Avoiding fraud and scams on line during the holidays

December 3, 2011

One advantage of having an HP computer and Norton, I get an e-letter at least once a month with useful tips.

Norton warns against frauds and scams — good advice I repeat here for your benefit.  Abbi Perets wrote the piece:


Avoid These 5 Holiday Scams

By Abbi Perets

’Tis the season to be careful. As you make your lists and check them twice, don’t forget to keep your eyes open for scammers who try to take your goodwill — and leave you with nothing to show for it.

Here are some of the top online scams to beware of this holiday season.

Cheating Charities

Families in your neighborhood are going hungry. Children in far-away countries are sick and need your help. You can give generously this holiday season, but be sure that you’re donating to a legitimate charity, not a scammer. Check out any online charity solicitation very closely. Some, unfortunately, are fraudulent.

Stay safe:

  • Run the charity through the databases at Charity Navigator (CharityNavigator.org) or the Better Business Bureau (BBB.org/US/Charity) to see whether it’s legitimate.
  • Never give your credit card or bank account information to someone who contacted you, whether by phone, by email or even in person.
  • Resist the urge to donate to unfamiliar charities if you don’t have time to check them out thoroughly.
  • An email pitch from a recognized organization might be legitimate, but to be safe, don’t click that link. Instead, use a search engine to find the site, and make your payment that way.

Bogus Bargains

Every year, there’s that one item you absolutely need to get, or else you risk ruining Christmas forever. Savvy shopper that you are, you want to make sure you don’t overpay. And then you find it online for a great price! Before you click that “Buy” button, stop and think: Why would anyone sell this hot-ticket item at a discount?

Stay safe:

  • Don’t order from a site you’ve never heard of. Trust the big names: Amazon, eBay, and other established retailers with policies in place to protect you.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one is going to sell you this year’s equivalent to the Cabbage Patch Kids or Tickle Me Elmo for less than retail price. In fact, if an item is in high demand, they’ll likely sell it for more than retail. So either cough up the cash or wait until after the holiday rush is over and sales ease back to normal.
  • Use a one-time credit card number with a limit just above your purchase price (ask your bank or credit card provider for information) if you decide to order from a lesser-known reseller.

Happy Holidays?

Grandma Jane sent you a holiday e-card? Just click to view it … and infect your computer with spyware or worse. E-card scams prey on your sense of social niceties: You get a card, you open it. But don’t let politeness cut you off from your computer.

Stay safe:

  • If you receive a card from a person you barely know, or if the email notification is full of grammar and spelling errors, delete it.
  • Trust your gut. If you suspect the link is fraudulent, don’t click it. Just trash it. You can always send an email to the supposed sender asking if the card is legit.
  • Never download software in order to view a card.

Freebie Fraud

Who doesn’t want a free iPad? It’s incredibly tempting to click on these offers. Best-case scenario, though, is that you’ll discover you only have to buy $2,000 of worthless products to get your $500 iPad. Worst case? You’ll provide your credit card number, get nothing in return, and find out that thieves have run up thousands in fraudulent charges in the meantime.

You might also come across free e-book offers online. Some of these are legitimate; for example, Amazon makes plenty of free Kindle books available daily. But many free e-books are filled with spam links and malware designed to catch your credit card information.

Stay safe:

  • Accept the cold, hard truth that no one — not Bill Gates, not Apple, not anyone — is going to give you a high-value item for free. Delete all offers immediately.
  • Stick with e-book sellers and authors you already know, advises the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If an e-book piques your interest but the author seems unfamiliar, do a quick search and see what comes up.
  • Never click on links inside an e-book unless you purchased it from a site you know and trust, says the BBB. And you’re always better off typing the link into your browser rather than clicking directly from the book.

Working the System

If you could use a little extra cash for the holidays, you’re not alone — and scammers know it. They offer you the chance to earn thousands of dollars per week just by using your computer. Once again, set your excitement aside and let common sense prevail.

Stay safe:

  • Never pay anyone in order to work. A job should pay you, not the other way around.
  • Don’t provide your credit card or other personal information for a “background check” for work you found online.
  • Do your own background check: Look up the company, ask questions and push for answers. A legitimate company won’t have any problem providing plenty of information.
  • With these tips in mind, may your holidays be merry and scam-free.

Abbi Perets has been writing about technology, parenting, health care, kitchen gadgets and other topics for the last 15 years. Her work has been featured in numerous print and online publications.

I get e-mail from MI-6 (a hoax, no doubt)

August 28, 2011

How many different forms can this scam take?   Is anyone taken in by it anymore?

To: edarrell@obladeeobladah.uk.org

Office of the British Secret Intelligence Service Mi6
P.O Box 1300,Vauxhall – London SE1 1BD – United Kingdom.
Website: http://www.sis.gov.uk/output/sis-home-welcome.html
S.I.S Ref: LN/mi6/SIS/XX027

Dear Beneficiary,


As Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) also known as Mi6, SIS provides the British Government with a global covert capability to promote and defend the national security and economic well-being of the United Kingdom. Regional instability, Financial Frauds, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and illegal narcotics are among the major challenges of the 21st century. SIS assists the government to meet these challenges. To do this effectively SIS must protect the secrets of its sources and methods.


In regards to Legislation and accountability, SIS like other British intelligence and security agencies, is subject to parliamentary, ministerial, judicial and financial oversight. Oversight is based on two pieces of UK legislation, the intelligence services Act 1994 (I.S.A) and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (R.I.P.A).

With notice, SIS has litigated a group of apprehended UK-based multimillionaire financial fraudsters who dubiously perpetrated fraudulent acts with first degree ulterior motives against you through your e-mail over the internet in the United Kingdom.

By court order, prior to 12 years prison sentence charged upon them by the Lord Chief Justice and President of the Courts of England and Wales (R.H, The Lord Judge: Igor Judge, Baron Judge), the culprits were placed on a bail by way of compensation to you in a sum of 2,350,000 (Two million, three hundred and fifty thousand British Pounds Sterling) in lieu of British International Fundamental Human Rights Ordinances of 1997, of which your benefited fund has been brought in cash to our Head Office by the culprits’ Legal councils prior to their inception of jail term.

Click on your ”REPLY” to contact the British Secret Intelligence (MI6) Chief of Operations indicating your names, phone contact, age, current residential address & a valid identity card.

Caution: Do not recopy this letter or publicize the above Britain’s secret agent or the secret email identity above. For SIS diligence & effectiveness, it must protect the secrets of its sources & methods.

The Management,
British Secret Intelligence Service
London, United Kingdom.

You gotta wonder what these guys would do if they thought anyone would publicize their letter, say, like posting it on a blog.  If it were important to keep it secret, you can imagine how the letter-writer might fear that someone from MI-6 would learn what the letter-writer did, and come after him.  I mean, what e-mail scammer could stand up to MI-6?

V.A.T. tax refund hoax – Nigerian-style scam victimizes IRS?

November 20, 2010

How many errors can you find with this “notification” I got in e-mail?


We are glad to inform you that government of United States has ordered the treasury department of the IRS to issue out a refund of $500 to all credit card and credit union account holders on accumulated VAT made on their credit card and credit union account during transaction(s) made with their credit card or account. To proceed with this Refund request, reply this message with your Full Name, Address and Phone number(s) or send your information to notification_electronic@mail.bg.
You will be contacted shortly by IRS Refund Officer after sending your details.

Please note that only candidates with credit card and credit union account are eligible for this VAT refund.

Thank You,
Internal Revenue Service


You could start with the fact that the U.S. does not have a Value Added Tax, and consequently, there can be no VAT refunds.

Other clues it’s a hoax:

  • The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is a division of the Treasury Department, not the other way around as the missive contends
  • “Treasury Department” should be capitalized, but is not in the notice
  • Were there VAT refunds, law would require they be made on all purchases, not just credit card purchases; there is obvious phishing here to get your credit card account number
  • IRS does not send notifications through e-mail nor ask for such information through e-mail
  • An order for a refund could come from Congress, or possibly from the President; if from Congress, the law would be cited; if from the president, the president would take credit
  • There is no personal information contained in the greeting; when IRS sends you money, or asks money from you, they use your name on the form
  • There is no “.gov” address, either in the sending address, nor in the address to which suckers are asked to send their private information; “All IRS.gov Web page addresses begin with, http://www.irs.gov/
  • If you made a transaction in which the IRS got paid, and you are now owed a refund, the IRS would contact only those who made such a transaction, not a few million “undisclosed recipients” through e-mail

What other clues do you see that this missive is false?

Love this scam: “Don’t bother contacting the FBI about our illegal activities — we already have”

February 16, 2009

Ya gotta give them scammers points for creativity and sense of humor, no?

My spam filter picked this up, but it’s just too good not to share, exactly as displayed here:

Attn: Beneficiary..
Friday, February 13, 2009 6:40 PM
“Mueller” <usafbiw@usafbioffice.digitalartsindia.com>
Add sender to Contacts
Anti-Terrorist and Monitory Crimes Division.
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
J. Edgar. Hoover Building, Washington D.C.

Attn: Beneficiary,

This is to Officially inform you that it has come to our notice and we have thoroughly completed an Investigated with the help of our Intelligence Monitoring Network System that you are having an illegal transaction with Impostors claiming to be Prof. Charles C. Soludo of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Patrick Aziza, Danail Smith, none officials of Oceanic Bank, none
officials of Zenith Bank and some impostors claiming to be the Federal Bureau Of Investigation agents. During our investigation, it came to our notice that the reason why you have not received your payment is because you have not
fulfilled your Financial Obligation given to you in respect of your Contract/Inheritance Payment.

Therefore, we have contacted the Federal Ministry of Finance on your behalf, and they have brought a solution to your problem by coordinating your payment in the total amount of $800.000.00 USD which will be deposited into an ATM CARD
which you will use to withdraw funds anywhere of the world. You now have the lawful right to claim your funds which have been deposited into the ATM CARD.

Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been involved in this Transaction, you are now to be rest assured that this transaction is legitimate and completely risk-free as it is our duty to protect and Serve citizens of the United States of America.

All you have to do is immediately contact the ATM CARD CENTER via E-mail for instructions on how to procure your Approval Slip which contains details on how to receive and activate your ATM CARD for immediate use to withdraw funds being paid to you. We have confirmed that the amount required to procure the Approval Slip will cost you a total of $200 USD which will be paid directly to the ATM CARD CENTER agent via Western Union Money Transfer /Money Gram Money Transfer.
Below, you shall find contact details of the Agent whom will process your transaction from Federal Ministry of Finance:

OFFICE LINE:  +2348061325890
EMAIL: water_fmfng@live.com

Immediately you contact Dr. Peter Water of the ATM Card Center with the following information:

Full Name:
Zip Code:
Direct Phone Number:
Current Occupation:
Annual Income:

Once you have sent the required information to Dr. Peter Water he will contact you with instructions on how to make the payment of $200 USD for the Approval Slip after which he will proceed towards delivery of the ATM CARD without any further delay. You have hereby been authorized guaranteed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to commence towards completing this transaction, as there shall be NO delay once payment for the Approval Slip has been made to the authorized agent.

Once you have completed payment of $200 to the agent in charge of this transaction, immediately contact us back for more investigation for conformation of your ATM card.

Federal Bureau Investigation
Robert S. Mueller III Director, FBI
Contact us at: fbiwroberts4@live.com

Don’t you love it? “Dr. Peter Water.”  “fbiwroberts”  (probably formerly the Dread Pirate Roberts), at an e-mail address “live.com.”  How many punctuation errors, spelling errors, grammar errors?

Maybe these guys could be persuaded to take the next step, too:  Lock themselves up, and throw away the key.

If no one gets suckered in with these hoaxes, why do they continue?  And since it seems someone is getting suckered in, who?

(Yeah, I stripped out a lot of code; these guys are really smarmy.  I’ve left the e-mails as they were in the note.  If you wish to contact these guys, go ahead.)

And check out this post at Tangled Up In Blue Guy — he’s got a bunch of ’em.

Obama’s birth certificate: Astrologers bring sound reason

November 30, 2008

Texas Darlin‘ and the bevy of sites who contest the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate need to come up for air once in a while.  When astrologers start using better science, logic and reason than those obsessed with Obama’s birth certificate, it’s time for those so obsessed to change their ways, don’t you think?

See also the six ways the arguments against Obama’s birth certificate fail.

Fishy education software bill out of Utah

October 28, 2008

Remember about a year ago when Utah was all atwitter over a voucher proposal that was on a ballot?  Remember all the talk about saving money in education?

Utah Education Issues explains odd features in an omnibus funding bill recently passed by the Utah Legislature (The Economist praised Utah’s efficiency*).  Among other things, it gives away $1 million to an educational software company that will provide families with reading software — at a fantastic pricetag of $3,400 per installation (computer included, but still . . .).

Describing the smell of this bill doesn’t come close to the total repugnance — go read the report.  Fewer than 300 families can be served at that price, statewide.  One might suspect the true beneficiaries of this bill are not Utah voters, not Utah educators, nor even the Utah families who get the freebies.  Did I mention this involves a major publisher of public school textbooks?

It’s a commendable job of reporting for a blog, no?


*   The “cultural thing”, as businessmen from out of state delicately refer to Mormonism, helps in other ways. Utah’s almost universal conservatism makes for stable, consensual politics. It took the state legislature just two days last month to plug a $272m hole in the budget. By contrast, California’s budget was 85 days late. Nevada’s politicians are preparing for a nasty fiscal fight next year.

Barnum’s Law and toxic feet

May 26, 2008

Much as we’d like to deny it, the evidence to verify Barnum’s Law just keeps piling up.

Here’s a blogger astounded by the black stuff on the pad on her feet, convinced that it’s toxic stuff magically drained out of her body, through her feet.

Who is going to tell her the facts?

Uh, you haven’t been suckered by that scam, have you?

Update: The blogger in question seems to have gotten the message:  The post has been yanked.  Smart people change things when their errors are pointed out.

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