The rip-off artists are operating in full swing these days.  It’s hard to read a newsletter or a website without seeing a warning from some government agency regarding a scam or online privacy issue of some kind.  As a result, we thought it would be helpful to update you on three issues facing our industry and our customers.


Telephone Collections Scams
The payday loan telephone collection scam folks are back again.  The callers pose as agents of the federal government using fake agency names, such as the Federal Legislative Department, as representatives of a law firm, and even as calling from the FBI.  They claim to be making collections for agencies that sound legit.  The problem is they are not.
The warning bulletin from the FBI says the callers “relentlessly call the victim’s home, cell phone, and place of employment in attempts to obtain payment and they refuse to provide information regarding the alleged payday loan or any documentation and become verbally abusive when questioned.”
The new scammers have amped up their efforts though.  There are instances highlighted by the FBI, that the scammer came to the victim’s home and/or office posing as a process server.  They have also demanded that “delinquent consumers” obtain a pre-paid card to pay off the debt. 
If you or someone you know is concerned that they are a victim of a scam or fraud, there are several courses of action:
-    Contact your local law enforcement agency
-    Contact your bank and credit companies
-    If you have taken out and repaid a loan or if you currently have one open, contact the lender to make sure no actions have been taken
-    File a complaint at www.IC3.gov


Mobile Banking ID Theft
Younger customers are warned to be more careful with their personal information.  As younger people are more likely to post personal information on social media, such as twitter and facebook, they tend to be lackadaisical about the information’s security; particularly on mobile devices.  And thus, they are the targets more of scammers.
A recent study by Javelin Strategy & Research sheds some light on the issue of identity fraud.  11.6 million adults were victims of fraud on 2011, compared to 10.2 in 2010.  But, the total fraud cost in 2011 was 18 billion, which is actually lower than in 2010.  The decrease in total dollars is attributed to better and faster security measures.  Consumers receive warnings from their financial institutions faster than ever before and consumers are better educated about the process.
The study issued strong warnings about the kind of information you post on social media.  70% of consumers posted birthdays with months, day and years.  More than 60% posted high school or college names and more than half posted their e-mail addresses.  All of this information can be used by hackers to steal your identity. 
Because 18 to 24yr olds have such a sense of security in using social media and mobile devices they have a false sense of security.  This leads to them being more likely to be victims.
But, a caution to all of us.  Do not post personal information that can be hacked and used to steal your identity.

White House Plan to Protect Online Privacy
On Thursday, February 23, 2012 the White House proposed a “consumer bill of rights” to protect their privacy while online. 
There are no immediate changes, but rather a set of guidelines to be considered by the Commerce Department, which is going to work with companies and “privacy advocates” to develop a coherent policy that will effectively protect consumer information while they are online.
There are seven basic tenets to the plan:  Consumers would control the type of information companies collect; companies must be transparent about data usage plans and be respectful of the context in which is provided; companies must ensure secure handling of the data; there would be limits to what personal data is collected and retained, plus be held accountable for strong privacy measures; consumers must have the ability to access to their own data
This comes at a time when it has been disclosed that Google, among other firms, has been collecting consumer data, even going so far as to bypassing other firms’ security measures.  All in an effort to build profiles and generate additional advertising revenue. 
It seems certain that some plan will be developed and from an online marketer’s standpoint, it’s imperative that consumers feel confident that their personal information is protected and used for reasons they deem appropriate.  After all, if consumers are not confident in online security systems, that affects all online businesses, doesn’t it?