Bogus Contractors, Funeral Notice Virus & Safe Harbor for Kids

Watch out for bogus contractors selling lightning rods: Internet Scambusters #608

Bogus contractors have hit on a new way of fooling their victims by convincing them they need a lightning rod and then grossly overcharging.

We’ll give you the details in this week’s Snippets issue along with a warning about a new virus hidden inside a phony funeral invitation.

We also tell you about a new step to improve Internet safety for kids and a Facebook scare involving a popular TV show.

Let’s get started…

Snippets Issue: Bogus Contractors, Funeral Notice Virus & Safe Harbor for Kids

More people are wising up to bogus contractors who offer to do roof repairs or repave a driveway — and then never return or do a shoddy job after being paid up-front.

And they’re not so easily fooled either by people who claim to be from the local utility company and say they need to inspect an installation inside their home — while planning to distract and steal from their victims.

So, inevitably, these crooks have come up with a new trick, as we explain in this week’s Snippets issue.

We also want to alert you to a new way of getting malware onto your PC, and let you know about a safe harbor program for kids using the Internet.

A Lightning Con Trick

A flash of lightning can be a frightening experience, and a worry for your electricity supply company.

But worry as they may, they’re not going to come knocking at your door offering to install a lightning rod.

And even if they did, it wouldn’t come with a hefty price tag in the order of $8,000.

But that’s the price some contractors have been asking for a basic home installation.

Some of them claim to be working “on behalf” of your local power company — but they’re not.

When you’re being lined up for a rip-off like this, the contractor will usually ask for at least 50% of the cost up-front but may even demand the whole sum.

And when they claim to be working for your electricity company, it’s almost certainly a scam.

We’re not entering the debate about whether or not you should have a lightning rod.

You should speak to the power company or your insurer about that, but in most areas it’s unusual to see them on residential properties unless they’re in storm-prone areas, isolated or particularly exposed.

But if you’re in the market for one, the independent, not-for-profit Underwriters Laboratories suggests $2,500 for 2,500 square feet is a fair rate.

Get bids from at least two specialist electrical contractors and check out their license, bonding and other credentials before doing business with them.

Deadly Virus

What would you do if you received an email with the subject line: “Funeral Notification”?

And what if the message appeared to come from a reputable funeral home and invited you to “a celebration of your friend’s life service”?

Would you click the link that supposedly offers “more detailed information” about this memorial service?

We hope not. But if you lost a friend or relative in the recent past, you might be tempted.

Or you might just be curious in case an acquaintance passed recently without you knowing.

However, if you click, you could be about to download a deadly virus onto your PC.

The lack of a name of your “friend” is the first giveaway that it’s a scam.

But if you think it might be genuine and want to know more, find the funeral home’s number in the phone book and call them to check and request further details.

Beware too of similar messages but with an attached “Invitation.” Clicking that also risks infecting your PC with malware.

Safe Harbor

For our final Snippet, and for a change, we have some good news to report on the Internet security front.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has approved a new “seal of approval” program under which child-friendly websites and other technologies are reviewed for their safety factors.

The kidSAFE Seal Program, as it’s called, requires that site operators and their products comply with five core safety rules. They must have in place:

  1. Safety measures for chat and community features.
  2. Rules and information about online security.
  3. Procedures for dealing with complaints and safety issues.
  4. Parental controls over the children’s accounts.
  5. Age appropriate content, advertising and marketing.

Already, scores of certified sites are listed on the kidSAFE site, with click-thrus that enable you to check the credentials of individual companies.

Parents can also sign up for email updates that include new listings and safety tips to help protect children online.

The FTC approval qualifies the kidSAFE Seal as a “safe harbor” program under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Firms that participate in safe harbor programs are subject to the controls and disciplinary procedures of the FTC.

Alert of the Week: Watch out for a phony Facebook claim that the hugely popular TV series Game of Thrones has been cancelled.

It hasn’t — and clicking on the Facebook link will take you to a page that says you need to install a “Java update” on your PC, which, of course, is really a virus.

Don’t click and don’t worry. The fourth season of Game of Thrones recently ended but the series is expected to return.

That’s all for today — we’ll see you next week.