Free identity theft help, updating address book email requests, pet scams, and more: Internet ScamBusters #120
Today's issue has 4 ScamBusters Snippets:
- Free Identity Theft Aid from an Insurance Company and Major Banks
- What to Do with Updating Address Book Email Requests
- More on Avoiding Pet Scams
- WARNING: Nigerian Scammers Continue to Get More Sophisticated
Let's get going...
Free Identity Theft Aid from an Insurance Company and Major Banks
Whereas many insurance companies sell identity theft coverage (which mainly reimburses consumers for their identity theft losses), MetLife Inc. announced a new program this week that will provide free help in resolving identity theft to its nearly 1 million homeowner and renter policy customers.
This identity theft resolution program is starting in New York and Florida, and will then be expanded nationwide.
Although the program is so new we can't comment on its merits, if you are a MetLife customer and have experienced identity theft, we recommend you check out this new identity theft resolution program.
In addition, several major banks, including Citigroup and Washington Mutual, offer free identity theft services to their customers. Although these services focus primarily on the biggest identity theft cases, it may be worthwhile to investigate what free services are available from your bank if you are a victim of identity theft.
What to Do with Updating Address Book Email Requests
We've recently received a number of questions from folks who are concerned about emails they get asking them to 'update their info' for someone else's address book or address book program.
The email looks something like this...
I am updating my address book and it would be very helpful
if you could click on the link below and enter your contact
details for me:
I am using a service that keeps contact details current.
Just update your own contact details and then the changes
appear in selected friends' address books. When I update my
contact details you will see them in your address book.
Thank you for helping.
Sometimes you know the person who has sent you this request. However, lately there's a new twist: you may get an email purportedly from the address book software company, on behalf of someone you don't know that asks for your address and other information. (We've even been asked for our birthdays!)
Sometimes the email ALREADY HAS your home and office information in it, and 'all you have to do' is click on some boxes to let that third party see them.
It would be easy, as you are skimming through your email, to fall for this request -- but you have no idea where it's going, or who's going to see it.
Often this collected info is used by spammers and/or sold -- over and over again.
Action: Don't respond to requests to 'update info' for other people's address books, even if you know the person. If your contact info has changed, YOU can initiate the contact with anyone you wish to give your updated info.
More on Avoiding Pet Scams
In a recent issue of ScamBusters, we talked about pet scams. If you haven't read that issue on pet scams, you can click here now.
One reader responded with a good idea to avoid a couple of the scams we mentioned. Thanks for this suggestion, Dawn.
If you have lost your pet and someone calls you claiming to have found it, get their phone number so your vet can call them back.
This way your vet can verify that a pet of that description is at that particular phone number, and more importantly, you can arrange to meet them at the vet's office to collect your pet.
This accomplishes two things... you won't need to give a potential scammer your home address, AND a scammer will not want to call or visit a vet's office.
Similarly, if you have advertised a 'found' pet and someone calls you to claim ownership, have that person give you the number they're calling from and the name of their vet, so you can call to verify that it's not a scammer.
Again, arrange to meet the person at the vet's office -- a scammer or someone from a research lab or 'puppy mill' is a lot less likely to show up at a vet's office.
WARNING: Nigerian Scammers Continue to Get More Sophisticated
We got an email recently from someone who was almost duped into sending $3000 worth of books to a Nigerian address -- on the strength of a laser-copied fake money order.
Here's how it works...
If you have a retail store of any kind online, you may receive an order (or a 'declined' credit card transaction) worth thousands of dollars. If you contact the customer (which you certainly should for orders that big!) the customer may even increase the size of the order (thus increasing the likelihood that you'll want to make the customer happy), and then offer to send you a money order instead of using their credit card.
The money order arrives, and you ship the goods -- only to discover that the money order was fraudulent.
Another twist on this scam: the scammer sends a money order for more than the amount of the goods, and asks you to refund the difference in cash.
Their hope, in both these scenarios, is that you will complete the transaction before you discover the fraudulent money order. You stand to lose your product, any shipping costs you might have paid for, and loads of cash, if you fall for this scam.
Action: If you ever get a large order for your products, from Nigeria or anywhere else, have your bank double-check the money order for authenticity -- and if you are paid by check, don't ship a thing until you're certain the check has cleared. Wait extra time to make sure the money order is real -- it can clear and still be fraudulent.
We also recommend not sending products to Nigeria. I'm sure some subscribers will take offense at this recommendation since there are obviously honest consumers in Nigeria. Nonetheless, our experience is that we have NEVER had a legitimate order from Nigeria (and we've had many Nigerian orders), and neither have any of several dozen business owners we've asked about this.
Finally, NEVER agree to send an over-payment back in cash -- you'll never see it again.
That's all for today. Wishing you a great -- and safe -- week.