Top Ten Scams to Watch Out for

There is nothing I hate worst than those who devote their lives to scamming people out of their hard earned money. How scam artists are able to sleep soundly still boggles my mind. I just have to accept some people have no conscious when it comes to obtaining money by hook or crook. All we can do is arm ourselves with as much knowledge as possible. So when my local television news station, WXII 12,  featured these scams I felt the least I could do was post them. If it keeps even one person from being scammed, I feel this post won’t have been in vain. The Better Business Bureau named these the top scams to watch out for. Arm yourself with knowledge and common sense (remember if it sounds too good to be true it probably is), and try not to get scammed in 2013:

Top overpayment/fake check scam: car advertisements

The online ad would say “Get Paid Just for Driving Around” – a prominent company is offering $400+ per week if you’ll drive around with their logo all over your car. They send a check to you, which you are supposed to deposit in your account and then wire part of the payment to the graphic designer who will customize the ad for your vehicle. Whoops! A week later, the check bounces, the graphic designer is nowhere to be found, and you are out the money you wired. The Internet Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) says they saw this one a lot in 2012.

Top sales/rental scam: real stars, fake goods

Sports memorabilia and phony tickets always make the list of top counterfeit goods. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, counterfeiters manage to have their hands in your pocket all year long. With the London Olympics added to the mix, it appears that 2012 was a good year for sports fakes. Some scammers were selling cheap knock-offs in front of stadiums. Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Top emergency scam: grandparents scam

The “Grandparents Scam” has been around a while, but it’s still so prevalent: grandchild/niece/nephew/friend is traveling abroad and calls/texts/emails to say he or she has been mugged/arrested/hurt and needs money right away (“…and please don’t tell mom and dad!”). Plus the FBI says that, thanks to social media, it’s getting easier and easier for scammers to tell a more plausible story because they can use real facts from the supposed victim’s life (“Remember that great camera I got for Christmas?” “I’m in France to visit my old college roommate.”). Easy rule of thumb – before you wire money in an emergency, check with the supposed victim or their family members to make sure they really are traveling. Odds are they are safe at home.

Top home improvement scam: Sandy “Storm Chasers”

This year there was an unusual amount of “storm chaser” activity following Super Storm Sandy. Tree removal, roofing, general home repairs – some were legitimate contractors who came from other areas for the volume of work available; others were unlicensed, uninsured and ill-prepared for the work; while some were even out-and-out scam artists who took the money and never did the work. In an emergency, it’s tempting to skip reference checking, but that’s never a good idea.

Top advance fee/prepayment scam: nonexistent loans

Loan scams continued to fester in 2012. It seems for every legitimate lender out there, there is a scammer waiting to prey on people in desperate situations. Most of the scams advertise online and promise things like no credit check or easy repayment terms. Then the hook: you have to make the first payment upfront, you have to buy an “insurance policy,” or there is some other kind of fee that you have to pay first to “secure” the loan. This year there was an aggressive twist on loan scams: consumers who were threatened with lawsuits and law enforcement action if they didn’t “pay back” loans they said they had never even taken out in the first place. Some got calls at their workplace, even to relatives. The embarrassment of being thought of as a delinquent caused some victims to pay even when they knew they didn’t owe the money.

Top employment scam: mystery shopping

If you love to shop, working as a secret shopper may sound like an ideal way to supplement your income. But scammers have figured that out, too, and many job offers are nothing more than a variation on the overpayment/fake check scam. Sometimes they even tell you that evaluating the wire service company is part of the job, which is why you need to send back part of the money. The Mystery Shopping Providers Association says it’s not the practice of their members to pre-pay shoppers.

Top sweepstakes/lottery scam: Jamaican phone lottery

This is an old one that flared up again this year. In this one, the calls come from Jamaica (area code 876) but the person claims to represent the Better Business Bureau (or FBI, or another trusted group). Great news: you’ve won a terrific prize (typical haul: $2 million and Mercedes Benz) but you have to pay a fee in order to collect your winnings. There are lots of variations on this; sometimes it’s a government grant. Best just to hang up and then file a phone fraud report with the appropriate government agency.

Top phishing scam: President Obama will pay your utility bills

Of all the politically-related scams, this one seemed to be the most prevalent. At the peak of summer with utility costs soaring, consumers got emails, letters and even door-to-door solicitations about a “new government program” to pay your utility bills. Victims “registered” with an official-looking website and provided everything scammers needed for identity theft purposes, including bank account information.

Top identity theft scam: fake Facebook tweets

Two top social media sites were exploited in one of this year’s top scams. You get a Direct Message from a friend on Twitter with something about a video of you on Facebook (“ROFL they was taping you” or “What RU doing in this FB vid?” are typical tweets). In a panic, you click on the link to see what the embarrassing video could possibly be, and you get an error message that says you need to update Flash or other video player. But the file isn’t a new version of Flash; it’s a virus or malware that can steal confidential information from your computer or smart phone. Twitter recommends reporting such spam, resetting your password and revoking connections to third-party applications.

Scam of the year: Newtown charity scams

Within hours of the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, social media pages dedicated to the child victims began cropping up and some of them were scams asking for money. The FBI arrested one woman for posing as the aunt of one of the children killed, and state and federal agencies are investigating other possible fraudulent and misleading solicitations.

My Cat’s A Killing Machine and I like It

TiggerWindow

Can’t wait to get outside.

I was half-way watching the national news the other day when the anchorman mentioned cats and really got my attention. A study conducted by scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States, our indoor/outdoor precious pets and outdoor strays and ferals, kill around 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, making cats one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation.

This was very sobering because even though Tigger tried to bring a bird’s carcass in the house once, I’d assumed it was already dead. My precious Tigger would never kill a bird in cold blood he had no intention of eating. In hindsight Tigger rather blatantly flaunted several kills, leaving uneaten corpses right in front of the door. Of course that study snatched me right out of the state of denial I’d been living and drove home the harsh reality that those many times Tigger bit and scratched me, he could’ve inflicted much more damage.

That the spoiled, cantankerous Tigger is a killing machine has added a whole new dimension to our relationship. Maybe he sensed the gig was up. That there was no longer a need to sheath his instinct because he and I had a near physical fight a couple of days later. So I can personally attest to at least one cat’s ferociousness.

He was peeved because I refused to give him more of his favorite snack. Lower sodium honey roasted turkey. I’d quit giving it to him at one point, but started back after Zoey died, figuring why the hell not. Now he’s like a crack head always wanting to hit the pipe and I’m the dealer. I attempted to bribe him with firm strokes down his back and a good scratch beneath his chin.

He seemed to be chilling which made me relax because that baritone meow of his puts me in suspended animation to the point all I can think is how do I get him to stop. I took my eyes off of him for just a second to check the time and he hauled off and bit me on the hand. I rapped him on the forehead. His ears went back, his eyes got manic, the fangs came out and he struck at me with a paw. I jumped up and damned if he didn’t look ready to pounce. Picture a cat pinned to my chest and me trying to pry him off. My heart was pounding like a runaway stallion and adrenalin was prompting my feet to lash out. Good thing we came to our senses and backed down.

Now some of you may find this strange. But knowing my cat could be a vicious killer actually makes me feel better. Knowing that cats with no home wandering the wild won’t starve because they are natural born hunters definitely takes a load off. Maybe my love for cats is blinding. I see the birds and mammals as collateral damage. It’s survival of the fittest and if my Tigger ended up outside having to fend for himself, I sure as hell want him to be the fittest.

Thanks to that report, the scratches on my wrists and arms and the corpses I’ve seen with my own eyes, I now know that Tigger can take care of himself if he had to. I know the last thing environmentalists want to see are more cats roaming all over the place, especially feral ones. In a perfect world all cats would have homes and be kept perpetually indoors. But we all know this world is far from perfect.

Speaking of which, Tigger was outside the other night when a dog barking its head off made me open the door. There he was tail all bushed out. I didn’t see a dog but had to keep hissing at him to get him to stand down and come in. It took a while for his tail to morph back to normal size. Sensing I was proud of him he strutted around showing off.

Domesticating cats thank goodness hasn’t neutralized their natural instinct. Hunting is what cats do and I for one like knowing my cat wouldn’t starve if God forbid, he ended up in the wild.

SEX, THE STILL TABOO SUBJECT

Dr. Oz sent all the kiddies out the room. Why? He’s gearing up to talk about sex, porn in particular. I cast sporadic glances toward the TV, but hear nothing that would’ve scarred a child for life. What is it with Americans and sex? Sex is a dirty word that can only be whispered about. If you are unmarried and female and having it, you are considered loose. There are those of us who tell maturing children their hands will fall off if they touch themselves in a particular area. When children reach an acceptable age, they’re told about birds and bees instead of sex.

Some of us aren’t even given the birds and bees scenario. Mama just told me to keep my dress down and my legs closed. She told me that many times perhaps to make up for the real conversation we never had. If not for giggling cousins telling me about ‘doing it’ in the ripped up back seat of an old broken down car, and ‘accidently’ stumbling across a couple of my older brothers’ magazines, my youth would’ve been spent wandering in a wilderness of sexual ignorance.

Judging from Dr. Oz and many others, things haven’t changed much when it comes to sex and nudity. Draping the Spirit of Justice statue during Attorney General Ashcroft’s tenure still makes me shake my head. Seeing the AG photographed one time too many in front of the statue with gasp, an exposed breast was more than the public could bear. Prior to Ashcroft drapes were rented. With 911 maybe Ashcroft made more speeches than usual in front of her, prompting the decision to buy the drapes outright to conceal the statute’s naughty part. This would imply Americans have a problem with not only sex, but nudity too.

Depiction of graphic violence from my periscope is more acceptable than nudity. A female ghost’s nipples were blurred on network television as in the case of the movie ‘Thirteen Ghosts’, but a guy getting split in half was no problem. And Janet Jackson – who must’ve thought she was in some European country – half-second wardrobe malfunction set off such a nipplegate of outrage during Superbowl XXXVlll, CBS was slapped with an indecency fine and JJ ended up issuing a publicly aired apology.

While swiftly doling out punishment to those perceived to be leading America farther down the road of moral decline, box office movies, television shows and video games grew ever more violent. Apparently, promoting a culture of violence is fine, until there’s an attempt to legislate gun control and suddenly blood-drenched movies and video games glorifying guns become a convenient scapegoat to thwart gun control.

Then there’s E. L. James ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I haven’t read it but have heard enough to make me wonder if the sexual content is what’s driving the book’s success. Finally, people can talk about IT. If a young, naïve girl introduced to BDSM by a handsome rich guy makes for profound conversation about tabooish sex, more power to the book. Unless something drastic happens there will be a FSOG movie.

An article about what the rating should be, doubted the movie would enjoy box office success. The assumption being, the average movie-goer would be too embarrassed to watch such eroticism sitting next to a stranger. Maybe the author was seeing him or herself hunkered down in a dark theater next to some unknown. Me, I envision maybe a group of girlfriends together, chowing down on popcorn and not worrying about strangers.

Newsflash, if those children banned from listening to adults talk about porn have access to computers or other electronic devices, chances are they’re way ahead of you in that arena. Imagine your child being taught about sex from rated XXX free porn clips. During this internet age, it’s more important than ever to talk to children about sex. Let them know the human body is not shameful and sex between consenting adults happen. If you send them out of the room, they will enter another and experience only the loveless sordid side of a natural and beautiful segment of human nature.