Business Loan Scam

I apologize to my readers if this blog sounds like a broken record at times, but the dangers from scammers and fraudsters is real – and the more information available, the more likely that someone doing a web search will come across it and save their money or their information.

2015-08-31-1441027541-9677105-021913_robocalls_600.jpg

I’ve talked often about robocalls; here’s a good article from Consumer Affairs.

“[Scammers] have raked in millions of dollars with schemes like the business loan pitch. The recorded greeting says something like “congratulations, your business has been approved for a $250,000 loan.” If you stay on the phone long enough to talk to a live person, that person will try to get information from you that can be used to steal your identity.”

Got one of these just now. I pressed “1” to find out how the scam worked, and got someone who was virtually incomprehensible; he sounded like a Dane with his mouth full of Knödel.¹ His first question, in rapid-fire Mongolian, was “What is the annual revenue of your company?” When I asked him who was offering me this loan, he hung up.

Be careful out there. If it’s a robocall, it’s almost certainly a scam.


¹ A Dane sounds like a Norwegian with his mouth full of Knödel (which is a very heavy, thick dumpling). So this gives you an idea of what I was hearing.

Protect yourself from ransomware

It’s still big business for crooks, most of whom have switched from the “Nigerian Prince” letters because it’s a far easier way of generating money.

your-money-or-your-data

An employee gets an official-looking email about an invoice or a spreadsheet. They click on the link. Boom: all your data is encrypted, and you have to pay 2 Bitcoin (about $1,500.00) to get it back (and sometimes you don’t.) You lose business, and the ultimate cost ends up being much higher.

There are two main lines of defense against ransomware: Backup and Education

1 – Backup

If you’re not backing up your files, you’re vulnerable to data loss, which can cost you big time.  Many people back up their files manually to an external drive. And that’s good, but there are problems with this system.

  • It’s hard to remember what files have been modified on any given day
  • It’s easy to forget to do your backup
  • A local disk is susceptible to theft or damage, or can fill up.
  • You can actually back up corrupted files if you’re not aware of when the infection took place. The nasty thing with many ransomware viruses is that they start to encrypt your files, and only give you the popup warning after the process is complete.

I recommend a cloud-based, dynamic backup system; I use Carbonite™ (and I’m not a paid shill for the company.) For the roughly 11¢ per day that the service costs me, I do whatever I need to on my computer and sleep well at night, knowing that if there’s a disaster of any sort – ransomware, hard drive crashes, fire, theft, you name it – I can get my critical data back. I once had a hard drive crash without backup, and it cost me over 3 grand to have a forensic data specialist retrieve my files (a ripoff, Seagate would have done it for half the price, but that’s another story.)

2 – Education

Educate yourself, and educate your friends, family, and employees. People click on things without thinking, and that’s never been good computing practice. It’s more important than ever to be careful about links contained in emails.

Have a look at this selection of emails that I received just this week:

Subject: Payment Information

Good afternoon. Thank you for sending the bill.
Unfortunately, you have forgotten to specify insurance payments.
So, we cannot accept the payment without them.
All details are in the attachment.


Subject: E-Mailed Invoices Invoice_6F839240

Please find attached your latest purchase invoice.
**************************************************
Any queries with either the quantity or price MUST
be notified immediately to the department below.
**************************************************
Yours sincerely, Sales Ledger Department
Tel: +44 (0) 4215 189 115


Subject: Urgent

Our accountant informed me that in the bill you processed, the invalid account number had been specified.
Please be guided by instructions in the attachment to fix it up.


Subject: Urgent Alert

We have detected a suspicious money ATM withdrawal from your card.
For your security, we have temporarily blocked the card.
All the details are in the attachment. Please open it when possible.


Subject: Delivery status

Dear Client! Our delivery department could not accept your operation due to a problem with your current account.
In order to avoid falling into arrears and getting charged, please fill out the document in the attachment as soon as possible and send it to us.


Subject: Invoice for 893547 21/11/2016

This email confirms that your goods have been dispatched. Please find attached your Invoice in PDF format. Please note this document will only be sent in electronic form.


Subject: Attention Required

Our HR Department told us they haven’t received the receipt you’d promised to send them.
Fines may apply from the third party. We are sending you the details in the attachment.

Please check it out when possible.


Subject: E-Mailed Invoices Invoice_CE576080

Please find attached your latest purchase invoice.
**************************************************
Any queries with either the quantity or price MUST
be notified immediately to the department below.
**************************************************
Yours sincerely, Sales Ledger Department
Tel: +44 (0) 5458 175 571


Subject: Please Pay Attention

Greetings! Informing you that the contractor requires including VAT in the service receipt.
Sending the new invoice and payment details in the attached file.
Please open and study it as soon as possible – we need your decision.


Subject: Insufficient funds

Dear info,
Your bill payment was rejected due to insufficient funds on your account.
Payment details are given in the attachment.


Subject: Important Information

Dear info, your payment was not processed due to the problem with credentials.
Payment details are in the attached document.
Please check it out as soon as possible.


Subject: Please Pay Attention
Dear info, we have received your payment but the amount was not full.
Probably, this occurred due to taxes we take from the amount.
All the details are in the attachment – please check it out.


Subject: Please note

Your tax bill debt due date is today. Please fulfill the debt.
All the information and payment instructions can be found in the attached document.


Subject: Urgent

Dear Client! We have to inform you that payments for contractors’ services were insufficient.
Thus, we are sending the report and the amount details in the attachment.


Subject: Order #9406386

Dear info, sending the receipt for the order #9406386.
You made it last week. Please check it out as soon as possible.
The receipt with all info is in the attached file.

Every single one of these came with zip file as an attachment. And every single one would have downloaded ransomware to the computer of anyone who was careless enough to open the file.

There are some red flags here:

  • My company address is “info@abc.com”, and most of these emails start out as “Dear info.”
  • The English in many of these emails is unnatural or grammatically wrong.

And yet people will still open these emails, and still click the attachments. If businesses take data security seriously, every employee will be given training on how to recognize data threats.

Please be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Don’t be fooled by work at home scams.

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that affiliate marketing works. From what I can see, it’s possible to function in this niche in an ethical and profitable way, if you’re willing to work hard at it. Unfortunately, it’s a highly unregulated area, and where there are few regulations, there will be many willing to take advantage. Here’s an example of the worst kind.

blog-spam

This ad appears almost daily, spammed as a comment by a user who changes their name daily (most likely using a spambot) at the Dilbert™ comic website. The webmaster doesn’t seem to care, so these comments hang around forever, generating a click or two from the uninformed or the unwary.

If you click, you’re taken to this page:

farticle

This is what’s known as a “farticle” (false article) or “advertorial.” Looks real, full of bunk. Wow, you think, I can make money at home like “Kelly Richards” (not a real person, not a real story. If you click on the “get started” link, this is what you get:

home-jobs

Notice the “social validation” links above. Yes, some work-from-home opportunities may have, at some point, been featured by the entities above – but it’s a sure bet that this one is not one of them. And, you’ve given the spammers your name, email address and phone number, which is gold for them – they sell this information to others.

searching

Searching for availability? Heck, you’d be qualified if you lived in Buford, Wyoming, population 1. It’s just the scarcity principle in action.

Your next page is this:

buckaroo

Act fast, there are only 9 positions in your area. This, of course, is a blatant lie – like everything else associated with this promotion. The long, long page gives you information about an exciting opportunity to make money posting links on web pages… which is the kind of thing that leads to the blog spam I included at the top. It’s really nothing more than paying $97.00 for a basic tutorial on affiliate marketing… along with the opportunity to be upsold on various expensive “training packages” and other add-ons.

I want you to look at this disclaimer that appears in tiny, gray print at the bottom of this website, things they post to try to skirt the possibility of lawsuits:

TERMS AND CONDITIONS CAREFULLY READ AND AGREE TO PURCHASE TERMS BELOW BEFORE ORDERING:

We are not affiliated in any way with any news publication ? All trademarks on this web site whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.
It is important to note that this site and the comments/answers depicted above is to be used as an illustrative example of what some individuals have achieved with this/these products. This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this page, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story. This page, and the results mentioned on this page, although achievable for some, are not to be construed as the results that you may achieve on the same routine. I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS/THESE PRODUCTS, AND THAT THE STORY/COMMENTS DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site.

IMPORTANT CONSUMER DISCLOSURE
The term “advertorial” is a combination of “advertisement” and “editorial” written in an editorial format as an independent news story, when in fact the advertisement may promote a particular product or interest. Advertorials take factual information and report it in an editorial format to allow the author, often a company marketing its products, to enhance or explain certain elements to maintain the reader’s interest. A familiar example is an airline’s in-flight magazines that provide an editorial reports about travel destinations to which the airline flies.

As an advertorial, I UNDERSTAND THIS WEBSITE IS ONLY ILLUSTRATIVE OF WHAT MIGHT BE ACHIEVABLE FROM USING THIS PROGRAM, AND THAT THE STORY DEPICTED ABOVE IS NOT TO BE TAKEN LITERALLY. This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site. This program is not a job but an educational opportunity that can help individuals learn how to earn money through their entrepreneurial efforts. Anyone who decides to buy any program about making money will not necessarily make money simply by purchasing the program. People who think “I bought these materials so I’m going to automatically make money” are wrong. As any type of education has so many variables, it is impossible to accurately state what you may expect to achieve, however, people who bought the program not only bought the program, but also undertook additional training and education, applied the principles to an area of the market that was growing, kept their commitments and continued to learn. If you do what the individuals depicted did, you may generally expect to achieve a great education in the area of your choice, but you should not expect to earn any specific amount of money. Typical users of the starter materials that don’t enroll in coaching, don’t keep their commitments and don’t implement what they learn, generally make no money. Though the success of the depicted individual is true, her picture and name have been changed to protect her identity. Consistent with the advertorial concept, the comments posted in the comment section are also representative of typical comments and experiences which have been compiled into a comment format to illustrate a dialogue, however, the comments are not actual posts to this webpage and have been compiled or generated for illustrative purposes only.

We are not affiliated in any way with CNN, WebTV, News Channel 1, ABC, NBC, CBS, U.S. News or FOX, and all such trademarks on this web site, whether registered or not, are the property of their respective owners. The authors of this web site are not sponsored by or affiliated with any of the third-party trade mark or third-party registered trade mark owners, and make no representations about them, their owners, their products or services.

In effect, you are being told: “This is not a real story. This is not a real person. We’re using the names of big media outlets fraudulently. You probably won’t make any money.” That’s a big fat red flag right there.

One of the tricks affiliate marketers use is to post multiple articles around the web that will pop up if people search for “Is Home Jobs Now a Scam?” or “Can you make money with link posting?” Invariably, two things will happen:

  1. The writer will tell you that [System X] – whatever it is – is a scam, and
  2. At the end of the article there will be a link to their affiliate marketing program. It’s a nested loop that never ends.

As I mentioned above, I’m not trashing all affiliate marketers. But be very, very careful getting sucked into paying for worthless opporunities that will cost you money rather than make money for you.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Selling Snake Oil with Name-Dropping.

I don’t like scammers. I don’t like woo-peddlers. I don’t like people who take advantage of the gullible and/or the vulnerable to make money at any cost. I’ve written numerous times about snake-oil sales, and even got a cease-and-desist letter from some law firm because the manufacturer didn’t like being called a scumball.

But they’re still at it.

Back in 2015, Forbes wrote a legitimate article about “How Fake News Articles And Lies About Billionaires Were Used To Market An Iffy Dietary Supplement.” Forbes complained and followed up, and the spurious website vanished, the cockroaches scurrying back into the darkness that spawned them.

For what it’s worth, the crooks didn’t focus on Forbes, they also used CNN and probably many others to hawk their garbage.

The thing about cockroaches, however, is that they keep coming back; if anyone survives a nuclear winter, it will be these creatures. There’s enough money to be made selling worthless nostrums that the scammers can easily afford to reformulate and resurface. and the immense potential for fraud inherent in affiliate marketing (which I elaborated on here) means that this plague will be a difficult one to eradicate.

I keep getting popup tabs when I visit Newser.com, and this is a recent one:

hawking

The name of the junk product has changed – instead of BrainStorm Elite it’s now IQ+, and the source of the farticle (fake article, or advertorial) is http://www.healthreportz.com/, a website that has nothing to do with Forbes.

It goes without saying that the product is worthless, Hawking has nothing to do with this junk, and the interview with Anderson Cooper is being spun to appear as if it’s endorsing this particular product – which it’s not.

The IQ+ website looks really slick, includes the standard Quack Miranda¹, and after you give them your information and click the big red “Rush My Order!” button, you are taken to the confirmation page where you provide your all-important credit card information. That page also includes this text:

rush

That’s exactly how it looks, and is so easy to miss that most people won’t read it, which is what the bottom-feeders are hoping for. If you do click the Terms and Conditions, you find the industry-standard “gotcha” clause:

In-Trial Offer: A trial offer provides the customer an opportunity to try our product free of charge for 14 days from date of order, paying only shipping and handling fees of $4.98(USD). At the conclusion of the trial period, you will be billed the full purchase price of $89.97(USD) and enrolled in the monthly replenishment program.

So that special price of $4.98 is really $94.95, and you will be billed $89.97 every 30 days because you signed up (without reading the details) for their convenient auto-ship program. You can make a Wreave bet² on the fact that getting a refund for unexpected charges to your credit card will be harder than pulling hen’s teeth – their agents will be trained to make it nearly impossible to get your money back without the threat of legal action.  This is how the kiz-eaters make their money, and frankly, Scarlet, it stinks.

I notified Forbes of the most recent iteration of this scam, and hopefully they’ll look into it. As mentioned before, there’s so much money to be made with scams of this nature that they’ll be back . I have no illusions that my little essays will do anything to stem the tide, but if even one person reads them and saves their money, it will have been worth it.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Notes:

¹ The “Quack Miranda” warning is required by the FDA on all nutritional supplements, some of which have proven value. The appearance of the standard wording does not mean a product is worthless, but a huge percentage of the garbage sold by nutritional companies have dubious value and all must carry the disclaimer.

² The Wreaves are a part of Frank Herbert’s ConSentiency universe. Their strict code of honor prevents them from gambling, hence a “Wreave bet” is a sure thing.

This is not a solicitation call!

“This is not a solicitation call!

Hi! This is Kelly from the Credit Card Rewards center! We’ve been monitoring your credit card activity for the last six months: Congratulations! You’re eligible for 0% interest on your approved credit cards! Press 1 to speak to a live agent, or press 9 to be removed!”

robocall1

Just Google “This is not a solicitation call” and see how many hits you get at websites like 800Notes, WhoCallsMe, and other scammer databases.

I noted with interest that the Economic Times of India just reported the arrest of 500 call center employees who were threatening the US citizens and siphoning off their money. That’s a good piece of news – I wish they could shut them all down.

I’ve often wondered if the people who lend their voices to these robocalls have any idea what their recordings are being used for. It would seem hard to record a pitch like that without knowing that something shady is going on. On the other hand, despite the chipper-sounding greetings, perhaps they don’t care, and they’re just as crooked as the people who are running these robo-calling scams.

It seems that there are relatively few operators. According to sources at the Black Hat security convention in Las Vegas, 51% of  these robocalls originate from one of 38 outfits. That gives some hope that the flood may not be unstoppable, or at least that a serious dent could be put into their operations if they can be tracked down and apprehended.

While it seems that no one is doing anything, the opposite is true. Last June the FTC shut down Payless Solutions, a robocalling scammer who was charging hundreds or thousands of dollars for interest-lowering solutions, often without the customer’s permission.

I’m grateful to anyone who is diligently working to make sure the criminals behind and involved in these despicable operations are stopped and justly rewarded for their nefarious activities.

The Old Wolf ha spoken.

 

An old scam, resurrected

I previously posted about the most deceptive ad I had ever encountered in an article entitled “Selling It.”

Hall of Shame Advertisement

Take away all the mummery, and the thrust of the ad was, “throw away your old rabbit ears and buy our pretty rabbit ears.”

When it comes to separating suckers from their money, old ideas die hard. I mean, why throw away such a good concept if it works, right?

Saw this in WalMart just the other day:

20160914_161116

20160914_161101

Other than the fact that the old one was analog and this one is digital, it’s the same marketing pitch, with the same marketing weasel words. But the summum bonum of the product? “Works just like your old antenna, ONLY NOW with a sleek design.”

Well, that’s certainly sufficient incentive to throw away my old digital antenna and buy this one. Except for the fact that I haven’t watched broadcast TV for over 20 years, but that’s another story.

Save your money and don’t buy camel ejecta like this.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Stop what you’re doing!

“Please stop what you’re doing and listen to this very important message. I’m going to give you access to a pre-recorded message that’s going to show you exactly how to start putting $10,000 or more in your pocket in the next 10 to 14 days and $10,000 or more every 10 to 14 days after that. This message will absolutely blow your mind! So press 1 right now if you want to find out exactly how to put $10,000 or more in your pocket every 10 to 14 days. I guarantee you have never seen anything like this up until now. So press 1 right now to get all the details, or press 9 to guarantee that you’ll never hear from us again.”

robocall1

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had this robocall, along with “Hi! I’m Kelly from Credit Card Services!” and a handful of others. But this one is especially obnoxious.

First of all, these calls blatantly ignore the National Do Not Call Registry. Second, pressing “9” only serves to guarantee that your number is registered as a “live” number, and will then be sold to other telemarketers. Lastly, they’re selling a weak-sauce multi-level marketing package of informational and motivational material for $1,000, plus a $299.00 annual membership fee, with a no-refund rider attached. You shell out, you’re sunk. This particular dodge is being run by Exitus, but I suspect the same come-on is being used by a number of shady operators.

They claim you don’t have to do any calling. But you will need to send referrals to your own marketing page, for the automated system to work for you.

How are you going to get referrals? Clearly, by using one of those never-suffiently-to-be-damned robocalling systems that will bother millions of people in clear violation of the law.

If you are looking for a business model that depends on a foundation of not caring how many people you piss off, or leaving countless broken bodies in your wake to get one customer, then this opportunity is for you.

If you have ethics and morals, compassion and concern for the well-being of your neighbor, better look elsewhere.

Every time I get one of these calls, I have visions of lowering the person behind it into a wood chipper, slowly – despite working hard on being charitable to all. That tells you how annoying I find these seedy scams.

The Old Wolf has spoken.