Look before you leap to avoid fake accident cyclists: Internet Scambusters #567
Did you see it coming -- that cyclist lining up a fake accident or that dangerous "tip" that advised you to put your cell phone in the microwave?
You'll find the information on these two scams in this week's Snippets issues, along with a warning about a sneaky trick to hijack your Social Security payments.
Plus, we've got the latest on a new warning from the Food and Drug Administration on illegal diabetes medications.
Let's get started...
Steer Clear of these Fake Accident, Social Security, Cell Phone and Medication Scams
We've written several times in the past about fake accidents -- incidents where people claim you injured them or damaged their property.
They may ask for cash to put things right or they may even try to claim on your insurance.
So far, we've reported on parking lot and sidewalk incidents, but in this week's issue we take you into the bicycle lane -- literally.
We also have details of a new Social Security swindle and a stern warning about not putting your phone in the microwave -- seriously!
Riding into Trouble
In this scam, recently reported by the New York Times, you're on your feet and the scammer is riding a bicycle.
It usually happens on a busy city street that has a cycling lane, lots of bikes and plenty of pedestrians trying to cross the road.
With these ingredients in place, the scammer looks for pedestrians about to cross the street and launches himself -- and bike -- at his victim, slamming on his brakes and throwing a fall at the last minute.
Of course, it turns out the bike is damaged, usually with bent handlebars or a buckled wheel, which the rider angrily draws to your attention to create a scene.
He seems to have come out of nowhere, claims you weren't looking and says that he can't afford to repair the bicycle, which he says will cost between $50 and $100 to fix.
Although the victim can't quite work out what happened, he or she usually ends up handing over the cash and the cyclist wobbles off, looking for his next victim.
Action: Keep your eyes peeled when walking across a bicycle lane -- and, of course, when crossing the street.
If you do get caught in such an incident, look around for witnesses and ask the cyclist for his name and address.
Say you plan to report the incident to the police -- and do so if necessary -- and that you won't hand over any money until after that. That should be enough to scare off a scammer.
Check out this earlier Snippets report, Medical Alert & Sugar Tax Scams Used for ID Theft, for details of a similar sidewalk accident trick.
Social Security Account Hijack
The ability to monitor financial and other personal accounts online may be a great thing but it can also lead to trouble.
For example, scammers have come up with a simple and sneaky trick for relieving seniors of their Social Security payments.
They use stolen Social Security numbers (SSNs) to set up online accounts in victims' names on the official Social Security Administration (SSA) site.
Then they divert regular payments to their bank accounts, a trick that won't be spotted until the victim eventually checks their own bank account.
Action: The SSA has a couple of security steps in the process it uses to set up online accounts so the crook either needs more information about you or has to take a lucky guess to correctly answer them.
But, if you set up your own online password-protected account first -- even if you never use it -- a crook won't be able to do it instead.
Monitoring your bank account regularly (daily or weekly if it's online) should also be an important part of your personal security routine.
If you do fall victim to this scam, contact your local Social Security office immediately.
Finally, protect your SSN. Be extremely wary about disclosing it to anyone -- even legitimate organizations.
Don't' Do This!
You wouldn't do anything as crazy as putting your cell phone in the microwave, would you?
What if someone told you it was a fast and easy way to recharge your device?
That's the message in an alarming email that's currently doing the rounds. The "tip" has also been seen on the Tumblr blogging site and a number of other social networks.
It claims your phone will recharge in seconds, adding: "This works because microwaves use the same principle as wireless charging pads, by rearranging the electrons in your (phone's) battery.
It then purports to link to a (non-existent) research page at Harvard University.
Don't do it!
Common sense should tell you that not only will this not work, but it's also highly dangerous.
You'll fry your phone, possibly damage your microwave irreparably and maybe cause more widespread damage or even personal injury.
Diabetes "Treatment" Alert
Finally, a warning from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about illegal products that claim to treat or even cure diabetes, which it says are flooding the market.
"People with chronic or incurable diseases may feel desperate and become easy prey," says Gary Coody, FDA's national health fraud coordinator.
"Bogus products for diabetes are particularly troubling because there are effective options available to help manage this serious disease rather than exposing patients to unproven and risky products."
Action: Only use medications prescribed by your health professional and dispensed by a legitimate pharmacy.
Read the full FDA alert, Beware of Illegally Sold Diabetes Treatments.
Think before you act -- that's the key message behind this week's Snippets issue.
If you look before you leap you won't get caught up in fake accidents, fall victim to Social Security tricksters, or buy dangerous meds -- or put your phone in the microwave!
That's it for today -- we hope you enjoy your week!