According to the latest FBI reports, cyber criminals have been using photo-sharing programs more often to reach into our pockets without permission. Of course the process is not quite so straightforward, but the end result is always the same. One of the most common methods involves utilizing vehicle advertisements to lure in trusting potential buyers. It is a new twist on an old plot to be sure, but it seemingly is still effective with a number of people.
It might seem hard to believe, but even areas that are suffering are not immune to fraudsters and scam artists. In fact, these areas seem to draw them in like crazy. In Oklahoma, where the tornadoes and disasters touched down with regularity over the past few months, the scam artists are already trying to take advantage of insurance and government programs. The tornado outbreak started around May 19 and the anti-fraud units in Oklahoma have been on high alert. In fact, officials from North Carolina have come in to aid in the fight as well.
The fraud is multifaceted and includes fraud of the victims, fraud of the system and insurance fraud to name a few. Tornado victims are being counseled to teach them what to look out for, but it seems inevitable that there will be victims that were victims to start with. How someone can victimize people that have been through so much is hard to understand.
When it comes to pumping your gas and getting down the road, most of us are usually in a hurry. We want to get in and get out, quick to swipe our card and pump the gas. Lately, identity theft scams are getting kind of impressive. Now, criminals are installing credit card skimmers on gas pumps and ATM machines across the country. These skimmers read the magnetic strip and provide the criminal with all the information they need to go on a spending spree.
So, how do you avoid this latest scam to take your money?
There are no fool-proof ways to avoid the scams completely but there are some ways to minimize your risks. One important first step is to look at the gas pumps and ATMs closely before sharing your card. Most of the places where a skimmer have been installed to steal your information will look changed in some way. This might be an out of place sticker, an extra layer of plastic or even a fake slide. If something looks awry, move on to another gas station and contact the police.
Another way to spot these credit card skimmers is to move the slide with your hands. If they are added after the fact, they will likely fall off or move. When they are made by the manufacturer, they are going to be solid and not move in the least. Criminals will often put in a cover or piece that will move and wiggle when you try to move it.
In a world where keeping your information safe has become the number one priority, it is amazing that the United States has not moved wholesale to chip-and-PIN technology where credit cards are concerned. This chip system eliminates the old fashioned magnetic strip technology and is considered much more secure. Here are some things to consider about this wonderful way of doing business safely:
The primary thing to know about chip-and-PIN technology is that it uses a chip rather than a strip. The difference is that the chip is impossible to get to with readers. You have to stick the card into the reader to actually glean the information. Today’s magnetic strips are being read through our pockets, at gas stations and even at ATMs throughout the United States. This means that our technology is far outdated. Banks now are realizing this stateside and changing over slowly to chip technology. You should ask for one now if you haven’t already.
It is hard to imagine, but our seniors are being unwittingly used in a Medicare scam that is costing taxpayers billions. In fact, the numbers are staggering. Medicare fraud has numbered 27 billion over the last four years. The latest method, however, stoops to lows that most people never think about. Home medical supplies, scooters, wheel chairs, diabetic supplies and countless other materials are being billed under senior citizen’s names but they are never ordered or asked for.
These medical supply houses will hound a Medicare recipient sometimes up to three times a day to try to get their information or help. There are a ton of warning signals that jump out where these fraudulent companies are operating. Keep an eye out for:
Companies offering low or no deductible even though you know you generally owe one.
Companies offering a free scooter or wheelchair
Equipment being billed for you that you never receive
Companies that will not leave you alone even after you have asked them to do so
Something sounding too good to be true.
These are some good general guidelines but the key is to go with your gut. If you think something feels fishy, then check it out with your doctor or call the Medicare office at 1-800-MEDICARE and find out.
Many of these companies are being investigated and will soon be answering for some of these crimes. The fact is that there are some good companies that offer good services to our seniors. The key is that they need to be transparent. If a product is billed to Medicare and to the American people, then they need to make absolutely certain that it is legitimate. The government and the taxpayers deserve to know that is being followed.
If we continue to let these types of thing go, we will not even have Medicare when our kids are older. That is a risk we are already undertaking, but allowing things such as this to slide without stiff punishments are what forced us into this position in the first place.
Medicare fraud is a very serious issue and it needs to be addressed not only by Congress, but by the American people through information and our votes. If our representatives are not going to take this seriously, then perhaps we should change who we are voting for.
Recently a huge story broke about a young girl named Katie that had her picture stolen to get Facebook “likes” and make money. What made this story even more notable was the fact that young Katie suffers from Down syndrome. These horrible crooks stole the picture, changed the girl’s name to Mallory and then used a sob story to gain nearly 3.5 million likes from unsuspecting folks looking to make the girl feel good.
Needless to say Katie’s family was infuriated as this latest cyber stealing crime has stooped to new lows. What is particularly scary is that it is remarkably easy for crooks to do this. All it really takes is a picture online to create a similar scam and dupe people based on their heart strings. The crooks put up a story about how “Mallory” was thinking she was not beautiful and that the likes would help her to feel otherwise.
What makes this particularly ridiculous is that Katie is indeed, beautiful. I feel rather certain that she knows this and that she needs no “likes” to discover this about herself.
When you think of fraud, you generally think about some scum hiding behind a keyboard somewhere in a dark basement. The last thing that would come to mind would be your insurance company. State Farm Insurance has been charged with fraud in a case out of Mississippi. In the wake of horrible Hurricane Katrina, State Farm is accused of burying, modifying and hiding damage reports to keep from having to pay.
The whole idea of insurance in a hurricane becomes difficult to sort through. The general idea is that an insurance company is often on the hook for wind damage whereas the water damage is paid out federally. In this case, the National Flood Insurance Program was to be reimbursed a quarter of a million dollars due to the accused fraud.
How tough must that be? How in the world do you separate wind and water damage in a storm the size of Katrina? Some houses were blown away while others were ripped from their foundations by rising tide waters. The insurance companies had plenty of motives to aim the destruction towards the waters. They knew they were facing huge debts regardless so a culture of deception is not really all that surprising. In a world where looters take advantage of people whose homes are devastated, nothing really surprises us anymore.
When it comes to protecting your credit cards, companies are going to great extremes in recent times. Gone are the days where you simply got a phone call when you spent a great deal of money and when your bill is past due. Now, credit card companies are paying close attention to your account in real time. This is called credit card pattern recognition and it has been around for longer than you might think.
If you use credit cards often, you probably have gotten those odd phone calls or emails about your recent spending habits. Perhaps your credit card company noticed an odd spending pattern, or your first purchase on vacation in Tahiti. Any type of purchase that is unusual in the eyes of the credit card company can come under suspicion.
This is being used more and more as the criminals become more advanced. While the added security is a wonderful thing when it works, it can be a bit of a pain in the tail at other times. Imagine you are on vacation and you go out to supper for the first time. Imagine that you whip out your credit card and it gets declined for no good reason. This usually leads to an awkward conversation with the waiter and a long phone with the credit card company call to straighten out the fact that you are on vacation. That is not always so fun.
Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts made big news recently by admitting he recently had his credit card information stolen. There was already a renewed interest in identity theft due to huge increases in victimization. Justice Roberts simply showed that it can happen to anyone. Although the details were unclear about Justice Robert’s case, a large number of these credit card problems are traced back to online shopping.
Knowing how to recognize and identify the warning signs is important. Here are some important tips to help determine when a website is safe or not:
Understand that being well-known is good but not fool proof
Certainly it is a good sign when you are dealing with a large market retailer, but you can’t automatically assume it is safe. If you were a criminal, which names would you pick for your fake website? Criminals like using the big name sites and then building fake sites to get your information. Don’t assume it is safe just because it is a big name.
Make sure your phone call will go somewhere
Shoot for sites that have physical addresses and contact information that leads you to humans. Phone numbers that are disconnected and addresses that lead to nowhere are bad news. Take the time to actually go and check out the information.
With tax season here, it’s easy to feel a little nervous and stressed. While nobody likes to pay taxes, even more, nobody likes to be scammed. With the April 15 filing deadline for taxes almost here, last minute filers are at risk for being scammed.
The Center for Internet Security (CIS) offers tips to keep yourself from being caught in one of the many tax scams out there. With identity theft and phishing scams still ranking among the top security concerns, email scams are still at the top for ways scammers can take advantage of you.
Pay attention to emails that offer subject lines about taxes, filing taxes, tax laws, financial loss, damage to reputation. One popular phishing scam includes a subject line about changes in tax laws and invites the recipient to download a document to explain the changes. Once downloaded, the malware in these documents can damage your computer and steal your personal information.
The IRS releases a list of “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams” each year and includes tips about how to protect yourself from online and phone scams. One popular scam is criminals who call unsuspecting citizens, impersonating charities and asking for donations.