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Consumer - 5 Current Scams to watch out for!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

It is National Identity Fraud Protection week, and in addition to all the advice on how to protect your personal information you should also know what scams to look out for. These will generally part you with your cash rather than personal details, so you should now what the latest scams are.

5 Current Scams to watch out for!

Guest: Tina Leonard: Consumer Expert

1. Microsoft scam last week

Last week Microsoft confirmed that many thousands of their Windows Live Hotmail account usernames and passwords had been leaked to the Internet. They said it was not a breach of Microsoft but rather the details were collected by an aggressive phishing campaign.

Phishing is when you receive an email purporting to be from somebody else, i.e. hotmail, ebay, banks etc, asking for personal details (in this case your user name and password). You give it and then the fraudsters have it and can use to get into your account and other accounts for which you use the same details i.e. facebook.

Or phishing could take the form of an attachment, which the accompanying email tells you is of something you want i.e. a celebrity pic, info from an 'account operator' etc Opening the attachment triggers the downloading of malicious software onto your computer.

. Never open unknown links or attachment
. Update your virus software
. Change your passwords regularly (Microsoft are recommending 90 days).

2. MABS letter

A few weeks ago this nasty scam reared it's head. People started receiving correspondence claiming to be from Money, Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and indicating that you had been approved for a Government grant of €5,000.

The letter indicates that candidates for the grant have been selected from lists of individuals on the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (National Consumer Agency) database.

A "cheque" for €1,460 is included in the correspondence to cover "taxes and administrative fee" associated with the processing of the grant. Recipients are requested to telephone a contact number and complete a "Grant Release Form" which seeks various personal information.

Neither MABS, or the NCA or Dept of Enterprise have anything to do with these bogus letters.

. Always ask yourself why you have been awarded a grant if you didn't apply for one.
. Check with the company in whose name the letter is issued.
. Contact Garda Fraud Bureau on (01) 6663741 or make contact with your local Garda station.

3. Working from home scams

These tend to be consistent but started appearing with greater regularity since the start of this year, again exploiting the fact that thousands were being made unemployed.

'Envelope stuffing' scheme: In this classic scam, an advertisement appears offering work packing envelopes and asking you to forward a fee for the raw materials. When you respond to the advert with the fee, instead of getting materials to send out on behalf of a company, you get instructions to place an ad like the one you saw, asking people to send you money for information about the same work. This is an illegal pyramid scheme because there is no real product or service being offered. You won't get rich, and you could be prosecuted for fraud.

Making products and selling them back to the company: An advertisement offers work putting products together, such as model kits or toy dolls, and selling them back to the company. In this case, while you do get the raw materials, when you return the completed product, you are often told there is no market for the product or that the work is defective. Either way you don't get paid and the company get their manufacturing for free.


. Why would you need to pay to get a job?
. Why does a genuine company only use mobile numbers and free email accounts?
. Legitimate companies offer salaries not 'guaranteed income'.
. Why are you being offered €1,000s a week when the company could get someone to do it for the minimum wage.
. Isn't it unusual that a job doesn't require any experience or skills.



4. Bogus Immigration Services

A UK based company has been advertising in Irish Newspapers offering Immigration services to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

I spoke to a consumer who paid €5,000 by bank transfer to a Swiss bank account and never got what she was supposed to, emails are bouncing back and the telephone numbers no longer work. Worryingly she also sent originals of her and her family's birth and marriage certificates and copies of their passports and now she cannot get them back.

The companies are not registered with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner in the UK and it looks like the consumer will not see her money again.

. If you're thinking of emigrating contact the embassy of that country. Ask them what you need to do and what independent companies are out there to help if any.
. You do not need to hire an immigration representative to apply for a visa or for Canadian citizenship.
. Only authorized officers at Canadian embassies, high commissions and consulates can decide whether or not to issue a visa.
. The official website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is www.cic.gc.ca.
. Canadian visa offices will never ask you to deposit money into an individual's personal bank accounts or to transfer money through a specific private money transfer company.

5. Emails asking for money

Most people are familiar with the Nigerian scam but the new version is the email supposedly sent from someone you know. Your 'friend / colleague' says they are in a foreign country and all their money is stolen and ask if you can forward some cash to them, usually via money transfer.

. If you receive an email check with your friend or colleague first to see if they have sent the email. They won't have.

Tina Leonard
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