Scams and hoaxes prey on the gullible
Scams and hoaxes prey on the gullible. Some are meant to swindle you out of money or pressure you into revealing personal or financial information.
Some victims have lost large sums of money. Scam artists generally ask for money up front or for credit card or bank account numbers or other personal information that you should never give out.
Last week, government officials passed along a false e-mail warning travelers on I-68 and I-70 not to flash their headlights at vehicles, help stranded motorists or pick up hitchhikers because of gang initiations being connected to these activities. They were unaware it was a hoax.
The e-mail warning appeared to come from a legitimate officer of the Allegany County Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security in Cumberland.
Chief Steve Kesner did not issue the warning and it is a hoax, said Allegany County Department of Public Safety secretary Cheri Llewellyn.
"Our phones have been ringing off the hook," said Llewellyn.
Spelling errors like "Allegheny County" instead of "Allegany County" and "steel this car" in the e-mail warning gave clues to it being a fake.
Variations of the same "lights out" e-mail hoax were found on the Snopes.com hoax busters web site as well as in the urban legends section of about.com.
These "headlight flashing" hoaxes have been around since the early 1990s and attach a local police department to the hoax to give credence to the claims.
Customers of some banks have been targeted by hoax e-mails requesting personal information and account numbers.
Customers are asked to click on a link that takes them to what appears to be the bank's web site to verify or update account information. The hyperlink instead transports them to a bogus site set up by scammers to collect personal and banking data. This process is referred to as phishing.
Other banking scam e-mails say that your account may have been accessed by an unauthorized party or ask you to log in to your account to make sure your computer system or browser is compatible with their new security standards.
Some like the Citibank e-mail scam asked customers to sign into their account and check their balances because information could be lost from database operations, according to 911bob.com. If you do log in, your account information falls into the hands of cons.
Don't respond to any e-mails of this nature. Bank officers would never send an e-mail asking for personal or account information. Call your bank if you receive an e-mail like these to alert them of a potential scam.
Another bank scam involves getting a phone call from someone claiming to be a bank official or "bank examiner." They will tell you that your checking or savings account has had some unusual withdrawals and try to get account information from you.
The Greater Dallas Crime Commission advises you to hang up the phone immediately, call the police to report the attempt and phone your bank manager.
Other phishing scams
Customers of some online stores and services such as Amazon.com, PayPal and eBay have also gotten similar fake e-mails. They are asked to click on a website link and give information that the online service would already have, such as your password or credit card numbers, according to aol.com. Don't click on the link.
Check the e-mail's return address. If the "from" address line is not the site's actual web address, it is a fraudulent attempt to get your personal information.
Religious scams prey on those who are desperate and in need of help and hope, whether it is in the form of health or good fortune. Some churchgoers have been bilked out of their life savings through investment scams. Other set-ups send little gifts and ask for donations.
One operation, St. Matthew's Churches Prayer By Letters, sends small items that have been "blessed" to put under your pillow or pin to your clothes, such as a prayer rug.
The Tulsa, Oklahoma ministry at a distance is not affiliated with the real church of the same name in Tulsa. The ministry promises prayers and shows testimonials of people whose prayers for riches and healing have been answered. St. Matthew's asks for offerings of money in return.
Many people who complained about St. Matthew's Churches on ripoffreport.com claim it is a scam and that it was impossible to get off their mailing list once they responded by requesting a prayer.
There also seems to be no real church, no specific address or location or persons named to whom the money is being sent.
Jury duty scam
Both the FBI and Snopes.com websites warned about a jury duty scam where victims get a phone call from someone claiming to be a jury coordinator or a court officer. The person is advised that a warrant is out for their arrest because they failed to report for jury duty.
The caller says they need personal information like your birth date and social security number for verification or even a credit card number so you can easily pay a fine that will get you off the hook. The scare tactic throws people off guard and into giving out information that could cause them to lose their money or their identity.
The scam has surfaced in more than 15 states. The FBI advised that court officers never ask for confidential information over the phone and generally correspond with jurors by
Phony check warning
The Better Business Bureau issued a warning in February about lucky lottery winnings notifications that were being sent to potential victims all over the country.
In this scam, you'll receive a legitimate looking check for a substantial amount of money, which they say will help
you pay for taxes, insurance, etc. before you can claim your prize.
You'll be given a contact name and number, possibly a Canadian one, and will be told to deposit the check in your bank account when you call. Then you'll be asked to wire money to a third party.
The check is a fake and will bounce in a few days, leaving you holding the bag.
Scammers are using obituaries to steal the identity of the dead, according to a March 2007 AARP bulletin. They get credit reports, social security numbers and other personal information online and sell it. The buyers open credit cards in the dead person's name.
Send credit bureaus copies of the death certificate. Cancel any driver's license. Run a credit check several weeks later after taking all these precautions.
Check hoax-busters web sites like Snopes.com or urban legends on about.com for accuracy of e-mail warnings before you pass them along.
Never give out personal information.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you've been a victim of a scam, contact the local police.