The two big types of cancer fraud you need to watch for: Internet ScamBusters #222
Today we'll focus on cancer fraud. Our main article is called "What Everybody Ought To Know About Cancer Fraud."
First, let us tell you what this article on cancer fraud is NOT about. We are not talking about bogus treatments, unproven claims and snake oil salespeople here.
Although this type of cancer fraud is common, there is another type of cancer fraud that most people don't even know exists. That's what we'll focus on in this issue, as well as another form of cancer fraud that often targets clergy members and people who are very religious.
We'll also give you some tips on creating good passwords to safeguard your Internet accounts.
What Everybody Ought To Know About Cancer Fraud
Cancer fraud scammers play on your sympathies to steal your money.
You see it in the news. From celebrities like Victoria Gotti exaggerating her cancer to the teacher in Michigan outright lying about having the disease, cancer fraud is becoming a big way for thieves to con you out of your hard-earned money.
Cancer fraud scammers seem to be looking both to get money and to garner some time in the spotlight.
True victims of cancer are obviously angered, and those who donate their money are frustrated.
There are two big types of cancer fraud: healthy people claiming to be cancer victims and email cancer fraud scams. Since most people are not aware of the scope of the first type of cancer fraud, we'll start there:
How this type of cancer fraud works
In many instances, people fake cancer, allowing friends and family to raise funds to support medical treatments that never happen. Communities rally around the thieves.
Reports have documented that cancer fraud thieves have raised as much as $40,000 and spent as little as 3 days in jail for their crimes!
Unfortunately, if you're questioning the validity of a cancer victim's claims, it's difficult to ask a cancer victim to 'prove it.' After all, that seems quite heartless.
Additionally, the police are finding that it isn't difficult for cancer fraud thieves to forge documentation that proves their claim.
Yet, it is important that you're confident that your donations are going to a worthy cause.
Unfortunately, the number of cancer fraud thieves is growing fast. These scammers are usually very good at creating compelling stories and tugging on heartstrings.
What to do:
Instead of donating to individuals who may be real cancer victims or cancer fraud thieves, consider donating instead to a larger organization like the American Cancer Society. You can make the contribution in the friend or family member's name; however, this will most likely not offset medical expenses for that person.
You may also be able to give to the hospital where the person is receiving cancer treatments. Every hospital is different, so call before you make a contribution. Some hospitals will permit a family member to create an account that others can contribute to; sometimes these accounts can be used to offset medical bills for individual cancer patients.
If you've already donated and have since discovered that you've been a victim of cancer fraud, contact your local police. Many of these cases are successfully prosecuted. Visit our charity fraud page for more information.
Nigerian fee cancer emails
In addition to the headline-making thieves, more and more people are receiving cancer fraud emails. These scams work similarly to the Nigerian fee scam, which has been around for quite awhile.
Thieves send you an email claiming to be dying of breast cancer (or occasionally other types of cancer). They claim they need your help.
They usually say they have inherited a lot of money from their husband (millions of dollars), and want to make sure it gets a good home since they have no children and are dying of the cancer.
So, they claim they have millions of dollars set aside for you if you'll help them. Often, they use a religious angle and target clergy and other religious people, saying they want the money to go to a good church or be used to help people. (They use all kinds of phrases and terms to convince you that they share your faith.)
This cancer scam usually works in two ways. First, they try to get your bank account number. They claim they will deposit the money into your account and you will get to keep some of it and donate the rest.
Naturally, they really want your bank account number so they can steal your money and/or your identity.
Of course, you don't want to give them your bank account number or any other personal information.
Second, they try to get you to pay fees, so they can steal money directly from you. The reasons for these fees vary and they are not important -- but the fees continue to grow until you stop paying.
What can you do?
If you get a cancer fraud email, delete it. Do not respond.
Or you can also file a complaint with the FTC.
A personal note: Like many of you, we have recently lost a number of friends to cancer. We see so many scams every day; nonetheless, we find it especially appalling that scammers would use cancer to steal money from their victims.
How to Create Good Passwords
Many people know they should create good passwords, but they don't really know what a good password is. Even worse, good passwords are usually hard to remember, which makes it less likely people will use them.
First though, what's a bad password? A bad password is something that is easy for a thief to guess. Your pet's name, your birthday or anniversary, or your children's names are all examples of bad passwords.
Conversely, a good password is hard to guess. What are examples of good passwords? TRge34egT97 and 302t8R!9G}54 are examples of good passwords.
Totally random passwords are best. You can get a random set of characters to use in a password at GRC's Ultra High Security Password Generator page.
The problem, of course, is that there is no way to remember a random set of characters.
You can use a program like RoboForm to keep track of your passwords.
You can also put your passwords in an encrypted file on your computer. One possible program that works on the PC is TrueCrypt.
One important caveat: you will still need one password that you DO remember to access RoboForm or TrueCrypt. So, create one good, secure password you'll remember for RoboForm, etc. and then you can use random strings for your other passwords.
You can find more about creating good passwords at the end of this previous ScamBusters issue.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!