Could your savings be from stalking?

Just the other day I received a number of coupons in the mail from Kroger’s.  This isn’t an unusual circumstance as several of the stores I frequent usually send me some coupons in the mail, email or even a text message.   It never fails to surprise me how well the coupons are targeted towards my purchasing habits.  Some of them are right on target, while others are just tempting enough to make me want to add them to the cart, after all I have a coupon.  But have you ever wondered at what cost you are paying for your savings?

I know that my coupons are geared towards my buying habits. After all, why else would their be a Kroger card, CVS or any of the other so called savings cards available at many grocery and department stores.   I’m not naive, I know that those cards are used to track my habits and yes, it bothers me some but a recent report from makes me wonder even more; “Can my savings come from stalking?”

Here are some ways that retailers are “stalking”  (data mining) information about you:

Wal-Mart began placing RFID chips on all of its clothes.  You have probably heard about RFID chips used on your credit card.  It’s the same thing.

“There are two things you really don’t want to tag, clothing and identity documents, and ironically that’s where we are seeing adoption,” said Katherine Albrecht, founder of a group called Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering. “The inventory guys may be in the dark about this, but there are a lot of corporate marketers who are interested in tracking people as they walk sales floors.”

One very frightening story comes from a father who thanks to Target, found out his teenage daughter was pregnant.

“A Target store in Minnesota was called out by a father who demanded to know why the retailer was sending his teenage daughter coupons for maternity clothing and furniture. He was convinced the store was encouraging high school girls to get pregnant in order to raise profits. As it turned out, Target knew something that the girl’s father didn’t. Thanks to advanced data mining techniques, the store’s marketing computer was able to study the girl’s purchases and determine that there was an 87% percent chance that she was in her second trimester of pregnancy.” Continue reading Could your savings be from stalking?

Counterfeit check fraud schemes target U.S. law firms

Press release from the FBI 

03/12/12—The IC3 continues to receive reports of counterfeit check schemes targeting U.S. law firms. The scammers contact lawyers via e-mail, claiming to be overseas and requesting legal representation in collecting a debt from third parties located in the U.S. The law firms receive a retainer agreement and a check payable to the law firm. The firms are instructed to deposit the check, take out retainer fees, and wire the remaining funds to banks in China, Korea, Ireland, or Canada. After the funds are wired overseas, the checks are determined to be counterfeit.

In a slight variation of the scheme’s execution, the victim law firm receives an e-mail from what appears to be an attorney located in another state requesting assistance for a client. The client needs aid in collecting a debt from a company located in the victim law firm’s state. In some cases, the name of the referring attorney and the debtor company used in the e-mail were verified as legitimate entities and were being used as part of the scheme. The law firm receives a signed retainer agreement and a check made payable to the law firm from the alleged debtor. The client instructs the law firm to deposit the check and to wire the funds, minus all fees, to an overseas bank account. The law firm discovers after the funds are wired that the check is counterfeit.

Law firms should use caution when engaging in transactions with parties who are handling their business solely via e-mail, particularly those parties claiming to reside overseas. Attorneys who agree to represent a client in circumstances similar to those described above should consider incorporating a provision into their retainer agreement that allows the attorney to hold funds received from a debtor for a sufficient period of time to verify the validity of the check.

True crime examples include:

This Charleston law firm reported being “scammed” out of $390,000 with this type of scheme.  Other law firms in the area report similar methods of being approached. These cases were tracked to Japan, Canada and Nigeria.

The Attorney General of Michigan offers this information on counterfeit check fraud schemes, which targeted not only law firms but individuals, mystery shoppers, and hotels.

The California Bar Journal provides this article  and warns that not only could the law firm be “on the hook” for the outstanding funds with the bank due to a counterfeit check scheme, but that they could possibly come under investigation by the California State Bar Association and how scams like this damage a law firm or attorney’s reputation.

One variation on the counterfeit check cashing scheme involves Continue reading Counterfeit check fraud schemes target U.S. law firms

Debt collections from the dead

Last fall we reported on “Debt Collectors Gone Wild” where debt collection calls included threats of intimidation and even violence in some cases.  It seems that some debt collectors will continue to resort to any tactic, even those that are illegal, in order to collect on a debt, even if the debtor is dead.   Verbal abuse, phony lawsuits, and constant intimidation are just some of the techniques the banking industry uses to illegally pursue widows and grieving family members for the debts of deceased loved ones – debts that they don’t even owe. According to CreditCardAssist, a leading proconsumer financial advocacy group,  these instances are actually widespread practices.  Apparently national exposure in trusted magazines and business journals like the Washington Post as well as fines by the FTC aren’t stopping them, maybe changes in the laws as demanded by consumers can.

When Karyn Howard’s father passed away in 2008, she was convinced that it would be one of the hardest things she’d ever have to deal with. Little did she know that a call from Bank of America a few days later was about to make the ordeal much, much worse.

“It was the absolute worst phone call of my life,” she says. “The bank knew that there was a death and that he had no estate. The debt collector started screaming at me, saying she would call me every day until I paid the debt. And then over and over again, each time I told her to stop calling me, she kept screaming in a ‘Friday the 13th’ kind of voice: ‘Every day, every day, every day!’ I burst into tears and sobbed in front of a client.” Continue reading Debt collections from the dead

Do you have an interest in Pinterest?

Social networks come and go, and there always be those that love them or hate them, and even a few that act like they don’t exist.  While some thought that Google+ would be the social wave of the future, many others are convinced that you should have an interest in Pinterest.

What is Pinterest? 

A social network where you “pin”  images of your favorite Internet content to your boards.  Those that follow you (sort of like Twitter followers) can see your boards and find out what you like from recipes to DIY projects and a whole lot more.   You create your own online bulletin board on your main page with topics you can choose from like places or books, or you can create out own topic.   You can look at the boards of others, whether they are friends or not.

How does the information get posted to Pinterest? 

Many Internet sites and blogs have started adding a share button that says “Pin it” to the site.  If the site doesn’t have one you can use the pin it tool from Pinterest and pin a site, article or blog post anyway.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?  Especially for those that are visual “learners” and others who really do think that a picture is worth a thousand words.   In some cases, like a craft or DIY project, sometimes a picture really is worth more than any words used to describe it.

Pinterest concerns

As with all social networking sites there are going to be concerns.  One concern is that the sign up process is well, a little “sketchy” is the word used in this Business Insider article.  After signing up I have to agree.  First, you are strongly encouraged to sign up using your Facebook or Twitter account.  I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Thinking that maybe that’s better than answering a bunch of questions, many people do go ahead and use their Facebook or Twitter account to create their account on Pinterest.  That’s where things start to get a little disconcerting.  Pinterest automatically imports all your Facebook or Twitter friends/followers into your Pinterest contacts, so whether you wanted to follow them or not (or they wanted to follow you) there they are.

Next, an email message goes out automatically to each of those people asking them to join Pinterest and that you would like to follow them.  I’m all for advertising, but to me it is sort of like handing them my address book and saying, “Yeah here go and and spam them with email until the join.”   Personally I wasn’t thrilled when I found this out.

Another concern is “fair use” and copyright infringement.   One attorney was so concerned after she realized that 1) the terms of service mean that she and she alone is responsible for anyone that charges her with copyright infringement due to “pinning” an image from their site and that 2) users actually “protect” Pinterest from any claims against them for copyright infringement.

I don’t know about you, but after a clear reading of the TOS, I was ready to 1) shut my account down or 2) only pin my own things and then if they are “repinned” at lest then we know that they are legally produced on Pinterest.   But let’s face it, I don’t want all my pictures available for use on Pinterest for anyone to use. Some of them are for personal use and shared with a select few but no matter what you do, you can leave yourself open to your images getting taken and used on the Internet.

Some feel that Pinterest does violate copyright laws because it takes an image from a website and uses it without permission, Pinterest people think you should be “grateful” for the promotion from one of the fastest growing sites on the web.  According to another article “Pinterest credits and links to the original source of its photos, but that doesn’t make it legal to host the content. Thumbnails are ok to post under the fair use doctrine, but Pinterest often lifts the entire, full-size image.”

This lawyer and sometime amateur photographer decided to shut her account down after doing her research.  Flickr has decided to protect users images by adding a “do not pin code” which stops people from being allowed to pin images to Pinterest.

Flickr shared the following with CNET, “Flickr takes privacy and content ownership very seriously and is committed to continue to build features that protect members’ photos and videos. Flickr has implemented the tag and it appears on all non-public/non-safe pages, as well as when a member has disabled sharing of their Flickr content. This means only content that is “safe,” “public,” and has the sharing button (e.g., also for Facebook, Twitter) enabled can be pinned to Pinterest.”

So, what do you think?  Have you used Pinterest?  Do you have any interest in Pinterest?  Are these security concerns valid or is it just the costs of sharing information?





FBI releases “The State of Financial Crimes” report

The FBI has recently released its “State of Financial Crimes” report in which the FBI focuses on advising the public about the status of financial crimes investigations on corporate fraud, securities and commodities fraud, health care fraud, financial institution fraud, mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, mass marketing fraud, and money laundering.

You can download the report in full or view it online here.

Key sections of the report include the following: Continue reading FBI releases “The State of Financial Crimes” report

Don’t play games with your online and mobile banking

Last month the FBI warned consumers about a new online backing hoax as warning consumers about, called “Gameover.”  Gameover is a malware (software designed to hurt your computer and to steal information) that comes to you via an email message, supposedly from National Automated Clearing House Association, the Federal Reserve or the FDIC.

How does Gameover work?

The message attempts to trick you into logging into “your account” or a reasonably, believable fake site, and basically handing over your information as you log in.  Gameover takes over your computer and is able to obtain usernames, addresses, passwords and then of course, your money.  But that’s not the best part of this “game.”   The “bad guys” then attempt to make sure you can’t head over to bank account in a new window or tab and use their link instead by creating a Denial of Service attack.  a DDOS attack shuts down a business or person’s website using a botnet at the server so the link “in” maybe the only way you see to handle your personal finance emergency.

No mystery to these mystery shoppers

The newest investigations have uncovered that once the money is stolen Continue reading Don’t play games with your online and mobile banking