Internet and phone scams abound

I got an interesting email today at work:

Re_ Your Monthly Auto Payment Has Been Lowered. Notice for

I knew right away it was a scam for several reasons:

  • it arrived on my work email–I keep a strict separation between my personal business and work
  • it makes no mention of who the insurance carrier is and clearly doesn’t reference my carrier
  • they want me to enter information to “see my new policy amount” –how would they know anything about me?
  • That’s not my policy number

I’ll bet if I went to the site they would want me to enter more of my personal information which they will use to steal my identity.  I’m not even going to click on the link because I am concerned that it might download some type of file that would track my keystrokes or gather other types of information from my computer.  My work computer has all sorts of law enforcement only information that cannot be shared so I’m extra careful.

Last night I was talking with Officer Austin Hughes who was telling me he had just taken a report in which the reporting person advised that he had been contacted by someone purporting to be the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Naturalization Services saying that he owed them money.  He demonstrated that he has a valid Visa to work and live in the US.  He is a professional person working in one of our large corporations.  But imagine what a non citizen who is in the US legally might think if they were contacted?  Seems like extortion to me.

We still have a large number of what I like to call “pigeon drop” scams around and I am surprised when people fall for them.  They now occur on line or over the telephone but they always are a confidence trick in which a mark or “pigeon” is persuaded to give up a sum of money in order to secure the rights to a larger sum of money, or more valuable object. In reality, the scammers make off with the money and the mark is left with nothing.

In the process, the stranger (actually a confidence trickster) puts his money with the mark’s money (in an envelope, briefcase, or sack) which the mark is then entrusted with. The money is actually not put into the sack or envelope, but is switched for a bag full of newspaper or other worthless material. Through various theatrics, the mark is given the opportunity to make off with money without the stranger realizing. In actuality, the mark would be fleeing from his own money, which the con man still has (or has handed off to an accomplice).

Here is a short video that shows how the pigeon drop works

The scams have an endless variety and the scammers are hard to catch.  Sometimes the victims are too ashamed to report.  On line and phone scammers are often outside of the United States and frequently in countries with no extradition treaties so that means we cannot get cooperation from local officials to prosecute offenders.

Analyze phone or internet contacts that are unsolicited and don’t respond.  Credible financial institutions won’t contact you by email–phishing is way too common.  Don’t give personal information to people on the phone if you haven’t contacted them on a published phone number.  And be careful on line–don’t give personal information.  The companies you do business with should have a secure website but only do business with companies you know.

Here are some more resources to help you:

Scam Alerts

On Line Scams