ACCESS Newsletter; A few important fraud alerts

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As a Board member of ACCESS (American Consumer Credit Education Support Services) a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public on matters pertaining to credit and privacy rights, I am posting some of the items in our recent ACCESS Newsletter.

Fraud Alert: You Have Received a Post Card From ...

They show up in your e-mail inbox. Messages that have a subject line that reads, "You Have Received a Greeting," or "You Have Received a Postcard," from an unnamed person. They try to make you think that a friend or a family member has sent you a nice little greeting. But there is nothing nice about these messages. They are part of a worldwide phishing scheme.

Tens of millions of these greeting-card messages have been sent out, and it is quite likely that you may have received one. But the messages are not legitimate. Anyone clicking on the links within these messages will be taken to something that looks like a greeting card but which actually installs spy ware on their computer during their visit.

The spy ware that is installed includes a key-logger program, which tracks the sites you visit as well as any keystrokes you make while you are there. This program can record user names, passwords and any other information you provide. It can also record anything you type into word processing or e-mail programs on your computer.

Key-loggers typically work in background. This means that while it is running on your PC, you will not be aware of it. After recording their data, key-loggers normally transmit that data over the internet to the person or organization that distributed them. This information can then be sold or used for fraud and identity theft.

Anyone receiving like the one described herein should delete it immediately. Under no circumstances should the links within the message be clicked on.

If you have already received a greeting card message and clicked on the links, then you need to do some things to protect yourself. First, you should install up to date virus protection on your PC and then scan your hard drive. If you find that your computer has been infected, then you should also place a fraud alert on your credit file with each of the CRAs (Trans Union, Experian and Equifax). Residents of states that allow their citizens to freeze their credit should seriously consider this option as well.

Never click on links within e-mail messages from people they don't know. We also advise you to make sure that you have both a fire-wall and up to date antivirus software running on your computer at all times. In most cases, if your antivirus software is installed properly and up to date, it will prevent you from having your PC infected in the first place.

Fraud Alert: Brazen New Scam Targets Social Security Recipients

The Social Security Administration has been warning people in Alabama about a new scam that targets program recipients. Unlike most such scams which are conducted solely by phone, some of the victims of this scam have reported that they have received actual visits from the criminals targeting them.

Because there are no barriers to prevent this particular scam from spreading, it is highly likely that it will begin to pop up in other areas of the country. Once a scam has proven to be successful, it will normally spread very rapidly.

Some residents of Northern Alabama have received visits from people trying to pass themselves off as employees of the Social Security Administration. Once the criminals involved establish what they think is a bond of trust, they begin asking a variety of questions. They are attempting to get victims to provide them with Social Security Numbers and bank account information.

In at least one of the reported cases, the victim was told that his Social Security Benefits were going to be increasing and that his personal information was needed in order to provide direct deposit to his bank account.

ACCESS is warning consumers, especially those responsible for elder care within their families, that the Social Security Administration never sends employees to the houses of recipients unless there is a pre-scheduled appointment. Furthermore, the Social Security Administration has no need to ask anyone for their Social Security Number, since they already have this information.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim to this scam needs to act quickly as it is likely that their bank accounts will be drained and new credit may be taken out in their name.

Anyone who suspects they may have been contacted by a scammer, should contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 to verify that the person contacting you is actually an SSA employee. Anyone who receives a call to schedule an appointment for a home visit by the SSA should also call this number to insure that the appointment is legitimate.

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