Jamie Bastas

Another day, another scam letter

February 20th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

We tell you stories like this one on a regular basis, but it’s good to have a reminder every once in a while.

One day last week I took a call from a viewer who received a letter in the mail along with a check stating she won a foreign lottery. When she called she said she knew the check was fake and someone was trying to scam her. She wanted us to get the word out so other viewers wouldn’t fall for the scam. She sent me the letter and I promised her I would post it. Below I’ve scanned the letter, the check and the envelope and highlighted some of the signs that prove this is a scam

First comes the envelope: The first thing I notice about this envelope is it is postmarked in Canada.

The second thing I notice is there is no return address, so it’s not traceable (sneaky scammers!)

Next comes the prize letter: Did you notice the return address on the prize letter is from the United Kingdom? So now, you have a return address on the envelope (above) from Canada and a return address on the letter from the UK (hmmm).

Also the letter states the recipient has won a Mega Lottery in the UK. Did you recently travel to the UK and while you were there enter a lottery? Chances are NO!

The third thing I noticed is that they want you to keep your winnings confidential until your claim has been processed. WHY?!?!?!? Are they trying to keep you quiet so someone doesn’t warn you that it’s a scam and tell you to throw the letter away? (YEP!)

Finally, the check: As with the envelope and the letter above, check the address on the check. This check is written off of a bank account in FL. (So now you have a return address in Canada, one in the UK and one in FL? Okay!)

Then look at the return address: Certified Manufacturing, Inc.  A quick Google search tells me the business is a woman-owned small business in Holt, FL that is “an industry leader in electronics manufacturing and laser wire marking for the military and aerospace industries.” (http://www.certifiedmanufacturing.com) C’mon now, do you really think they have time to get involved in a Mega Lottery in the UK? (Umm, no!)

Here’s what you can do. If you receive a letter/check like this one look for the signs. Usually they are very evident and just take a few minutes to figure out. If the letter comes through the mail, you can file a complaint with the Mail Fraud Department . Also if any portion of the mailing is postmarked from Canada, you can contact Phone Busters, the Canadian anti-fraud department and file a complaint with them. Lastly, remember if it seems to good to be true… it is. Now throw the letter away and never look back!


BBB issues scam warning

December 7th, 2011 at 12:24 pm by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) released information today about a malicious email circulating the country and warns businesses and consumers not to open the email.

The agency says the email appears to come from a Better Business Bureau employee about a recently filed complaint with the organization. The email tells the recipient that they must review the matter and advise the organization of their position on the complaint. The recipient is directed to a link which the email claims will take the reader to the BBB website, in fact the link takes the recipient to a 3rd party website. The email contains a dangerous attachment regarding the complaint itself. The agency strongly advises people to not open the email because the attachment and the link are both considered malicious and can put a virus on your computer.

The organization says the email did not originate from the BBB. It is important to note the Better Business Bureau does not send complaints as attachments via email.

Should a consumer or business owner receive the e-mail, the BBB asks that you disregard the email and report any information received to the BBB Scam Portal and then delete the e-mail. It is also suggested that if you click the link, you should immediately do a virus scan on your computer.


Protecting your car from the heat!

July 22nd, 2011 at 1:18 pm by under 10 On Your Side

The heat wave is officially here. You’ve heard our weather team’s warnings and you’ve heard our reporters tell you how to care for yourself, your neighbors and your pets, but do you know how to take care of your car during these extreme conditions. AAA wants to make sure your vehicle is as safe as it can possibly be and suggests five ways you can protect your car during these dog days of summer.

1. The heat can wreak havoc on your battery. To make sure your battery lasts thru the summer.

* ensure your battery is securely mounted in place to minimize vibration

* clean any corrosive build up from the battery terminals and cable clamps

* make sure the clamps are tight enough that they will not move.

* have your car’s battery tested by a trained technician

2. Maintain your engine and keep it cool:

 * add additives to the coolant to protect the radiator and internal engine components

* flush the sytem and have the coolant replaced periodically

* inspect hoses and belts for cracking

 3. Tire maintenance:

* maintain standard inflatin on tires

* inspect tire treads for signs of uneven wear

* make sure there is adequate depth between treads

4. Just like people, cars need fluids too. Fluids help lubricate and cool the engine.

 * measure all fluids to make sure they are filled to the maximum levels

 **Source: AAA of Tidewater Virginia


You’ve got (e-mail) spam!

July 19th, 2011 at 12:50 pm by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

This morning a viewer sent us a copy of an e-mail they received in reference to their Cox account being disabled. The e-mail went a little something like this:

Mon 7/18/2011

4:06 PM

We are deleting all unused COX.NET email accounts to create more

space for new accounts for this year.

To prevent your account from being closed, you will have to update it

below so that we will know that it’s a present used account.

CONFIRM YOUR EMAIL IDENTITY BELOW

 Email Username:………. …..

EMAIL Password:…………….

Date of Birth:……………..

Country or Territory:……….

 Warning!!! Account owner that refuses to update his or her account within seven days of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently.

Thank you for using COX.NET

According to Cox Communications website, “any email you receive that requests personal user information via email is likely to be some form of fraudulent email. Customers should never provide username and password information via email to anyone. Cox will never ask a user to verify account information via email.”

Also, the fine folks at Cox suggest a list of things to look out for and a handy lists of dos and don’ts:

Be on the look out for:

  • Email that requires you to act quickly in order to avoid some negative consequences, such as account termination.
  • Embedded links in email that take you to a site that may appear to be your service provider or bank. Examine the logo and other trademarks to ensure they are legitimate.
  • Forms on these web sites that ask for personal information
  • Spelling errors; these are typical of fake sites and are used to avoid being detected by spam filtering devices.

Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do not click on links in unsolicited emails.
  • Delete suspected fake email promptly
  • Protect your personal information at all times
  • Change your passwords frequently.

As always, don’t forget to enable your spam filters and double check your junk e-mail settings.

*Information obtained from Cox Communications corporate website.


It’s your lucky day!

July 18th, 2011 at 11:20 am by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

You’ve all seen unwanted e-mails arrive in your inbox promising thousands of dollars you weren’t expecting, a trust fund from the family member you didn’t know you had and the job opportunity you didn’t know you were looking for. This morning a co-worker received a spam e-mail unlike any I’ve ever seen before, so I thought I would share it with the blogosphere in hopes no one will fall for a scam like this one. In the e-mail below the woman claims to be dying from cancer and wants to give YOU a $9.8M charity donation. WOW! It must be your lucky day… ummm, I don’t think so!

Hi Dear,

My name is Mrs. Maria Pierre. I am 63 years old. I am a dying woman who has decided to donate what I have to you for charity/ motherless babies/less privileged in the world. I was diagnosed for cancer for about 2 years ago. I have been touched by God to donate from what I have inherited from my late husband to you for good work of God. I have asked God to forgive me and believe he has because he is a merciful God. I will be going in for an operation next week.

I got your contact from a business directory and picked you randomly for this project. I decided to donate the sum of US$9.8 Million dollars to you for the good work of God. I know this may come as a surprise to you as you do not know me at all but I have prayed over this and out of all the contacts I was able to get from the internet, the holy spirit has directed me to donate these funds to you. I do not want to take credit for any of these as life is vanity. We came to this world empty and will surely return back to the lord empty. I have lived my life in sin and have prayed to God to forgive my sins. At the moment I cannot take any telephone calls right now due to the fact that my relatives (That have squandered the funds I gave them for this purpose before) are around me and my health status also.

If you will accept this offer, I will be very grateful. My family lawyer will make take care of the legal procedure to complete the transfer of the funds to you. I want you to reply me with your full name, address and telephone number so that I can give it to my lawyer. Once I receive your response, I will also give you my lawyers contact details for you to open communication with him. All I ask of you is to make sure that you use this money for the work of God and service to humanity. I know I don’t know you but I have been directed to do this by God. I wish you all the best and may the good God bless you abundantly as you work toward this humanitarian mission.

Lastly, I want you to pray for me regarding my health, because I have come to find out that wealth acquisition without God in one’s life is vanity upon vanity. If you have to die, says the Lord: keep fit and I will give you the crown of life. I believe we serve the same God and that we are all going back to him when we die. May the Grace of our Lord, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you now and forever more, Amen.  You can reply directly to my email  maria.pierre@thesecuremailer.com

Your sister in the lord

Mrs. Maria Pierre

While I hate to think that my co-worker is passing up an easy $9.8M, I truly believe this is a scam waiting to happen. So make sure you turn on your spam filters and tweak your junk e-mail settings, so e-mails like this one won’t make their way to your inbox.


Don’t move a thing…without knowing your rights!

July 7th, 2011 at 12:54 pm by under 10 On Your Side

When consumers search for a moving company they are usually motivated to choose one moving company over another because of price, location of the company or how quickly the company can get the move completed.  According to the American Moving & Storage Association based out of Alexandria, VA there are a few other things you should look for before trusting a moving company with your precious belongings:

  •  Research the company thoroughly.  While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify on FMCSA’s website, www.protectyourmove.gov.  Also check the company’s rating with your BBB, which maintains more than 17,000 Business Reviews on movers across North America.  Having at least a satisfactory BBB rating is one of seven screenings AMSA relies on when authorizing its interstate mover members to display the ProMover logo, the sign of a quality, professional mover which has pledged to abide by the organization’s Code of Ethics.
  •  Get at least three written in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will offer to give you a firm price online or over the phone. Also keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer which can cost you more in the end.
  •  Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer with either FMCSA for interstate moves or the state in which you reside for moves within that state.  Also, enlist the help of BBB or local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage.  FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.
  •  Consider getting full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate a headache after your move.  Investing in full (replacement) value protection means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age.  It’s important to note that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost, for example, of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit.

 Here are some links that might be helpful to you before you make your next move.

 BBB

American Moving & Storage Associaton

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

U.S. Dept of Transportation Household Goods Program

 **Credit: BBB and American Moving & Storage Association**


Used car buying tips

June 29th, 2011 at 11:52 am by under 10 On Your Side

Buying a used car can be a very stressful time for many people. Oftentimes consumers will search the internet before purchasing a vehicle in hopes of getting a better deal online. Craig’s List and Ebay have become very popular websites for car dealers to place advertisements for used vehicles.

Earlier today the VA Dept of Motor Vechicles announced the arrest of a Newport News man who was selling motor vehicles on Craig’s List without a salesperson’s license. In response to the situation DMV released a number of steps consumers should take prior to buying used cars:

• Ask the seller to provide the title for the vehicle; not providing the title could indicate the vehicle has liens against it.

• Make sure the title is in the name of the individual who is selling the car. Ask to see the seller’s driver’s license for verification.

• Ask to see the vehicle registration card or paper from DMV and check to see that the vehicle description and plate number match the car you plan to   purchase.

• Create a written contract including sale price, car condition and method of payment, after a price for the vehicle is agreed upon.

• Get the contract notarized while both parties sign it.

• Never pay for a vehicle or vehicle down-payment with cash.

• Verify that the person who signs the contract is the actual owner of the car by comparing the owner’s name on the title to the seller’s   identification.

Consumers should always check the reputation of the seller and look for customer reviews about the seller. Also, remember you should never give the seller your street address and test drives should always be arranged in a public place during daylight hours.

For a complete list of used car buying tips, click here to visit the DMV website

* Source: VA Dept of Motor Vehicles


Counterfeit checks: What you should look out for!

May 20th, 2011 at 11:56 am by under 10 On Your Side, Scam Alert

We receive calls and emails everyday from people who have received letters and phone calls from someone who claims the person has won an international lottery, that there is money waiting for them in a foreign bank account from a relative who recently passed away or that they have won the grand prize at a local department store. More often than not, these letters and phone calls are the work of a con artist who is trying to scam consumers out of their hard earned money.

How the scam works: Once the would-be prize winner deposits the “check” into their bank account, they are asked to withdraw a portion of the money and send it back to the con artist. Once the money is withdrawn, the check doesn’t clear the bank. The bank account is then emptied in an effort to cover the withdraw.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) occasionally sends out tips consumers should look for so they don’t get scammed. Recently the BBB released a list of tips consumers can use to determine if a check is counterfeit.
1. Edges. Legit checks generally have at least one perforated or rough edge.
2. Bank logo. There should be a logo and it shouldn’t be faded.
3. Bank address. A bank wouldn’t use just a post office box. 
4. Check number. There should be a check number in the upper right hand corner and it should match the check in the MICR line. The MICR line is at the bottom of the check and has the bank routing number and the check number.
5. Amount. It’s usually less than $5,000 so that the bank sends the “check” through in a few days. Larger checks have a longer holding time.
6. Paper. Fake checks are usually printed on lighter paper and could feel slippery.
7. Signature. Does the signature look digitized? Are there numerous up and down strokes? It could indicate the signature was printed from a scanned original or was forged.
8. MICR line. Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) numbers are read by specialized checking-sorts machines. The ink should look and feel dull, not shiny.
9. Routing numbers. You can verify these numbers by going to Federal Reserve Financial Services. There should be nine numbers and they identify what bank issued the check.

One thing to keep in mind, if you cash a counterfeit check, you are responsible for the money drawn from that deposit. Remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

**Source: BBB of Southern Colorado and Sid Kirchheimer author of “Scam Proof Your Life”**

I recently received a copy of a counterfeit check from a viewer. Here’s a scan of the check:

While this check has the logo, the routing number and the check number, if you take a look at the address for the bank listed, this check breaks Rule #3. Also, did you notice the “VOID” watermark that showed up in the scanned image… sneaky, huh???


Are your phonebooks going to waste?

May 12th, 2011 at 8:37 am by under 10 On Your Side

A few weeks ago I returned home from work to find my neighborhood littered with the most recent delivery of the YellowBook®. Later that evening I noticed that most of my neighbors had already arrived home from work and still hadn’t picked up their phone book; instead it seemed most people left it lying in the driveway in front of their house. Days passed and I kept seeing more and more of this

And this

And that over there

Technology is such a huge part of our daily lives and with the use of smartphones, social media and internet search engines, phone books have become a thing of the past.  People don’t want to have to search endlessly through a phonebook for the contact information of the company they need to contact, instead they would rather receive the information instantly and with little effort. So instead of using the phone books people throw them away, recycle them or leave them lay around the neighborhood.

A couple of months ago we had a conversation in our newsroom about consumers having the ability to opt-out of receiving the phonebook. Knowing that I recycle my phonebook as soon as it arrives on my doorstep, I decided to use the opt-out method.  So, the day the YellowBooks were delivered I found this on my door

Removing my address from the YellowBook® delivery was actually very simple. If you are interested in opting out of receiving phonebooks in the future simply visit Yellow Pages Opt-Out and enter your zip code. The company will then ask you to register your e-mail address and fill out a form with your home address. You will have to confirm your decision to opt out and in the process save yourself some trouble in the future!


Sending flowers for Mother’s Day?

May 5th, 2011 at 8:11 am by under 10 On Your Side

Mother’s Day is a few days away and if you’re anything like me, you wait until the last minute to find the perfect gift for your deserving Mom. If you fit this description, chances are you haven’t ordered your Mother’s Day flowers yet. While you still have time to make those last minute flower decisions and have them delivered straight to your Mom’s front door, you may want to check out the latest research before making your final decision.

In the May 2011 edition of Consumer Reports, the magazine staff researched online florists. The purpose of the study was to find out if the flowers they received were the exact flowers they ordered online and if the quality of the product lived up to the companies online guarantee. Consumer Reports ordered one bouquet of flowers from each of the top online florists, ProFlowers.com, 1-800-flowers.com, and FTD.com and had the bouquets delivered to their office. When the flowers arrived, the magazine’s photography department worked to arrange the flowers in an attempt to match the picture online, then the flowers were photographed and judged by employees to see which bouquet most closely matched the online description. After the employees made their decision, the staff determined the results.

According to the magazine’s website, the results were as follows:

“1800Flowers.com was best at sending what was ordered, followed by ProFlowers.com and FTD.com. The flowers most likely to look the way they did on websites were tulips, roses, and orchids. Mixed bouquets had more substitutions than the rest.”

Following the research, Consumer Reports suggests consumers stay away from mixed bouquets if you don’t want any of the flowers substituted. And if you aren’t happy with the way your arrangement turned out, don’t hesitate to call customer service and file a complaint.

Now I want to know what you think. Do you agree with the results from Consumer Reports? Do you prefer one online florist over another?  Have you had a positive or negative experience with any of the companies they researched?