At some point or another you've probably heard the phrase "everything old is new again." Unfortunately, that goes just as well for scams and identity theft as it does for fashion and design. Old scams that you'd think had gone the way of the dinosaur are making a comeback both online, often targeting those who are unaware and distracted by their need for some extra money in this tough economy.
One particular scam that has seen a recent resurgence involves fake cashier's checks. Perhaps it's because cashier's checks are used much less frequently these days, so when offered a cashier's check people assume that the check is issued by a legitimate bank. In the most recent version of the scam, the legitimacy of the check seems boosted by the fact that it appears to come directly from a state treasury office; a letter accompanying the check claims that the office is testing wire transfer services such as Western Union and wants the recipient to cash the check and make two separate wire transfers. The recipient is supposed to keep $200 for his trouble, and by the time the check is discovered to be fraudulent the scammers have already received the wired funds and disappeared. This type of fraud is a/k/a advance-fee fraud --is an old scam yet it comes dressed in a variety of disguises.
Another scam currently making the rounds involves a Bank of America phishing scam where an email informs the recipient that there is an error with his or her BoA account. The email says that the recipient should perform a "general account update" to correct the problem and contains a link to an official-looking Bank of America website. The site allows the user to log in and go through an account verification process that supposedly corrects the "error," though in reality all that it does is give the scammer access to the user's login and account information. This type of phishing scam comes in all shapes and sizes. As I noted above, there are variations of most scams, and this one is no different. For example; Fraud Avengers.org recently warned that Verizon customers are receiving fake emails that are almost identical to the real alerts many customers get to remind them of their monthly payments. These types of phishing scams are notable for the painstaking replication of the company's websites and emails.
Other scams that have been making the news lately involve online purchases of various types. One scheme promised consumers "free gas for life" if they purchased a book online, but in the end they were simply signed up for a recurring monthly subscription for an online magazine. Similarly, a company known as Wartluft Motors claimed to be selling cars from an Idaho car dealership and requested that customers wire them the money for their purchases; the cars were never shipped, however, and no car lot was present at the address provided by the company's website.
It's important to always stop to think before you divulge personal information, answer any email, cash any unexpected check or take advantage of any deal that seems too good to be true. Never wire money to anyone you don't know ---and if someone you know asks you wire them money --don't do it, unless you have first spoken with them and confirmed they are in fact who they claim to be. Remember, nobody is giving something away for nothing, especially in this economy...always read the fine print, always be suspicious and never forget that if something sounds too good to be true then it probably is.
Information is empowering ---and it is often your best defense against fraud. Spend a little time reviewing some earlier blogs on identity theft, cyber security and scams. Familiarize yourself with a few of the latest scam techniques and you'll be less likely to fall victim to fraud.