Quick Blips: December 2017

Collaborating with the Membership Benefits Committee

Pat Toland, chair of the MBC, says, “If you have not made a decision about insurance, take a second look at AMBA dental and vision benefits.” Please go to trta.org; under “committees.” Find the dropdown box for the MBC. Then scan through the “Resource Manual” for the listing of the various benefits and discounts. “Do not forget to ask for senior and veteran discounts. They often are combined with other coupon offers.” In addition, the MBC posts a flyer each month at trta.org that touts some fabulous benefits. (Pat Toland with Judy Hart via phone conversation. 11.20.17)

Counterfeit Debt Woes

Castle Peak and 500FastCash are made-up names selling made-up debts to debt collectors, who hound innocent folks. The hounding is not the worst of it. The portfolios that are fraudulently sold do include bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and social security numbers, all sensitive data. The FTC has the crooks, but your data may be compromised again. (Fair, Leslie. “Counteracting Counterfeit Fraud.” FTC. Nov. 27, 2017.) 

Kidde Recalls Four Million Fire Extinguishers 

After one death, Kidde recalled fire extinguishers used in homes, cars, and boats. The plastic cap becomes clogged, which causes the fire extinguisher not to work. There have been 16 injuries, 91 reports of property damage, and 391 reports of failure to work. The plastic handles and buttons break when pressure is applied. These 134 models of extinguishers date from 1973 to August 2017. Kidde is offering free replacements.  Go to the Kidde website or call 855-271-0773. (Farrell, Mary H. J. “Kidde Recalls Four Million Fire Extinguishers.” Nov. 2, 2017. <consumerreports.org/fire-extinguisher-kidde-recall>

Criminals & Cheats Come Out for Christmas 

1. When you shop online, make sure that the site has an HTTPS security designation, and be sure your antivirus software is up to date. Limit your shopping to websites that have a trusted reputation for customer service.  Some scammers spoof major name brand sites like Amazon or PayPal. They may mail you a warning that something is wrong with your order. Don’t click on their link to resolve the problem because they will begin installing malicious software on your computer. Never click a link that you were not expecting. 2. Spear phishing is a knockoff on the “grandkid” scam. The spear phishers discover your teenaged grandkids’ names on Facebook. He then poses as a police officer from your grandchild’s town. He needs you to send the bail money so your grandchild does not have to spend the weekend in jail. Because of the recent breach of all of our social security numbers, credit card numbers, and bank account numbers, the spear phishers can sound legitimate because they will know details that they should not know about your identity. They know the amount of last year’s tax refund and last month’s credit payment.  3. Be skeptical when there is extreme urgency. Get it in writing. Courts and government agencies do not use electronic email. Second guess caller IDs because they are easy to hack. When in doubt, call the company or agency to see if the call was legitimate.  Do not share anything that you would not share with a stranger on the street.  (Aiken, Jim. “What Is Spear Phishing?” <experian.com/blog. . . .>. Sept. 29, 2017.) 

Pirates Plunder Packages on Porches 

Approximately one-third of shoppers are claiming that their packages have been stolen. You may want to consider having your packages delivered to another place where you can pick them up yourself if you are not ordinarily home during delivery times. Police debate the effectiveness of identifying thieves with home security system cameras. Amazon is offering a Key program, where customers install an electronic lock so delivery personnel can open it to drop packages inside the home.  (Weise, Elizabeth. “Beware of Porch Pirates.” USA TODAY rpt. in Amarillo Globe-News. Nov. 20, 2017. p. A 4)

Point of Sale Breaches

While stolen card data and magnetic strips were up by 33% in 2016, you have some options to help prevent these breaches. (1) Use different numbers for online shopping, standard bills, physical shopping, and travel. (2) Ask for alerts from your credit company. Each time a transaction occurs, you can be notified by email for any amount. (3) Watch for attempts to open credit accounts with your identity. Monitor and act fast. Monitor with Experian Credit Works, for example. (4) Change your username and password at multiple online locations. Alter your password, even if it’s just adding “BOA” or “PP” to the beginning or ending of your password (Bank of America or PayPal). (5) Do not hand your card over to the clerk; cover your hand when entering your four-digit pin #. Do not give out any other data to the clerk like e-mail, postal address, phone #s, and name. (6) Follow up by keeping your card suppliers’ 24-hour contact details handy in case of an emergency.      (O’Connell, Brian. “Try These Expert Tips to Protect Your ID While Shopping.” Nov. 13, 2017. Experian Information Solutions, Inc.  <Experian/blogs/ask. . . .>.

“Be Afraid—Be Very Afraid”

If you get a call from your own phone number, do not answer it. Scammers are hacking, call-blocking, and making fraudulent charges on your phone bill. They are calling you to charge your phone data with their activities. (Mangla, Ismat. “If You See This on Your Cell Phone, Be Afraid—Be Very Afraid.” Experian Information Solutions. <experian.com/blog. . . .>.) (FTC: “Getting Calls from Your Own Number.)

Social Media Scam Alert

Social media scammers claim your account has been flagged for security. You may even see your own photo staring back at you. They need you to enter the last four digits of your social security number to get the account straightened out.  Do not give them any information. This is a phishing attempt to steal your data. (KCBD Digital. Nov. 16, 2017.)

Scam Alert Features Fake Deputy

An imposter calls, claiming that you have missed a subpoena to court or a summons for jury duty. You are assured that he has an easy fix for an easy payment plan to remedy the court-ordered fine. The phone number may come from a spoofed legitimate number. Hang up. Don’t bother the sheriff’s office unless you lost money. Then you can file a fraud report. (“Phone Scam Features Fake Deputy.” Amarillo Globe-News. p. A3. Nov. 22, 2017.)