Attention Veterans: Pension Poaching Scam

Yes, sadly even our Veterans get scammed.  Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater warns on his website (http://www.myfloridacfo.com/SAFE/stories.asp) against scammers who try to convince Veterans to purchase unnecessary products or transfer pension funds to an annuity or trust that supposedly “will enable” the veteran to qualify for additional pension assistance or enhancement, but which may do just the opposite. Consider carefully any changes to your pension.  You can research veteran’s benefits on your own for free or at no cost from any party accredited through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.  Also, you can check the valid license status of anyone assisting you in financial services through an online search with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp.  Again, Florida’s CFO gives the reminder:  “No one accredited through the VA is allowed to charge you for their services.” Thanks to those who have served in the US military.     Read More

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

Did You Respond to a Nigerian Prince?

Not good if you did.  Beware of foreign pen pals promising money.  At least wait for their check to clear before you wire funds. The “Nigerian Letter” scam is known as a “419” because the scheme violates section 419 of the Nigerian criminal code.  While it seems like a laughable hoax, Americans lose millions of dollars annually to this fraud, which can appear in the form of a letter, email, voicemail, or text.  The scam tries to gain access to your personal finances and works like this: Step 1:  You are sent a form of payment for a large amount, like $8 million. Step 2:  You deposit the payment into your account, and you are instructed to keep part of it, say $4 million. Step 3:  You wire transfer the remaining $4 million to the sender. Step 4:  Everything in your account is drained because you have insufficient funds to cover a $4 million check. Step 5:  That $8 million never cleared into your account before you sent the wire transfer of $4 million. Step 6:  You owe the bank a lot of money. You can avoid Step 6 by NOT responding.  Ignore individuals representing themselves as foreign government officials […] 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

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

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

Beware of Up-Front Fees in Foreclosure Rescue

If a foreclosure rescue scheme seems too good to be true, it could cost you a lot. The legislature passed the Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Prevention Act in 2008.  This act specifies that no fees are to be paid by the borrower until the rescue services are fully rendered, and that a written contract with terms and conditions has to be signed by both parties before services begin.  Furthermore by 2010, anyone performing loan modification services had to have an active license from the Florida Office of Financial Regulation. Besides up-front fees, other things to look out for when you are looking for hope include: Instruction NOT to contact your lender, lawyer or credit or housing counselor Payment only accepted in cashier’s check or wire transfer Guarantee to stop foreclosure no matter what Encouragement for you to lease your home so you can buy it back over time Mortgage payments to be made directly to the company rather than your lender Request for you to transfer your property title to the company The Florida Bar cautions: ‘If any business or individual offers to help you stop foreclosure immediately by signing a document authorizing them to act on your behalf or to […] Read More

Nigerian Letter Scam

A Nigerian Letter scam does not have to come from Nigeria, nor does it have to be a ‘letter.’  This type of fraud can be from any country in the form of a letter, email, voicemail, or even a text on your cell phone.  But the result is the same…and it is not pretty from the victim’s perspective. 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 scam works like this: Step 1:  You are sent a form of payment for a large amount, like $8 million. Step 2:  You deposit the payment into your account, and you are instructed to keep part of it, say $4 million. Step 3:  You wire transfer the remaining $4 million to the sender. Step 4:  Everything in your account is drained because you have insufficient funds to cover a $4 million check. Step 5:  That $8 million never cleared into your account before you sent the wire transfer of $4 million. Step 6:  You owe the […] Read More

Foreclosure-Rescue Fraud

Just because you are facing foreclosure does not make you exempt from fraud.  You may think you have hit bottom, but you will know you have hit it if you are the victim of a foreclosure-rescue scam or loan-modification fraud. The broad base of distressed homeowners has opened a market for a variety of services.  Not all of them are legit.  The Florida Bar has the following ten tips to help you avoid foreclosure-rescue and loan-modification scams: 1. Contact your lender directly before reaching out to a third party making promises. 2. Avoid businesses that guarantee favorable outcomes.  There is no legitimate way to promise any particular outcome with respect to defaulted and under-water mortgages (mortgages in which the amounts owed cost more than the houses are now worth). 3. Avoid businesses that ask for up-front charges for loan modification or foreclosure rescue.  This practice is specifically prohibited by Florida law. 4. Do not work with businesses that instruct you not to contact your lender, attorney or financial counselor and to make mortgage payments directly to them. 5. Avoid businesses that use names or symbols that mimic federal and state programs or falsely suggest they offer legal services or are […] Read More