Internet Scams

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WWW in the URL does mean World Wide Web. If you are going to post a website you need to be careful what you tell. The information can become a gold mine for scammers. If you are on Facebook or Myspace, be aware scammers are scanning these sites to gain information. I love movies where the scammer is scammed. The original movie Four Queens was remade as Criminal with John C. Reilly.  He is a con man that in turn gets conned big time.  Both of these are classics, but see Four Queens first. The better con men find all the information they can about their mark. They more they know, the easier their job. This is where the social network sites come in. People bare their souls on these sites and provide a lot of information for crooks who stay up at night figuring ways to get your money.  If you have a cell phone you are a target. Even old broken down cowboys like me get his, because I have a land line. But the most fertile ground is the Internet.

One scam has been going around for a very long time. Artists are contacted and asked to sell some pieces of art. The buyer is in a rush. He is usually from London, but not always.  He will want to pay you by cashiers check or money order.  He tells you he is going to FedEx you a check for the $13,000 to cover all the paintings he has purchased and has added another $1,000 for shipping. Then he drops the hook.  His cashiers check is for $20,000. He has a cousin living near you and after you cash the check you can give his cousin the extra $7,000. Artists desperate to make the sale fall for the scam. I know a girl who sold her Harley for $15,000, they gave her an extra $5,000 for shipping, but the cashiers check was for $25,000.  She shipped the bike and sent them the $5,000 extra.  Two weeks later the bank called, the cashiers check was worthless. She lost her bike, the shipping cost and the $5,000.  RUN FROM anyone wanting to pay you by cashiers check or money order.  I do take money orders, but only for the amount of the eBay auction.

One sector of our country that has really been hit hard is Asians. The crooks gain vital information off social websites and personal ones, then they  extort $10,000 to $50,000 out of the victims with death threats and violence. They know so much about the target that the victim feels vulnerable and thinks it’s for real.

All of us know that there are real Mystery Shoppers. I have a friend from Dallas whose wife used to be a Mystery Shopper. This is what makes this scam so real.  By scouring social websites they learn who is a stay at home mom. I understand they have software that will pull up key words that lead them to moms who stay at home. Usually they mail a personal letter to the mom promising a way for her to earn a lot of money. About $400 for three hours of shopping. Plus a check for several thousand dollars for her to use to buy goods. After a few days shopping the company asks the mom to wire back the $2,000.  In another week she is notified by her bank the check is bogus. She lost the $2,000 she wired, plus the money she used for the items she purchased.  If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

The Millionaire Scam. Here is how this works. You are offered a shot on the Oprah Winfrey Millionaire Contest Show. In order to take part in this, you must first send the scammers contact information and you are required to buy airline fare and tickets to the show in advance. The victim is then asked to fill out forms with sensitive information that gives the con a way to steal your identity. Another twist is the Oprah Show Summer Sweepstakes.

The Hit Man Scam. In this email scheme, scammers send letters claiming that the boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse of the recipient has arranged for their death. The letter will read something like, “Joe Smith, your 28 year old boy friend with the tattoo of a kitten in the middle of his back has hired a hit man to have you killed.”  The letter provided enough evidence about Joe Smith the victim thinks it’s real. Thanks to Facebook, YouTube and MySpace the cons can get all the information they need to pull off the scam. The letter continues, “But if you pay me $15,000 I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen.”  Another version popular along the Border, “your loved one has been kidnapped.” Trust me they know enough details about your loved one, son, daughter, mother, father, husband, wife, etc to make you believe they are for real.

All of us have grandparents, even if they are dead. Grandparents are easy victims. The phone rings, “Hello grandma, it’s your favorite grandson.”  The startled grannie asks, “Tommy, is that you?”  “Yes grandma, it’s Tommy. Listen Grandma, my wallet was just stolen and I’ve lost all of my money. Do you think you could send me some money to make it through the end of the month?”  Or, “I’m in jail in London on a mix up. There was a traffic accident and I need $15,000 to get out.” Some of the smart ones already know the grandchild’s name and something about him/her. They do their home work.  Excited to help, granny sends the money.

Military cars. All of us know kids in the military sometimes have to sell their cars before deployment. In step the scammers. They run ads in the classified and Craigslist saying the owner of the car is being deployed and they are acting as a secured third party.  Of course the price is well below the market and besides most people want to help the military. The problem is you are probably buying a stolen car, or a salvaged one. If it’s out of state, chances are you will never see a car of any kind. If the deal is too good to be true, then it is a scam.

Jury Duty. This is a hot scam right now. You get an email with a fake subpoena ordering you to testify before a grand jury. These look real, with your full name and a case number.  Beware, these emails contain malware that can freeze up your computer and allow them to get all your information. ‘The other version is a phone call that will require your Social Security number. If that happens, hang up and call the local sheriff or fraud department. Get enough information from the scammer to be helpful to law enforcement.

There is always the old Nigerian scam, where someone left $50 million dollars and they want you to help invest it for them. Never mind you are a stranger, they want to turn all that money over to you, after you give them a good faith deposit. This is a $2 Billion dollar a year scam.

One you may not expect is the FBI scam. The FBI says there have been tons of complaints about emails from people claiming to be FBI agents.  Some appear to be from an Internet Crime Complaint Center and say the receipient has extorted money and must refund the money or face prosecution. The other twist is the email comes from the Anti-Terrorist and Monetary Crime Division. They inform you that you are the beneficiary of millions in inheritance.  To get your money you have to supply them with your full name, address, bank account number and SS number.  These scammers find real events that the FBI is involved in and weave it into their scams.

If something comes over the Internet, don’t trust it. Becareful how much information you give out on your social sites. NEVER give anyone your vital information unless you are 100% sure who you are talking with. Then tread lightly.   I got long winded, but I think it’s important to warn you.  If you get burned, now it’s on you.

That’s all for tonight. Thanks for reading my blogs. Please keep coming back.  Will <><

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