Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cyber-Scammers Use "Sucker Lists" to Target Victims

The Internet is full of scam lures involving winning the lottery. The most notorious are those where cons send you a check, tell you to cash it for taxes and tariffs and wire the money back to them so your "winnings" can be released to you. But after you wire the money to them, they fade into the "electronic mist" of the Internet and someone notifies you that the check you just cashed was a fraud.

Unfortunately, the "lottery lure" seems to be so lucrative that I get a spam e-mail just about every day saying I won a vast fortune.

Of course, there are dozens of so-called "legitimate" and often downright "illegitimate" sites out there promising you "inside information" on how to win the lottery. Rumor has it that some of them employ various forms of spyware and even malware to record your personal information, which is then used for other (often) unscrupulous purposes.

If you don't understand how spyware and malware works, I recommend taking the time to educate yourself.

Spybot is a free program use can use to protect yourself from a lot of these nasty programs. Of course, employing anti-virus protection (updated) and even a "firewall" is highly recommended, also. Alex Eckelberry - who is the CEO of Sunbelt Software - does a great blog on computer security - which is a great place to learn about crimeware and how to avoid it.

In a recent article from the "Lottery Post," some of these "Lotto Operators" were scamming senior citizens using information obtained from what they refer to as "sucker lists." Although, I made mention of how information is stolen via technology above - all too often - it is also simply handed over by the future victim in the hopes of "winning the lottery."

As reported in the Lottery Post:

"Using so-called "sucker lists" - lists of consumers who had been defrauded by telemarketers in the past - the defendants called elderly consumers with offers to sell "likely winning lottery numbers" when, in fact, the real purpose was to gain authorization to electronically debit the consumer's checking account."

"The scam began when seniors received telemarketing calls falsely telling them they had been "selected to receive the most likely winning combinations of the Lottery." The caller claimed that the company's "scientific formula" provided the most likely winning lottery combinations."

Of course, the seniors targeted in this ended up having a lot of money charged to their credit cards for "useless" information.

For the full story by the Lottery Post, link here.

If you have been a victim of a telemarketing scam, the best place to report it is the Federal Trade Commission.

Friday, June 09, 2006

On the WWW, A Prudent Soul Holds On To Their Wallet!

I read this post from Paul Young of Prying1 (Digging a little Deeper) and it says it all - "See a Pop Up? Hold On To Your Wallet."

Paul writes:

"Had a popup appear suddenly as I was surfing Blog Explosion. Earlier I was surfing for funny videos to download and that might have been when I got the cookie. Anyway. Here I am zigzagging through Cyber Space when I'm accosted by a window that claims I can make money simply by filling in my name and email address. Such a deal. They didn't even demand I use my real name. Is this a great country or what?

"Well I right-clicked on the window and clicked on properties to find out who they were before I'd take a chance on giving them a phony name and junk email address. This is how I discovered 'ReferralWare'. I have no problem with people throwing money at me as these folks proposed. Especially for free. BUTTTT!!! - I have a major defect in my emotional well being. I'm a skeptic... - I thought I would perform one more test. What I call the Company Name/Scam Google Test."

For the full "read" (highly recommended) and the results of Paul's experiment, link here.

Normally, I try to add some additional resources -- but since I like this one so much -- it's best left in it's original state.

Prying1 takes a "common sense" approach to dealing with life's woes and it is a site that I frequent on a regular basis.

So far as this (probably semi-legal scam), always remember "If it seems to good to be true, it probably isn't."

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Don't Trust a Bank to Tell You Whether a Check is Good, or Not

Just because someone at the bank tells you a check is good, it might not be the case. Here is a story written by Caroline Mayer of the Washington Post -- where someone selling a car on a auction site received a check for more than the amount of the purchase -- and was asked to wire the extra money back to the buyer.

The seller was suspicious and asked a teller at his bank (twice) to verify the check and was told it was good. Here is what happened next as Caroline Mayer reports:

"Four days later, as he reviewed his account online, he discovered the check was not good. Even worse, the bank was demanding that he repay the $5,000."

"Had I made the deposit and not tried to make sure it was legitimate, I should have full obligation to make good on it," said Schaefer, 34, a facilities manager in Brattleboro, Vt. "But I checked with the bank twice, and now I find out they have no accountability."

"Schaefer is one of thousands of consumers who have been victimized by an increasingly common check scam that relies on the vagaries of the banking system to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers."

"Federal rules require banks to release funds from a consumer's deposit quickly, usually within one to five business days, depending on the kind of check. However, it can take weeks before a bank discovers a check is fraudulent."

Full story, link here.

This is a typical advance fee scam, where counterfeit checks, or money orders are used to dupe a seller.

So far, as the bank involved, I would recommend that they do a little "fraud awareness training" with their tellers to protect their customers from getting ripped off. Counterfeit checks often use good account numbers, which can be deceptive.

In my experience, the best way to verify a check is to contact the issuer of the item. If the check is counterfeit, or a forgery, laws in most areas allow it to be charged back for a year, or more.

And that is a long time to wait!

Cyber Gangs Luring Children to Launder Money

In Australia, a Triad (Chinese Organized Crime Gang) with ties to Malaysia and Russia recruited children to launder money, stolen as a result of "phishing" schemes. Teenagers and a few "20 something" types were recruited to receive the stolen funds in their own bank accounts. They would then turn over the money (minus a commission) to low level members of the gang, who would wire the money overseas.

Unfortunately, it appears from the article I read in the Sydney Herald by Frank Walker that no one at the higher echelons of the gang was apprehended.

For the full story from the Sydney Herald, link here.

Please note that the Australian authorities are prosecuting the individuals involved.

Criminal gangs involved in cyber-crime recruit people to launder the money from financial crimes all the time, and it doesn't only happen in Australia. In fact, evidence shows it is a worldwide issue that is getting worse all the time.

I recently wrote a post about a BBB (Better Business Bureau) employee, who was recruited to do pretty much the same thing:

BBB Worker Takes Job Processing Fraudulent eBay Transactions

Cyber crooks recruit people in chat rooms and even surf jobs sites like looking for what they consider "dupes" to take all the "risks" for them. It appears (from this story) that they aren't above using our children to commit their "foul deeds."

Before accepting any job offers from an unknown source on the Internet, it's smart to do your homework. This is especially true, if you are asked to use your own financial resources to negotiate any financial transaction. Furthermore, if any of the above factors "ring true" and you are asked to "wire" money run away from the deal as fast as you can.

Here is a pretty good resource to educate yourself (and others) on Job Scams:

World Privacy Forum