Archives for March 2013

Beware of Roommate Scams

By Tanisa Brown

If you are looking for a roommate and you placed ads on roommate listings, regardless whether or not those listings are free or paid, chances are you will get a response from person who claims they are interested in being your roommate. This person will have no interest in being your roommate. There only interest is to scam you and rob you for your money. Fact: roommate scams swarm roommate listings. Familiarizing yourself with these roommate scams is your first guard of protection from theft and fraud. If you don’t know what a roommate scam is or how it sounds or look like, educate yourself fast before you become a victim. If you do become a victim of a roommate scam, you have to immediately contact your local authorities and possibly the FBI.

Here is what a roommate scam email looks like:


I saw your ad on (roommate listing).com I am looking to rent a room or seek a roommate who is nice and honest. My name is Denise and I am 29 yr. old Broker currently living in London with my Uncle. I am honest, trustworthy and a caring individual who enjoys making good friends and having a good time.

I plan to come to the United States to work at a new brokerage firm on an 8 month contract. I just want to confirm the rent, utilities and if there is any deposit. What’s the amount to move in altogether? I can pay you 2 months rent and would like to move in right away. I will have my associate in the United States send you a cashier’s check for 2 the months payment.

Please forward me your full details where you want payment to be mailed

City, Zip
Phone Number

Thanks and I will be waiting for your details so I can proceed with the payment!



This is a clear example of a roommate scam. There are other similar roommate scams where people claim to be from Canada, UK, Nigeria, Australia, Sweden, etc. Ways to quickly spot a roommate scam goes as follows:

1. The person is a foreign national

2. They claim they are moving to the US for work, school or a modeling contract

3. They usually only give their first name and if you reply with an email asking for their full name, address and email, sometimes they refuse to give it to you.

4. They want to send you their “final paycheck” from their current employer and deposit the check in your bank account as form of payment for the rent deposit.

5. They ask you to cash the check, money order or cashier’s check (usually more than the amount of the rent’s deposit) into your bank account or open an account at a different bank of their choice. Once the check is deposited into your account, they will ask you to deduct a portion of the money to cover the rent and will ask you to withdraw the exceeded portion to wire transfer back to them. They will explain that they need the extra money wired back to them to purchase “a plane ticket” and/or “pay for moving expenses”. These checks, money orders and cashier’s checks are counterfeit. The “exceeded potion” you withdraw from the back is how they make their money. In many cases, once the bank realizes that these checks are counterfeit, they will come after YOU for the money.

6. They offer for “an associate” or “sponsor” they know in the US to send you a check, cashier’s check or money order for you to deposit in your bank for the rent deposit (again the check, money order and cashier’s checks are fake!).

7. They request your personal information like full name, address, phone number, personal email account and bank where you will be depositing the checks. Sometimes they will insist on a particular bank for you to deposit their fake checks.

8. Their emails make the assumption that you have chosen them to be your roommate and will ask you to remove your ad off the roommate listing.

9. You receive similar emails that sound almost identical, but using different names and job occupations.

10. If you request info from them like their current home address, scans/fax copies of their passport, visas and employer contracts, they will refuse to give you the information and make BS excuses why they can’t.

11. If you do communicate with these roommate scam artists through email or telephone (at first not knowing you are about to be scammed) and request a little more time to do research or explain you are interviewing other people, they will get nasty, impatient and barrage you with constant emails, IM and phone calls.

When answering emails on roommate listings always be sure to verify as much information as you can about the other person. Ask questions and don’t be shy about it. Remember, you will be essentially moving a stranger into your house or apartment. Therefore, you have every right to protect yourself and ask questions. Trust your gut and listen to any red flags that may go up if you believe you received an email that appears to be a roommate scam. If you no longer feel comfortable communicating with someone you suspect is trying to scam you, stop all communication and report the incident to the FBI. You can do this by visiting the FBI website and look for links about internet scams.

Understanding and recognizing roommate scams is the first step to protecting yourself while you search for a roommate. Information is power! The more informed you are about roommate scams, the easier, safer and quicker it will be to find the perfect roommate for you!

Happy roommate hunting!

For more information about roommate scams, how to find a roommate and living with roommates, please visit

Con takes another swipe at previous scam victims

From the Plain Dealer

Consumers who’ve lost money to sweepstakes and lottery scams should be on the lookout for “reloader” scams.

In these scams, con artists pretend to help past victims of scams recover their money.

In one recent example, a reader got a call from someone claiming to be an agent from “revenue services” investigating Publisher’s Clearinghouse.



Protecting Yourself from Mail Fraud

One of the unfortunate side-effects of technological improvement in communication is that unscrupulous criminals can now victimize innocent people in both physical and electronic ways. You need to be alert for both kinds of harm in order to protect yourself from damages.

Physical Mail Fraud

Mail fraud involves the use of the federal postal or communication systems in order to carry out an attempt to defraud innocent persons. In mail order fraud the victim (as buyer) has provided money to an alleged seller, say, through themail or that the underlying order will be fulfilled for delivery via the US Postal Service. In the event that no delivery ensues, then a case for mail order fraud forms.

It’s critical that the victim provides mail fraud reporting to local post office officials so that they can turn the matter over to their mail fraud investigative unit, which aggressively pursues convictions where evidence supports such an action. In a typical mail fraud report, the US Post Office investigative team catalogues the documents supporting the underlying fraud scheme. The documents will be used in order to prove the intent to defraud.

Suspicious Packages

If you receive a suspicious letter or package that you do not recognize or it doesn’t have a return address, follow these safety precautions:

Handle the package or envelope with extreme care; don’t shake or bump it.
Isolate it immediately. Move it to a secure place, away from people and pets.
Do not open, smell or touch it. If you notice a powder or residue, don’t taste it; immediately wash your hands and other body parts that may have been exposed with soap and water.
Contact your local sheriff or police department.
If you suspect a package or other container may be a bomb, evacuate the premises immediately. If you suspect radiological, biological or chemical exposure, do not handle the object. Shield yourself, other people and pets from further exposure by evacuating the area immediately. Do not try to resolve the problem yourself by disposing of, disarming or otherwise trying to reduce the threat of the unknown object. Special police and fire teams are highly trained for this kind of activity and should be called right away.

Electronic Mail Fraud

Email fraud reflects unauthorized entry into personal or corporate networks, taking over an email address and then sending out messages purporting to be from the true owner operator of that email account or address. Email fraud typically originates as a request for service or a query regarding outgoing email messages. In certain instances an email is associated with identity theft. The key to unraveling an email fraud is to establish a “back tracking” electronically, where the procedure includes either reading the hard drive of the corrupted PC or via internet “cookies” which record the steps taken and origins of the email fraud perpetrator.

To avoid becoming an email fraud victim and to ensure potential convictions to those persons who would defraud you, you need to install security system software or utilize encryption software to deflect email fraud attacks. The success of email fraud depends entirely on commandeering your passwords, logons, PIN numbers, or other access codes which you may have casually left open.

Other email frauds are direct and personal, more like physical mail fraud. In these cases someone claiming to be from an entity you usually trust (your bank, doctor, school, etc.) sends you a request or reminder that asks you for personal information. NEVER send your social security number, bank account information or any other private, personal information to anyone by email without making sure the request is legitimate and the line secure. Less insidious, but more seductive, are emails from someone promising you a prize, money, a free trip that “you may have already won”—if only you’ll send back private information, money or other people’s email addresses. DON’T BE FOOLED!

Children, teens and the elderly are favorite targets for this kind of fraud, so make sure that everyone in your household who uses email is aware of how to be careful and alert in any of their online activities.

Enjoy safe communication by staying alert and being cautious in both the physical and the electronic worlds.

Government Grant Scams Warning from the FTC

Sometimes, it’s an ad that claims you will qualify to receive a “free grant” to pay for education costs, home repairs, home business expenses, or unpaid bills. Other times, it’s a phone call supposedly from a “government” agency or some other organization with an official sounding name. In either case, the claim is the same: your application for a grant is guaranteed to be accepted, and you’ll never have to pay the money back.

But the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says that “money for nothing” grant offers usually are scams, whether you see them in your local paper or a national magazine, or hear about them on the phone.

Some scam artists advertise “free grants” in the classifieds, inviting readers to call a toll-free number for more information. Others are more bold: they call you out of the blue. They lie about where they’re calling from, or they claim legitimacy using an official-sounding name like the “Federal Grants Administration.” They may ask you some basic questions to determine if you “qualify” to receive a grant. FTC attorneys say calls and come-ons for free money invariably are rip offs.

Grant scammers generally follow a script: they congratulate you on your eligibility, then ask for your checking account information so they can “deposit your grant directly into your account,” or cover a one-time “processing fee.” The caller may even reassure you that you can get a refund if you’re not satisfied. In fact, you’ll never see the grant they promise; they will disappear with your money.

The FTC says following a few basic rules can keep consumers from losing money to these “government grant” scams:

  • Don’t give out your bank account information to anyone you don’t know. Scammers pressure people to divulge their bank account information so that they can steal the money in the account. Always keep your bank account information confidential. Don’t share it unless you are familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
  • Don’t pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it isn’t really free. A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded — or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions. The names of agencies and foundations that award grants are available for free at any public library or on the Internet. The only official access point for all federal grant-making agencies is
  • Look-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the caller says he’s from the “Federal Grants Administration” doesn’t mean that he is. There is no such government agency. Take a moment to check the blue pages in your telephone directory to bear out your hunch — or not.
  • Phone numbers can deceive. Some con artists use Internet technology to disguise their area code in caller ID systems. Although it may look like they’re calling from Washington, DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Take control of the calls you receive. If you want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive, place your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. To register online, visit To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you wish to register.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. If you think you may have been a victim of a government grant scam, file a complaint with the FTC online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

This article was previously available as Free Government Grants: Don’t Take Them For Grant-ed.

The Free Credit Report Scam

By Gary Gresham

Every consumer in America has the right to a free credit report once every year by law as of September 2005. But since that law has passed there has been nothing but confusion.

The web sites that say they are offering this so called free credit report, are asking us to give them our credit card information. Does that sound like a free credit report to you?

You may have even given your credit card number to these companies to sign up for a thirty day trial for a credit service that has almost nothing to do with getting your free credit report.

In all fairness, you can cancel this service after thirty days. But how many people do you think forget and end up with monthly or even annual credit card charges?

In fact, these companies are counting on you forgetting about the thirty day trial and charging that fee on your credit card. But if the law says you get a free report, what’s the deal?

A lot of people are confused about these free credit reports because of how some companies are marketing the free credit report. Hopefully, this information will clear a few things up for you.

For people who just want the bottom line, a free credit report is available at and this is the only official site that helps consumers to obtain their annual free credit report.

This site’s security protocols are excellent with physical and technological security and encryption. That’s important for identity theft purposes because the information on your credit report should be seen by your eyes only.

So if this site is readily available and anyone can get a free credit report once a year, what’s the catch? Here is the catch: the credit report you get from does not have any credit scores.

Now you may be asking, “Then what good is getting this free credit report without a credit score?” There are a few good reasons why you may want to look at your credit report even without a credit score.

Did you know that more than forty percent of all credit reports have errors? If you spot these errors, you can get them cleared up before it affects your credit score. If you contact a credit bureau about an error, they have to clear it up or remove it after thirty days by law.

If you monitor and review your credit report, you can check to be sure that you are not a victim of identity theft. If someone takes over your accounts and charges up thousands of dollars in debt, they can destroy your credit score in a matter of hours.

These are just a couple of good reasons why you want to get your free credit report once a year and inspect it just to be sure everything looks like it should. You can get your free credit report online at or by phone or through the mail.

So where do you get your credit score from? This is where the confusion comes in and here is the answer. The law Congress passed did not say anything about a credit score just one free credit report a year per consumer.

You have to pay a service to get your credit score and some companies are confusing people with the way they are marketing this. They offer you a free credit report and score and many consumers believe it’s their annual free credit report.

But if you have to sign up for a credit service they offer for a 30 day trial period, does that sound free? What these companies are counting on is you forgetting about the 30 day trial and charging a fee on your credit card once that trial period is over.

It’s in the fine print, but how many people actually read that. So here is a good common sense rule of thumb. Any time you have to give your credit card information, ask yourself, “is this really free?”

Many of you probably know this is happening because you have been trapped with this kind of marketing tactic. But for those of you that just want your annual free credit report, you can at least be aware as to what is really going on and have a no nonsense way to get it.

This article is supplied by Credit Repair where you will find credit information, debt elimination programs and informative facts that give you the knowledge to correct your own credit and credit report. For more credit related articles like these go to: Credit and Debt Articles