Friday, March 14, 2008

Scam du Jour

I saw a Chris Hansen TV show recently that dealt with the subject of Identity Theft. What they found was alarming- in one case, the Hansen team , (with a credit company's help) sold a handful of bogus 'stolen' credit card numbers to hackers in a secret chat room.
The activity on the 'bait' credit cards was being tracked in real-time; less than two minutes after their on-line 'sale', the cards had been maxed out with purchases from over a dozen foreign countries.

Under two minutes.

There were also a few stories that followed this sad outline:

A lonely person in the USA meets 'their perfect match' on-line and an electronic romance develops. The 'match' , who invariably lives in a foreign country, soon starts asking the lovestruck victim to accept packages for them and, in some instances, to forward those packages to a foreign PO...the packages, of course, contain goods purchased with stolen credit card numbers...eventually someone gets arrested and/or bankrupted. That person is usually the victim, not the perpetrator.

How do the crooks get your data? There are quite a few methods.
Some you can do very little to prevent-if a store that you used your VISA at gets hacked, there is not much you can do since it's unlikely that you'll even know it happened- but there is one thing that you can do.

Your best defense is this: Don't be a total idiot.

I didn't think that anyone could be dumb or desperate enough to fall for totally obvious scams such as the one presented below, but after watching the Hansen show, I realized that this country is lousy with stupid, lonely, emotionally desperate people who will believe almost anything, including thinking that a gorgeous 20-year old Brazilian co-ed with a 38D bustline can fall in love with a homely, uneducated middle-aged American man of the variety that wears sweat pants and baseball caps in public.

Today's featured scam claims to be from the Department of the Treasury with the subject line: "US Internal Revenue Service".
The mailer's address is: "" might as well read: "thatman@behindthecurtain.oz"

The letter contains good news. I'm gonna get Free Money! Check this out:

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined
that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $189.60.
Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 days in order to process it.
It will be stored in our secure database for maximum of 3 days
while we process the results of this nationwide survey.

A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons.
For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.

To access your tax refund online, please click on the link below

Give me a break. This year's tax deadline hasn't even passed yet, so what 'annual calculations' are they referring to?
An official IRS letter would arrive via the postal system, it would contain the specific tax YEAR at the very least and it probably wouldn't rely on incomplete sentences to convey important information ("For example submitting invalid records or applying after the deadline.")...additionally, the IRS doesn't calculate your refund for you unless it's part of an audit- if you are being audited, you will know. I have been through that and it sucks...anyway, I didn't click the link that was included in the email, but I am positive that it leads to a form that will ask you to supply information (SSN, Employer ID#,income,bank routing info, etc) that the real IRS would already other words, if the IRS already knows that it owes you $189.60, why are you getting an email? You should have a check.

It goes on to ask the victim to allow: " 6-9 days while we process the results of this nationwide survey."

Survey? What "survey"? This email is a notification, not a survey.

Furthermore, if it takes 6-9 days to process your 'survey', why do they tell you that the data will be held in their "secure database for a maximum of 3 days." ?
What if it takes 7 days to 'process'? The data, according to the sender, would be deleted and it would therefore be impossible to 'process'.

The true reason for the 'delay' period is simple. It gives the crooks a few days to empty out all of your accounts before you unwittingly report this scam to the real IRS via a "where is my refund?" request.

Beyond the mathematical and logical flaws there is an additional mistake made on the part of the sender: This scam appeals to people's inherent trust of the Federal Government in general and of the IRS specifically.

That's a loser's bet but it's paying off for somebody or they wouldn't keep rolling the dice.

I have discovered two ways to foil ID thieves:

1) By maintaining a credit score under 400 and a debt load in excess of $10,000. Your ID ain't worth stealing if your credit score is 380 and you owe sixty grand in medical bills...if someone wants to get credit in your name, they will first have to pay off your accumulated debts.

2) By not having money or property.

Both of my solutions come with their own set of problems, but if you think option #2 is a good choice for you, let me know. I'll send you a link to my PayPal account and you can shed yourself of your monetary burden-for your own protection, of course.
I'll give all the money back as soon as the internet stops being so dangerous.


yellowdog granny said...

one reason why i don't use credit cards...

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

LOL! I'm on your plan of identity theft prevention. I own nothing and my credit is so lousy I can't even get a credit acrd.

billy pilgrim said...

i think it all falls under darwin's law of natural selection.

the herd is always in need of culling.

Sling said...

I have no bank account,credit cards,or even a standard,state issued ID..
Anyone that wants to steal my ID is in for a rude shock!

more cowbell said...

I am so paranoid, I probably have passed up real opportunities because I'm such a huge skeptic. Ed McMahon could show up at my house with one of those giant checks, and I'd be like, "please, you're not getting my account info with that giant check trick!"

Susannity said...

LMAO more cowbell!

I'm a little worried about sling.

It's sad so many will try to take advantage of and steal from others.

angel said...

i am often quite flabbergasted by the scams people fall for via email!

Blogger said...

I just got a check for $500.

Many times people don't believe me when I tell them about how much you can earn taking paid surveys online...

So I took a video of myself getting paid over $500 for filling paid surveys to set the record straight.