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National Cyber Security Month: Protect yourself from e-ghosts and goblins

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Fake check scams, other frauds masquerading as legitimate offers preying on consumers in 2009

Release Date: October 22, 2009
Contact: 202-835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WASHINGTON, DC — In observance of National Cyber Security Awareness Month in October, the National Consumers League (NCL) is cautioning consumers about the most-commonly reported scams preying on consumers, often disguised as legitimate offers, meant to dupe consumer victims and steal their money. NCL is the nation’s oldest consumer organization, and it collects reports of suspected and confirmed Internet and telemarketing fraud, identifies new scams and trends, and works with law enforcement to catch crooks at NCL’s Fraud Center.

NCL’s Fraud Center Top Ten Overall Scams

(Jan. 1-Sept. 30, 2009)

  1. Fake Check Scams
  2. Internet: General Merchandise
  3. Phony Prizes/Sweepstakes/Free Gifts
  4. Phishing/Spoofing
  5. Nigerian Money Offers
  6. Business Opportunities/Franchises
  7. Advance Fee Loans/Credit Arrangers
  8. Internet Auctions
  9. Friendship/Sweetheart Swindles
  10. Lotteries/Lottery Ticket Buying Clubs

NCL tracks the frauds most commonly plaguing consumers, and in the first nine months of 2009, Fake Check Scams continue to top the list. This month, NCL’s Fraud Center is focusing its efforts on how consumers can protect themselves from the evolving tactics that are used for fake check scams, phishing and spoofing scams, pyramid schemes and other business opportunity scams, and other swindles.

“Whether it’s Halloween or any other time of year, consumers expect to be able to use their computers with confidence that they’re not going to be scammed,” said John Breyault, Director of NCL’s Fraud Center and Vice President for Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud. “But in order to do so, they must be informed about and protected against the sneak attacks fraudsters use to capture sensitive personal information. During National Cyber Security Awareness Month and year-round, consumers should endeavor to keep better control of their computers and their privacy.”

NCL has issued the Top 10 Scams for the first nine months of the year, as well as new tips for consumers this month to protect them from the e-ghosts and goblins that may be out to get them:

  • Avoid falling for a Fake Check Scam, in which con artists trick consumers into accepting phony checks or money orders and wiring some of the money in return. That there is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money anywhere in return. No matter the details of the scheme—whether they’re trying to purchase something from you, asking for your help moving money around, or saying you’ve won a foreign lottery—it’s a scam.
  • Beware of Phishing Scams. Don’t click on links within emails that ask for your senstive personal information (Social Security Number, physical address, bank or credit card number, or date of birth).  Never enter your sensitive personal information in a pop-up screen.
  • Protect your computer with spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall, and keep them up-to-date.
  • Use only secured browsers when entering personal information online. Look for a lock symbol to appear at the bottom of the Web page, and for the URL in the browser window to change from “http” to “https” to ensure that the page you’re on is secure.
  • Don’t shop online or do online banking while using an unencrypted or open wireless network, like those provided for free at coffee shops or some airport hotspots. Secure your own wireless network at home by encrypting it with a password. This will keep out your neighbors, but more importantly, it will keep out hackers and thieves who look for open/unencrypted wireless network to capture others’ financial information.
  • Pay the safest way. When making purchases online, use a credit card instead of a debit card, wire transfer, check, or cash, as credit cards typically have $0 liability policies, which means the cardholder isn’t held liable for fraudulent purchases.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.