Do Not Call list update, iPhone scam and hoax, and the true cost of online scams: Internet ScamBusters #245
At ScamBusters.org, we always keep our ears to the ground and our eyes peeled for new scams and urban legends. Today's "Snippets" issue features three timely stories:
- Don't panic: your listings on the national Do Not Call List are NOT about to expire.
- Avoid these online iPhone scams and hoaxes.
- Report reveals the true cost of not protecting your computer.
Now, here we go...
Phone-y Rumor Says Listings on National Do Not Call List Set to Expire
Recent cyberspace scuttlebutt has pushed some people toward panic, thanks to claims that the National Do Not Call List is about to "de-list" participants who signed up when the program, managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), was first launched.
The concern is that telemarketers will again be pounding at the gates, flooding us with unwanted sales pitches as we sit down to dinner or await important calls. The fear is that if only we'd known sooner, we could have re-registered in time to avoid having our listings interrupted.
Do NOT panic. As is often the case, the rumor mill has mixed up some of the facts.
While it's true that participants in the national program must re-register five years from the date they signed up, the National Do Not Call List was first launched in August 2003 -- four years ago, not five. Early participants (such as many of our subscribers) who signed up by August 31, 2003, have a year before they have to re-register.
What's more, the FTC is planning a 2008 publicity campaign that will remind people to renew their Do Not Call Registry listings in time. You won't be left to the mercy of telemarketers without any warning.
So, what's the source of the rumors? Our guess is that some people confused recent news stories about the Pennsylvania State Do Not Call Registry with the federal program.
If you were one of the first Pennsylvanians to sign up for the state program -- which WAS launched five years ago -- you must renew your state listing by this September or it will expire.
But, anyone who merely glanced at newspaper headlines such as this one from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette might have gotten their signals crossed: "Original No-Call List Due to Expire."
Many people don't realize that the "original no-call list" is the one created by Pennsylvania, not the federal government.
And you can also read more about the Pennsylvania no-call list.
An iPhone Scam and the First iPhone Hoax
Just before the iPhone hit stores on June 29, we predicted a huge number of iPhone scams, and published our predictions on what the Top 7 iPhone scams would be. Our predictions turned out to be very accurate. And since then, we've updated our site to include additional scams, since we're discovering new ones all the time.
Here's an iPhone hoax and one of the latest iPhone scams:
iPhone Hoax: Man Surgically Alters Thumbs to Better Use His iPhone
Here's the first iPhone urban legend we've found.
A 28-year-old Colorado man found it difficult to manipulate his iPhone since his thumbs were very large. He believed he had a choice: change to a different device or "whittle" down his thumbs. The North Denver News describes whittling as a surgical procedure that "involved making a small incision into both thumbs and shaving down the bones, followed by careful muscular alteration and modification of the fingernails."
Here's a quote from the original hoax: "From my old Treo, to my Blackberry, to this new iPhone, I had a hard time hitting the right buttons, and I always lost those little styluses. Sure, the procedure was expensive, but when I think of all the time I save by being able to use modern handhelds so much faster, I really think the surgery will pay for itself in ten to fifteen years. And what it's saving me in frustration -- that's priceless."
Editor's Note: The interesting thing is that many reporters and bloggers reported this story as true... It's not.
The iPhone "Online Store" Scam
According to the Modesto Bee, in the second scam, "a bit of malicious software has begun circulating that targets consumers looking for the [iPhone]. The scam takes advantage of already infected computers by sending them a pop-up ad when users surf the Web to either Google or Yahoo. The pop-up ad links to a Web site to buy the iPhone, with an option to choose the color. That's one sign the offer isn't legit, because iPhones come in only one color. The site then asks consumers to send money by Western Union or MoneyGram for the iPhone."
(There is actually a third party that does paint iPhones, but it's unlikely that you'd save money by going to them directly, and we've seen no evidence that these iPhones were painted by this company.)
Of course, the iPhone never arrives, but the scammers make off with the loot, since neither Western Union nor MoneyGram offer any type of insurance or money-back guarantee.
Recommendation: You can easily avoid these scams by only purchasing an iPhone directly from Apple or AT&T, and keeping your PC security software -- including firewall protections -- updated.
Report Reveals True Cost of Online Scams
Speaking of malicious software, according to a survey released on August 6, 2007, Americans lost $7 billion over the past two years because of malicious software (malware) and online scams. And perhaps most scary: your chances of becoming a victim of a cybercrime are about 1 in 4!
The study, issued by Consumer Reports, places much of the blame for these staggering losses squarely on consumers. Many Web surfers continue to visit sites and use the Web for conducting millions of online transactions WITHOUT installing anti-virus software and firewalls to protect their computers.
In addition, many parents fail to educate and prevent their underage children from engaging in risky exchanges on social networking sites. According to MySpace, 13% of children fail to meet the 14-year-old age minimum to participate on the site -- and that's just the percentage of cases later discovered by the parents.
Be sure to find out more about protecting kids on MySpace.
Other survey findings:
Consumer Reports writes: "Thirty-eight percent of respondents reported a computer-virus infection in the past two years, and 34 percent reported a spyware infection in the past six months. Based on projections from our survey, virus infections prompted 1.8 million households to replace their PCs in the past two years and spyware infections 850,000 in the past six months. Very few Mac users reported either infection type."
"Defenses are still down. Seventeen percent of respondents didn't have anti-virus software installed. Thirty-three percent didn't use software to block or remove spyware, which would help to stop identity theft. Most households had installed a firewall, which keeps out hackers. But based on our survey, we project that 3.7 million U.S. households with broadband still lack a firewall."
Folks, we've said it before and we'll say it again. In this era, it's ESSENTIAL to protect your computer with the latest and greatest security software. And whether you use a PC or a MAC, be sure to install a firewall.
Hackers and scammers are working hard to develop new schemes that will fool (at least temporarily) even the best and brightest among you. Do NOT be the first on your block to fall victim to the next scam!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!