If you live anywhere in the NYC area, you’ve probably seen a “United Homeless Organization” table on the sidewalk, staffed by a volunteer who looks homeless himself. (If you don’t live here, imagine a year-round, homeless Salvation Army Santa.) If you thought the set-ups looked a little sketchy, you were right: the UHO is a “sham,” according to NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Today the FTC lodged a contempt charge against scammy no-credit-needed electronics seller BlueHippo, saying that the company hasn’t honored its prior agreement to stop scamming customers. BlueHippo agreed to pay back $3.5 million nearly two years ago to reimburse customers who never received the computers they pre-paid for, but the FTC says since then the company has sucked another $15 million out of customers.
Since 2007, the FBI and authorities in Egypt have been running an investigation they’ve called “Operation Phish Phry,” sigh, and this week it paid off with 53 charges against U.S. defendants and 47 against people in Egypt. Three of the 53 in the U.S. have been arrested, and the FBI are looking for the other 50. To prove you’re not one of the remaining 50, please send the FBI your login credentials to your bank. Ha ha, we kid.
William wrote to us this weekend to point out how little Microsoft does to fight phishing attacks on their hugely popular Xbox LIVE network. It’s unfortunate they don’t take this sort of crime more seriously, since so many kids—who by all rights should have less experience with phishing—are on Xbox LIVE. Below is what two different Xbox CSRs told William when he contacted them to complain about phishing attacks.
The smaller versions of Madoff are still out there, convincing people to hand over their savings for foolproof investments that don’t actually exist, but every once in a while the authorities nab another one. This week it’s Philip G. Barry, a Brooklyn-based guy who operated out of my own neighborhood and happened to run a pornography business.
Here’s another reason to have a sit-down with your elderly relatives and make them promise that if they ever, ever find out they’ve won some money in a lottery they didn’t enter, they should tell family members immediately.
A reader just ran into a gift card scam while trying to unload an Apple gift card via CraigsList. If you’re directed to a website that asks you to put in your gift card information in order to show the balance as “proof” that you’re legit, you’re being conned.
We guess if you’re gonna create a failure pile, make it a big one. This email that pretends to be from FBI director Robert S. Mueller has the typical scammy touches: strange grammatical issues, unexpected shifts between formal and casual voices, a complete lack of understanding of how US government offices actually work, and an “official” gmail address. We were ready to send our information to them until we got to the end, where the letter threatens you with arrest if you don’t play along. Now they’re just getting silly.
Here’s one more reason to avoid mystery shopping scams: you could be the one who ends up in jail. A woman in Minnesota answered a “mystery shopper” email (that she found in her spam folder, sigh) and signed up. It turned out to be the old check fraud scam—they sent her a $2700 check and told her to deposit it and keep $300 a payment, then use the rest to make mystery shopper purchases. She took the check to her bank, and her bank called the police.
Yesterday, as part of “Operation Loan Lies,” the FTC and 19 states filed 189 lawsuits, cease-and-desist orders, and other legal actions to shut down loan modification consultants who prey on desperate homeowners. The scammers offer to help solve foreclosure problems for a hefty fee; instead, they fail to modify the loan at all while collecting payments for their services, sometimes even encouraging homeowners to stop communicating with their lenders completely or to send payments to the consultants instead of the bank.
A manager at Chemical Bank in Midland, Michigan, grew suspicious when he saw Marion Case, an 80-year-old customer, withdraw $25k from her account last December. Case told him she was going to mail it to someone who would then pass it along to her son. The manager, Carl Ahearn, “remained suspicious. He followed her as she walked to the nearby post office, where Case bought an Express Mail envelope addressed to a man in New Jersey. Ahearn shared his concerns with postal officials, who opened an investigation and arrested a man Monday for fraud.”
If you live near Burke, Virginia, you might want to pay close attention when the contractor hired by Comcast comes to install your service. Rick runs a computer repair company and has twice run into the same problem with Comcast customers, where they can no longer access the Internet after an upgrade and are offered an off-the-books repair service.
A reader received a weird message from a fellow Match.com member last night—it was a fairly transparent attempt by someone to establish contact with her via a false identity.