Can You Hear Me? Scammers.

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ScamRemember the Verizon Wireless commercial where the guy asked “can you hear me now?” That commercial is no longer on the air, but the question is still being asked – by scammers.

Yes, one of the newest scams making the rounds goes something like this. You get a call on your cell phone and the person on the other end asks “can you hear me?” The way you answer this seemingly innocent question can determine if you become the latest victim.

When you hear someone on the other line ask “can you hear me,” your reflexive response may be the simply say yes. Unfortunately, that is exactly the answer the scammers want to hear. Their question is nothing more than a ploy to get you to say that word – yes.

Once you say yes, the scammer can use that response to authorize phony charges on bills and credit cards, and to make it seem like you agreed to something. The scammer can also use other questions in order to get you to say yes, such as “do you pay the bill for this phone number?”

Another ploy these criminals use is to get you to press a certain button on your phone, which they can also use to fraudulently signify your agreement or permission.

Often these scammers have already obtained some of your personal and financial information via some other stolen data and the “yes” is what they need if you attempt to dispute charges on your credit card or an agreement to purchase a product or service.

Experts who deal with fraud and scams, including the FCC, suggest that the best way to deal with this scam is simply to not answer any calls where the number is not recognizable. If you do pick up, simply hang up when someone just blurts out a random question. You can also add your number, both home and cell phone to the national Do Not Call Registry.

In this age of electronic scams and fraud, it is so important to protect your personal information, especially you credit card numbers, PIN numbers and social security number. Stay on top of your financial information by frequently checking your credit card and banking statements. Often, the sooner you catch financial fraud, the better your odds of recouping your losses and preventing further loss.

Be smart. Be strong. And always stay alert.

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

Trademark Scammers. USPTO SCAM.

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Non-USPTO Solicitations

USPTO Scam

USPTO Scam

Here is yet another way scammers are trying to part you from your hard-earned money.

The USPTO recently announced that trademark holders are receiving letters in the mail requesting payment on fees due for the trademarks.

The fraudulent solicitations include offers such as: for legal services; for trademark monitoring services; to record trademarks with U.S. Customs and Border Protection; and to “register” trademarks in the company’s own private registry.

Furthermore, these scammers are using letterhead that mimics the look of official government documents and are using names that resemble the USPTO, such as “United States,” “U.S.,” “Trademark,” “Patent,” “Registration,” “Office,” or “Agency.”

Trademark Scam.

The Department of Justice reported that these scams resulted in the loss of approximately $1.66 million from copyright holders, and has only resulted in 5 convictions.

So, if you get a letter in the mail stating that it’s from the USPTO office read the letter carefully before making a decision about whether to respond.  According to the USPTO “All official correspondence will be from the “United States Patent and Trademark Office” in Alexandria, VA, and if by e-mail, specifically from the domain “@uspto.gov.”

What do you do if you are a victim?

File an online consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). See here.

The USPTO has offered several examples of just some of the non-USPTO solicitations that have been mailed out, which can be reviewed here.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Smartphone. iPhone. Scams.

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Rip People Off.

Scams. iPhone.

Scams. iPhone.

I have written extensively on this blog about scams used by criminals to rip people off. Unfortunately, the scammers never rest, instead they spend their time plotting and scheming new and improved scams to separate you from your hard-earned money or steal your identity.

Some of the recent scams involve the buying of your old Smartphone. Yes, many people want to stay on the cutting edge of technology and want the latest and best equipment on the market. How many times have you watched news reports on the lines outside of closed Apple stores waiting for the release of the most recent iPhone? An astounding number of people actually camp out in front of the stores overnight to make sure they are among the first to get their hands on this technology.

Used Phones.

Having the newest technology is great, but what do you do with your expensive not-so-old Smartphone? The answer to that question has created an entire industry with companies who want to buy your “old” Smartphone, and they claim to offer you top-dollar for it.  But are these companies for real and do they really do what they say they will do?

After a lawsuit filed by the FTC and the State of Georgia, a federal judge recently shut down numerous websites dealing with the purchasing of “old” Smartphones. Laptop & Desktop Repair, the company that owns and operates several websites, including cashforiphones.com, cashforlaptops.com, ecyclebest.com, smartphonetraders.com and sell-your-cell.com, was found to be scamming customers and not following through on their promises to consumers.

The websites would attract people looking to sell their old Smartphones and give the prospective seller an online quote, but once the companies had the Smartphones in their physical possession, the price they promised suddenly decreased to a fraction of their original quote. When the customer complained, they were told that it would take weeks to process the return of their Smartphones, or they could receive a payment today. According to the FTC lawsuit, the amounts offered after taking possession were as low as 3% of the original offer given.

So, what should a person do with their used Smartphones or computers?

The FTC makes the following suggestions:

  • Trade it in. Ask the manufacturer or retailer if they’ll take your old device and give you credit toward a new one.
  • Recycle it. Ask the manufacturer or retailer if they recycle old devices. You can also see the EPA’s advice on donating and recycling electronics.
  • Donate it. Contact your local charity and ask if they accept used electronics.

Of course, always make sure that any personal information on your Smartphone or computer is deleted before letting it go.

The best advice when dealing with any online company is to spend some time researching the company, which includes reading what other people who dealt with them had to say.

Unfortunately, like death and taxes, there will always be scammers out there looking to take advantage of unsuspecting people. It’s up to you to educate yourself of your rights as a consumer, as well as tactics of recognizing the scammers and steering clear of them.

Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on FacebookTwitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groupsGoogle+ Circles.

 

BBB Scam Tracker

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IRS Scams.

BBB Scam Tracker.

BBB Scam Tracker.

Scammers seem to be targeting Americans at an alarming rate. I was the target of a scam attempt not too long ago, involving people calling me claiming to be the IRS and threatening to sue me. I did a blog post about this IRS scam – read here.

Criminals are running all types of scams using phones, email and even snail mail. Their ultimate purpose is to steal your money, property and identity. These people will steal your last dollar, destroy your finances and credit, and sleep like a baby.

Top 10 Scams of 2015.

Trends show that senior citizens are one of the biggest targets of these sleazy scammers. According to complaints compiled by the Federal Trade Commission, people over 60 years of age accounted for 26% of reported scam cases in 2012, up from 10% in 2008.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) tracks and compiles scam complaints and they recently released their Top 10 Scams of 2015. They are:

1. Tax Scams (IRS and CRA)
2. Debt Collections
3. Sweepstakes/Prizes/Gifts
4. Tech Support
5. Government Grants
6. Advanced Fee Loan
7. Credit Cards
8. Work from Home
9. Fake Checks/Money Orders
10. Lottery

The BBB now also offers a Scam Tracker feature on their website. The purpose of this feature is to “Spot a business or offer that sounds like an illegal scheme or fraud? Tell us about it. Help us investigate and warn others by reporting what you know.”

The Scam Tracker lists reported scams by date, scam type, zip code, dollars lost, and gives details of the particular scam. You can also search for scams by selecting a date range then using keywords, scam types and location. To date, they have over 12,000 reported scams in their database. They also post Scam Alerts, and of course, you can report a scam yourself.

See the BBB Scam Tracker here.

To avoid becoming the victim of a scam there are certain things you can do to protect yourself. With today’s technology, nothing is full proof, but you can put the odds in your favor. The Federal Trade Commission makes the following suggestions:

• Know who you’re dealing with.
• Know that wiring money is like sending cash.
• Read your monthly statements.
• After a disaster, give only to established charities.
• Talk to your doctor before you buy health products or treatments.
• Remember there’s no sure thing in investing.
• Don’t send money to someone you don’t know.
• Don’t agree to deposit a check and wire money back.
• Don’t reply to messages asking for personal or financial information.
• Don’t play a foreign lottery.

To read these tips with more details go here: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-ways-avoid-fraud

As you see, there are far too many people out there working full time to rip you off, this is their job and they are good at it. You must remain vigilant. You must use your common sense and intuition. You must educate yourself, as well as your friends and family, about the tactics these criminals use.

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.

IRS Scam Phone Calls

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Telephone Scams.

Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of the word Scam.

Scams. Fraud.

Scams are all coming at us from all directions these days. Scams designed for the purpose of stealing your personal information, and ultimately your hard-earned money. Today, many of these dirty tricks happen through the Internet, but there are still people who try to deceive you the old-fashioned way – through the telephone.

For the last few months, and especially the last 7 days, I have received 4 to 6 calls a day from a person claiming to be with the IRS, telling me that the IRS is going to sue me. I know that I don’t have any issues with the IRS and knew right away that this was a scam, so I did a little bit of research and found that I’m not the only one getting these calls, not by a long shot.

I learned that the IRS will never:

  • Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the chance to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a certain payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.

If you are not sure, you can always call the IRS (1-800-829-1040) and inquire if there are any outstanding problems with your taxes.

According to the IRS, not all scams claim you owe money and threaten you with legal action if you don’t pay. Other scammers may tell you that a mistake was made and you are owed a refund, at which point they will ask for your banking information in order to transfer the refund to you.

Just Hang Up.

If you get one of these calls just hang up and take down the phone # from your caller ID, which you can then report to the FTC. However, the IRS warns that there are sophisticated scammers who are able to disguise the number they are calling from and even use a phony # that will show up on your caller ID as the IRS.

Also, beware of any unsolicited emails or text messages regarding your taxes. The IRS does not use these methods to discuss your tax issues. If you get one of these you can be assured it’s a scam.

The statistics from 2014 show that there were close to 100,000 complaints made from taxpayers regarding these types of scams. There were approximately 1,100 victims who lost an estimated $5 million to these scammers.

Never Give Out Any Information.

Don’t be a victim to this scam or the countless others out there. Never give out banking or personal information to an unsolicited caller. Don’t be intimidated by fake threats of arrest or legal action. But most of all, educate yourself, your friends and family members about these scams.

Feel free to join my conversation on FacebookFacebook Esteemableacts Fan Page, or my Facebook Law Page, you can also interact with me on my Twitter Esteemable Acts pageTwitter Law Page, or on LinkedIn.