Scammers Use Medical Issues To Prey On People’s Good Nature

While there are some mean and nasty people out there, generally people are nice, kind and cordial. We are conditioned from birth to be civil towards each other.

However, those mean and nasty’s seem to pop up all the time and ruin someone’s day.  One scam in particular that has always intrigued me revolves around health issues.

Organ transplant scam – In New Hampshire “a man who almost conned a 73-year-old Maine woman out of $35,000 by claiming he needed a liver transplant has agreed to plead guilty as part of a plea deal he struck with prosecutors. He told her that he would die without the transplant; the scammer also allegedly told police that God told him he needed the operation and he convinced the woman that he was interested in her romantically, and had once stayed over at her home. His alleged plan was to have the woman take out a loan against the equity of her house.”

Cancer scam – In another case “a Michigan woman convicted of scamming thousands of dollars from donors by drugging her 12-year-old son to make him appear to have cancer. The scammer elicited donations from individuals, groups and members of at least one church who believed they were helping to pay for her son’s medical care as he underwent chemotherapy. She is accused of shaving her son’s head and eyebrows. Court records show she told her son he had leukemia.”

These medical scams are generally successful because someone somewhere is going to tap into their good nature and help out. And while I suggest helping out whenever possible, simply beware of medical and disease scams and be careful who you donate to. You can always do some deeper checking with the hospital the person says they are being treated at. This in most cases will stop the scammer on their tracks.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover.

Operation Empty Promises Targets Job Scams

The recession may have waned, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. The unemployment rate is still a staggering 9.5%. That’s millions of people without a job. Many who were displaced eventually got lower paying jobs, and are barely able to get by.

Jobseekers’ desperation for employment makes them vulnerable to work-from-home scams and fake job listings.

The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that it has ”stepped up its ongoing campaign against scammers who falsely promise guaranteed jobs and opportunities to ‘be your own boss’ to consumers who are struggling with unemployment and diminished incomes as a consequence of the economic downturn.”

Criminals take advantage of increasing unemployment with fake job listings, designed to trick applicants into disclosing their Social Security numbers. Some scammers who more closely resemble legitimate companies make millions by blanketing classified advertisements across the country, roping people in with false promises.

One company offered to help workers start their own Internet business and earn up to $10,000 a month, ultimately defrauding victims out of $40 million in fees. Another advertised fake sales jobs on and charged applicants for background checks. In another instance, scammers made false claims about the earnings potential of stuffing circulars into envelopes. Another scam advertised an angel pin assembly kit, with which one could supposedly earn up to $500 per week, no experience, special tools, or sewing skills required. The worst scam offered to help consumers recover money lost to other scammers, for a fee of up to $499.

If a job description doesn’t sound like something you would see printed on a business card, or if you are asked to front money, it’s a scam.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses money mules and job scams on Fox News. (Disclosures)

Tsunami Scam Warnings Keep Coming In

In light of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the subsequent tsunami warnings in Hawaii and on the US West Coast, McAfee is warning consumers about a number of online scams that have appeared within hours of these devastating events.

Sadly, scammers seem to come out of the woodwork during a natural disaster to catch consumers when they’re in a panic, looking for answers, and when they’re most vulnerable.  People should not click on links or respond to phishing e-mails for relief donations that ask for credit card numbers or other personal information.  In addition, be wary of tiny URLs on social media services and posts on social networking sites. Hundreds of domains that could be related to the disaster have been registered so far today, including a scam site that appeared within just two hours of the earthquake.

Follow these guidelines to ensure that donations to victim relief efforts are sent through legitimate sites:

.Org domains are cheap.  Registering does not indicate charitable status in any way.  Verify that the organization is actually a registered charity by typing the URL directly into a web browser.

Domain solicitations that arrive by unsolicited email, especially those sounding overly urgent or desperate, are very likely to be scams.

Be aware that donation requests made via advertising banners can also be scams.

If you’d like to help, support one of the major international organizations that have a “most in need” fund such as the Red Cross.

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee Consultant and Identity Theft Expert. See him discussing how to protect yourself from identity theft on (Disclosures)

Craigslist Scammers Use Emotional Lures

At the moment, I have no less than six different tabs open in my browser, each searching Craigslist for different items I need this spring: trailers, boats, patio furniture, musical instruments, and exercise equipment. Every day I refresh my search results, looking for the best deal. I’m confident that I’ll find what I’m looking for. Patience is the key.

Millions are doing the same thing. And unfortunately, many of them are being scammed out of their money as sellers provide explanations as to why an item is being sold, ranging from “not needed” to “my son died.”

A North Carolina woman and her mother were looking for a used car on Craigslist and found an “amazing, like, this can’t be true, deal.” The daughter contacted the seller, who replied with, “Automatic transmission. It’s in perfect condition. Exterior no scratches. Interior no rips, tears, stains.” The seller asked for $3,900, and added that the car had belonged to her son, who had died in a bike accident, and she wanted to sell the car quickly because it brought back difficult memories.

Meanwhile, the mother found a similar deal on a different car, and the seller had a nearly identical story. This raised red flags and both mother and daughter cut off communications with the scammers. They were lucky.

This type of scam works because people can relate to the awful story and are more inclined to help when someone seems to be in distress.

Craigslist could prevent the majority of these scams easily by leveraging device reputation management. Many Craigslist scammers are based in Ghana, Nigeria, Romania, Korea, Israel, Columbia, Argentina, Philippines and Malaysia. These countries breed scammers who spend their days targeting consumers in the developed world. But real-time device reputation checks such as those offered by iovation can detect computers that have been used for auction fraud (and expose all of the accounts the device or group of devices is associated with) providing the ability to shut down sophisticated fraud rings and thousands of accounts immediately

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses another databreach on Fox News. Disclosures

Scammer Guilty of $2.7 Million Online Auction Fraud

Auction scams are messy. Consumers who are new to the world of online auctions are more likely to fall victim to deals that are too good to be true. Victims either get stuck with inferior or counterfeit goods, or they are charged and never receive the purchased item at all.

My spouse used eBay to search for skin care products, and was pleasantly surprised by the low prices she found for the products she wanted. Since she doesn’t have much experience with eBay, she called me over to help her complete the transaction. I saw that the seller had no feedback from previous buyers, and suggested that my wife hold off on the purchase. She begrudgingly agreed with me, and the next day when she logged in, the seller had been suspended from eBay. (I told her I’m wicked smart!)

If it looks like it might be fraud, it probably is.

A Romanian man recently pled guilty to charges of wire fraud and conspiracy before a Chicago judge, after having acted as a money mule in a scheme that scammed eBay, Craigslist, and AutoTrader users out of $2.7 million. The man’s associates in Romania used auction websites to sell nonexistent cars, motorcycles, and RVs. Buyers paid by wiring money to the scammers’ accounts, but never received the expensive items they had supposedly purchased.

Online classified and auction websites could prevent fraud and protect their users by incorporating device reputation management. One anti-fraud service getting lots of attention for delivering fast and effective results is ReputationManager 360 by iovation Inc. This software-as-a-service incorporates device identification, device reputation and real-time risk profiling. It is used by hundreds of online businesses to prevent fraud and abuse in real time by analyzing the computer, smartphone, or tablet connecting to their online properties.

While iovation does not collect any personally identifiable information (PII) from their business clients, they have a very unique view into the connections between computers and the accounts they access. For example, what might typically look like one transaction to a single auction site is often a coordinated attack across multiple sites.  When a group of devices hits multiple sites, across various industries, iovation can detect the attacks through velocity triggers and shared experiences across their customer base to alert the affected business and thwart the attacks.

A device reputation check used on a scammer setting up a new account in an online action site would stop him at the front door, leaving no chance to post fake items for sale which would soon cause damage to the business and its customers.

eBay makes safety recommendations for users, and the first rule is to use eBay’s built in payment system, and not to use alternate payment methods, like wiring money.

Never provide sensitive personal information like your account password, a credit card or bank account number, or your Social Security number in an email.

Before you bid or buy on eBay, know your seller. Look at your seller’s feedback ratings, score, and comments to get an idea of their reputation within the eBay marketplace.

I generally recommend using PayPal to help prevent online identity theft. If you use your credit card, check your statements frequently and refute any unauthorized charges immediately.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses scammers and thieves on The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch. Disclosures.

Slam Online Scams

#1 Nigerian Scams: While these types of scams are generally understood to be Nigerian in nature and origin, and are in fact named after the 419 Nigerian code that made them illegal, advanced-fee scams happen right here in the good old USA by Americans presenting to offer jobs or may ask help to transfer money.

#2 Romance Scams: If you ever hear talk like this, run far and fast: “In me sweetheart you are going to find the most passionate, loving and romantic man you have ever met. There are very few promises in life but this is one of them! ROMANCE is the key to my happiness and to my heart and soul!”

#3 Classified Ad Scams: This story caught my eye: “An online scam targeting pet-lovers is circulating the web, and it could cost you more than a new pet. An ad posted to a local online classified website by a man who claimed he was living in Florida. He was willing to give the Labrador Retriever puppy named Dely away for the cost of shipping, which was $220.”

#4 Phishing: Phishing continues to become more sophisticated, more effective, and more prevalent. In one example, criminal hackers waited until Pennsylvania school administrators were on vacation, then used simple money transfers to liquidate over $440,000 out of the districts accounts.

#5 Spear Phishing: Spear phishing occurs when the scammers concentrate on a localized target, usually an individual with control over a company’s checkbook. This insidious type of phishing occurs when a recipient clicks a link, either in the body of an email or on the spoofed website linked in the email, and a download begins.

Don’t be taken. Keep your head up and recognize when someone’s trying to take advantage of you.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover.

Snow Removal Scams Plague The Elderly

The lowest of low life scammers generally prey upon the weaker and often the frail. And all too often that is children or elderly. In this case, snow removal scams happen when we have winters like this one where snow is piling up 6-10 feet over the course of the season.

Daily television news reports highlight roofs collapsing as a result of the heavy snow piling up and people go into panic mode and shovel off their roofs. None of this ever may sense to me especially due to the fact you are more likely to fall of the roof and break a bone than your roof being in danger of collapsing.

NECN reports “an 86-year old man who lives in Amesbury, Massachusetts was embarrassed and nervous after police say he paid an area contractor 48 hundred dollars to clear snow from his roof.”

Strangely the contractors’ last name that did the dirty deed was named “Snow”. Title should read “Scammer Snow snows senior with snow swindle” I should be a writer.

“The Snows are known to authorities throughout the area– in fact — across the country for allegedly preying on elderly people, charging them exorbitant prices for snow removal, paving and construction jobs.”

This kind of scam happens much more frequently than one would think. Before you or anyone you are a caretaker for goes and spends any money on snow removal from a roof, contact your local building department to get an idea if your property is at risk.

Otherwise when making any kind of investment in snow removal expect to pay less than $50.00 per man, per hour plus any heavy equipment charges and get an estimate of how long the project will take. Further, demand the contractor provide a certificate of insurance should something go wrong.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing scammers and thieves on The Big Idea with Donnie Deutsch.

Online Dating Sites a Haven For Criminals

I’m weird. I know this because people tell me all the time. They tell me I’m weird because I like to do things that most people don’t. I like to do things that are different, and different usually means weird. One of my little weird things is posing as a woman. Yup. Read on.

I like to expose the flaws in our systems, to find what makes us vulnerable. Much of my “research” (or my “antics,” as some would say) is prompted by my desire to learn more about the scumbags of society, who prey on others.

So I sign up for online dating sites, create a profile as a woman, and wait for men to contact me. My research has led me to discover some particularly shady methods scammers use to target emotionally vulnerable victims. The most common is an advanced fee scam involving a wire transfer.

A divorced mother of three in Britain was taken for £80,000 by a scammer posing as a US soldier. It began when a man who called himself Sergeant Ray Smith introduced himself on a dating website. Soon they were chatting and emailing regularly, and then he was calling her on the phone and asking her to wire him money.

Twenty years ago, online dating wasn’t even a thought. Ten years ago, it was weird. Five years ago, it was new and exciting. Today, it’s as normal as milk and bread. If you are looking for a mate online, you will eventually find someone. Most of my friends who’ve tried it were successful. But by the time a new technology becomes normalized, scammers, who are usually ahead of the curve, are lying in wait. As online dating gradually gained popularity and acceptance, scammers were coming up with ways to take advantage and perfecting their craft. And now it’s a full-time job for them. They know all the new scams and come up with better ways of executing the old ones.

It blows me away that these scams are even possible. In many cases, the same scammers maintain multiple profiles on different dating sites, and the dating sites do almost nothing to prevent or police this.

We caught up with anti-fraud provider iovation to see what dating sites around the world were reporting about fraudster activities.

In the last 90 days, 230,000 fraud and abuse attempts were reported to iovation from dating sites alone, including:

•   Spamming – 90,000

•   Scams and solicitations – 30,000

•   Inappropriate content – 20,000

•   Chat abuse – 17,000

•   Profile misrepresentation – 15,000

•   Credit card fraud – 14,000

•   Identity mining / phishing attempts – 12,000

iovation has many more categories specific to dating, including bullying, account takeovers, under age members, and so on. What’s unique to their globally shared system is that their clients can choose what to take action on or not.  For example, a dating site may choose to not care about cheating in online gaming sites, but set up rules to trigger multiple account creations looking for profile misrepresentation.  Dating sites can specify which type of behavior to protect their users from.

If more sites incorporated device reputation checks for suspicious computer history and investigated for characteristics consistent with fraudulent use, they’d be able to deny criminals, often before the first time they tried to sign up.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses Safe Personal Dating on Tyra. (Disclosures)

Beware Of 10 Tax-time Scams

We are approaching tax time. Scammers are ramped up and looking for your money. Learn these tax season scam tips and watch your back.

1. Text messaging scams or smishing a.k.a Phexting. Like phishing but texting. Criminal hackers have access to technology that generates cell phone numbers and access to mass text messaging services. They send texts that install keyloggers or direct you to websites that steal your data.

2. Tax preparer scams. Reports of tax preparers who tell their clients they have to pay back their stimulus checks, then pocket the money.

3. Basic phone scams. Using the telephone for scams is back. Scammers call your home posing as local fire dept collecting your personal information for their records in case there is an emergency.

4. Caller ID spoof. New technologies that allow anyone any time to mask what shows on your caller ID and pose as an official, lottery or authority to get you to reveal data or write checks.

5. Late payment scam. As people fall behind on their utilities or taxes, lists are created and available either internally or as public record. These lists fall into the wrong hands and thieves call you to collect.

6. Affinity fraud. The Madoff scandal has inspired a new generation of cons to adopt the Ponzi once again.

7. Advanced fee fraud. Now more than ever, if it seems too good to be true, it is. Desperate times mean desperate people are making bad decisions and getting taken to the cleaners.

8. Work at home scams. Millions of people laid off, millions looking for a job. There isn’t a newspaper in the country that doesn’t have a work at home scam ad.

9. Foreign lottery scams. The promise of money is overseas, not here at home and criminals are using the phone, email and snail mail to find their victims.

10. Identity Theft. Identity thieves raised the bar as it has gone up 22%. Watch your credit reports and look for and shut down accounts opened in your name you have not authorized.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to Home Security Source discussing home security and identity theft on TBS Movie and a Makeover.

How Does Device Reputation Protect Me?

Device reputation spots online evildoers by examining the computer, smartphone, or tablet they are using to connect to any website. If a device is recognized as having previously committed some type of unwanted behavior, the website has the opportunity to reject the transaction, preventing damage before it occurs.

In the physical world, as the saying goes, “You are only as good as your word.” And when somebody says one thing and does another, we no longer trust them.

Online, people say and do things they never would in the real world. Internet anonymity fuels bad behavior. Websites’ comments sections are filled with vitriol that you’d never hear real people utter. Pedophiles who’d never approach a child on the street contact kids over the Internet. Sex offenders avoid the stigma of their label on dating sites and social media. Scammers create accounts in order to con people and businesses into forking over money. And identity thieves use your personal information to fill out online applications for credit.

All of this is made possible by the anonymity of the Internet.

As fraudsters develop more sophisticated schemes and collaborate in elaborate fraud rings, the threat of cybercrime increases. Online businesses are getting hit hard by fraud and abuse, and it’s critical that fraud protection solutions save them from significant losses and damaged reputations.

A device reputation service checks for suspect history, but also investigates for characteristics consistent with fraudulent users. And the best part is that it denies criminals, often even before their first attempt.

According to Greg Pierson, Founder and CEO of iovation, “Device reputation helps prevent identity thieves from monetizing the credentials that they have stolen.  At the same time we are protecting online businesses, we’re also protecting the consumer.”

Device-based fraud management and a shared device reputation infrastructure play a critical role in identifying online fraud and abuse. Neglecting to take advantage of these tools severely limits a business’s ability to prevent fraud.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses Scambaiting on Fox News. (Disclosures)