FBI — Holiday Shopping Tips and Warnings

Holiday Shopping Tips

11/15/2010—This holiday season, the FBI reminds shoppers that cyber criminals aggressively create new ways to steal money and personal information. Scammers use many techniques to fool potential victims, including conducting fraudulent auction sales, reshipping merchandise purchased with stolen credit cards, and selling fraudulent or stolen gift cards through auction sites at discounted prices.

Fraudulent Classified Ads and Auction Sales

Internet criminals post classified ads and auctions for products they do not have and make the scam work by using stolen credit cards. Fraudsters receive an order from a victim, charge the victim’s credit card for the amount of the order, then use a separate, stolen credit card for the actual purchase. They pocket the purchase price obtained from the victim’s credit card and have the merchant ship the item directly to the victim. Consequently, an item purchased from an online auction but received directly from the merchant is a strong indication of fraud. Victims of such a scam not only lose the money paid to the fraudster, but may be liable for receiving stolen goods.

Shoppers may help avoid these scams by using caution and not providing financial information directly to the seller, as fraudulent sellers will use this information to purchase items for their schemes. Always use a legitimate payment service to ensure a safe, legitimate purchase.

As for product delivery, fraudsters posing as legitimate delivery services offer reduced or free shipping to customers through auction sites. They perpetuate this scam by providing fake shipping labels to the victim. The fraudsters do not pay for delivery of the packages; therefore, delivery service providers intercept the packages for nonpayment and the victim loses the money paid for the purchase of the product.

Diligently check each seller’s rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100 percent positive feedback, with a low total number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date and time.

Gift Card Scam

Be careful when purchasing gift cards through auction sites or classified ads. It is safest to purchase gift cards directly from the merchant or retail store. If the gift card merchant discovers that your card is fraudulent, the merchant will deactivate the gift card and refuse to honor it for purchases. Victims of this scam lose the money paid for the gift card purchase.

Phishing and Smishing Schemes

In phishing schemes, a fraudster poses as a legitimate entity and uses e-mail and scam websites to obtain victims’ personal information, such as account numbers, user names, passwords, etc. Smishing is the act of sending fraudulent text messages to bait a victim into revealing personal information.

Be leery of e-mails or text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, fraudsters direct victims to follow a link or call a number to update an account or correct a purported problem. The link directs the victim to a fraudulent website or message that appears legitimate. Instead, the site allows the fraudster to steal any personal information the victim provides.

Current smishing schemes involve fraudsters calling victims’ cell phones offering to lower the interest rates for credit cards the victims do not even possess. If a victim asserts that they do not own the credit card, the caller hangs up. These fraudsters call from TRAC cell phones that do not have voicemail, or the phone provides a constant busy signal when called, rendering these calls virtually untraceable.

Another scam involves fraudsters directing victims, via e-mail, to a spoofed website. A spoofed website is a fake site that misleads the victim into providing personal information, which is routed to the scammer’s computer.

Phishing schemes related to deliveries are also rampant. Legitimate delivery service providers neither e-mail shippers regarding scheduled deliveries nor state when a package is intercepted or being temporarily held. Consequently, e-mails informing of such delivery issues are phishing scams that can lead to personal information breaches and financial losses.


Here are some tips you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
Log directly onto the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify if the e-mail is genuine.
If you are asked to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.
Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information.
Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

To receive the latest information about cyber scams, sign up for e-mail alerts on this website. If you have received a scam e-mail, please notify the IC3 by filing a complaint at www.ic3.gov.

FBI — New E-Scams & Warnings

Dykstra's Calif estate sold at bankruptcy auction - Pasadena Star-News

The Associated Press
Posted: 11/22/2010 08:22:47 AM PST

VENTURA, Calif.—Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra took out $18 million in loans three years ago to buy a California estate overlooking the Sherwood Country Club Golf Course.
It sold at bankruptcy auction last week for $760,712.

A junior lienholder bought the 12,713-square-foot Lake Sherwood home. Index Investors representative Jeff Smith says he was the lone bidder at the Ventura County courthouse on Nov. 17.

There's still a $13.5 million senior mortgage held by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. The Oregon-based private equity firm is negotiating with J.P Morgan to deal with that debt.

Dykstra filed for bankruptcy protection in July, saying he owed more than $31 million and had about $50,000 in assets.

Dykstra told the Ventura County Star on Saturday that he doesn't know anything about the auction.

Dykstra's Calif estate sold at bankruptcy auction - Pasadena Star-News

Abraham Lincoln's October 3, 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln's October 3, 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation.
Please circulate it!

"It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord (Psalm 33:12). We know that by His divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world. May we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens."

We, as a nation must fall to our knees!

Debt collectors utilize Facebook to embarrass those who owe | Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota | WTSP.com 10 News

Tampa, Florida -- Debt collectors can be relentless and downright rude on the phone, but now a St. Petersburg woman is filing suit alleging the company that financed her car loan began harassing family members over the social networking website Facebook.

Melanie Beacham says she fell behind on her car payment after getting sick and taking a medical leave from work. She contacted MarkOne Financial to explain the situation but says the harassing phone calls, as many as 20 per day, kept coming. Then one day she got a call from her sister saying the company contacted her in Georgia.

"I was telling her, 'No way, because you're not even a reference,'" said Beacham, who later found out MarkOne contacted her sister and other relatives via Facebook.

Beacham says the company claimed they were doing nothing wrong but, upset over what happened, she contacted Tampa based consumer attorney Billy Howard of Morgan & Morgan.

"Now Facebook does a debt collectors work for them. Now it's not only family members, it's all of your associates. It's a very powerful tool for debt collectors to use," says Howard.

He believes Facebook will soon become a regular method for contact if nothing is done.

"It's getting the desired result, and that is to start a domino effect of panic and embarrassment among family and friends, and people will do anything to stop that."

Howard has now filed a first of its kind lawsuit against MarkOne asking a judge to ban the company from using Facebook and other social networking websites to contact friends and family members over a debt.

10 News was unable to reach MarkOne Financial for comment Monday regarding the suit filed in Pinellas County.

Beacham hopes the lawsuit will keep debt collectors from exploiting consumers on Facebook.

"Nobody should have to go through what I went through," said Beacham. "I was hurt because I just felt I didn't need my family going through that."
Beau Zimmer, 10 News

Debt collectors utilize Facebook to embarrass those who owe | Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota | WTSP.com 10 News

Rancho Cordova lawyer charged with swindling distressed homeowners

Rancho Cordova lawyer charged with
swindling distressed homeowners

Sacramento-area lawyer James Sandison, already facing State Bar charges of misusing his client trust account and named in a $60 million loan modification fraud suit by the attorney general, has now been charged by the State Bar with “swindling distressed homeowners.”
Principal and founder of U.S. Loan Auditors and general corporate counsel for My U.S. Legal Services, Inc., Sandison, 55, provided forensic loan audits, guaranteed foreclosure prevention and then did nothing to help prevent the foreclosures, according to bar prosecutors. One of 11 homeowners named in the State Bar complaint paid Sandison $56,000 over a nine-month period. Others paid him between $2,000 and $24,000 after he promised to stop foreclosure. Some clients lost their homes.
Sandison [bar number 148812], whose businesses are located in Rancho Cordova, is charged with 11 counts of moral turpitude, dishonesty and corruption. He also was charged Oct. 27 with making untrue or misleading representations, unfair competition, collecting advance fees, failure to provide proper disclosures, collecting advance fees from clients in foreclosure and failure to register his businesses as foreclosure consultants.
“The State Bar continues to aggressively prosecute those lawyers engaging in loan modification misconduct,” said Chief Trial Counsel James Towery. “We have removed from practice 17 of these lawyers with more disciplinary proceedings pending. This small group has caused significant public harm.”
According to the State Bar charges, Sandison defrauded the homeowners by making promises to avoid foreclosure that he never kept. Those allegations are similar to charges filed against Sandison, his companies and four others by Attorney General Jerry Brown on Oct. 6. In that suit, Brown seeks $60 million in civil penalties, restitution for victims and permanent injunctions to keep the defendants from fraudulently marketing forensic loan audits and legal services that have no value. The State Bar assisted Brown’s office and the Department of Real Estate in the investigation.
The attorney general’s suit alleged that homeowners paid thousands of dollars for forensic loan audits, which the companies said could be used as the basis for suits against lenders. Forensic loan audits purportedly show instances in which lenders have violated rules ranging from consumer privacy requirements to calculating mortgage amounts. Many homeowners were persuaded to stop making their loan payments and instead file lawsuits. As a result, they lost thousands of dollars and, in some cases, their homes.
The suit said the lawyers used “a variety of deceptive advertising and marketing techniques to persuade homeowners they had been victims of ‘predatory lending.’” They claimed that suing the lenders would give the homeowners leverage in obtaining a loan modification, staving off foreclosure or collecting damages.
Many clients took the advice “and as a result placed themselves in even greater danger of losing their homes,” the attorney general’s suit said. “Defendants then bilk their clients for months, collecting thousands of dollars in fees for ‘legal services,’ when in reality [they] do little more than file and serve a boiler-plate complaint. In order to keep the monthly payments flowing, Defendants dodge their clients’ phone calls, refuse to provide their clients any accounting of how their money is being spent and/or string their clients along with false assurances that a settlement is in progress, or that litigation takes time.”
Sandison also was named by the State Bar in a separate case in October. He was charged with hiding $300,000 in collections he received on behalf of his client, failing to put funds into a client trust account and stealing money from his partner and client.