Your computer is infected scam

A number of companies are now sending you to other companies who are selling you services to maintain your computer that you don’t want or need. Here is how the scam works and both Yahoo and Norton are guilty of this.

Examples of the scam

In Yahoo’s case you call their 800 number about a problem, like not being able to log into your Yahoo account. You are told that you need to have a technician look at your computer and the technician logs into your computer and tells you that your computer is a mess and has many viruses, trojans and other bad stuff and that he can transfer you to someone who can fix the problem.

The next step is they try to sell you a service that is “guaranteed” to regularly maintain your computer as well as sell you their own antimalware software. They will tell you that Microsoft recommends that you have a Microsoft certified engineer check out your computer every 3, 6 or 12 months depending on which scammer you are speaking with. Microsoft does not recommend anything of the sort. Go to their web site and check it out.

Norton does a similar thing when your free trial of their software on your new computer is about to run out. You will receive popups telling you to contact them. When you do, you will be directed to a company that will fix you problems after logging into your computer.

What do you need to keep your computer safe?

If you have a PC we suggest the free Microsoft Security Essentials package which can be downloaded from Microsoft’s web site. This will provide you with antivirus software, antimalware software and a firewall. You need to regularly update this software which Microsoft also does for free. If you have a Windows 8 computer we recommend Windows Defender from Microsoft which replaces Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 8.

In terms of regular maintenance on your computer it is not like sending an astronaut to the moon. You should regularly update your antivirus software whenever a new update comes out. In addition you should make the operating system updates, especially the security ones, when they are released. How do you know when updates are released? You should automatically be notified but if you want to make sure in the lower right corner of your computer to the left of the date and time you will see a little flag. Do a left mouse click on the flag and you will see an option to open the Action Center. Under Security you can see how you are setup to receive updates from Microsoft and if you want change them just hit the Change Settings button. If you are experience performance problems the link below contains Microsoft’s suggestions as what you need to do.

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_xp-performance/computer-maintenance/20f45a22-8891-4bb2-8506-ea0fa2540978?auth=1

Most important don’t allow unknown scam artists to get on your computer. You are wasting your money and are running the risk that they will put some nasty stuff on your computer.

#Consumer #ComputerScam

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Charity scams to be on the lookout for

There are many legitimate and worthwhile charities to make a donation to but there are also many scam artists out there who are looking to prey on your kindheartedness. Here are some of the most common ones to avoid:

1. The latest disaster

As soon as a disaster occurs whether it is an earthquake in China, a tsunami in Southeast Asia or a forest fire in Arizona, the scamsters are on alert. You will start to receive email or snail mail solicitations showing the horror of the disaster. These are worthwhile causes but how do you know if your money will help the victims or go into the pocket of some fraudster.

2. The Police and Fireman’s widows and children

Many of these charities appear legitimate and they are purporting to serve a worthwhile purpose. They often pocket all or most of the money and little or nothing goes to the deserving widows and children

3. Holiday Scams

Holidays are just the best time for scammers to tug on our heartstrings. And the most likely place you’ll encounter them is when they rattle a collection box in front of you either as you do your shopping or at your front door.

They may use all kinds of props to fool you, wearing seasonal costumes, dressed in familiar uniforms, wearing badges or carrying some other kind of bogus authorization. Often too, scammers use kids to convince you they’re genuine.

4. Telephone solicitations

How can you possibly know the caller is who they say they are, and why on earth would you give them your credit card number? Be most concerned when they get very aggressive.

5. At your doorstep

There are the sellers at your doorstep often with little children in tow, who show you a charity catalog, take your money and never come back.

What can you do?

First, unless you are positive it is a legitimate charity, don’t give them anything. Often you can make a preliminary test by asking if they are a 501c3 organization. This means that they have received the IRS blessing as a not-for-profit. This is NOT the last word but it is a good start. See the paragraph below for more specifics to look into.

No legitimate charity will object to your looking into their finances and they will often direct you to impartial sources that can vouch for them. A few minutes on the Internet can often yield interesting results. If it is a real charity, you can find out what percentage of the funds collected goes to overhead and what goes to the people you are contributing to. I recently received a call from what sounded like a legitimate charity for widows and orphans of police and firemen. When I looked into the specifics, I found that 92%, yes 92% of the funds the received went to “Overhead”.

Be wary of the high pressure phone solicitation that use scare tactics like: “these could be your children”, “Can’t you help these poor widows whose husband’s died protecting you” or “We will send you an identification card that will show the police you are a contributor”. The last one plays on our desire to get away with something since we think that card will keep us from getting a traffic ticket.

#ConsumerAffairs #Consumer #Scams #CharityScams

ICE could save your life

We all carry our mobile phones with names & numbers stored in its memory but nobody, other than ourselves, knows which of these numbers belong to our closest family or friends.

If we were to be involved in an accident or were taken ill, the people attending us would have our mobile phone but wouldn’t know who to call. Yes, there are hundreds of numbers stored but which one is the contact person in case of an emergency? Hence this "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) Campaign

The concept of "ICE" is catching on quickly. It is a method of contact during emergency situations. As cell phones are carried by the majority of the population, all you need to do is store the number of a contact person or persons who should be contacted during emergency under the name "ICE" (In Case Of Emergency).

The idea was thought up by a paramedic who found that when he went to the scenes of accidents, there were always mobile phones with patients, but they didn’t know which number to call. He therefore thought that it would be a good idea if there was a nationally recognized name for this purpose. In an emergency situation, Emergency Service personnel and hospital Staff would be able to quickly contact the right person by simply dialing the number you have stored as "ICE."

For more than one contact name simply enter ICE1, ICE2 and ICE3 etc. A great idea that will make a difference!

Let’s spread the concept of ICE by storing an ICE number in our Mobile phones today!

#consumer #consumerScam

What recourse do you have when you have been scammed?

As we have heard many times, “The Internet is a dangerous place”. There are crooks out there who are constantly inventing new schemes to steal your money. When you are purchasing on the Internet and most of us do frequently, it is important to know with whom you are dealing and if they are reputable.

How can I check out an Internet vendor?

Bizrate.com is an excellent source for ratings of Internet sellers. If you don’t find the company on their site it is a good chance you should look elsewhere. When you go through Amazon or Yahoo or other Internet stores they have tried to vet their vendors and provide you with recourse for poor customer service. Before you buy, call the Customer Service number posted on their site to see if a real person answers. If there is no Customer Service number, find another seller!! That is a sure sign the seller is a bad apple.

When the web site you purchased a product from disappears and the customer service number they post does not go to the company you purchased from, you should immediately dispute the charges with your credit card supplier (usually a bank).

We all want to save money but it is worth a few extra dollars to deal with a reputable company then have to try to get your money back when you have been cheated.

What do I do when I’ve been cheated or received terrible service?

The good news here is that you do have recourse. Almost all Internet transactions are handled by Credit Cards, Debit Cards and Payment service companies like PayPal. All of these companies are very sensitive to consumer’s being treated poorly or being outright scammed. They all require their vendors to pass tests to show they are legitimate. They often also ask you to rate sellers once you have completed a transaction. It is important that you do this to keep the system healthy and root out the few rotten apples. Even with this bad guys do slip through.

Banks and payment companies allow you to dispute a transaction and if you are honest, they will almost always find in your favor. Their general approach is that the merchant has to prove they are correct and not the consumer. This process can take several weeks before you get satisfaction so it is better not to have to take this route. It is often helpful if you let the seller know if you are dissatisfied and that you intend to dispute the transaction if they don’t fix the problem. The sellers realize that they are rated by the number of “charge backs” against them and if it is beyond a certain threshold they will lose the ability to sell through that bank, credit/debit card or payment service.

How can I protect myself from Auto-Repair Scams?

While according to statistics about 70% of auto-repair shops are honest that still leaves 30 % that are not. Below are some ideas on how to avoid being scammed and how to choose a reputableauto-repair shop.

What are some red flags of a shop that is trying to scam you?

A good shop will be neat, organized and very clean; not only are these qualities important for quality repair work, but they’re signs of management who really care about the impression they make on customers.

Trust your gut. If you walk into a place and are not impressed with what you see or hear, move on.

Also be wary of a shop that can’t give you an up-front estimate. Quoting a diagnostic fee with a repair estimate to come later is perfectly acceptable. Often the shop doesn’t know what’s wrong until they’ve spent an hour or two examining the vehicle. If a shop won’t give you any numbers at all, drive away (if you can).

How can you tell if you’re getting ripped off? What should you look out for?

If you’ve chosen a recommended shop that’s been around a while, and that employs ASE-trained technicians, you’re not likely to get ripped off. Automotive Service Excellence or ASE certification is achieved only after rigorous training and testing, and shows a training commitment on the part of the mechanics and the businesses that hire them.

Most shops are run by dedicated owners with a vested interest in customer satisfaction. That said, anytime a seemingly minor problem like an oil leak or a funny noise turns into a major component replacement (“you need a new transmission/engine”) you’re wise to get a second opinion. You’re also entitled to any component the shop removes from your car (with a few exceptions for what’s known as a “core”, which is a part the shop has to send in for cash credit on a new part). If you think something’s been erroneously replaced, ask for the part and take it to another expert. If that expert contends the part didn’t need replacement, you may have legal recourse.

Some tips to help people be prepared when they walk in to get their cars fixed.

First off, don’t put off repairs. If your car is making a funny noise, get it checked out or the repair bill could be much higher down the road. Ignoring squeaky front brakes for six months can mean that instead of a set of brake pads, you needed a complete front and rear brake job and a $800 repair bill.

Second, your vehicle’s user manual includes a recommended maintenance schedule. If you follow it, there’s a good chance your technician will alert you to potential problems before they become too severe. This gives you the opportunity to replace worn parts before they become a real problem. That said; don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation or to see the part in question before you approve an expensive repair you don’t understand.

Lastly, understand that a good mechanic is a highly trained specialist, and car parts are expensive. You shouldn’t expect his labor or the replacement components to be dirt cheap. Be realistic about what things cost, choose a shop wisely, have some cash stashed for vehicle maintenance and chances are you’ll have a positive repair experience.

How do you choose a reputable auto-repair shop?

The best source of advice recommendations is from friends and neighbors. Choose a shop that employs ASE-certified technicians. The length of time the shop has been in business is also important because a shop that cheats customers won’t last very long in today’s age of instant communication.

Don’t be afraid of using a highly recommended small, independent. Some of the flashy, big-chain repair shops make their money on volume, not quality of work, and they’re more likely to hire minimally trained technicians. A big-chain repair facility may offer a nationally recognized warranty on repairs, but a good small shop will work with you to ensure the work is done correctly and at a fair price. They have a vested interest in keeping you as a customer.

Identity Theft – What can you do to protect yourself?

Identity Theft occurs so frequently that the Federal Bureau of Investigation cites it as "America’s fastest growing crime problem". According to the Federal Trade Commission, thieves steal and fraudulently use the names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, bank account information, credit card numbers and other personal information of some 12.6 million Americans each year. Learning about how thieves get your personal information is the first step toward protecting yourself from this devastating attack on your financial well-being.

The simplest method of Identity Theft involves stealing or finding your wallet, or digging through your trash to find receipts with you personal information. Identity Theft can also be as simple and easy as peering over someone’s shoulder as they use the ATM at the local bank.

What can you do? For one thing invest a few dollars in a shredder. You can get them for under $100. Any documents containing personal information, including old credit card receipts should go in the shredder after you are finished with them. When you are using your computer for a financial transaction make sure you are on a secure connection NOT a public network. If you are using your home WiFi network make sure the home network is password protected and don’t use the common passwords like 0123456789 or 9876543210. When you are at an ATM cover the keypad with your free hand when you type in your pin.

Phishing is one of the most widely publicized methods of Identity Theft. Phishers create a websites that look very similar to the site of a legitimate enterprise often coping it almost exactly, sending emails out to lure unsuspecting consumers to enter their personal data, which is then used by the thieves. No company will send you and email that asks you to reveal personal information or a link to their web site to enter personal information. These emails are often designed to scare you by saying there is a problem with your account so you need to respond immediately. If you are unsure call the company, the number is usually on the back of your credit card.

Also keep close track of your financial activity. Check on your bank account(s) regularly to see if there are any transactions you don’t recognize. Don’t wait for a statement to find the problem. The same is true for your credit cards, check the account regularly and if you see a problem call the card issuer immediately.

None of this is foolproof but it is like locking the door on your car, it will stop most potential thieves. One last thing be careful of small children who practice using your credit card online

#Consumer #ConsumerAdvoacy #IdentityTheft

Tax-Related Identity Theft and how to deal with it

The IRS uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to make sure your tax filing is accurate and complete, and that you get any refund you are due. Identity theft can affect how your tax return is processed.

What to be wary of?

The IRS does NOT contact a taxpayer by sending an email, text or through social media that asks for personal or financial information. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to phishing. These emails can look very official and be very scary but don’t fall for these scams.

How do you know if your SSN has been stolen?

When an unexpected notice or letter from the IRS arrives, this can alert you that someone else is using your SSN.

If someone uses your SSN to get a job, the employer may report that person’s income to the IRS using your SSN. When you file your tax return, you won’t include those earnings. IRS records will show you failed to report all your income. The agency will send you a notice or letter saying you received wages but didn’t report them. The IRS doesn’t know those wages were reported by an employer you didn’t work for.

If someone uses your SSN to file for your tax refund before you file, they may get your refund. When you file your return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund, and you’ll get a notice or letter from the IRS saying more than one return was filed for you.

Dealing With Tax-Related Identity Theft

If you think someone used your SSN to get a job or tax refund — or the IRS sends you a notice or letter indicating a problem — contact the IRS immediately. The IRS has an Identity Protection Specialized Unit and they can be reached at 800-908-4490. Specialists will work with you to get your tax return filed, get you any refund you are due, and protect your IRS account from identity thieves in the future. You will need to fill out an IRS ID Theft Affidavit Form 14039 and send it along with proof of your identity, such as a copy of your Social Security card, driver’s license or passport to the IRS.

Other Steps you can take to help Repair Identity Theft

After you contact the IRS, it’s important to limit the potential damage from identity theft:

1. Put a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

2. Order your credit reports to make sure your stolen identity is not being used for other purposes like applying for a credit card in your name.

3. Create an Identity Theft Report by filing an identity theft complaint with the FTC and filing a police report.