The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

August 24, 2013

Texting scammers caught

By Randy Meier
Special to the Herald

---- — In November 2012, I received several complaints from citizens who reported receiving text messages telling them that they won $1,000 gift cards from Target or Walmart. We knew at the time these were scam calls, and I advised people to ignore them.

A lot of us get frustrated at just these kinds of phone scams and wonder if anyone is doing anything about them. It seems someone is paying attention and taking action against some scammers.

I read a media release from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), dated July 29, which announced the FTC filed complaints against nine defendants involved in various aspects of this particular texting scam. The complaint asks the federal court in Chicago to issue injunctions to stop the practice, and asks the court to order payment of damages by the defendants. The addresses of the defendants are instructive as to how international these kinds of scam are. The defendants are in Florida, Las Vegas, Nevada, Quebec, India and Cyprus.

Consumers who received this message and responded found themselves caught up in a confusing and elaborate process requiring them to provide personal information, apply for credit cards, or subscribe to other services to get these “free” cards. Some consumers reported signing up for as many as 13 other “free” offers, which required payment of more shipping and handling charges, or recurring fees for subscriptions.

In addition, they found their phone numbers signed up to get many more robo-calls or recorded telemarketing calls selling home security, travel or satellite television. These consumers found it impossible to get their “free” gift cards without spending more money. Sounds like a great thing not to get near.

The FTC mission is to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices and educate the public in avoiding them. I encourage anyone with such a complaint to file a complaint with them.

I forward many of the complaints I receive on to the FTC. To make a complaint, go online to www.ftc.gov and use their Complaint Assistant to file, or call them at (877) 382-4357.

Radio frequency ID credit cards

Several weeks ago I gave a talk to a group of seniors. Someone asked me about the ability of crooks to “read” your credit card as it sets within your wallet.

According to the Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol, it turns out this is possible, if you use a newer form of credit cards which use radio frequency identification. You would know you have such a card, because to use it, all you need to do is wave it in front of a scanner.

It does not need to get swiped. These cards use a radio chip embedded in the card to make this happen. If you are a crook and get hold of the right scanner, it is, in theory, possible to read someone’s credit cards by passing the scanner close to someone’s wallet. The recommendation I saw to thwart this is to cover this type of card in aluminum foil, or use a special protective sleeve.

I don’t know how commonplace these kinds of cards are in this area. I’ve not seen any, although I’ve seen folks keeping their cards in small metal cases.

If you want to report a fraud issue or what you suspect as fraud, please contact me at Seniors vs. Crime at 242-9211, ext. 4433.