The Checkout

New Scam Twists

Do scamsters ever sleep? Probably not--at least based on the number of alerts that continue to be issued about one pernicious scheme after the other.

I hope that also means Americans may be less gullible and notify law enforcement agencies about the scams when they see them. But I doubt it.

Here are two of the most recent alerts:

* The Internet Crime Complaint Center says consumers need to be wary of unsolicited cellphone text messages thanking you for subscribing to a dating service. The cost is $2 a day, which will be billed automatically to your cellphone bill. Of course you can cancel--by going to the service's Web site.

But that's the catch, IC3 says: By canceling, you could end up harming your computer. When you visit the Web site, you are asked to enter your cellphone number and are then given the option to run a program that is supposed to remove your subscription to the dating service.

However, here's what really happens, according to IC3: "When the run option is selected on the Web site, the executable adds several files to the host and changes registry settings to open a back-door port and lower Windows security settings. The host file is modified to prevent the victim from browsing to popular anti-virus Web sites. The executable also turns the infected computer into a "zombie" network, which can be remotely controlled by the hackers."

* Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe says there's a new wrinkle to phishing scams because so many consumers now know they should not respond to e-mails asking for personal information over the Internet. As a result, the latest phishing schemes are no longer asking consumers to respond by e-mail by clicking on a fake Web site link. In fact, there are no links at all. Instead consumers are asked to call a phone number to verify their account.

An automated system answers and asks for a 16-digit credit-card number for verification. If you enter an incorrect card number, "a request for re-entry is made, further enhancing the legitimacy of this fraudulent telephone number" noted SophosLabs, a network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers that first disclosed this scam. So far, these phishing e-mails purport to come from PayPal. "Users that type in their card information may think they're verifying their PayPal account, but, in actual fact, they're handing their details over to cyber criminals on a plate," said Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley.

By  |  July 19, 2006; 7:00 AM ET Consumer Alerts
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

I just got scammed by this to the tune of $1300. I am reporting this to everyone...

Posted by: Jon | July 19, 2006 10:40 AM

I might have been stupid enough to fall for the cell phone scam before reading this. I never use text messaging so anything related to it is alien to me.

The credit card scam, and really any credit card scam, is, I believe, the fault of the card holder. Many people are very willing to just give out personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, birthdates, phone numbers, etc.

I work in retail and laugh (while I ask for ID) at the customers who have "See ID" written on their credit card or no signature at all. This dosen't help anything. If someone else had that card, they could spend a few hundred dollars at Target, fill up on gas, buy groceries for the next two months, etc. without a clerk ever seeing the back of the card because so many stores now have the card scanners where the customer scans the card on their own. And unsigned cards are great. The thief would just sign their signature of your name.

When it all comes down, the best we can do as consumers is to know where we keep our stuff and be aware of where and with whom we do business.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 19, 2006 12:28 PM

I don't know how many times I have recommended "Mailwasher" (it's free) to fight phishing, viruses and spam. But I'll try again. It won't help with cell phone problems, but it sure has saved me a lot of computer grief over the years.

Go to where you can download it free. It filters all E-mail and allows you to view it first without ever downloading to your computer, so you can spot trouble before it happens. You see the suspected E-mail on the server.

It will check the origin of E-mails against data bases at various anti-Spam and Phising websites such as SpamCop and ORDB; allows you to specify "Friends," Blacklist, detete, and bounce E-mails(as if your address didn't exist). It runs in the background. It has caught viruses and kept me out of trouble. I swear by it.

For a few bucks you can get a "Pro" version, but I have never felt it necessary. All thanks to the Aussies.

You can read all about Mailwasher at

Posted by: mtndance | July 19, 2006 2:31 PM

Mailwasher is actually from New Zealand, not Australia...

Posted by: Joe | July 19, 2006 9:24 PM

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