Online Banking: Navigating a Vulnerable Environment

Online banking has surged in popularity the last few years, due mainly to the allure of easy online bill payments. According to a consumer survey conducted by Fiserv Inc., in 2008 over 2 million homes adopted online banking. This brought the total number of households banking from home to just under 70 million, or four out of every five with internet access.

While financial institutions continue to assure their customers of the safety of online banking, none can guarantee an account won’t fall victim to fraud. Cutting-edge technologies offer convenience, but also attract a cutting-edge class of criminals.

Early last year hundreds of HSBC online bank customers suddenly discovered their checking accounts had been drained of $2,000 each. According to an account on consumerist.com, one customer was told by the HSBC Fraud investigator that the department was so overwhelmed they weren’t even sure how to handle it. When pressed with how many other customers had suffered the same fate, the investigator replied, “We don’t even know.” The size of the fraud was so severe, the bank was ill-equipped to tackle, much less identify, the problem and it took up to 10 days before the affected customers had the stolen funds credited back to their accounts.

Though anecdotal, the above story is just a recent example of a problem that has plagued the banking and credit card industries from the time online services were first introduced. Fortunately, there are certain measures which can be taken to protect both your money and identity while banking electronically. Many of these tools also apply to using your credit card online. Most fall under common sense, but in this age of quick-and-easy access, it doesn’t hurt to go over the sometimes overlooked basics.

1.Bank with the Big Boys – There are many online banks, mostly chartered overseas, that are not FDIC insured. Bank with these companies at your own risk. When choosing an online bank, the safest bet is to go with one of the larger financial institutions with a recognizable name. The large banks are moving towards more online and customer-direct banking in an effort to lower costs and improve their bottom line. They often provide the best in online security, but if it fails you want the safety-net of FDIC insurance.

2.Don’t fall for Phishing – Phishing is the online security firm for a malevolent entity attempting to acquire your user name, passwords, credit cards or any other personal data by masquerading as a trusted entity. This can be undertaken by various means but most commonly comes in the form of an email claiming to be from your financial institution. You’ve probably encountered these before and hopefully sent them straight to junk mail. The emails often look convincing with legitimate logos, but will ask you to connect via a provided link to a fake site where you will be asked to enter your username and password for verification purposes. Once you’ve entered this information, the criminals can attempt to access your account. These emails are normally pretty easy to recognize. They won’t address you correctly or by name at all, and often they contain grammatical errors. Legitimate emails from your bank will typically address you by your proper name and will never ask a customer to divulge their pin number, account numbers, or passwords. If you aren’t sure about an email you have received, call your bank and ask.

3.Phishing from the other side – Unfortunately, this attempt to appropriate your personal information and access your account can strike when you least expect it, after you have logged into your online banking site. Though rare, tech-savvy criminals have the ability to hack into a bank’s online system and re-direct the customer to a fake page where they are asked to once again enter their user name and password. If during an online banking session you are rerouted in such a manner, the wisest course of action is to terminate the session without entering any further information and then re-accesses your account through the bank’s home page. It would also be prudent to let your institution know such an attempt was made via their site. Better yet, ensure your bank is using the standard “secure socket layer” (SSL) protocol on pages that require secure information. Most banks use this technology on a few pages, but not on every page. (SSL-secured pages start https as opposed to http.)

4.User names and passwords – If you are going to be banking online, always choose unique user names and passwords. Avoid using your email address as a long in name and never use important dates, such as birthdays or anniversaries, for a password. If a criminal is trying to access your account these are often the first guesses that he will attempt to use. Always try to include both alpha and numerical characters in your login information, as use of both generates user names and passwords that are inherently tougher to crack.

5.Bank from home – If you are going to be banking online, try to avoid public domain computers. This includes both work computers and those you would use at an internet café, public library or any retail business. You have limited control over the safety measures taken at these locations and are putting your personal information at risk every time you share it here. If you are banking online and have no choice but to use a public access computer, be sure the username and password are not saved on the computer if prompted to do so. Once your session ends click on the Tools option of the browser and clear all saved forms, passwords, cookies, and history. For the two most used web browsers this feature is located under Tools/Internet options (MS Explorer) or Tools/Clear Private Data (Mozilla Firefox).

6.Stay protected – It is vital to keep your home computer protected with up-to-date anti-virus software and firewall protection. This is particularly true when you are banking from home online. There malicious software, or malware, that can unknowingly be downloaded on your computer while the user surfs the internet. These harmful programs can attack your computer in a variety of ways, but the most dangerous are capable of stealing your personal information by logging the keystrokes used when entering user names and passwords. This information is then transmitted back to the programs creator. This is why it is so important to keep your computer protected and update that protection regularly.

7.Keep alert – If you have an online bank account or use your credit cards for online purchases, check your balances regularly. If you notice any suspicious activity, notify the bank immediately. The longer it takes to report fraudulent activity the more difficult it will be to have those stolen funds restored.

Online banking can be a convenient and easy way to manage your personal accounts, but it will never be 100% safe. Still, there are ways online banking customers can increase the odds in their favor by using common sense and taking preemptive steps to protect themselves. Most importantly, communicate with your bank. Know their security measures and check the safety recommendations they make. If you ever have any questions or concerns about the security of your account, call the bank and get the answers you need. Its your right as a customer, so don’t hesitate to use it.

Helpful links:

FDIC: Safe Internet Banking
http://www.fdic.gov/BANK/INDIVIDUAL/ONLINE/SAFE.html

Online Banking Safety – LoveToKnow Online
http://online.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Online_Banking_Safety

Good Samaritan Scams

Many of us feel inspired to keep with the spirit of the holidays and as a result are more likely to open our hearts and our wallets in the interest of helping our fellow man. This is fertile territory for scam artists. And while they aren’t interested in their victim’s giving hearts, the wily con artist will certainly look to exploit this sense of compassion as a means to open up that which truly concerns them – the victim’s wallet.

There are many types of Good Samaritan Scams out there. Some employ elaborate schemes executed by several con artists in perfect orchestration, while more commonly individuals or smaller groups will distract or confuse and then grab what they can from you. Either way, the bottom line is their goal is taking what is rightfully yours and their method is to play on your altruistic instincts.

Here are a few examples that you should remember the next time you are approached by a stranger asking for assistance.

CHARITY CASES
These come in different sizes, from large organizations to the guy on the street corner holding his hand out and his sign up. Here are two examples of how scammers hide in their midst.

BIG TIME CON – One of the largest was busted just a few years ago. California scammer John Franklin Harrell, with the help of a cult-like following of 20 acolytes, bilked hundreds of Americans from all across the country into giving him more than $30 million. Many actually forked over their life savings to this man who claimed to have access to a secret trust fund worth over 1.6 Trillion created by the descendants of Mormon Church founder John Smith. He and his cronies claimed the funds would be released once an insurance company was created to convert the fund into insurance policies. Investors were promised 100% yearly returns on their investments for up to 99 years.

This wasn’t just a case of victim’s getting scammed because they were greedy. The biggest hook in Harrell’s scheme was a promise that significant amounts of the profits, millions on a yearly basis, were to be earmarked for humanitarian projects. The “investors” were pitched this con based on their charitable interests. Religious types were sold on bible theme parks, Christian radio stations and faith-based scholarships. Philanthropists were told stories of “social development centers” to be opened across the country helping everyone from single mothers to the homeless and jobless. The sick were pledged money to be spent on miraculous cures for autism, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. These people trusted John Franklin Harrell and his phony ties to a major religious organization, and many lost their life savings because of this mistake.

SMALL TIME CONS – On the other end of the spectrum from John Franklin Harrell and his fellow con artists are the individuals who are out on the street asking for charity every day.

While many who panhandle are legitimately homeless, some have simply found a way to make decent money from the small contributions of passersby. Michael S. Scott of the director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing stated in his online article “Panhandling” that some of these beggars can rake in “about $300 a day on the high end. Women, especially those who have children with them, and panhandlers who appear to be disabled tend to receive more money. For this reason, some panhandlers pretend to be disabled and/or war veterans. Others use pets as a means of evoking sympathy from passersby. Panhandlers’ regular donors can account for up to half their receipts.”

A recent news story tells of a couple from Ashland, Oregon, who have christened themselves “affluent beggars.” These two estimate they can make up to $40,000 a year from panhandling. They claim to have taken home $800 on their best day. Although they present themselves as homeless and destitute, they rent an apartment in a nice area of town and own a car among other prized possessions.

A regular panhandler in the Rockefeller Center area of New York City can be spotted on daily basis writhing on the ground unable to speak, a pleading hand extended, and her body wrapped in garbage bags instead of actual clothing. Normally, tourists surround the woman, giving her money, food, shirts bought from local street vendors and other clothes from stores in the area. Although she acts as if she can’t speak to those who show her concern, she has been known to use a telephone for normal conversations at the end of the day when her begging is finished. Come back the next morning and she won’t be wearing any of the numerous clothes given her, but is once again in her garbage bags playing on folks’ sympathies.

By no means do these con artists make up the majority of those who panhandle, but if you truly want to help the homeless and the destitute invest in a local shelter or give to trusted organizations that will make sure the right people get the care they need.

MONEY SCHEMES
Victims are often approached by those who have money problems. In this instance, the problem isn’t that they don’t have money; they will assure you that they do. Rather the problem is that they need your help to access it. Here are two very different examples of these cons.

COMPLEX – The victim was walking in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Aventura, Florida when approached by a man claiming to be an undocumented worker from Honduras who needed help finding a law office to get some important papers.

A second man who had “overheard” then walked up and, claiming to be a Christian, offered his help since he knew of a law office nearby. The victim had some time and decided to help the men decide if the law office was legitimate and rode with them in the car. Once in the car, the man from Honduras explained his problem: he had won the lottery but could not claim his prize because he did not have legal residency papers.

The second man then put in a cell phone call to the “lottery commission”. The victim claims he could hear the conversation on both ends and that the person over the phone said the funds could be released with a simple $20,000 deposit of good-faith money.

The victim, assuming he would be paid back quickly, offered $7,000. The second man claimed he could cover the remainder and went into his bank, returning with an envelope supposedly holding $13,000. The victim then withdrew his $7,000, after which the second man suggested they get stamps and mailing materials. The victim went into the post office alone to procure the materials, but when he came back out the two men were long gone. He checked his envelope to discover the envelope he held had been switched with one stuffed with cut-up newspapers by two sharp con artists.

SIMPLE – An elderly customer walking up to her ATM when approached by a desperate gentleman. He claimed to have been robbed, and then opened up an envelope to show her several thousand dollars claiming it was the only money he had left in the world. He didn’t feel safe holding the cash, it was a Friday evening and he would have to wait to open a new account, so he wondered if she could deposit the money for him. He would give her $100 for her trouble.

The woman agreed. He stood next to her as she keyed in her PIN, then put the envelope in the machine. She didn’t feel comfortable withdrawing cash with the stranger next to her so she finished the transaction. As her ATM card came out, he grabbed it and ran off. He had her PIN number and her card, she reported it stolen, but not before he was able to withdraw some $1,200 from her account. Later, when the ATM machine was opened up the woman learned he had switched envelopes while she was entering her PIN and had actually deposited worthless strips of paper cut to money size.

DISTRACT AND GRAB
At the bottom of the Good Samaritan Scam list is a simple con that is often run in pairs and totally plays on the victim looking to lend a hand to his fellow man. Here are a couple of examples:

HELPING HAND – In Cordova, Tennessee a group has been scamming folks at gas stations without being caught yet. An older woman in her 50s, Asian, will approach those pumping their own gas, especially if they are already distracted by talking on a cell phone, and thrust her credit card in the victim’s face claiming she can’t figure out to work the machine. She will continue to harass the victim until they accompany her to her car on the other side of the station.

Once the victim is helping the woman pump her gas, one or more accomplices will then break into the victim’s unwatched car and take whatever valuables they can manage. Always lock your car when you are out of it pumping gas, and don’t talk on your cell phone at the gas station.

EMERGENCY – Even worse are those who play on potential heroes out there by manufacturing an emergency as a distraction. A 48 year old grandfather with a heart condition was walking with his wife and dog one morning when a woman rushed out of the bushes claiming a swan had attacked her baby. She pointed to a nearby lake where a man saw a fully-clothed baby with shoes on floating face down in the water. Springing into action, the gentleman took off his jacket and jumped into the murky waters.

When he grabbed the child’s leg he realized it was actually a doll. Turning back to the shore he spotted the woman and her male accomplice stealing from his coat. By the time he back to shore, they were long gone with his bank and credit cards and over $100 cash.

We shouldn’t be discouraged from helping out those in need, but we should always keep our guard up and listen to our instincts. Sometimes being a Good Samaritan is a quick way to be scammed by a con artist.

Lotto Scams

If you receive an email, telephone call, letter or fax telling you that you won the Canadian, Nigerian, Irish, French, or Welsh, etc. lottery—delete, hang-up the phone, rip-up the paper, throw out the supposed windfall! Listen up—First you can’t win a lottery that you didn’t buy a ticket for. So when that enticing announcement, or nice well-trained voice on the other end of the phone tells you that to claim your prize you must first wire a few thousand bucks to the lottery “sponsor”— don’t fall for it! Here are some other important facts to remember so that you won’t get ripped-off:

1. No stranger is your friend; and there ain’t no free lunches!

2. In a legitimate lottery, you never have to pay BEFORE you receive the winnings.
Lotteries that are legitimate request that you pay taxes after you receive your money.

3. If you truly win a lottery, first you surely hold a ticket evidencing that you have
entered into the lottery contest. If you win, your lottery number will be posted or
announced, and you must present your winning ticket in order to claim your prize.
Legitimate lotteries usually DO NOT send emails, or letters, or phone you. They will
post or publish the winning ticket numbers on their website or in the newspaper and
the winners are provided with a legitimate email or phone number, or where to appear
with the winning ticket.

4. NEVER EVER give out any personal information to anyone without knowing who you
are giving it to.

5. Beware of anything lottery, coming from outside the USA — they are usually all “hot
spots” for scams.

6. If it’s too good to be true—it is.

You can be sure of this—once you turn your cash over to a scammer, it’s gone forever. Lottery scammers come up with new spins to the same old schemes — to get the money from us suckers. Some of the newer swindles are as follows —

a) BOGUS STATE LOTTERIES

Residents of Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee have recently been receiving emails, phone calls and letters stating that they have won Powerball or other State games. The “winners” are directed to pay up-front fees in order to claim their prize. Don’t do it! Legit State Lotteries never require any up-front money. State lottery winners must notify the State with their winning ticket in hand. You won’t be contacted by the State, you must contact them once you find your entry is posted as the winner on the respective State website or published in the newspaper.

b) UNCLE SAM SHAMS

Another scam— emails supposedly sent by the F.B.I., I.R.S., F.T.C., etc., implying that these Agencies are acting as middlemen awarding the Lottery winnings. These Agencies never act in this manner. Moreover, these scammers also are circulating a virus that can steal your computer’s personal data. So, if you receive one of these bogus messages, these thieves are ready to put their hands in your pocket—DO NOT open it! You will have just avoided a serious scam-rip off!

c) SLICK TALKING CON SCAMS

Some crooks prefer operating through personal contact. If you are approached on the street or in a shop by a stranger claiming to hold a winning State Lottery ticket that they cannot redeem themselves– such as, the ticket holder is not in the U.S. legally— say “NO THANK YOU”! In this con the scammer offers to sell you their jackpot ticket for a few thousand dollars—or split the winnings after you (the patsy) put up your cash as a “good faith” deposit. Then you are told that in exchange for your up-front-money the scammer will give you the ticket so you can redeem it and either keep the winnings or split the sums with this “generous kind person”. You will be left “holding the bag” with a worthless ticket. Or once you gather your “good-faith cash” from your bank, you may be conned into leaving your money with the scammer (in a taxi or car), and asked to go to a coffee shop to buy some donuts and coffee for you and the con artist before heading to the location to claim your jackpot. When you return, coffee in hand, the scammer is long gone on their way, with your cash. Remember what your mother always told you, —–“NEVER SPEAK TO STRANGERS”!

Although this is not a lottery scam, it’s similar and Scamraiders wants to alert you:
One of the most common scams that still hooks unsuspecting naïve people is the plea to help another person who has a problem with cashing a check. NEVER cash a check for a stranger or give them your money for their check! Usually the check is counterfeit and you will be stuck.

If you really want to play a lottery, BUY THE TICKET YOURSELF FROM A STATE-RUN LOTTERY— AND HOPE FOR THE BEST!

Jury Duty Scam – ID Theives Prey on Trusting Americans

Most of us have received a jury summons in the past, and whether you consider it a hassle or a civic duty, almost everyone reports. But what if someone told you that you failed to report and there was a warrant out for your arrest? That’s the twist on a scam that many trusting Americans have been falling for for years.

The scammer calls and claims that, because you have failed to show up for jury duty, your freedom is now in jeopardy. Of course, the victim will truthfully claim that they never received a summons — and then the swindler pounces. For “verification” purposes, they’ll need your social secutiry number, driver’s license number, date of birth — the boldest scam artists will sometimes even ask for a credit card number.

The cardinal rule to avoid this tricky scam is — never give out personal info on a call you did not initiate. This holds true for court officers, government officials, banking or credit card companies, among others.

Also remember: a court officer will rarely, if ever, call you in relation to jury service. The courts almost always follow up via postal mail, especially if you have missed jury service. Jurors will occasionally receive a call after sending in a completed questionaire — but this doesn’t happen very often.

Snopes:
http://www.snopes.com/crime/fraud/juryduty.asp

FBI:
http://www.fbi.gov/page2/june06/jury_scams060206.htm

Jury Duty Scam – ID Theives Prey on Trusting Americans

Most of us have received a jury summons in the past, and whether you consider it a hassle or a civic duty, almost everyone reports. But what if someone told you that you failed to report and there was a warrant out for your arrest? That’s the twist on a scam that many trusting Americans have been falling for for years.

The scammer calls and claims that, because you have failed to show up for jury duty, your freedom is now in jeopardy. Of course, the victim will truthfully claim that they never received a summons — and then the swindler pounces. For “verification” purposes, they’ll need your social secutiry number, driver’s license number, date of birth — the boldest scam artists will sometimes even ask for a credit card number.

The cardinal rule to avoid this tricky scam is — never give out personal info on a call you did not initiate. This holds true for court officers, government officials, banking or credit card companies, among others.

Also remember: a court officer will rarely, if ever, call you in relation to jury service. The courts almost always follow up via postal mail, especially if you have missed jury service. Jurors will occasionally receive a call after sending in a completed questionaire — but this doesn’t happen very often.

Better Business Bureau:
http://www.fortwayne.bbb.org/article/jury-duty-scam-hittiing-consum…

FBI:
http://www.fbi.gov/page2/june06/jury_scams060206.htm

LONG-DISTANCE PHONE SCAMS – WHAT’S THE REAL STORY?

There are lots of chain emails floating around out there warning of long-distance phone scams. While there is a kernal of truth to many of them, the details are often greatly exagerrated in the emails to really grab the reader’s attention. This article will help to give you the real fact and let you know what you really need to watch out for.

The first of these scams is the “809 Area Code Scam”. The email warnings say that you will receive a message on your phone or pager asking you to call a number with an 809 area code. The reasons for calling can vary and may include :

– You have won sweepstakes prizes and have to call to claim the money.
– You have a bill or credit debt that is past due and must be paid right away to avoid punishment.
– You are being solicited to become a “mystery shopper” and will be paid very well for a few hours of work per day.
– A family member is deathly ill or injured and needs your help.
– You are being considered for a job position and must call to answer questions and provide your information.

According to the email, if you fall for any of these schemes and call the number, you will be connected to either a fax machine, a very long recorded message, or a pay-per-call service, all with the intention of keeping you on the line as long as possible while your bill shoots up. Up until this point, the email is pretty truthful. These scams DO exist. However, the email warnings also say that you will be charged over $2,000 per minute. In fact, the charges for these scams tend to be $25-$100 per minute – not as high as claimed by the email, but still enough to make your jaw drop when you see it on your phone bill!

So why does this work? It’s because the 809 area code is not within the US – it is in the Caribbean, outside of US laws. Many consumers also mistake the “809” for a toll-free “800” number and don’t think twice about calling. The Better Business Bureau encourages people to not be taken in, no matter which “line” is being used on you to entice you to call. The only reason you should be dialing area code 809 is if you personally know someone with that area code. If anyone you do not know contacts you and wants you to use it… think twice.

PHISHING EXPEDITIONS

Watch out for deepwater fraudsters— prowling like sharks!

Phishing doesn’t use a fishing rod; their “bait” is a set-up to “hook” you. Phishing is no sport, it is a serious and frequent scam involving the use of fraudulent emails and phony copycat websites created to trick you into revealing your confidential personal information such as your bank account, stock, credit cards or Social Security numbers, along with your passwords—–if you bite, you’re cooked!

These con-people go “phishing” to lure their targets with a false sense of security by hijacking the familiar names you know using phony logos of trusted, established companies. Often these scam-artists will send out thousands of emails that appear to come from well-known banks, high profile corporations, financial service providers or internet auction houses. Their bogus emails will ask you to provide confidential information about yourself and/or claim to be verifying data that you previously provided when you started an online account or some other lure-con.

Here are some of the common tactics fraudster phishers use to reel you in:

1. Misuse of legitimate company names and logos in phishing emails.

2. These bogus emails may contain the names of actual personnel that work for the company whose names and graphics are enclosed.

3. The emails can even cleverly contain links to the actual legitimate website of the misused company or to a well “spoofed” website that looks like the real thing.

4. Often the fraudster will use fear to trigger your fast response, such as, “A failure to respond will result in no longer having access to your account”; or, “suspicious activity has been detected on your account”, or that they are implementing new privacy software, or identity theft solutions— All of this is a con to cause you to reveal your confidential information quickly and before you realize you have been conned.

Protect yourself; follow these steps to ensure that neither that you or your accounts will not be “skinned and fried”——–

a) Do not respond to any emails that request personal or financial information, or emails that use any form of pressure tactics. Pick up the phone and call the company, the legitimate company. Look up their phone number in the “phone book”. Do not use any phone numbers listed on the con-artist’s email.

b) If you respond by email, get the correct legitimate email address that belongs to the real company. Never use the email address provided by the fraudster, even if it appears correct.

c) Beef-up your own security. Make sure your computer has the latest security software packages. Watch out for spoofed websites that have all the “padlocks”, etc. Look for the “security certificate” for the site on any suspicious listings.

d) Constantly and thoroughly review your bank, credit cards, and all monthly financial account statements, whether online or as soon as they arrive in the mail. Check all transactions and amounts.

e) Report all phishing emails to the company whose name is misused and also report them to the FBI Internet Fraud Complaint Center. (www.ic3.gov).

Here are some additional scams alerts to be aware of:

> Slick lenders with bad grammar

> Get rich quick schemes

> Debt Free schemes to eradicate your debts

> Too-good-to-be-true cheap houses that can be bought with nothing down

> Phony job services and offers

> Bogus reconfirmation requests of your online passwords

> IRS refund scams

> Fake letter/email regarding investigations of any kind

> Alluring “Big Check” awards

> Social networking predators — viruses galore!

> You-tube cons— advertising products, services, etc.

Always remember, don’t open any unknown email attachments, no matter how inviting or urgent they seem! On top of the problems you and your accounts can acquire, your computer may receive an infected file. Simple: do not connect with people you don’t actually know; never give out any of your personal information or your email/phone numbers. Finally, stay alert, install the best and latest security software and keep it updated. Again, always remember, if it’s too good to be true, it is; and there are no free lunches, dinners or breakfasts!

SCAMMING CHILDREN AND PARENTS – PRIME TARGETS FROM BIRTH TO COLLEGE

Successful scam artists thrive on identifying a victim’s weakness and then exploiting that area for their monetary gains. Those who are trusting or naïve are often the prime targets for these con artists. One group that fits the bill would be children, and the parents of children who would go to any links to improve the lives of their offspring.

There are many different methods scammers use to target trusting children and their frazzled parents. Whether stealing the identity of an infant or preying on the teen looking to go to college, these thieves constantly come up with new and awful ways to steal from kids and their families. Here are a few to look out for:

CHILD IDENTITY THEFT
This is a growing problem. The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a report stating that over 400,000 children are victims of identity theft every year. This number is growing at an alarming rate.

Many times parents will suddenly find themselves hounded by creditors who look to collect on defaulted credit cards and excessive bills that were accrued under their child’s name and social security number. The FTC has reported cases of this happening with children as young as eleven months old.

Hard to believe but those who find themselves tracked by down creditors looking to collect on bills in their children’s names are often the lucky ones. They know about the problem and begin the long process of fixing their child’s credit before they come of age.

One seventeen-year old recently visited the bank to open his first bank account, only to learn someone had stolen his social security number several years earlier and had defaulted on credit cards and defrauded businesses across the country under several different names. Because no one runs credit reports on youngsters, it’s easy to understand how this crime can go unrealized. Not until they look to open an account of some kind or apply for college does the spotty history of their social security number come to the young person’s attention.

And while the children pay the price, many times the blame lies with the parents’ lax attention to protecting this incredibly sensitive information. It’s important to take precautions:

Always destroy documents containing social security numbers if throwing them away. Dumpster diving is a prime way crooks steal these numbers.

Keep your computer safe with the newest anti-virus software and updates. Many Trojan programs will log keystrokes and send them back to the hackers. It’s just a matter of time before they are able to pick out the social security numbers. And a child’s is the most attractive.

Be sure the Bluetooth or Wireless network you are using is encrypted and secure. If not then all of your family’s personal information is at risk.

NEW H1N1 SCAM ON PARENTS
Most parents will do anything to ensure their children’s health. These days one can’t turn on the TV or radio without hearing about the latest health scare, and the atmosphere of fear is something the scammer will look to exploit.

Just last month the FDA issued warning about H1N1 fraudulent scams, and one of the most popular targeted the parents of infants and young children.

Parents often look to nutritional supplements as a means of boosting their child’s immune system. Some fraudulent companies are taking advantage of this, according to the FDA, and releasing products aimed at children that claim to diagnose, alleviate, treat, prevent or even cure H1N1. These products are bogus and the claims illegal.

Recently a generic alternative of Tamilflu was confiscated at the border and upon testing was found to mostly contain Vitamin C.

ACTING AND MODELING SCAMS
These scams often start with a stranger approaching a parent in the mall or some public place. They claim the kid has a “special look” and that they are an agent or manager and are pretty sure they could book the child work in the entertainment industry. They give the family their card and tell them to call and set up an appointment.

During that appointment the real scam begins. Suddenly the visit to a talent agency turns into a high-pressure sales pitch. Your child needs modeling or acting classes that they provide for several hundred to several thousand dollars. Or in order to sell you child they need to do a screen test or need to set up a professional-photo shoot for headshots.

This is all bogus. Legitimate agencies may require certain materials, but they will recommend third parties for this. These bogus companies will take your child’s picture or stick them in some expensive classes, but what they won’t do is actually book them any work.

The truth is the market for child actors, especially infants and toddlers, is very small. The truth is, because youngsters’ looks change so quickly, professional photos become quickly outdated. Infants, in particular, are never expected to have pro photos. Legitimate agents, talent scouts, and casting directors will ask for casual snapshots to market a young child. If someone is pressuring to get your kid’s picture so they can get them entertainment work, then they are most likely a scam artist.

SCHOLARSHIP AND FINANCIAL AID SCAMS
As a child prepares to leave the nest, many families are faced with the daunting task of coming up with the funds to send the young man or woman to college. There are plenty of scam artists out there who look to make money off of these families who are trying to save money.

While there are many legitimate scholarships available, most financial aid comes from the federal government or the colleges themselves. Scholarship finders who claim “millions of dollars in private scholarship money go unused every year” should be treated with caution. Consider, most private scholarships are funded for specific applicants with certain career interests, or members of particular church organizations. These scholarship funders are eager to get their money to qualified students, so it doesn’t make sense for them to keep them a secret.

Here are some lines to look out for, according to the FTC’s Scholarship Scams:

You can’t get this information anywhere else. – There are numerous free listings of available scholarships. A little research at your school, local library or online should give you plenty of options before you pay a third party to do so for you.

I need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship. – Be incredibly wary of anyone making such a request. Research the potential grant thoroughly and get the terms in writing. This could be a con artist looking to make an unauthorized withdrawal.

We’ll do all the work. – Don’t fall for it. There are no two ways about it; your child must be personally responsible for applying for all scholarships and grants.

You’ve been selected by a National Foundation to receive a scholarship. Or, you’re a finalist in a contest you never entered. – Before your family sends money of any kind to apply for a scholarship, check it out. Make sure the contest or foundation are legitimate and not just another company whose primary goal is collecting nominal fees from thousands of students without actually delivering any college monies.

The scholarship will cost money. – Never pay someone who claims to be “holding” a scholarship or grant for your child. Free money shouldn’t come with costs attached.

In addition, consider foregoing financial aid consultants advertising there ability to help students through the confusing financial aid process and offer tricks to beat the system. The truth is that financial aid forms are pretty straight-forward and simple. And there aren’t really any tricks to the process. A financial aid officer is looking to grant the money they have available based on their school’s award criteria. You either meet it or you don’t.

An aid officer is your strongest ally in the process, and many will view the employment of a consultant, and some of the actions they might suggest (such as moving assets around to reduce the appearance of your worth), as red flags. If they get the feeling you are deceiving them, they might consider refusing the application outright.

These are just a few of the ways the scammers try to make a living off of our children, from birth to college, while they are still under our care. Stay alert and diligent. Raising a child comes with enough built in dramas and stress of its own, don’t allow a scam artist to get the best of your family because you didn’t recognize the signs.

MEDICAL SCAMS – WEIGHT LOSS PILLS AND CELLULITE CREAMS

When it comes to those seeking hope in the world of medicine, the scammers find themselves awash in a sea of often desperate and willing victims. It’s easy to put our faith in the quick, cheap fix, but going this route often results in consequences that are far from easy.

Last week, we looked at miracle cures and cheap online pharmaceuticals. This article covers the scammers who prey on those seeking to lose weight. The number of shady products and systems making outlandish promises is astronomical. Here are a few:

ACAI BERRY
These ads have become ubiquitous. They are a strong presence in online advertising, and have been listed as a hot product the last two years. While the berry is rich in anti-oxidants and fiber, there is no medical dating suggesting they are a miracle weight loss cure. You would never know this from the advertising.

Many companies selling acai-based pills and supplements make staggering claims of tens of pounds melting away with use of the product. Most of these claims come in the form of free trial offers and tout “celebrity endorsements” by such luminaries as Oprah Winfrey. These aren’t actual endorsements, but misleading ads that imply the talk show host is endorsing the product. In fact, according to an article in WalletPop, Ms. Winfrey’s spokesperson denies these claims vehemently.

The free trials are anything but cost-free. You will pay shipping and handling charges, and unless you read the fine print, two months after requesting the free offer you can expect a monthly charge to automatically generate for enrollment in a diet fitness and consulting service which normally consists of nothing more than spam email. The charges for this service and the continued delivery of the pills can be quite steep, from $50 to $100. They will continue to charge you automatically until you call and cancel.

CELLULITE CREAMS
Cellulite occurs as sugar is stored in the outer fat cells which then results in the appearance of lumpiness in the skin. Dr Lionel Bisson at Wellness.com estimates that over 3 billion dollars are spent annually by women hoping for a “cure”.

There are plenty of products on the market taking advantage of their search. Many of these contain caffeine and niacin as active ingredients. These two ingredients are known to cause redness and tingling in the skin. This falsely leads the user to the conclusion that the product is actually working, when in fact the cellulite is not affected at all.

Another cellulite cream was introduced by Nivea with a campaign featuring school-age girls dancing around a fountain in bliss. The active ingredient was L-carnitine. This is actually an amino acid, found abundantly in the body. It can be bought cheaply in health food stores as a supplemental pill, but is worthless when it comes to breaking down fat.

Cellulite has no miracle cure. The most successful way to fight cellulite is to cut down on the fat and work out rigorously, as the more toned the muscles are underneath, the smoother the skin will appear.

HOODIA
Hoodia was marketed as a weight loss wonder drug. Derived from the hoodia gordonii plant, it acts a natural appetite suppressant. The product has not gone through the extensive testing by FDA.

Most companies began marketing their hoodia weight loss products with false claims. Independent lab testing showed that Pure Hoodia, Inc. was selling counterfeit hoodia. It did not contain the amount of hoodia promised.

When the products began selling heavily a few years ago, the South American suppliers met demand by providing ground up hoodia roots, which is a part of the plant that does not even have the appetite-suppressing qualities and then filled out the bulk of the orders by cutting them with silica, leaves and sawdust to fill out their volume.

Even if the companies had been selling pure hoodia, as promised, its use as safe appetite suppressant is in question.

Unilever, a well-known company for their popular line of Slim-Fast products, spent over four years and $20million developing and testing a viable hoodia gordonii product to include in their food and beverage lines. The results of their trial for safety and efficiency were telling. The products were considered dangerous after consistently causing a dramatic rise in blood pressure, and moreover, they proved to be ineffective in reducing the trial participants’ calorie consumption. After nearly half a decade and tens of millions of dollars invested, Unilever dropped their pursuit of incorporating hoodia gordonii into their weight-loss universe.

HYDROXYCUT
This is another pill that claims to drop the pounds on those who take it regularly, as a fat-burner and appetite suppressant. The company has never produced any evidence to back up the fat-burning claims.

The product originally contained high amounts of ephedra, a stimulant feared to cause high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes. After being busted for not labeling the ephedra contents or side-effects on their packaging, Hydroxycut replaced the ingredient with 200mg of caffeine, or the equivalent of two cups of coffee.

The company was also sued for false advertising in 2003 by the Missourri Attorney General, who claimed before and after photos were misleading due to varying lights and angles used in the photos, and one before photo used a woman who was pregnant at the time. The case was settled for $100,000 and the company claimed no wrongdoing.

In May of 2009, due to several confirmed deaths from hepatoxicity, Hydroxycut was recalled from the market by the FDA. They have recently released a new formula to the store shelves.

Many of these items will give you short term results, but true weight loss isn’t found in a pill or fad diet. Long-term weight loss is only possible through lifestyle changes in the way we eat and the amount we exercise. Any company that tells you differently is trying to sell you something you don’t really need. It might even be dangerous, so think twice, do a little research, and talk to your doctor before starting any weight loss plan.

JOSEPH M BURKE ESQ A NEW YORK LAWYER HAS BEEN CHEATING ADVERSARIES FOR YEARS BY ENGAGING IN BRIBERY, COLLUSION, FRAUD, AND DECEPTION. NOW THIS CHARLATAN AND HIS QUACK CLIENT DR JOHN SIEBERT HAVE BEEN CAUGHT—TAMPERING WITH JUDGES, FILING FALSE AND PERJURED DOCUMENTS AND DOCUMENTED AND ADMITTED EX-PARTE COLLUSION WITH JUDGES AND REFEREES AT THE UNIFIED COURT IN NYC

Joseph M Burke Esq and his penny-ante law office Russo and Burke Esqs consists of a cesspool of slickster lawyers who habitually harass, extort, abuse, victim adversaries.

We have a plethora of proofs that Burke and his thieves engage in perjury, defrauding judges, filing false documents, forging documents, bribery, collusion with Referees and collusion with Judges.

Shocking? Well do not be because these ripoff lawyers at Russo & Burke have been playing the same fiddle for years. Cheating, bribery, tampering, collusion, extortion and intimidation. One of Siebert’s Victims has provided proof of Burke’s shake down acts and threats to cover up Siebert’s sex abuses.

Photos and all of that good stuff. Scams Inc has affidavits from Siebert-Burke Victims outlining the Burke-Siebert Collusion. Much of these proofs have been posted on Scamraiders and on Scams Inc and are in the hands of Investigators and in Courthouse Files and Pleadings.

‘If you cant beat-em-cheat-em. Joe Burke who looks awfully much like one of ‘Santa’s Helpers’. Burke is far from that; but its proof you can not judge a book by its cover.

Joe Burke Esq is a thief a perjurer and a sociopath, a man without a shred of integrity a man who has covered up Dr Siebert’s rape of innocent victim patients that Siebert lied to cheated, had sex with and robbed these persons of their self respect and money. Siebert has been evicted out of NYC and is now molesting patients in the Clinic at UW Hospital in Wisconson. The Bum has been kicked out of the Hospitals he was affiliated in NYC thanks to Scams Inc’s Exposes into this Quack Siebert.

No matter Joe Burke will cover for anyone so long as the Burke client ‘pays-up’. Burke will lie, cheat, fabricate evidence, bribe, cheat and extort. Scams Inc has the proof of Joe Burke’s acts and crimes of perjury, tampering, and bribery.

Here are a few examples of proof of Burke’s Courthouse scams and swindles. Scams Inc has proof by emails between Burke and NY Unified Court Referee Jack Suter engaging in collusion and the writing of illegal Orders. Later vacated.

We have proof of Burke filing and thereafter Secreting a Note of Issue and Certificate of Readiness. After Burke Filed the Document which is supposed to bar any further discovery, motions etc, Burke persisted in making Post-Note Motions, seeking Referee appointments and filing perjured Record and pleadings with the Appellate Division 1st Department.

Burke and his quack client disgraced Dr John Siebert a proven sex vulture conned Judge Beeler, coluded with Judge Stallman and colluded and manipulated, cheated and conned Judge Paul Wooten.

Burke outright lied in pleadings before Beeler claiming that Siebert was a respectable Doctor while Burke was fending off at NYU Hospital Siebert’s imminent discharge for sex abuses narcotics abuse and healthcare insurance thefts. In fact Siebert was fired from NYU Hospital and from Lenox Hill and Manhattan Eye and Ear for sex abuses and narcotics abuses.

Burke filed numerous pleadings replete with concocted allegations and allowed Siebert to proffer lies, fraud and deception.

Enter Judge Wooten who engaged in a course of despicable acts of tampering with Court Records, Transcripts, manipulation with Uniform Rules and violations of Court Rules in a scheme with Burke and Siebert to railroad the adversary.

Burke has admitted exparte communication with Wooten and Scams Inc has a barrel of proof of collusion where Wooten lied over interstate phone lines in a Court proceeding-and tape-recordings legally taken do exist.

Joseph M Burke and his Law Office Russo & Burke are corrupt lawyers who should be indicted and disbarred.—-Burke believes that he is above the law and his client Siebert who has raped and robbed many and who has been evicted from 5 medical offices in NYC likewise believes that he can continue to rob and molest.

Burke has recently filed documents that further prove his corrupt scams of trying to cheat Siebert’s adversary for over $20,000,000.00. Burke has trapped himself and sociopath Dr John Siebert because of greed and larceny–stay tuned–