Archives for February 2013

3 Steps to Stop Scam and Virus Problems

By Judith Kallos

Watching how the traditional media covers the latest virus or scam would make one think we are all innocent victims and it is the “evil Internet” at work once again. News flash! Innocent? More like uninformed. Victim? In many cases add the word “willing.” The media’s point of view and how they choose to portray these occurrences always makes me chuckle.

In the past decade, there has been very little progress when it comes to onliners wanting to acquire just enough information and knowledge to know how to protect themselves. They throw their hands up claiming “I’m not a techie!” while they proceed to want to participate in “technienology.” The truth is these issues are part and parcel of participation.

Many do not update their virus programs (that is if they even have one in the first place) and they believe some of the most gratuitously ridiculous offers. That is as long as those “offers” insinuate easy riches with little effort or expense. To that end; there is your weakest link. The propensity to believe misinformation that caters to one’s inner desires.

When did plain old common sense go out the window? Why do the natural rules of trust, common sense and due diligence for some reason not seem to apply online? Off-line if these tactics were used, most would probably laugh the salesperson right out of the building! But online, we enter the surreal world of possibilities combined with the perception that some of the most important issues of all are ours to ignore or disregard if we so please.

When it comes to impeding scams and viruses there are three simple solutions:

For Scams: Simply don’t believe it; none of it! If it comes in an e-mail you didn’t request-just hit delete! If it’s on a Web site, do your due diligence to confirm claims and to ask for recommendations and proof. Investigate how long the site has been online. Read their terms and conditions. E-mail them with every single question you may have before you give them one red cent of your hard earned dollars. Only proceed if you receive timely and concise answers. Not willing to make these efforts? Then plan on getting ripped off and you deserve it! Buyer beware? More like buyer be informed!

For Viruses: Update your virus software every time you log on. Simple. Don’t click on any links within e-mails that you are not expecting. Most virus software has an automatic scheduler so that the software can update daily at specified times. Once this is setup you will no longer have to manually update. Then, keep your update subscription current. Remember, you computer doesn’t know what to protect you from without these updates!

Make an effort in both these areas to understand the tools and resources available to you to help you participate in a smart and informed manner. You can literally check anything out online by searching Google to find reviews, warnings or even accolades and recommendations. Take the time to use and absorb the information available to you if you want to participate in information technology!

By following the above three steps, those who create viruses wouldn’t have a leg to stand on and the scammers would not be in business by taking advantage of what folks don’t want to take the time to understand or verify.

As long as Netizens do not make a concerned effort to be informed there will be someone out there willing to take advantage of them. Don’t blame technology; don’t blame the scammers and hackers. The blame should be placed with those who can easily avoid these situations, but choose to not be informed enough to do so.

About the Author:
Judith Kallos is an authoritative and good-humored Technology Muse who has
played @ www.TheIStudio.com for over a decade. Check out her popular
Software, Programming and Web Design Cheat Sheets @ www.LearnAndThrive.com

Health Care Fraud Through Identity Theft and Impersonation

Submitted by scadbury

Health care fraud is committed when someone intentionally submits, or causes someone else to submit, false or misleading information for use in determining the amount of health care benefits payable. One of the most common varieties of health care fraud is perpetrated through medical identity theft. Medical identity theft occurs when someone uses another person’s health insurance card or identification with or without her permission to obtain medical services. An insured person commits fraud when he lends his health insurance card to another, who then impersonates the insured in order to receive free care. An uninsured person commits fraud when she impersonates the insured to receive benefits she is not entitled to. Sometimes the imposter has permission from the insured. Other times, the imposter has stolen the insureds insurance information and used it without permission. Each activity is a crime.

Consequences of Health Care Fraud

Health care fraud is not a victimless crime. Medical identity theft can have dire consequences for the individual whose identity is fraudulently used. It sometimes results in erroneous entries on that persons current medical records or the creation of brand new, fictitious medical records in the victims name. For the victim, this may mean that a false medical and financial history that follows them around for years. Imagine failing a physical required for employment due to a disease in your records that does not belong to you, or receiving a co-pay bill for a surgery that you never underwent. These are only a sample of the personal consequences of medical identity theft.

Beyond the personal effects, health care fraud, including medical identity theft, also has a negative impact on the healthcare system as a whole. It is estimated that losses due to fraud add $100 billion to the annual cost of health care in the United States. For most employers, fraud increases the cost of providing benefits to their employees and, therefore, their overall cost of doing business. That translates into higher premiums, taxes, and out-of-pocket expenses as well as reduced benefits and diminished quality of care.

Allowing Others To Use Your Health Care Information Could Lead to Prosecution

Whether you allow someone to use your health care information, or you wrongfully use some elses information, you can be prosecuted for fraud. Health care providers and law enforcement have begun to aggressively pursue those who commit health care fraud. Health care fraud can be prosecuted both civilly and criminally under a variety of statutes and regulations. The nations largest healthcare network, Blue Cross/Blue Shield estimates that they pursued more than 20,000 cases of health care fraud last year, with 606 cases referred to law enforcement agencies. Of the referrals, 206 resulted in criminal convictions (see http://www.bcbs.com/antifraud).

Too many people do not realize the cost to individuals and the health care industry, which are incurred through health care fraud. For this reason many people do not believe health care fraud to be a serious crime. Penalties for health care fraud can be severe. Depending upon which statute an offender is prosecuted under, each count could carry a maximum penalty of 10 years. Fraud resulting in bodily injury to the insured carries a penalty of up to 20 years. If authorities or a private insurer wants to investigate you for health care fraud, you should immediately contact an attorney.

How to spot Spyware Without your Glasses

If you know anything about spyware and the problems it can cause for the average computer user, youve got a head start. But once you understand the dangers that spyware and adware programs pose to your computer and your personal information, what can you do to prevent it from interfering with your life?

The best thing anyone can do to adequately deal with spyware and adware is to be informed about the issue and proactive in dealing with it. For instance, knowing how to recognize a program as spyware, avoiding certain websites and guarding against malicious software from infesting your hard drive can take you a long way. When armed with the right knowledge you will be able to face the problem without so much worry and fear.

Nobody wants spyware tracking their every computer move, which is why individuals and companies that desire to do so are resorting to more underhanded and covert methods of spyware infection. And as the general computer user becomes more aware of the existence of spyware and adware, they have even more reason to use hidden tactics to achieve their objective and invade your privacy.

In the best case scenario spyware simply archives information related to your browsing habits while youre online and sends it back to a company that uses the information for advertising research. This type of spyware is commonly referred to as adware. It is not the most harmful form of spyware but can be a nuisance to eliminate and slows down even the fastest of computers.

In the worst case scenario, a keylogging program is installed on your personal computer to collect private information you dont want falling into the wrong hands passwords, online banking information, and anything else that you might type into your computer during the normal course of a day. This type of spyware can also track other aspects of computer usage including applications used, instant messenger conversations, hidden windows and mouse clicks.

These programs can infect your computer when you download free programs, so one effective way to avoid spyware is by keeping your system clear of excess junk. If you really dont need that free fishbowl screensaver, restrain yourself and stick with the ones you already have. Or opt for a high-quality screensaver that costs a little money but will save you a whole lot of frustration. In addition, staying away from freeware sites altogether is recommended because even if you dont download anything, many sites attach a cookie to your browser after you visit the website that will be used to track your movements online. Avoid questionable websites and youll avoid this type of spyware.

Refrain from downloading files from other sources as well. For example, a spyware program can be downloaded through an e-greeting, email, by clicking on a pop-up, or through other sources. To avoid getting infected through a pop-up ad, do not click anywhere on the pop-up window. Instead, click the “X” located in the top right hand corner of the window to close the pop-up entirely. If there is no way to close the window, disconnect from the Internet and close your browser.

Another possible source of spyware infection is a browser toolbar. Many toolbars are set up to track your browsing habits and search queries in order to create targeted advertising. Toolbars can generate pop-ups and even display dynamic ads in the toolbar itself that are based on your interests, as suggested by your online activity. In fact, it may seem as if the websites you visit generate the pop-ups you see, but often these ads are actually produced by the hidden spyware and adware already present on your computer.

Unfortunately, you dont always have to make the first move to get spyware on your computer. Many people are careful to avoid downloading strange email attachments and stay away from questionable downloads altogether, but this is not enough. There are a growing number of spyware and adware programs on the Internet that specifically take advantage of Windows vulnerabilities to infect your system without your knowledge or consent. Known as a drive-by-download, this type of infection latches onto your computer while youre online. In this situation, a downloader Trojan is installed on your computer this program then downloads and executes files from certain locations online whenever your computer is connected to the Internet, all without your help. The downloaded files then display pop-up ads on your computer. The surefire way to avoid most of these programs is by keeping up with Windows security updates. Always install the updates when they are made available and you will be able to circumvent most adware problems that exploit the security holes in Windows.

In particular, rogue anti-spyware and registry cleaner programs are utilizing this type of technology to illicitly promote their products. Once the adware has been secretly installed on your computer, pop-up windows start appearing that are designed to scare you into downloading an anti-spyware or registry cleaner product. Specifically, a window might say you have a spyware threat on your computer and tries to convince you to download the companys anti-spyware software to rid your computer of the infection. As you might have already guessed, these claims are false most likely your computer is not infected with spyware (or only infected with the adware originating from the company attempting to sell you the anti-spyware product). Rogue anti-spyware programs are disguised as legitimate solutions for spyware dilemmas but are actually set up to deceive victims into purchasing a product to fix a problem that doesnt exist. If you dont want to be conned into buying a fake anti-spyware product, do not respond to this type of pop-up ad.

 

Signs of Infection

If you do have spyware on your PC you can usually recognize the signs without the “help” of a rogue anti-spyware program. For instance, too much spyware will bog down your system and cause your computer to run slowly. You will probably be overrun by an excess of pop-ups and fake alert messages. In addition, your homepage and list of favorites might suddenly change and reappear even after restoring the default. Other things to look out for:

A new browser toolbar emerges without your consent, which is impossible to remove
Every time you conduct an online search the results are redirected to an unfamiliar search engine
Unexplained calls to 900 numbers begin appearing on your phone bill
Any anti-spyware or security programs you do have installed stop working
Your modems send and receive lights blink continually even when you are not doing anything online
If you think you do have spyware on your system, the best way to avoid scam artists is to stick with well-known, expert-recommended anti-spyware/adware removal products. Some quick research will give you all the information you need to know about the subject. If youve never heard of the company before or suspect suspicious and overblown advertising techniques, stay away. And follow your instincts if you think a company doesnt appear professional or trustworthy walk away from the offer. There are several excellent anti-spyware programs available on the market that can help you elude the troubles associated with spyware.

 

Katerina Mitrou
This article was written by Katerina Mitrou sponsored by http://www.free-web-browsers.com/. At free-web-browsers, youll find alternative web browsers for safer surfing. Youll also be able to improve your systems stability and speed with the use of a registry cleaner. Reproductions of this article are encouraged but must provide a link pointing back to http://www.free-web-browsers.com/.

Tip To Help You Protect Your Financial And Personal Information From Fraud

Financial fraud and identity fraud are one of the fasted growing forms of fraud. The first line of defense to protecting yourself begins with you. Here are some tips you can take to help you protect and fight against financial and identity fraud.

1. Review and Protect Your Information – The first line of defense in financial fraud is to periodically check your credit report to ensure all your information is accurate. Remember there are three credit agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) which all operate independently. Make sure you check your credit report from all three because they may each have different information.

2. Age Matters – If you are over the age of 50 you are more likely to be targeted for financial fraud. Therefore, keep this in the back of your mind as you handle your daily tasks and personal information.

3. Monthly Bills – If your monthly bills stop arriving, take action quickly. Notify the company right away. Also, review your monthly statements promptly and if you see charges or items on your bills that you do not recognize get them resolved immediately.

4. Social Security Number – Keep your social security number in a safe place with other financial documents. DO NOT carry your social security card in your wallet and remember to shred your old social security statements. It is also recommended to not store your social security number on your computer as hackers may have access to it. Never print your social security number on your checks, credit card or drivers licenses.

5. Incoming / Outgoing Mail – Pick up incoming mail promptly and do not send outgoing mail in your residential mail box. Make every effort to keep your mail as securely as possible when it leaves your house.

6. Watch Out For E-mail or Telephone Fraudsters – Never give your personal or financial information out on the internet or phone unless you initiated the contact. This is especially true with giving out your social security or credit card number. Watch out for e-mails from fraudsters that state they need your account information or credit card number to update your account with your bank or an online company like e-bay. Never give out personal information over e-mail! Many times these e-mails will have links for you to click on that take you to a website that looks authentic. However more times than not, it is a scam to get your personal and financial information.

7. Credit Cards / ATMs – Report lost or stolen credit cards and ATM cards immediately. Be sure to carry the 1-800 numbers of your bank and credit card company in your wallet.

8. Destroy Credit Card Mail Offers and Old Financial Documents – If you receive direct or pre-approved solicitations in the mail for new credit cards and do not use them make sure you shred or tear them up before throwing them away. In addition, shred all financial papers including cancelled checks, old bank account statements, or any document with your identity.

Most analysts forecast financial fraud and identity thief to cause financial loss to hundreds of thousands people in the next five years and beyond. While fraudsters are very slick and you can never be 100% safe the steps above can assist in you significantly deterring yourself and family from being a victim.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jay Fran is a successful author and publisher at http://www.motorcycle-financing-guide.com, a comprehensive resource on bad credit motorcycle loans, motorcycle financing, military motorcycle loans and online motorcycle loans.

Pssst: Wanna (not) Buy a Stolen Car?

Would you buy a used car–with cash–from someone you just met in the bar, and who walked you down a dark alley to show you the car? Not likely. How about from a well-dressed, friendly, middle-aged man or woman, who placed a classified ad in your local newspaper, and who meets you midday at a restaurant of your choice?

Oops! You may be more likely to be cheated by seller number two. That’s the story of Jennifer Warwa, who bought a minivan and had her mechanic examine it. The mechanic later said how shocked he was that Jennifer had been scammed:

“Because I met the gentleman who was selling the vehicle. Very clean cut. In his fifties. Very soft spoken…. And he went with her to get it inspected. There was just no sign that was the kind of person he was” the mechanic told CBC’s Marketplace.

A few months later, Jennifer got a phone call from the police. They said she had purchased a stolen minivan, and they were coming to seize it. She was so upset, she tried to hide the van from the police. Eventually they caught up with her and she ended up paying for a year and a half for a $5,000 bank loan on a van she could not drive. Ouch!

Jennifer was just one victim in the chain that included the original owner, the insurance company, other consumers whose insurance rates keep rising, and the police, who spend thousands of hours tracking thefts. According to the FBI, a vehicle is stolen about every 25 seconds in the USA, amounting to an $8 billion yearly problem.

Here’s how these scams often work. Thieves target particular cars: for their value, their ease of resale as a whole or in parts, or because they are easier to steal. Years ago, most cars were stripped for parts, including unusual parts such as airbags. But today some thieves are so brash they sell cars through newspapers.

This newer scam is called “VIN cloning”, because the Vehicle Identification Number is stolen from another car. Criminals obtain VINs by copying them from the dash of cars in parking lots–even at dealerships. Some even physically remove the VIN plate from vehicles in auto salvage yards that allow customers to “pick your own parts.” (They do not mean that literally!) The number is used to falsely obtain new ownership documents, or documents are forged. Either way, a cloned VIN allows them to transform stolen cars into pseudo- legal vehicles that can be officially titled and sold. Many thieves work across state lines: cars may be stolen in the East, registered in the Mid-West, then sold in California. Scary!

Here’s what you can do to avoid buying a stolen car:

** Check the VIN on the dash against the VIN in the driver’s door jamb, under the hood, and on the paperwork

** Use the VIN to get the car’s history at carfax.com for about $20

** Ensure title and registration documents match the name and address of the seller

** Is the car from out of state?

** Be suspicious if you must meet a private seller in a parking lot. Better to see that they live at the address where the car is registered

** Has the vehicle recently been transferred?

** Does the seller use a home or work phone number, or just a cell?

** Is the selling price oddly low?

** Be warned that some used car dealers are getting scammed, too

** Pay by certified cheque or money order, not cash.

Keep in mind that most private sellers are not thieves, but rather honest, regular folks like you. And prices do tend to be lower with private sales. So if you follow my advice, you can greatly improve your chances of driving away with a “genuine” used car.

Will YOU get scammed on your next car purchase? Michael Trusthold writes for Used Cars.biz and has bought and sold used cars for profit for many years. For more scam prevention TIPS and handy checklists for used car buying and selling, visit Used Cars.biz

Beating common online scams

Watch Out For That Scam
The IFCC (Internet Fraud Complaint Center) received over 200,000 complaint submissions for 2004, an increase of 66.6% from 2003. The total dollar loss from all referred cases exceeded 68 million dollars, an average loss of $894 per complaint. There are many types of internet frauds that exist including auction, email, foreign investment letters and online dating. Here are some ways to identify a possible scam or fraud that you may have encountered while surfing the internet.

Auctions

Auction sites are one of the best places to purchase and sell items. They are also one of the easiest places to become an internet fraud victim. Auction fraud represented 71% of the total referred fraud complaints. How the scam works is that you win the auction, but never receive the item. Most of the time the auction site cannot assist you in recovering the money stolen. They will remove the member’s account and disqualify the member’s email address from their site but are not able to do much else. It is in your best interest to research each seller before making any purchases. Auction sites have a rating system for their members and I would advise you to check this and their profile for certain clues. The first is to check how many sales have been completed and the response from the buyers. I would suggest no less than a hundred transactions for moderately priced items (less than a hundred dollars). A scammer will become a member and sell fifty items for a dollar or less usually in a week or two to build up his member rating. Then they will post twenty auctions ending within a day of each other for items that retail for over a hundred dollars but they are selling them for an unprofitable amount. Again, research a seller’s auction history before placing your bid. Also, if Western Union or similar is stated to be the only form of payment, move right on to the next auction.

Fraudulent Email

Email is a great form of communication and also an easy target for schemers. Electronic mail is the primary mechanism by which a perpetrator makes contact representing 63% compared to just 7% by phone. Fraud victims will receive an email with a link stating that their account information needs to be updated. Upon clicking on the link you are taken to a page that looks almost identical to the member page and asks you to enter in your name, address, social security number, checking account routing number and/or credit card number. When you hit the submit button, your information is instantly shuttled to someone waiting to separate you from your money. Before submitting your information, verify that you are truly on the site that the link states it is taking you.

Foreign Investment Letter

Another popular email scheme is an email from a foreign country stating that they have millions that need to be transferred to the United States but need a bank account to finalize the transaction. The sender of the email is willing to give you a percentage of the amount transferred in exchange for using your bank account. Never submit your social security number and checking account or credit card number via an email or an unfamiliar website. This is also known as Nigerian letter fraud and among one of the highest dollar loss frauds with an average of $3000.

Online Dating


You would also be surprised how easily people give their hard earned money away to people they meet over the internet but not in person. The victim meets someone in a chat room or message board and builds a friendship with the perpetrator who usually sends the victim a picture of an attractive person. When the time comes to meet, the schemer admits to not having the money for airfare and expenses, so the victim sends the money via Western Union or similar money transfer service, never to hear back from the person again.

Avoiding Scams

Here are a few ways to avoid becoming a victim of a scam:

1. Do not disclose your social security number, credit card or banking numbers to anyone you do not feel comfortable with.

2. Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org) and Scambusters.com before making a purchase from an unfamiliar website and company.

3. When purchasing items online avoid force seller tactics. If they can’t wait, then tell them you’re not buying. Whenever possible, use escrow. Escrow is a third party who holds the money until the item or service has been delivered to the buyer.

4. Avoid Western Union or similar forms of payment at all costs.

5. Most importantly, do your research.

Please visit the IFCC or view the annual report at http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/strategy/statistics.asp for more information about internet fraud.