Tag Archives: scams

Sony Offers Directors and Writers Guilds Identity Theft Protection

Sony Pictures Entertainment is attempting to recover from a mass hacking that took place earlier this month. The hackers, reportedly from North Korea, sent threatening messages to the studio and to movie fans who were hoping to see the film “The Interview” on Christmas Day. The hackers leaked sensitive personal data, embarrassing emails, and subjected numerous employees to identity theft through the release of Social Security numbers along with a list of high-ranking officials within Sony.

In an attempt to try and make matters right within Sony, the company has offered identity theft protection to directors and writers who work for the studio. Identity theft protection will be offered through AllClear ID. The service was offered to Sony’s 3,803 employees when the massive leaks began. Sony is now offering it to the Directors Guild of America and the Writers Guild of America West.

“The DGA supports Sony in its efforts to combat any ill effects of the attack on DGA members,” the DGA told Variety. “We do not know whether or whose personal information may have been compromised, but Sony is offering one year of identity protection at no charge to any present or former employee who requests it.”

Sony is offering the identity theft protection service for one year, at no charge, to present or former employees who request it and who fit certain criteria.

The three largest movie chains in the nation canceled the Christmas screening of “The Interview” and there are currently no plans for when the film will be released. There is no reports about whether it will get to the big screen or if it will go direct to video.

 

Hackers Win Round Against Sony: The Interview Pulled from Theaters

Hackers have won a round against Sony Pictures Entertainment this week after a devastating cyber attact. Sony pulled “The Interview” from theaters nation wide after the hackers spread fear throughout the entertainment industry. “The Interview” was to be released in theaters on Christmas Day. Sony said they would no longer hold screenings of the film in any of their theaters.

U.S. intelligence has linked the cyber attack on Sony to the North Korean government. The film portrays the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It is believed that the hackers from North Korea were given the order to hack Sony’s computer system targetting sensitive data including emails, financial records and salaries of Sony’s top stars.

It is unclear whether “The Interview” will be released soon. The hackers made threats against Sony by promising movie goers with a “bitter fate” should they head to theaters to screen the film. The hackers threated a 9/11-like attack on all movie theaters that screen the Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy.

The warning reads:

“We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

  • Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.
  • The world will be full of fear.
  • Remember the 11th of September 2001.
  • We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.
  • (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)
  • Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
  • All the world will denounce the SONY.”

In addition to the terroristic threat, the hackers released the content of files called “Michael Lynton” (CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment) which included embarrassing emails and sensitive personal data. The tactics used by the hackers worked to caused the nations three largest movie chains to cancel showings of “The Interview” with an unknown release date.

Sony has no current plans to release the film either to theaters or direct to video.

Bitcoins Vanish and Mt. Gox Goes Dark

Bitcoin is a buzz word in the news lately.  Almost half a billion US dollars worth of bitcoins vanished into thin air last week when the bitcoin exchange Mt.Gox went dark.  It helps to understand what bitcoins are to understand why customers are upset about the disappearance of virtual funds.

What are bitcoins?

Bitcoins are virtual currency that approximate cash on the internet. The coins are purely digital and not linked to any government entity. The coins are not backed by any bank or government.  The virtual coins are mathematical algorithms that are exchanged directly between two parties online with no middle man. That means no bank, no government, and no other authority over the printing, distributing or mining of the coins.

What is a bitcoin worth?

According to a Simple Bitcoin Converter, 1 bitcoin is worth $657.60 USD at the time of this post. The exchange rate does fluctuate.

What is the idea behind bitcoins?

The idea behind bitcoins was to create a currency that is completely segregated from a country’s government. For example the United States has no control over the creating, distributing or backing of bitcoins as it does with American currency. Bitcoin was aiming to become a universal currency that changed the current economic system.

What happened?

A rumor appeared that several hundred thousand bitcoins disappeared from one of the dominant exchanges for bitcoin trading.  Slowly the rumor unraveled to become fact. Mt. Gox CEO Mark Karpeles bowed in apology at a news conference in Toyko after revealing that it had lost almost 750,000 of its customers’ bitcoins. On top of the large amount lost, which equates to almost half a billion dollars in US currency, Mt. Gox also lost 100,000 of its own bitcoins.

Karpeles said that technical issues and “some weakness in the system” opened the way for the fraudulent withdrawals.  He did not delve into detail about what the “weakness” or address what the technical issues were.

What is being done for victims of the fraud?

Customers who lost bitcoins have assumed a risk by using a currency not backed by any central bank.  There are no regulations in place. Mt. Gox has shut its operation down and is filing for bankruptcy protection. Some victims are attempting to bring about a class action suit against the once popular exchange.

According to Wall Street Journal, Gregory Green filed a claim with an Illinois District Court seeking damages and restitution.  The claim alleges that Mt. Gox engaged in “unlawful, deceptive, and unfair conduct that is immoral, unscrupulous, and causes substantial injury to consumers.”

Recourse might be very difficult for the victims of the vanishing bitcoins because the exchange was never regulated and never backed by any government or bank. In the meantime, bitcoin enthusiasts believe that the missing coins can be found and are hunting them down themselves.

 

Legitimate debt collector or fraudulent data colletor?

Data collection scams and debt collection scams have risen dramatically in the last few years.  Mal-ware at point of sale terminals has been used to steal customer data. Emails that phish for information have been used to steal consumer information and fake debt collectors who threaten victims with lawsuits and arrests have used information gained to exploit consumers.

“Unscrupulous scams hurt consumers and unnecessarily impedes legitimate debt collection efforts,” said ACA International CEO Pat Morris. “The recovery of consumer debt is vitally important to our local, state, and national economies. Those who purposely violate the law to exploit consumers should be held fully accountable for their actions.”

Consumers need to protect personal data and they need to know the difference between a legitimate debt collector and a fake scam being conducted to steal personal information.

ACA International recommends several important items in discerning a legitimate attempt to recover a debt. The first item is that a debt collector may not contact a consumer at times known to be inconvenient. Generally, a legitimate debt collector may not contact a consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the consumers’ time zone.

Another item is that a debt collector must disclose its identity to the consumer and notify the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector, and (in the initial communication) that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt. Debt collectors are not allowed to make false representations and may not threaten to take action against a consumer if it doesn’t actually intend to seek such action. Consumers also need to be aware that they can dispute the validity of the debt and during the time the debt is being dispute the debt collector must cease collection activity until verification of the debt has been provided. More guidelines can be found at ACA International.

Consumers can protect their personal data by checking credit and debit cards vigilantly and reporting any charges that appear questionable, even small amounts. Consumers can also monitor their credit profiles along with their card activity and consumers need to keep in mind that phishing scams for information don’t just happen via email and the phone. Phishing scams can come through snail mail also.  Shred paper with personal information before throwing it away, make online passwords stronger by using a mix of capital and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers, and take great care when giving out credit or debit card numbers, Social Security numbers or other personal information online and offline.

U.S. Senate Launches Anti-Fraud Hotline

Victims of fraud are increasing on a daily basis. Everyone is a target, but some people are more at risk than others. Elderly people, lonely people, and immigrants are often targets of fraudulent activity. Scams to get credit card and other financial information include email scams for moving large amounts of money, phone calls asking for financial information because a loved one is in trouble, and online matchmaking gone horribly wrong.

People have lost their livelihoods by falling victim to these scams and schemes. The United States Senate wants to put a stop to them and wants to help victims of fraud, especially elderly victims.  A new anti-fraud hotline has been unveiled to make it easier for senior citizens to report suspected fraud and to receive assistance.

“If you Continue reading U.S. Senate Launches Anti-Fraud Hotline

Photo-Sharing Programs are Latest Portals for Scam Artists

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.

To get the information they need, they use Continue reading Photo-Sharing Programs are Latest Portals for Scam Artists

Oklahoma Disaster Officials Are Now Fighting Off Fraud

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.

The other part of policing the situation includes Continue reading Oklahoma Disaster Officials Are Now Fighting Off Fraud

Top tips to help you avoid the dirty dozen tax scams this year

Uncle Sam wants you and so do identity thieves!

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.

Here is important information to know to avoid being taken in by scammers this tax season: Continue reading Top tips to help you avoid the dirty dozen tax scams this year

Job Hunting? Avoid Work From Home Scams

Working from home sounds like a great way to make some extra cash. It means no commuting, and makes you more available to take care of your family’s needs during the day. While some work-from-home employment opportunities are legitimate, (I’m working from home right now, for instance!) job-seekers should be wary of offers that sound too good to be true, because they probably are! Taking the bait could result in financial losses, identity theft, and, perhaps worst of all, crushed hopes.Scammers may target people looking for telecommuting jobs. Image provided by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/eddi_07/4621283598/sizes/l/in/photostream/"target="telecommuting">Eddi 07 - Free Stock</a>

If you’re looking for work, there are a few things that potential employers might do that should make you suspicious. It might be a scam if:

  • The job you’re applying for offers huge payments with no experience necessary, or large payments for very little time spent working
  • The potential employer asks you to wire money to them for supplies, training materials, or other start-up costs
  • The potential employer asks you for sensitive information related to your identity (social security number, etc) or your finances (bank account routing numbers, etc)
  • The company’s website looks strange or does not function properly
  • The job you’re applying for requires you to process emails, money orders or checks in a way that seems suspicious (some will send you a large check, asking that you take some of the money as payment and send the rest back to them – the check is counterfeit. By the time your bank notifies you of the fake check, you’re out money and responsible to your banking institution for the false check)
  • The job does not require a face-to-face interview
  • The person that contacts you about the position seems nervous, overly aggressive, gets confrontational when asked questions, or seems hesitant to answer questions
  • You are approached to apply for a position that you did not seek out

Some of the most prevalent scams of this nature include the offer of a “secret shopper” position, mailing positions, and information or email processing jobs. If you suspect that a company or employment opportunity might be a scam, do some research about the company. It may be as easy as entering the name of the company into the Google search engine and finding them featured on Rip Off Report to determine that the company is trying to steal your money or identity. You can also call the Better Business Bureau or visit their website to check on the legitimacy of a company or to report a potential scam.

There are, however, a few resources that offer real opportunities to work from home, including Flexjobs.com and workathomemomrevolution.com. Happy job hunting!

Sources:

http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2009/april/workathome_041709

http://www.bbb.org/scam-stopper/ts-employment-scams.php

 

What’s in Your Email and What Should You Do with It? Four Favorite Schemes

download-key-logger-programIt seems that not a week goes by without having to check my spam mailbox as it fills with ever more increasing frequency.  When they said “spam” and phishing schemes where on the rise they really meant, on the rise!  I thought I would share with you my five favorites this week that you should be on the look out for.  One or two  have already hit some friends  and I wouldn’t want them to happen to you.

You Got Mail!

This phishing email message is sent allegedly from FEDEX or UPS.  You have a very important package that they tried to deliver but couldn’t.  If you could just take a minute to provide this information your VIP package will be on it’s way.   This one quite often asks for information, payment of an invoice (requiring me to open an attachment) and will include a subject like like this one,  “UPS Delivery Notification Tracking Number:EVKDBQXRTKRXN4CTMI.”

UPS offers more information on these fake emails as does FEDEX .

Report these types of messages to UPS at fraud@ups.com and to FEDEX at abuse@fedex.com

You Have WON!

So far this week I have won from a lottery that I never entered (scratch offs are about as far as I go) as well as won money from a casino I never heard of, let along gambled at.   Even the FBI got in on the act, telling me that I won $1 million!  This, of course, is different from the email I received last week where the FBI (who I’m quite sure already has quite a bit of information on me) attempted to phish for some more.

You have been Blessed!  Continue reading What’s in Your Email and What Should You Do with It? Four Favorite Schemes