Uber and out? Scary reminder

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It turns out that some time ago, someone hacked the ride service Uber and stole approximately 57 million credit card numbers, along with authenticating information for those cards. In my opinion, most people in this area don’t have much to worry about, in that Uber isn’t a major player in this market. On the other hand, don’t be careless. Continue “best practices” and check your credit card statements carefully for odd-looking charges. If you find an odd charge, say from a nick backshop in Nairobi, call the card company and “put it in contest.”

PARTS ISN’T ALWAYS PARTS: That’s especially true in the automotive repair business. First of all, if it’s important to you, insist on genuine parts for your mechanical and body work on your vehicle. If you have a trusted “go-to auto guy,” take his (or her) recommendations. More often than not, they can save you some substantial shekels by using good quality parts supplied by non-name brand suppliers. On the other hand, you can really get burned by less than top quality auto parts — mechanical or body parts in the case of auto body repair work. All bumpers are not created equal.

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NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR A GREAT JOB: Beware, the “work at home” schemes and other fake job offers are coming back to our area with a vengeance. Last week I fielded almost 20 calls from consumers asking about email solicitations they’d received, offering thousands of dollars per week to work at home or to apply for a “dream job.” Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one of these offers that turned out to be legitimate. Our problem here is many of the really good paying jobs are in construction and often seasonal or tourist industry related. It’s very tempting to respond to an offer to work at home and make good money or pick up on a great overseas “opportunity.” DON’T BELIEVE IT! Chances are you’ll not only not land a decent paying job, you’ll lose whatever “up front” money the “employer” required.

Here are some telltale signs to look out for:

1. Branding/Copycats: Websites that try to look like legitimate, well known companies. Aamazon is NOT Amazon! A subtle difference, but it could cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

2. Being required to pay money up front: Any offer that requires you to pay money upfront, including supplies or an “application fee” is almost certainly a scam. Correct that, IT’S A SCAM — DON’T DO IT!!!!

3. Package-handling schemes: These could make you an unwitting accomplice in handling stolen goods and expose you to criminal prosecution. Especially be aware of any package handling that involves filling out customs forms for overseas mailings. You could very well get wrapped up in customs fraud in addition to handling stolen property. NOT EXACTLY THE CHRISTMAS BONUS YOU WERE HOPING FOR!

4. Text message or IM recruiting: No legitimate business recruits employees using text messages or instant messages.

5. Social media: Some legitimate companies make first contact using social media websites, but they quickly follow up outside that sphere. Be suspicious. Legitimate companies use social media — SO DO THE CROOKS AND SCAMMERS!

6. Phishing: Don’t ever give out personal details over the web or click on a link provided in an email. It’s more than likely collecting your information for malicious purposes.

7. Envelope stuffing or product assembly: You know better. Don’t fall for either of these old tired ruses.

Look, if you haven’t applied for a specific job, it’s probably not for you! Spammers and scammers send out millions and millions of emails everyday. Sorry, that executive job in Dubai probably isn’t real.

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FAKE TRAVEL AGENTS OR WEBSITES: The shorter days and colder temps make many of us long for tropical shores, warm waters and white sands. There are many legitimate websites through which to book all aspects of travel. But there are many out there promising sun and fun when, in reality, they’re just looking for another mark. DON’T BE ONE. If you make any travel arrangements online, be sure to communicate ONLY with the provider or host through the online website-established communication channels. Scammers will give you every excuse in the book why you should call them, go to an unauthorized website or even send your payment or deposit to them by wire, check, PayPal or direct deposit. DON’T DO IT, EVER. You’ll stand a good chance of losing your money AND your vacation.

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YOUR APPLE ID HAS EXPIRED: Not, not, NOT! iCloud has become an essential part of our computer tool box. iCloud stores music, documents and other important information, essential to our daily computer interaction. HERE’S THE RUB — scammers are now calling computer users, frantically telling them that their iCloud account has expired. IT HAS NOT! HANG UP! If you don’t, the scammers will “help” you establish your password by vacuuming up all your personal and financial information.

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BANK FRAUDSTERS ARE BECOMING VERY SOPHISTICATED — You need to keep up to protect yourself. The latest evolution is using text message to hook you. The text bait looks similar to this: “Please call us at (XXX) XXX-XXXX. If you do not, your account will be frozen. Please click in the link: www.xxx.xxx.”

Don’t do it. Next thing you know your account will be drained. If you a get a text similar to the one above, call the regular number for your bank and tell them. Don’t even give them your personal information over the phone — you may have dialed the wrong number.

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REMEMBER: I’m in your corner.

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I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on as The CDA Press Consumer Guy. Call me at (208) 699-0506, or email me at BillBrooksRealEstate@gmail.com or fax me at (866) 362-9266. Please include your name and a phone number. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups.

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Bill Brooks is the CDA Press Consumer Guy and the Broker and Owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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