help the family mentioned in today’s story they have a GoFundMe page to help assist with the astronomical cost of childhood leukemia.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 22, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Don’t buy a sick pet for Christmas 

    Don't buy a sick pet for Christmas

    With the holiday shopping season upon us, many people are probably thinking about purchasing a pet for their family for Christmas. This decision should not be taken lightly. Pets should only be bought for immediate family members after a long discussion about pet ownership. Buying a pet for someone who might not want one could saddle someone with a decades-long burden they may not want. For example, you may not want to buy a rambunctious puppy for your elderly grandmother. That could result in disaster. Sadly, there’s an even more heartbreaking reason you may want to reconsider buying a pet for Christmas.

    We can’t stress this enough but never buy a pet online. Usually, there are two types of scams that involve buying pets online. The first one is where the scammer takes your money and the pet doesn’t really exist. The second is the even more heartbreaking one where backyard breeders or puppy mills sell you a terminally ill puppy. A quite disturbing report recently surfaced out of Southern California where a pair of people were selling puppies on various online marketplaces. Many of the puppies they ended up selling allegedly had already contracted the deadly parvovirus. This left many families devastated and in debt after having to pay for expensive emergency veterinarian services.

    As always, when it comes to buying a new pet, we always recommend going to your local shelter first. Not only will you be bringing your family a new member but you’ll also be giving an abandoned pet a new and loving home. If you have your heart set on a purebred dog there are shelters that do have them. However, if you’re going to the professional breeder route try sticking to licensed and local breeders. Anyone claiming to be a breeder and offering you a purebred pet at a too good to be true rate probably doesn’t have the pet’s best interest at heart.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 21, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Always check your charity 

    Always check your charity

    This time of year, many charities see increases in donations due to the giving spirit of the holidays. However, there are some organizations posing as charities that might not help who they claim to. Recently, police in North Carolina have been warning residents about a charity they believe to be a scam. To make matters even worse, the charity claims to assist the homeless and victims of domestic violence. These are people who are at their most vulnerable and probably need our donations the most. Yet there are those who are willing to exploit their plight in order to make a profit.

    Residents of Cornelius, North Carolina, which is just outside of Charlotte, have been reporting that they’ve found pink bags stuck in their doors. The bags are said to be for clothing donations that would help the homeless and domestic violence victims. It’s not just North Carolina where these bags have popped up either. Other reports have shown the bags showing up all over the Southeast. Some reports have gone as far as to say that the charity is selling the donations for profit. There have also been other accusations saying the charity is actually exploiting those they’re supposed to be helping by making them work in a call center to solicit more donations. The Better Business Bureau has said that this group is a charity but not a very good one.

    While researching this story all it took was a quick web search to find out many of the problems various states have had with this charity. Anytime you’re solicited by a charity that you haven’t heard of, it’s always best if you research them first before donating any money or goods. There are many families who are homeless or in domestic violence shelters at any time of the year. However, this time of the year is especially bad for them. If you feel the need to help them during the holidays, please contact your local shelters to see how you can help.

     
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