Credit Card Scam Alert: Ignore that offer from AmTrade International Bank

September 27, 2013

There is a new scam showing up in mailboxes.

It takes the form of an offer for a “secure” credit card, and it targets people with low credit scores or other financial issues.

A “secure” credit card is a credit card where the cardholder puts up some of their own money as collateral against the credit line. It allows lenders to extend credit to higher-risk consumers at a lower annual percentage rate, and can actually be a good tool for rebuilding credit (timely payment of debts makes up a large portion of your credit score). We actually offer a secured credit card here at REGIONAL. They’re a legitimate financial tool.

Except for when they’re used as the basis for a scam.

This one comes from AmTrade International Bank, with an implied connection to Credit One Bank, N.A. (there is none). Victims select a card with either a $1,500 or $3,600 credit limit, and then send in $500 or $900 (respectively) as “collateral” for the credit lines.

And the credit cards never arrive. At its core, this is the simplest form of scam: take money, disappear.

This exact same scam showed up earlier in the year, from Freedom 1st National Bank, which also implied a link to Credit One. In both cases, victims instantly found themselves robbed of either $500 or $900.

If you get offers for pre-approved credit cards in the mail, it is vital to verify all claims before making a purchase decision and sending personal information and money.

In fact, I’ll just put it out there now: don’t respond to unsolicited pre-approved offers for “secure” credit cards, at all.

Also, never just send money to an unknown entity, for any reason.

This scam is going to keep popping up, with different fake banks running it each time, and law enforcement is going be playing whack-a-mole for quite some time. In the meantime, it’s on each of us to look out for ourselves.

Read more:

 


File Under “Things That Were Just a Matter of Time.” New scams using Affordable Care Act to harvest personal information.

August 23, 2013

Okay, so if you live in these United States, you may have heard of a controversial little thing called the Affordable Care Act.

Yeah, okay, before you head to the bottom of the page to sound off, I’ve already turned comments off for this post. I’m not here to express my opinion of the legislation, and I’m not fielding others’, either. Our opinions are irrelevant for the moment. Besides, certain post topics generate TONS of bot-generated spam comments, and I have a hunch this might be one of them (you should’ve seen how many came in when I wrote about Açaí berry scams a few years ago…it was seriously ridiculous).

Here’s all we need to know, and it’s pretty easy to agree upon: The Affordable Care Act is a Thing That Exists. (That’s only a matter of opinion if you’re into really fabric-of-universe-level philosophical discussions.)

And, as a Thing That Exists, it was only a matter of time before someone started up a scam based upon it.

Lo and behold, the FTC is reporting exactly that. Scammers are calling potential victims to “verify” information. For example, “So I see here that your routing number is __________, is that correct? Okay, good, so now we just need your account number…”

Here’s the deal with the Affordable Care Act: if you’re one of the people who is going to need to use the exchanges to obtain insurance, you’re going to be the one contacting them. According to the FTC report, “If someone who claims to be from the government calls and asks for your personal information, hang up. It’s a scam. The government and legitimate organizations you do business with already have the information they need and will not ask you for it.”

That sums it up pretty nicely, both in this specific instance and as a general rule.


2 people are not spying on you

August 13, 2013

Have you seen this (or something similar) show up on a website lately?

I said DON'T click on it!

If you use MyFitnessPal, WeightWatchers Online, YouTube, or any of about a million other sites, chances are that you have.

Here are some things about which you can rest assured:

  • It’s just a stupid banner advertisement
  • It seems to be showing up a lot more often since this whole mess with the NSA started and got everyone paranoid about their online privacy
  • Nobody is spying on you*
  • It probably leads to a website that will infect your computer with spyware, at which point someone will be spying on you
  • Even if it doesn’t, you don’t want what they’re selling
  • It tells EVERYONE they have “2 people” spying on them
  • YouTube, MyFitnessPal, WeightWatchers, etc., have no way of knowing whether anyone is spying on you or not
  • Do not click on it, whatever you do

*Actually, there might be people spying on you. I mean, I have no idea who’s reading this. Spies do exist, right? You might be involved in all kinds of international espionage, sabotage, subterfuge, the works. You might be tuning in to those weird “numbers stations” every night and actually have the key to decode them for all I know. But in that case, you’d probably say, “Two? Ha! More like two hundred!” if you saw this particular ad.


How to spot an investment scam

August 2, 2013

Wisebread is a pretty great website. They post tons of articles on saving money, being frugal, finding deals, getting more out of life for less cash, and occasionally, scams.

They ran a good one not too long ago: 5 Sure-Fire Signs of an Investment Scam. It’s a topic I haven’t explored too deeply yet, and it’s one I’d like to write more about. For the time being, go read their article and learn from it.

Now think about some iffy investment “opportunities” you’ve heard of. How many of Wisebread’s signs did it fall under?

My favorite investment scam is the Iraqi Dinar scam that’s been running riot for several years (and I mean “favorite” in the most sarcastic way possible, by the way). For the most part, these schemes hit all five points.

Absolute promises that the currency will revaluate? Check. “Opportunity” for beyond-massive profit, yet being offered to everyone in the universe equally? Got it. Affinity groups? Yes, you hear about this stuff in social circles. Business practices? Well, selling a supposed investment without an actual license to do so by calling it a “collector’s item?” How sketchy do they have to be? And look at the comments on any article exposing this scam for what it is: hundreds of people insisting that the author (even when said author is an expert writing for a credible source) is the biggest idiot that ever lived in the history of ever. Some of those may be victims clinging to hope, but a lot of them are people running Iraqi Dinar scams attempting to discredit any suggestion that what they’re doing is tantamount to fraud.

Do you have an obvious example of an investment scam? Fire away in the comments! But no calling me stupid for thinking knowing the Dinar thing is fraud. Those comments won’t get through at all.


Medical Alert Scams

July 5, 2013

According to an article from USA Today, seniors in Michigan, New York, Texas, Wisconsin and Kentucky have reported a new scam involving phone calls claiming victims have been signed up for a medical alert system.

While I haven’t heard of it hitting Indiana or Illinois yet, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before it does. This type of scam rarely confines itself to a few locations.

Many of the calls tell potential victims that a family member or doctor has signed them up for the system, which is likely a sham to begin with. Seniors who fall for the pitch end up being charged monthly fees and risk putting banking and nonpublic personal information into the hands of potential identity thieves.

If you or someone you know gets one of these calls, the best response is to simply hang up, and do not press any buttons to speak to a “live agent” or anyone else. The callers are not affiliated with any doctor, healthcare provider, insurance company, Medicare, or any other entity. They are simply a rogue company attempting to trick you into paying money for a useless service. You do not have to accept delivery of any devices.

While you’re taking a minute to warn others of this scam, make sure you and your family members are signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s free, it only takes a minute, and it serves as an instant litmus test; if you’re on the registry and a company with whom you have no existing relationship is calling you, you already know they’re willing to break federal regulations to sell you something. That doesn’t say much for their whole business model, does it?


Let’s kick off the long weekend with a derpy lottery scam

May 24, 2013

Many of us (here in the States, anyway) will spend today looking forward to a nice three-day weekend, visions of grilled meat, open-wheel race cars and (if you’re like me) binge-watching the entire fourth season of Arrested Development on Netflix dancing in their heads.

Seems like a good time for a “fun” sort of post, so let’s snark at a bad lottery scam email I received this morning:

From: [redacted]@co.pg.md.us
Subject: ! Are You Aware!!

Your email has been announced the winner of the Microsoft E-mail Sweepstakes of 5.6, Million Pounds. Please send these informations:
Full Name:
Address:
Tel / Mobile No.:
Country:
Occupation:
Sex / Age:
Alternative E-mail:
Contact Mrs. Kathrin Rogers: { Kath.rogers@msn.com<mailto:kath.rogers@msn.com> } OR { Kath.rogers@rogers.com<mailto:kath.rogers@rogers.com> } with details. Sincerely, Josphine B. Clay
(Microsoft Management Board, Copyright 1991-2013)

—————————————————————————————

This E-mail and any of its attachments may contain Prince George’s
County Government or Prince George’s County 7th Judicial Circuit
Court proprietary information or Protected Health Information,
which is privileged and confidential. This E-mail is intended
solely for the use of the individual or entity to which it is
addressed. If you are not the intended recipient of this E-mail,
you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution,
copying, or action taken in relation to the contents of and
attachments to this E-mail is strictly prohibited by federal law
and may expose you to civil and/or criminal penalties. If you have
received this E-mail in error, please notify the sender immediately
and permanently delete the original and any copy of this E-mail and
any printout.

Oh, where to even begin?

For one thing, it doesn’t say I won anything. My email, on the other had, has won 5.6 million pounds. Fat lot of good it will do.

Also: pounds? Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, conducts business in pounds? Sure. Whatever.

“Please send these informations.” Uh-huh. Because Microsoft doesn’t have enough money to hire people who use proper grammar.

! Are You Aware!! Um, ?No I’m Am Not ! !!

Why would a message about a Microsoft sweepstakes come from a Prince George’s County, Maryland email address?

Why would the disclaimer refer to said county, and not, oh…I don’t know…maybe Microsoft?

Finally: there is absolutely no such thing as a Microsoft E-Mail Sweepstakes, nor has there ever been, and nor will there ever be. But if you’ve been reading this site for a while, you already knew that one, didn’t you?

Have a good weekend. Stay vigilant. (Also, try grilling corn with garlic butter and without wrapping it in foil if you’re cooking out this weekend. You have to move it around a lot to avoid flare-ups and burnt corn, but dude…seriously, you’ll never do it the old way again.)


Don’t try to get something for nothing

March 29, 2013

Sometimes you walk a fine line when you’re writing about how-to-not-get-swindled. On one hand, a victim is a victim, and it’s not nice to place blame on them. On the other, there are scams that prey upon some all-too-human tendencies  (which we all have within us, make no mistake about it) to be a little avaricious.

When it comes to this category of scams, here’s the rule: don’t try to get something for nothing.

Think about all the fake iPad scams you’ve heard about. A guy approaches you at a gas station and offers to sell you a brand new iPad for a super-low price. You find out later that the box contains a mirror or some other non-iPad object.

It’s no fun to get conned, but ask yourself: is there anything about a guy selling iPads at a gas station that doesn’t scream “This is not legit!” when you really think about it? Apple doesn’t sell its products from cars at filling stations.This is either a scam or an attempt to unload stolen goods. You’re almost better off with the mirror.

What about the Pigeon Drop scheme? Forget the whole “Let’s have this person hold your good-faith money while we do this-or-that to divvy up this satchel of cash we found” angle…how many movies do you have to watch to know that “satchel full of money” equals “drug dealers/hit men/bank heists/things you don’t want to get within ten miles of”? Honest people who find big stashes of currency contact law enforcement, because there’s no way that cash is not evidence of some major crime. It couldn’t be more obvious if it was in a big white sack with a huge dollar sign printed on it.

The rule applies to all manner of scams and rip-offs. $437 sounds a bit steep for an hour of work, doesn’t it? Then don’t fall for the secret shopper scams. Brand-name prescription drugs for a tenth of the cost? Sounds too good to be true! That’s because it is.

We’re all looking out for ourselves on some level. If I see a ten-dollar bill bouncing merrily down the sidewalk on a windy day, I’ll pick it up. But I’ll also check around me to make sure nobody was chasing it, or standing there with that distraught look that can only mean one thing: their tenner just blew away. (For the record: this never happens to me…I’m much more likely to be the one with the distraught face.)

However, moving forward, remember this: if someone approaches you offering something for nothing (or next to it), take warning. You’re either about to be scammed or become an accomplice.


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