Is the United States getting “smart” about credit cards?

So what happens when the United States lags behind in credit card technology?  Does it really matter if the rest of the industrialized world is now using credit cards with chips instead of magnetic strips?  Well, it does matter if you’re an overseas traveler.
As other countries have already adopted credit cards with chips and are done with or at least transitioning out credit cards with magnets, not all places abroad even have a “swipe” machine for magnetic strip credit cards, including places like train kiosk.  In other places, businesses use both but U.S. travelers have been learning that cashiers are often very unfamiliar with how to use the seemingly obsolete machines.
The smart cards, called EVM cards, have an encrypted chip to tighten security.  This EVM was a joint project of Visa, MasterCard and Europay.
Wells Fargo gave out 15,000 credit cards with chips earlier this year and reports that the response for international travelers was a huge success.  Wells Fargo says they plan to offer more chip embedded credit cards for travelers.  U.S. Bank also gave 20,000 select travel rewards customers smart cards this year as well.

Inheritance Fraud: Did you inherit from John Paul Getty Jr.?

Well who wouldn’t love to inherit millions?  The scammers that sent this fraudulent inheritance email to one of our savvy readers were hoping she’d throw caution to the wind but she knew this wind was just a bunch of hot air.  This John Paul Getty Jr.  inheritance scam isn’t new but as of this morning, it is still arriving in e-mail boxes.

“On behalf of the Trustees and Executors of the WILL of late British Philanthropist, Sir John Paul Getty Jr., I once again try to notify you as our first email to you was returned as a failure delivery (undelivered), hence I hereby attempt to reach you again.

I wish to notify you that the late Sir J. Paul Getty Jr. made you one of the beneficiaries to his (WILL). He bequeathed the sum of Nine Million Seven Hundred and Eight Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety Two Great British Pounds Sterling Only (GBЈ9,708,692.7) to you in the codicil and last testament to his (WILL) which is eleven (11%) of his total funds of GBЈ88,260,443.00 (Eighty-Eight Million Two Hundred and Sixty Thousand Four Hundred and Forty Three Great British Pounds Sterling) deposited with one of UK’s biggest financial institutions.

This may sound very strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Being a widely popular traveled man, he must have been in contact with you in the past or simply you were nominated to him by one of his numerous friends here or abroad who wished you well. Sir J. Paul Getty Jr., a reclusive American-born philanthropist was the third son of the first American oil billionaire, billionaire American oilman Jean, Paul Getty.

According to him this money is to support religious and humanitarian activities and to help the poor and the needy in our society. Please if I reach you as I am hopeful to, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable me conclude my job. Please forward your response to for immediate attention.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours in services,

Barrister George Winston”

This is “very strange and unbelievable” indeed.  Unfortunately, our reader is not the only one of who received this e-mail scam, which is called an inheritance scam.  Thousands of other people have received it too over the past two years and it is usually the same fraudulent offer letter but interestingly the name of “barrister” keeps changing.  Sometimes the letter is from Giggs Moore LLP and at other times it is from Charles Russell LLP .

The truth behind the fiction

John Paul Getty, Jr. was a real person, born in America, who lived in London since the 1970’s and died there in 2003. He was a wealthy man and a philanthropist who set up a trust in 1986 that has awarded over 58 million (pounds) to over 3,000 charities in the U.K.  The JP Getty Jr. Charitable Trust has this warning on their website:

“Important: Occasionally fraudulent emails are circulated to organisations and individuals, claiming to be from the J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, and advising that a sum of money is available to the email recipient. We do not send unsolicited emails of this nature and will never ask for bank account details from any organisation or individual. We strongly advise that you do not reply to any such email.”

We concur.  How do inheritance scams work?

Whether the deceased is a wealthy philanthropist, a prince of Nigeria or one of your never heard of before wealthy relatives, the idea is always the same.  Victims won’t get any money but they’ll spend plenty trying.  If you make contact, the thieves will string you along with e-mails and phone calls and have a great story for why and how you should send them some money so they can help you get your millions.  Our advice?  Save your own inheritance and hit delete.


Automated calls may be automatically stealing your credit card information

A friend recently emailed me about a telemarketing problem that she had encountered.  She has been receiving numerous calls from “Card Services,”  with an automated message from “Rachel”  though sometimes it could be Paul, John or Ashley.  This automated message asks if you are tired of your high credit card interest rates.  Well of course we are! But that is beside the point.  We may be interested in lowering our interest rate, but we are definitely not interested in giving away our credit card information, and that is the whole point of this telephone call.  During the course of the message, it says press (1) to a representative and (3) to stop receiving these calls.  However, you best best is to simply hang up the phone or you may be drawn deeper into the latest round of credit card theft.

In this case, my friend called her telephone company to report the telephone calls.  The phone company called it a scam and advised her to never give out her credit card information over the telephone.  Your legitimate card service provide will already know your information and your number, and will send lower interest rate offers in the mail, not through automated (robo) calls.

The telephone company said the Federal Trade Commission was aware of this scam, but that it was important to report it.  The FTC also recommends that you file a complete with you State Consumer Protective Agency.

But she’s not the only one to receive unwanted phone calls trying to “harvest” her credit card information.  In Maine, Attorney General William J. Schneider recently warned residents of this very same type of theft.  He saysContinue reading Automated calls may be automatically stealing your credit card information

Your sales or repair person may be selling you a scheme: 5 true almost crime stories

Have you ever noticed that once you start talking to someone about the last time someone tried to “pull the wool over your eyes” that they too have a story to share about an attempt to steal their credit card, break into their home or hack into their computer?

There’s no place like home to get hit up by a scam artist and these true crime stories were stopped in their tracks by quick thinking.

  • Ann received a telephone call from (insert alleged security company name here) asking her what sort of security system she has.  Ann replied I promptly told her  “Do you really think I’m stupid enough to answer such a question from a person that randomly calls me?”  She replied that “It is actually surprising at how many did answer that question.”  Ann said, “Well since you already have my address and telephone number why don’t you go ahead and mail me some information and I’ll look it over.”  She never received any.
  • Beth received a telephone call that said that they were with a computer repair service company and had been contracted to help people locate and clear viruses off of their computers.  Could he schedule a time to come in and help her?  She said, “I know how to run a scan myself, but you don’t seem to know how to run a scam.  I’ll call my own tech support office should I need help. I have the 1-800 number right here. “
  • “Hello, oh hello Sam.  I was just calling from (insert company name here) and we were conducting a $100 Walmart Gift Card giveaway and you are the winner!  I don’t remember entering any contest at Walmart.  Oh, you didn’t your name was chosen randomly when you use your credit card.  Now all I need you to do is give me your credit card number to pay for shipping and your $100 Walmart Gift card is on it’s way to you! Couldn’t you use $100?”  (Hey this one is pretty good aren’t they?)

Sam’s reply, “Oh there is no way I’m giving you my credit card number to charge $1.95.  If your company can’t afford the shipping on a prize then they shouldn’t even be awarding them.”  Not to mention the fact that Sam doesn’t even use his credit card – so there is no way it was a contest as Walmart – he uses cash only.

  • “Hello, I’m calling you from Comcast.  I was wondering if you would like to add the full HBO package to your system for only $2.01 a month?”  Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?  It’s only $2 you would spend more than that on renting or going to the movies.  Until, “If you just give me your credit card number I’ll get you set up.”  Oh yeah, you’ll be set up alright.  Cable companies don’t use your credit card to make service charges too.
  • A man pulls up outside Karen’s home and parks.  He gets out and starts walking and looking around the house.  She confronts him, “I’m sorry what are you doing?”  His response, “I’m the dryer repair man, I’m looking for your vent.  Can I come in and take a look at the problem?”  ‘There is no problem and I didn’t call for a repair.”  “What isn’t this 109 xxxx?”  he asks.  “Nope it’s not and there is no 109 house number on this street.”
Now, maybe just maybe he was a repairman, but it was  car, not a truck or a van and it was not labeled.  He wasn’t wearing a uniform, carrying any tools and didn’t even have some sort of logo on his shirt.  Be sure to check the facts.
One word of warning, you may not want to approach them directly, as you never know who you may encounter.  It’s best to note make and model of car and to call the police about a suspicious person on your property. In this case, Karen found out that the police got more than one phone call from people in her neighborhood, which confirms her suspicions that they were there to “case” the place.
Most of these attempts to steal from you, whether it’s your credit card information or stuff inside your house all start with one simple and almost easily offer of help or prizes.  Because the amounts mentioned are so low, many people would feel that they are legitimate since they tend to think of thinks like the Nigerian lotto scam with millions of dollars involved.  But don’t let the amounts fool you, because giving our information in these types of instances can add up to costing you more than you can afford.


Slow down! That’s not a real traffic ticket it’s a scam

With the use of cameras at lights it is not unheard of to get a traffic ticket in the mail.  I admit, I recently received one, including a really bad photo) as I went through a light, lost and looking for signs.  My first in over 15 years, but that’s beside the point. However, there’s a new scam in town coming to your straight from your email.  This email message claims to be a traffic ticket from New York and it directs you to “click” the link to open your ticket, see your charges and find out how to pay the fine.   At first glance it looks “legit.”  It even has a return address

There are a great many people who would fear that somehow they got notice of a traffic ticket, whether they have driven in New York or not.  Maybe they sent it to you because of a data entry mistake on the driver’s license input.  What if they suspend your license? But before you panic stop and think about these things.

Have you driven in New York?

How on earth did they track your email address by your driver’s license?


Could this possibly be a scam?

The answer to the third question is yes, it is a scam.  But not the type you might think.  Instead of a “spam” scam which most likely would be trying to harvest your credit card number for credit card fraud it’s actually a Trojan, a hidden virus that will gather information from your computer and drop more malicious content. This virus is  identified as “Troj/Invo-Zip and it is described as one ” that could allow attackers access to your Windows system and give them the ability to drop more malicious files on it.

Internet security firm Sophos received many messages today on their Facebook page about the email scam/virus from all over the world.  I think it’s safe to say anyone that received it in Thailand is just going to ignore it.

How can you be safe from viruses and email scams?  Remember just because a link is there doesn’t mean you have to “click” it especially when it is a fake ticket.   Keep your antivirus programs updated and but the brakes on email scams by simply not opening them.


Nothing Anonymous about this take down of child porn sites

This summer the hacker group Anonymous lost a great deal of whatever support their organization had as they allegedly took down the online payment and invoicing service PayPal  hitting the average user hard as they tried to transfer funds or access money on deposit.

(Read PayPal Cyber Attack Arrests)

But the latest news about them is that they used recently used their talents to fight the forces of evil online.

Anonymous is taking credit for taking down more than 40 child pornography websites.   Their campaign “Operation Darknet” began mid October when they decided to enter the dark forces of the web world called “darknet” and bring the actions there to light.

Darnet is a part of the Internet that is hidden, deliberately concealed, offering services like fake ID’s, steroids, prank calling and ironically hacking tips.

Finding a site titled “Hard Candy”  while browsing the Hidden Wiki we noticed a section called Hard Candy which was dedicated to links to child pornography. We then removed all links on the website, within 5 minutes the links were edited back in by an admin. For this reason, we will continue to make the Hidden Wiki unavailable. (taken from their timeline of events) They then decided to dig deeper into the dark underworld of the Internet and found “Freedom Hosting.”

Freedom Hosting “free” no more 

The hackers affiliated with Anonymous warned the Freedom Hosting to take down the child pornography and issued a deadline.  When they failed to do so, the hackers did it for them.  Several hours later, the site was back up again only to be taken down again.

Anonymous issued the following demand statement of which this is an excerpt

“The owners and operators at Freedom Hosting are openly supporting child pornography and enabling pedophiles to view innocent children, fueling their issues and putting children at risk of abduction, molestation, rape and death,” the message said. “For this, Freedom Hosting has been declared #OpDarknet Enemy Number One. By taking down Freedom Hosting, we are eliminating 40+ child pornography websites, among these is Lolita City, one of the largest child pornography websites to date containing more than 100 GB of child pornography. We will continue to not only crash Freedom Hosting’s server, but any other server we find to contain, promote, or support child pornography.”

See the full timeline of events and their demands in this Pastebin post. 

Apparently Anonymous doesn’t take child pornography lightly, because not only did the take the sites down but they also released the names of  of some 1500 registered users in a Pastebin post, on these sites. This isn’t the first time that this organization has hackattacked a website contrary to their agenda.  Among those they have accessed are the New York Stock Exchange, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Recording Industry Association of America and government sites in Malaysia, Egypt, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.

Let’s just hope they continue to don their “white hats” as they hactevate across the web.  I don’t think anyone would like to encounter another holiday season where they had to worry about what they may do next to popular online service and shopping sites.

(Read  WikiLeaks may be spilling into your online holiday shopping and bill paying plans)

Their parting “shot”

We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us.
What do you think?  Are they the "good guys" or the "bad guys"  or the new online anti-hero?

Eastern Michigan University Student Charged with Identity Theft

Identity theft on the college campus is back in the news and the two former students, also employees, from Eastern Michigan University have been accused of stealing 64 personal records.  Police say one of the accused, Keonte Manning has turned himself in and been charged.

Back in March of 2011, EMU officials issued a statement to students saying, “Only students, not faculty or staff, are affected. EMU has already sent individual notifications to the students who we believe may be directly affected by this incident.”

What are the charges against the former Eastern Michigan University student-employee? Continue reading Eastern Michigan University Student Charged with Identity Theft