Saturday, March 14, 2009

Don't Bail Out a Scam Artist

Recently, I've noticed all kinds of ads and spam e-mails promising to deliver a bail out of one kind or another. While we're finally going to see a few average people bailed out, most of these ads and spam e-mails have one purpose and one purpose only — to provide a revenue stream to a scam artist.

On March 4th, the FTC issued a warning that consumers might get stung by one of these bail out schemes and that these scams are showing up in many different forms.

A lot of these scams claim they can assist someone in qualifying for a bail out and all you need to do is to provide them with a little information or a small payment (preferably using a plastic instrument) to reap a too-good-to-be return on your investment. Plastic is quickly becoming the preferred payment option of criminals and semi-legitimate marketing gurus, alike.

Common spam e-mail messages ask for your banking information so the money can be direct deposited into a bank account. In most of these scams, the exact opposite occurs, or the money in the account is stolen. There are also a lot of spoofed spam e-mails that appear to come directly from a government agency, which ask you to verify that you qualify for a payment by providing them with personal/financial information. If responded to, they either clean out your financial resources or use your good name to steal from a financial institution.

The FBI, IRS and Federal Reserve have recently reported their names being spoofed (impersonated) in a variety of spam e-mails designed to scam people of their hard-earned resources. Of course, a lot of the e-mails and e-ads use the names of Barack Obama and Joe Biden to make their come-on appear more legitimate, too.

Some of these e-mails contain links, which lead to websites that download all kinds of malicious software and spyware on a machine. Normally, the intent in these instances is to steal personal information or take command and control over a machine.

Not all these come-ons come in spam e-mails, either. Much to my dismay, I did a search on the word "Stimulus" and found several ads offering a questionable bail out. After doing this, I went to my local coffee house and picked up some of available free magazines and found questionable bail-out offers in them, also.

When it comes to advertising dollars, those accepting the money aren't required to perform any due diligence on what is being advertised.

In some of the so-called semi-legitimate come-ons (my personal opinion), there might be a clause in small-print that allows them to charge your card a small fee over a long period of time.

While these so-called legitimate marketing ploys are nothing new, they are being seen used in some of the pay for bail out products being hawked all over the place.

If you've signed up for any of these deals, it might pay to review your statements, carefully. Of course, in today's world, it pays to do this on a regular basis, anyway.

If you see any of these scams and want to complain about them, the FTC provides an electronic means of doing so. I've provided a link for anyone, who might be interested in doing this. You can also complain by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

Last, but not least, I'll point to a site called the Bank of Obama (Because Everybody Deserves a Bail Out). On this site — which appears to be somewhat of a parody — you can send your friends an imaginary check. At least this site delivers what it claims to — an imaginary check.

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