Virtual Kidnapping: The Latest Fear-by-Phone Hoax

It sounds like something out of Hollywood, but it’s hitting homes across the country: “virtual kidnapping,” where fraudsters try to extort money by claiming that a family member has been taken hostage. This fear-provoking fraud isn’t new; there was a nationwide wave of similar calls two years ago in which swindlers usually claimed a loved one was being held after causing a traffic accident and refusing to pay for damages. But in recent weeks, the scam has exploded — and this …

New Twist to the Tech Support Scam

After seven long years, the tech support scam continues as a reigning rip-off, generating more reports nationwide to the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline (877-908-3360) than any scheme except the IRS impostor ruse. Microsoft estimates that another 3.3 million Americans will fall victim in 2015, losing an estimated $1.5 billion to fraudsters posing as its or other tech company employees. The typical scenario is scary enough: Callers (sometimes from overseas boiler rooms) claim that your computer is infected with a dangerous …

Ransomware: $18 Million and Counting … in Only 15 Months

Catherine Heslep was logging off Gmail when her computer was hijacked, another victim of ransomware. “Your files have been encrypted,” the message on the screen proclaimed. “You will not be able to access them without an encryption code.” “The cost for the code was 60 bitcoin, which translates to $700,” she says. Getting no response, the cybercriminals issued another ominous warning the next day: “If you don’t believe us, pick five files and we’ll decrypt them to prove it. You …

Can You Pick Out the Online Dating Scammer?

No matter how happy and confident we singles feel about ourselves and dating, there’s a part inside that leaves us all feeling vulnerable. One of my more serious concerns is being bamboozled. Human scammers and bots — short for online robots, though it’s actually software pretending to be human — lurk on dating sites searching for unsuspecting romantics. I am committed to not being victimized, and you owe the same to yourself. The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center reported in …

When the FBI Calls, Hang Up?

In just one month, Linda Blase received 74 phone calls — 57 of them from illegal telemarketers or robocallers. “It’s rampant,” the Dallas small-business owner told the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging this week. “These callers are an unwanted intrusion into my home.” It’s been nearly a dozen years since the federal government launched the Do Not Call Registry, allowing consumers to request that telemarketers not call them. But advances in technology since then make it easy for disreputable …

Efrem Zimbalist Jr.: The Actor Who Went From Private Eye to Mr. FBI

Back in late 1950s and early 1960s, one of the coolest series on the tube was 77 Sunset Strip, a stylish variation on hard-boiled detective noir infused with wise-cracking hipster humor – sort of Raymond Chandler meets the Rat Pack, set in what TV historian Horace Newcomb describes as “a sun-drenched world of cocktails, cool jazz and convertibles.” The show’s star was Efrem Zimbalist Jr., who, as suave detective Stuart “Stu” Bailey, deftly tangled with tough guys, charmed beautiful dames and unraveled mysteries …