Fraud & Credit Repair

So your credit was trashed when your file was “blended” with another person’s of a similar name or Social Security number, and then a scammy credit repair service charged you an exorbitant upfront fee and did nothing.  While mistakes do happen, fraud and credit repair also occur.  You may be able to take action on your own in the case of a credit report inaccuracy and avoid being a victim twice from the same incident. No credit repair service can erase bankruptcies, judgments, liens, or band loans, nor can they create a new credit identity legally.  Only time heals accurate negative information in your credit report; however, the bankruptcy you did NOT file…that is an error you can report. Tell the credit reporting company about the inaccuracy.  The Federal Trade Commission offers the following sample letter to help you communicate your dispute.   [Your Name] [Your Address] [Your City, State, Zip Code] [Date] Complaint Department [Company Name] [Street Address] [City, State, Zip Code] Dear Sir or Madam: I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received. This item [identify item(s) disputed by […] Read More

Golden Rule & Vacation Distress

You want to do the right thing, especially for someone you know and love who is travelling in a foreign country where they have been mugged.  If that person has reached out to you for money, follow the Golden Rule:  The one with the gold makes the rule. Verify the vacation distress. Though you are motivated to send money right away, try to make direct contact with the person first.  With modern technology at your disposal, this step can be accomplished as fast as your fingers can move. Do not use or reply to whatever means of contact given in the distress message; instead use contact information you already have for the person.  Contact the person’s home or office. If you cannot confirm the person is alive and well directly, verify with friends, family, or neighbors the whereabouts of the alleged victim…before you become the actual victim of a fraud. Safe travels to you and your money, even if you do not leave home.   Read More

Trends in Fraud

If you are not spending your own money, someone else may be spending it for you in a scam.  For those who made it through the IRS imposters (or did not), consumers have these trends in fraud to watch out for:   Nepal Earthquake Disaster Relief:  Turn a natural disaster in to a financial disaster by giving financial information to a fraudster instead of a legitimate charity.  This type of fraud is popular when there is a big event negatively affecting many people. Avoid: Unsolicited contact.  If you want to give, YOU contact the aid organization of your choice.  Do not give personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller or email sender. Phishing names.  Watch out for organizations with similar names to legitimate charities. Bogus charities.  Research the charity through Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at FreshFromFlorida.com and also contact the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at (703) 276-0100 to check for complaints.  Additionally you can learn about a charity’s status at IRS.gov (look under Charities and Non-Profits topics).   Weight Loss Promises:  Waist reduction could become wealth-reduction if you believe in bogus celebrity endorsements on this email spam.  This spam scam usually appears to come from […] Read More

Error 419, The Nigerian Letter Scam

If it seems too good to be true, it could be from Nigeria. Nigeria is a real place, it just happens to have a bad reputation because of political unrest, and these fraudulent letters that keep arriving in the US. Nigerian tourism suffers from poor electricity, roads, and water quality—pretty much everything residency there also suffers from.  Furthermore, the US State Department has issued a Travel Alert effective through May 25 because of Boko Haram, plus contested national elections.  So yeah, why would you NOT believe that a displaced Nigerian Prince needs your help? Tucked on the West Coast of the African Continent, Nigeria gained independence in 1960, and has alternated between democratically elected civilian governments and military dictatorships since the end of its civil war in 1970.  So yeah, there have got to be some disenfranchised royalty with treasure chests of fortune to shift.  It makes perfect sense that they got your address and reached out to you.  Furthermore, no need for cents-less kindness—you can make money while helping a stranger! The “Nigerian Letter” scam is also known as a “419” because the scheme violates section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code.  While it seems like a laughable hoax, […] Read More

What Does the Fox Say in Real Estate Title?

Music video, “What Does the Fox Say?” was produced as an anti-hit, simply to promote a television show.  Created to fail, it accidentally went viral on YouTube, with over 500 million views to date.  Similarly, the fox in the case Pierson v. Post had an unexpected outcome. Pierson v. Post is from English Common Law and is the first case you read in law school regarding real estate law.  Who gets to keep the fox—the guy who chased it or the guy who stepped in and shot it?  Which created the property?    Post chased down the fox and Pierson shot it.  What did the fox say?  Nothing—the fox was dead and awarded to Post. Florida is a Notice State.  The last person to take ownership without notice is the owner. If Christopher Crook sells a piece of property at Title Company A, and then before it is recorded Mr. Crook sells the same property at Title Company B, who is the owner of the property?  Answer:  Buyer B.  The buyer at the second closing does not have Notice if Title A has not made it to the courthouse yet.  Once the deed is recorded, then Constructive Notice is given. The […] Read More

Fresh Catch of Phish

What do you do with fresh phish emails?  Same thing you do with real fish:  tell someone.  Phishing is when Internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information.  They may send you an email or text, or give you a link to click on.  Phishing can lead to identity theft. If you appreciate the integrity of your personal and financial identity, DO NOT reply, click, or call any telephone number given in a phishing email or text.  Instead, you can forward your phishing spam to the government at spam@uce.gov, and notify the financial institution or company that is being impersonated.  You may also report phishing email to reportphishing@antiphishing.org. Read More

Who Am I? ID Theft

No one is you-er than you.  Be vigilant and monitor your personal information; check your bank statements and credit card bills.  Signs of Identity Theft include the following: Unexpected withdrawals on your bank statement Strange new account on your credit report Calls from debt collectors about debts that are not yours Unexpected bills Bills you expect stop coming  Take action right away to stop impersonators.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers four steps you should take immediately if you are the victim of Identity Theft:  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports. 2. Close the accounts that you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. 3. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. 4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Know the signs of Identity Theft and Take Action right away. Read More

Looking for Mr. Right Online? Look Out for Mr. Gold-Digger

Looking for Prince Charming online?  He may be looking for money.  The Federal Trade Commission has a one-minute audio tip to help you avoid the financial warts of online dating at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/media/audio-0043-online-dating-scams.  Do not date a gold-digger…unless that is what you are into.  Have a good weekend!   Read More

Three Blind Mice Looking for Your Money

Once upon a time there were three blind mice.  The first mouse was a Nigerian Letter, the second mouse was a Vacation Misfortune, and the third mouse was an Unfair Debt Collector.  The three blind mice ran all over the place trying to find people to give them money.   Nigerian Letter A Nigerian Letter (often referred to as a Nigerian 419) tries to access your personal finances.  The scam plays on your sympathy and greed—you think you will make a fortune just by helping out a stranger, but the perpetrators want to empty your bank account. The Federal Trade Commission offers general information about the Nigerian Letter scam at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0002l-nigerian-email-scam.   Vacation Misfortune Someone you know sends you an email saying they have been mugged while vacationing in another country.  All cash, credit cards, and cell phones have been stolen, but lives and passports are intact.  The US embassy and police have done all they can.  The flight home leaves today, but the vacation victim cannot settle their hotel bill—please send money.   Unfair Debt Collection You owe money, you know you owe money, and then a debt collector calls all night long threatening to have you arrested if […] Read More

Vacation Misfortune Scam

A ‘Vacation Misfortune’ scam goes something like this:  Your grandson theoretically goes to the Philippines and you do not even get a lousy tee shirt.  Someone you know sends you an email saying they have been mugged while vacationing in another country.  All cash, credit cards, and cell phones have been stolen, but lives and passports are intact.  The US embassy and police have done all they can.  The flight home leaves today, but the vacation victim cannot settle their hotel bill—please send money. If you have seen this before, then that is proof of life that someone has tried to scam you. If you have seen this before, that is a good sign; it means that you are alive on this planet.  If you have sent money before in a scheme like this, then you are familiar with financial loss that will never be returned—congratulations, lesson learned at an expensive tuition. Theoretically the scam is asking for a short-term loan to a friend or family member—someone who promises to pay it back as soon as they are stateside.  In practicality, the scammer is asking for a wire transfer from your bank account.  Once your money is gone, it is […] Read More