Latest in a long line of scams

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I tell people where to go. Not in the traditional, negative sense, but rather, where they can find information to answer their consumer questions.

Together, we’ve been working on rooting out the crooks and scammers for over 10 months. Along the way, I’ve also helped many consumers (and merchants) resolve misunderstandings. It makes me feel good to help someone avoid a scam or a con artist, but the most satisfaction I get is when I’ve helped someone help him or herself. Especially, early on, many callers would want me to call, on their behalf, and “go to bat” for them with a merchant or company. If I did that, the number of people I could help would shrink drastically.

Instead, I coach people on how to solve their own problems — I tell them where to go. I don’t keep files, I don’t follow up. As good consumers, that’s your job. I do think of the people I’ve talked with and really like it when they follow up with me. I don’t always answer the phone — who can? — but I always try to return every voice mail if asked.

I’ve been helping consumers, one way or another, for over 43 years. In that time I’ve accumulated a vast amount of information and knowledge regarding consumerism. To put it another way — I’ve got a lot of clubs in my golf bag.

• • •

LIFELOCK: One very astute reader of this column provided me with a number of very interesting stories about the company LifeLock and a few of their serious violations of federal law. The essentials of the complaint and settlement can be found at: www.money.cnn.com/2015/12/17/pf/lifelock-100-million-ftc- settlement/index.html. The particulars are too lengthy to go into here, but suffice it to say that like most big companies, even Lifelock sometimes runs afoul of certain aspects of federal law.

Given all the choices out there to protect your credit cards and more importantly, your identity, I still recommend the basic Lifelock program.

• • •

BAD RABBIT: There’s a new ransomware program out there called “Bad Rabbit.” If you get a popup message urging you to install a new Adobe Flash Player (at least for the next four weeks), don’t do it! The popup will look like a normal update from Adobe. DON’T CLICK ON THE LINK! The program will encrypt all your files and demand payment of $280 within 40 hours. Payment must be made in Bitcoin to a website in Russia. Don’t be curious — beware and be AWARE — not sorry.

• • •

NEW iPHONES — NEW PHONE SCAMS: There’s a new scam (there will always be a new scam) that tricks the caller ID on your phone. The fake caller ID looks like it comes from Verizon, but it doesn’t. One of the fake caller IDs actually comes up as “Technical Support.” An automated voice states that you have received a “reward” of $54 and sends you to a website www.verizon54.com. IT IS A SCAM — Don’t click on it! The scammers will require that “normal” identifying information be provided. Meanwhile, your very private info like passwords, bank account numbers or anything else they can find will be electronically purloined (swiped) from your computer.

• • •

AIRBNB — GOOD DEAL — OR MAYBE NOT: My adult daughter swears by Airbnb. Many consumers are swearing AT Airbnb.

Like Craigslist, the crooks have found ways to lure unwary travellers into handing over their hard-earned cash. The BIG rule here is to NEVER make payment to, or email anyone advertising on Airbnb, outside the Airbnb website itself. If you do, no matter what the stated reasons, you will probably arrive at your destination without any accommodation. Adding injury to insult — you WILL lose all the money you sent.

When you think of it, while the idea of getting a good deal on a house or room is attractive, the question that nags me is — from whom? A good deal is really nice, but a nice safe hotel room from a recognized brand is better — at least in my opinion.

• • •

NOT ONLY THE LITTLE GUYS GET SCAMMED: According to BBC News, recently Google AND Facebook got scammed for over $100 million. Message here — don’t feel too bad if you get scammed. BEST ADVICE: Talk to your family and friends BEFORE sending money.

• • •

YOU WON YOUR COURT CASE: No you didn’t. Another scam, sorry. The latest evolution of “you’ve won” are mailings to consumers informing them that they are listed as plaintiffs in a class action suit. You’ll be sent either a computer link or a telephone number with an official looking (but bogus) identification number. I suspect when you call the number or click on the link, your caller identification comes up “SUCKER.”

Don’t be one. Don’t even go down that path. Delete the email or put the “official” letter in the shredder. You’ll be happier.

• • •

GET GIVING RIGHT: No matter how much you give, it’s a lot to you. “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when and for what purpose and how is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.” — Aristotle.

• • •

REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM: It is a choice. I lived in Alaska for just about 20 years. Most of that time I shared my neighborhoods with brown bears and irritated moose. I also spent a number of years in and around Chicago. Today, in addition to miscreants with guns and wildlife acting like — well, wild animals — we must take personal responsibility for our own safety. Some choose guns, security systems, and fire extinguishers. Anyone on the internet, answering their phone or responding to mail, must arm him or herself with a big dose of common sense. WARNING: If you own or buy a firearm — GET FORMAL TRAINING. If you’re not going to get training, don’t get a gun. In any event, always secure ALL guns in and around your home. One local business is offering a course with the title, “Refuse to be a Victim.” I recommend it.

• • •

REMEMBER: I’m in your corner! P.S.: Watch out for little spooks and goblins running across streets in the dark on Halloween!

• • •

I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on as The CDA Press Consumer Guy. Call me at (208) 699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksRealEstate@gmail.com or fax me at (866) 362-9266. Please include your name and a phone number. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups.

• • •

Bill Brooks is the CDA Press Consumer Guy and the Broker and Owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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