Personal Finance 
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Overpayment Scams

Kim Palmer at US News wrote about how Farrah, on MTV’s “Teen Mom” show, fell for a classic overpayment scam.

An overpayment scam is one in which the scammer sends you a check for more than the required amount, then asks you to send the balance back. Online it usually involves the sale of something expensive, a notebook computer or perhaps even a car, to someone in another country. The overpayment is designated for shipping, which the scammer wants wired to a “shipping company.” The check is a fake and, since it’s international, takes some time to cash. In fact, with international checks, banks sometimes will “cash” it before the funds are verified or transferred, then reversing it when they discover the check is fake. In the meanwhile, you send money to the “shipping company,” which you never see back.

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 Personal Finance 
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Family & Friends Mugged Abroad Scam

As more and more people use Facebook and other social networks, the probability that someone you know will be ensnared by a phishing email grows. Phishing, as it applies to this case, is when someone tries to steal your login credentials by sending you an email that looks like it’s from the network itself. The email will look like it was sent by Facebook but the links inside will go to another site that looks like Facebook, where you’ll unwittingly “log in” and give up your credentials.

This scam works because people are usually on guard when they get emails from their bank, though phishing for bank credentials still works more often than it should, but they aren’t as aware when they get an email from Twitter or Facebook (“Oh, Jim sent me a shotgun in Mafia Wars, must login to see!”). The only positive out of getting your Facebook account phished is that you don’t lose any financial information directly. That’s why scammers have turned to the “mugged abroad” scam. Once they get your account, they pretend to be you and contact everyone you know to tell them about your misfortune of being mugged while abroad.

Unfortunately, this preys not you but on your friends.
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 Personal Finance 
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Nigerian 419 Scams

NigeriaOne of the oldest scams is the book is the advance-fee fraud, more commonly known as Nigerian 419 scam after its huge use by Nigerians in the last decade or so (419 is the part of the Nigerian Criminal Code that covers this frime). It’s really a variation of the very old school Spanish Prisoner scam but the idea basic idea is the same – someone needs help and they’re willing to pay you a large sum of money, as long as you front a bit of the cost beforehand.

The old school Spanish Prisoner scam dates back to the 1800′s where a con man convinces the sucker that there’s a very wealthy prisoner locked up in a Spanish jail. The wealthy prisoner is locked up under a false identity and can’t communicate directly with the sucker, he has to go through the intermediary (con man). If the sucker has some money to help free the wealthy prisoner, the prisoner will gladly repay him and then some. If the sucker ponies up some cash, there are often other hitches and require more money, until the sucker realizes he’s been taken.

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 Personal Finance 
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Scam Week 2010

Scam Week 2010You won the lottery! Just kidding… but you are very close. Wire $10,000 to my account in Estonia and the King of Prussia will authorize me to immediately transfer into your account a payment of 10.000.000.000! I need the wire transfer in order to get your bank information. So please send it soonest.

If you believed any of that (I hope you didn’t) then you definitely need to check out our series this week – Scam Week.

Scam Week will focus on some of the most popular financial scams on the Internet from the classics, Nigerian 419 and phishing scams, to the new, I barely know you on Facebook but I got mugged in England and need money; with tips on how to avoid falling for a scam or becoming the vehicle for scammers to rip off your friends.

Hopefully I’ll introduce a scam, or at least the history of a scam, that you haven’t seen before and can protect yourself against it!

(Photo: jepoirrier)


 Banking 
62
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Bank Error In Your Favor? No Such Thing!

Bank Error In Your FavorDo you know what happens when the bank makes an error in you favor? Only one thing – headaches.

If you ever check your balance and notice that you received a mysterious windfall, do yourself a favor and call your bank. Tell them that a mysterious deposit just appeared on your account and that it’s not yours, they need to investigate, and resolve it quickly. The last thing you should do is spend it despite the adage “possession is nine-tenths of the law,” the money isn’t yours. If you spend it and cannot repay it, you are still liable and must pay it back.

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 Your Take 
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Your Take: Have You Ever Been Scammed?

Scam TrucksOf course you have, we all have. Sometimes they’re small scams, like someone adding a little onto your bar tab, and sometimes they’re big scams, like someone skimming your credit card and going on a spending spree.

When I was in college, I would occasionally buy and sell stuff on eBay. I remember the days of scouring Fatwallet Hot Deals forums for deals I could sell on eBay. I was doing it so often that I wrote a program that would quickly scrape eBay auction results and give me average sales price, standard deviation, and other statistics so I knew whether something was worth the effort. My comfort with eBay as a seller made me comfortable as a buyer.

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 Banking 
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How to Verify a Personal Check

Checks Cashed!Have you ever been given a check that just doesn’t sit right with you? Isn’t it unfair that your bank will charge you an exhorbitant fee when you deposit someone else’s bad check? However, sometimes you still need to take the risk by accepting as many forms of payment as possible, especially if you’re a business, and there are things you can do to protect yourself. These aren’t perfect solutions, in fact they are far from perfect, but by taking these steps you can reduce your risk significantly.

First things first, you need to trust the person giving you the check. If you don’t, ask for an alternate form of payment. A money order from the USPS costs only $1.10 to $1.50 (max of $1,000) and can be cashed at a bank or a Post Office. For larger payment amounts, have the buyer get a cashier’s or bank check. There’s a small fee but it should be nominal compared to the amount of the payment and just part of doing business.

If, however, you have no choice but to accept a personal check, there are a few things you can do to verify that the check is a good one. This comes in two steps – verifying the check itself is good and then verifying the associated account has the necessary funds.

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 Credit 
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How to Dispute a Credit Card Charge

Last month, I went to a Trader Joe’s to buy a package of coffee filters. For whatever reason, their packages of unbleached cone filters are always remarkably cheaper than anywhere else, despite Trader Joe’s higher end reputation. On this particular trip, there was some sort of technical problem with the register. I would swipe my card, sign in the box, and then the system would skip the receipt printout step. Each time (this happened three times), the person working the counter would politely insist that charge didn’t go through and we’d have to swipe it again. We did this three times.

Unfortunately, the only technical problem was that a receipt wasn’t printed and it wasn’t until a week later that I saw I had three charges for one box of coffee filters. The tricky annoying part about all this was that the charges were for only $1.80 each, which meant I was only out $3.60. Part of me wished it was more like $360 so that be more worth my time to deal with it!

If you need to dispute a credit card charge, here’s what you should do:
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