Hurricane Irene: Avoiding scams and fraud

Unfortunately far too often natural disasters turn into unnatural disasters for the families affected by them and the charitable organizations that support them.  With the arrival of Hurricane Irene which left various forms of damage and destruction throughout the east coast of the United States as well as the earthquake that unexpectedly hit just days before the storm there may be some organizations that call themselves a charity, but they are actually simply looking for a hand-out to benefit them.

The FBI recently released this warning,

In light of Hurricane Irene, the public is reminded to beware of fraudulent emails and websites purporting to conduct charitable relief efforts. To learn more about avoiding online fraud, please see “Tips on Avoiding Fraudulent Charitable Contribution Schemes” at:http://www.ic3.gov/media/2011/110311.aspx

This isn’t the first time or the last time.  Identity Theft Secrets has also reported on many other email scams and fraudulent websites in their articles:

10 Most Despicable Scams of 2010 (The number 1 answer was the Gulf Oil Spill Scam)

Identity Theft and Charity Begin at Home

Be sure to read our articles Tips to avoid charitable contribution scams: Japan’s earthquake and tsunami and Avoid spam and scams: Donations to Haiti Relief and Recovery efforts to help you identify, avoid and report those that may be taking advantage of a natural disaster to create one that one that is definitely unnatural and just as devastating.

The Foster Youth Financial Security Act: Protecting foster children from identity theft

One study has highlighted that as many as half of the children in foster care in California have been victims of identity theft. Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin has introduced a bill, The Foster Youth Financial Security Act, to help protect children in foster care from identity theft and other hurdles that impede their financial success.
Foster children already have obstacles in their way including the lack of continuity of care and the stigma of being a foster child.  When children transition out of foster care to live on their own, Rep. Langevin says, “They shouldn’t have to struggle to find credit or fix credit just as they are leaving custody to live on their own.”
This latest bill introduced by Rep. Langevin is just one part of a big move to overhaul the foster care system in Rhode Island. Following a study released in March by The Children’s Advocacy Institute entitled: “The Fleecing of Foster Children: How We Confiscate Their Assets and Undermine Their Financial Security,” Rep. Langevin told a roundtable of parties interested in the foster care system that “research shows that current and former foster youth are more likely to forego higher education, be in poor health, become homeless, and rely on public supports as adults. I believe we can – and must – change these statistics.”

3 Tips to Identity Theft Protection

This is a guest article submitted to IdentityTheftSecrets with the same information (slightly re-hashed and added to) about identity theft that the federal trade commission put out in 2003, and is the same information we have been talking about since then.  The article was submitted by a company that lets you submit phone numbers that have been harrassing you.

The reason we are posting this content again is because the information is still relevant.  Side note: if you are a legitimate writer who can actually create unique, insightful, and interesting content, we would like to talk to you as we are looking for good content from an independent person who doesn’t need a boss watching over them every minute of the day.  If you are that person, please contact us using the form on this site.  Article follows…


According to the FBI, identity theft is one of America’s fastest growing problems. Over ten million Americans become the victims of identity theft yearly. Identity theft can occur when criminals steal information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank account numbers and other personal information.

Awareness is the most important factor in identity theft prevention. Once awareness develops, you can take extra precautions to protect yourself.

How do criminals steal their victims’ identities?

  1. Mail Theft – Your mailbox is a prime target for criminals. Unsolicited offers like pre-approved credit cards or insurance offers may seem like trash to you, but they are bait for criminals. You can opt out of pre-screened offers by calling 888-5OPT-OUT.If you will be away from your mailbox for an extended period of time, appoint a trusted friend or family member to gather your mail while you are away or cancel your mail delivery. When sending out bill payments, avoid writing your full credit card number on checks and never send your social security number through the mail.Shred all mail that includes personal information before you discard it. Criminals will rummage through trash to find credit card statements, receipts, utility bills or pre-screened credit offers or any piece of mail that contains personal data.
  2. Phishing – Beware of suspect emails and never click on links without verifying the identity of the sender. Criminals will send you to a website and ask you for personal information while posing as your bank or another seemingly legitimate organization. If you are at all suspicious, contact the organization directly and ask if they sent an email with a link. Banks and other organizations will never ask you for personal information via email or over the phone.
  3. Robbery and Skimming – Stolen wallets and ATM skimming are also common identity theft occurrences. Skimming refers to the crime of retrieving ATM card information by installing a device on an ATM. The devices are difficult to spot, but most involve a card swipe because they are the easiest to skim. Banks are now taking precautions and converting their swipe interfaces to manual inserts so the reader head is located on the inside of the machine which is difficult for criminals to manipulate. When using the ATM, look over your shoulder also to ensure no one is watching you input your password. Try to use card insert ATMs instead of those with card swipes, if possible.

Prevention and awareness are the best deterrents to identity theft. A few extra measures on your part can make a world of difference and protect you from one of the biggest crimes in the nation.

Skylink SC-100 Security System Deluxe Kit

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A Better Phone Carrier That Won’t Charge Me For Charges That Are Not Mine

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Net10 for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T.

The Internet abounds with stories of the cell phone carriers.

Some reviews are positive.  Most are not.

Most people end up feeling that the company they have chosen for their cell phone or their cell phone plan is careless, rude, or just downright evil.

I have an issue with my old cell phone provider right now.

Last October, I was leaving the country for 18 months, I was not under any kind of contract.  So I switched my plan to a low-use mode, and switched to e-statements. It was supposed to cost me just $10/month.  I did not take my phone with me when I left the country, and had NO way of making phone calls other than Skype or calling cards.

Just last month, I received a phone call from a collection agency (which I picked up via Skype).  They say I hey say I owe the cell phone company $450.  However, they have never sent me a bill for it via email or regular mail.   If they did, I never received the bill.  But now, since they have turned it over to collections, they can’t send me the bill.  And because they turned it over to a collection agency (which is how I found out about it), they tell me that they no longer have access to the billing.  Neither does the collection agency.

My guess is that someone, somehow, got a hold of my account or my cell phone, and has fraudulent run up these charges on it.  But since I never received a billing, and because my account was immediately turned over to collections, I have no way to even know that.

I’d be happy to pay my bill, if they would tell me what I’m being billed for.

This is one of the reasons why I’m considering switching to a company whose motto is “No bills. No contracts.  No evil.”

The name of the better, “No evil” company is Net10.  And they have an unlimited cell phone plan, which is actually unlimited.

It’s not just an advertising ploy, the plan is actually without limits.  (But they also have some clever marketing.  Check out this Cute NET10 commercial.

It costs $50/month to get nationwide coverage, and you can talk, text, and use as much data as you want. 

It’s $50/month.

And since the issue with the old cell phone company has gone on my credit report, I might not qualify for a cell phone now with other companies.

So I’m seriously looking at signing up with Net10 when I get back to the states, because Net10 doesn’t do credit checks.

Check out more from this Real NET10 customer.

You can get great phones from Net10, including phones with full QWERT keyboards and cameras. They have name brand phones from companies like LG, Motorola, Kyocera, Samsung, and Nokia, and even though we haven’t tested it out for ourselves, reviews online say that Net10 has as good of coverage in most areas as any of the big carriers.

Here’s another comparison to the big carriers. Which I’m thinking at the moment are relatively evil.

Net10 also offer great rates on International long distance as well as offer plans specific to Mexico and Canada so that when you’re traveling outside of, but close to the US, you can still be reached by friends and family at a local number.

Anything sounds better than a company that won’t even send me a bill, call me, or try to reach me, before it turns me over to collections.  However, Net10 sounds like an option I will actually enjoy using, knowing that no matter what I do, my plan costs just $50/month.

What Rob has to say

See the Light

10 Good Reasons

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Three Ways Identity Thieves Find Your Phone Number

When it comes to identity theft, every individual in the world is at risk. This criminal practice has been going on for countless years and the number of victims continues to grow.

Some reports claim that as many as 10 million people are subject to identity theft every single year. Many times, this information is used to simply promote spam messages and illegal advertisements. Unfortunately, it can also be used to irrevocably ruin a person’s credit and potentially their life. An active phone number can be sold to illicit advertisers and scam artists who want to make a phone call in order to try to get more information.

Of course getting a phone number is relatively simple.  However, when combined with other pieces of information about you, your phone number can become quite valuable.

Here are a few of the ways in which identity thieves illegally gain the phone numbers of innocent individuals and add it to other (more potentially harmful) pieces of information, to assemble a picture of who you are.

Dumpster Diving
One of the easiest and most popular forms of accessing private information has been deemed dumpster diving. While the world continues its shift towards digitized information, vast amounts of information are still sent through generic letters, bills, and notices. Continue reading Three Ways Identity Thieves Find Your Phone Number

Paying for Privacy?

Are you one of the “82 percent of people are concerned about their credit card numbers being stolen online, while 72 percent are concerned that their online activity is being tracked and profiled by companies?”  In the article “Americans Anxious over Online Privacy” (Source WebProNews.com) several other online security concerns are expressed in a poll conducted by Consumer Reports.  In the poll Americans state that they:

–       Have provided personal information in order to gain access to a website; but that they also don’t like to do it.

–       Are not comfortable with Internet companies using their email content or browsing history to target them with “relevant” ads.

–       Feel that Internet companies should ask permission before using their information

According to the poll, “72 percent want the right to opt out when companies track their online behavior.”

However, even more in the poll indicate that they have provided false or fake information to websites, that they set up “junk mail” or email accounts specifically for Internet use of this sort and that many use online software to conceal their identity.  Others say that they are willing to pay for their privacy.   Continue reading Paying for Privacy?