This is a complicated one; that’s what makes it so dangerous.
A local consumer received an email from Apple telling her that she’d been locked out of her account because there had been numerous sign-in attempts. From time to time, this has happened to me in that I have forgotten my password or mistyped it, being a lousy typist. She did the right thing and called Apple, and was told that her account had indeed been locked due to too many sign-in attempts.
Very soon after she hung up with Apple, a second email arrived. It informed her that someone in a distant state had in fact used her Apple ID to make a purchase. Within minutes, a third email from Apple arrived, except this was a phony Apple website. The phony Apple website directed her to enter all of her identifying Apple ID information, including her credit card number, expiration date, and security numbers from the back of her credit card. Fortunately, upon close inspection, she figured out that the website asking for all her private information was a fake website, designed to steal her financial information.
The lesson here is, don’t trust emails from any website you use for financial transactions when the email asks you to “confirm” your personal information for “verification.” Call the company directly and investigate the authenticity of the email. Ten times out of 10, you’ll avoid a scam. DON’T ever call the telephone numbers or use the hyperlinks that are sent to you for “verification.” If in doubt — CALL ME!
STOP JUNK MAIL: Have you ever heard of PaperKarma? The website allows you to register your U.S. Postal address for free. In addition, the website wants an email address. Once that’s done, you can sign into their website and “register” your junk mail senders. PaperKarma will then politely contact the sender of the unwanted junk mail and ask them to remove your name from their mailing list. I’ve used it for years, and it’s cut my junk mail by about 80 percent. Try it. I think you’ll like it.
DON’T TRUST CALLER ID: Caller ID was a great invention — 30 years ago. Unfortunately today, it’s useless. The only numbers you can almost always trust are those of friends, neighbors, and family. Anyone looking to scam you can buy a number from any area code in the U.S., or for that matter, in the world.
For about $5 and in about 5 minutes, any low-tech crook can get a 208 area code, or a Washington D.C. area code (202), or Spokane (509), or New York (212). They can in fact be calling from next door, or halfway around the world.
LESSON: You can’t rely on Caller ID.
AT&T CALL PROTECT: According to one reader, AT&T offers a service called AT&T Call Protect. If you have AT&T cell or long-distance, call them and check it out.
CVV2 CODES: These are the “security” code numbers on the back of your credit cards. They are also the “keys to the kingdom” for scammers.
CVV2 is an important security feature for credit card transactions on the Internet and over the phone. “CVV” stands for “Card Verification Value” (Discover Card calls it the “Card member ID”). It is the three-digit number printed in the signature space on the back of most credit cards, such as MasterCard, Visa, and Discover cards.
The CVV2 number is always the last group of numbers in the signature space on the back of the card. It is not part of the credit card number. On American Express cards, the number is four digits.
NEVER send these numbers by email to anyone. Scammers will send very official emails asking consumers for these numbers. It is relatively easy to hack a credit card once these numbers are available. The whole credit card scam business is kind of the “chicken or the egg” puzzle. Once a scammer has personal information, it is only one step to have a few naive consumers enter their numbers. DON’T DO IT! The emails you might receive from the “spoofer” will look exactly like legitimate emails from financial institutions and online merchants. Again, call me BEFORE you trust any email that looks suspicious.
YOU’VE BEEN SELECTED: Yes you have, as a possible victim of a scam.
Consumers in our area have been receiving letters from some creepy scammers out of Utah. The letters are 6 or 7 pages long and inform the recipient that they have been selected, after careful investigation, for membership in a “secret society.” The recipient’s name is scattered throughout the text of the computer-generated letter in an amatuer attempt to make the letter look personalized. The “secret society” offers to disclose, to the recipient, once a fee has been paid, the secret to obtaining financial wealth.
IT’S A SCAM! Round file or shred the letter and save yourself some money.
DRAIN THE SWAMP: Cars and trucks are showing up in our area that were submerged during the hurricanes that devastated parts of the South a few months ago. Salvage operations purchase these vehicle for pennies on the dollar, clean them up and deodorize them and sell them to wholesalers. The wholesalers then sell them to unsuspecting small used car lots. They are almost impossible to distinguish from normal used cars.
The cars are purchased by the salvage operators as “totaled.” Insurance companies declare the vehicles a total loss and then get rid of them as soon as possible after paying the original owner for their loss. The only reliable way to avoid purchasing one of these problem vehicles is to insist on getting a report for a service like Carfax on the vehicle, BEFORE you buy it. The cars may be cheap, but believe you me, you don’t want one of these cars. They have irreparable problems. I know what I’m talking about. Remember: I’m a licensed, independent insurance adjuster in Idaho. My license number is 105830.
JUST A THOUGHT: If you like this column, please support it by purchasing goods and services from companies that advertise in The Coeur d’Alene Press. The ad revenues stay here in the community and make the publishing of the paper possible. Here’s something I saw posted on a social media website: “When you buy from a small business, you’re not helping a CEO buy a third home. You’re helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, and a mom and dad put food on the table — SHOP LOCAL!”
REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”
I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at (208) 699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksAdvocate@gmail.com or fax me at (866) 362-9266. (#GOGETEMBILL BROOKS) You can follow me at www.billbrooksconsumeradvocate.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the Broker and Owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene