10 Tips to Avoid Rental Scams

Counting the days until summer vacation, downsizing, or are the kids heading off to college? Count on attempted rental rip-offs, which have earned perennial placement on many Top Scam lists throughout this decade. In the classic ruse, fraudsters simply steal photos and descriptions of properties from real estate, hotel or vacation rental websites and clone those ads — but with a bargain rental price. These phony ads are usually found on Craigslist, but also on newspaper websites, online chat boards …

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 …

Cyber Aware? Know the Top Internet Scams

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and no doubt you’re fully aware of what happened to Target, Home Depot and scores of other companies that were victims of cyber attacks. Those big-brand data breaches certainly make news. But what really hits home? The cyber scams that don’t generate headlines yet result in the most reports and complaints to the National Consumers League and other watchdog groups. So along with the often-preached mantras that warrant repeating this month — use …

‘Missed’ Jury Duty Verdict: Easy ID Theft

In the Phoenix area, the callers claim to be from the U.S. Marshals Service. In Huntsville, Ala., it’s a self-described “deputy marshal” with the sheriff’s office who has already scammed at least 53 people in recent weeks with this threat: You failed to report for jury duty and now have to face a judge … and jail time. Although it’s been around for 10 years, the “jury duty scam” remains one of the most successful fear-provoking impostor schemes, both for …

Andy Kaufman: Still Funny, Still Dead

Reports this week that the long-departed comedian Andy Kaufman is still alive have been debunked. For fans of Kaufman, who had often joked about faking his own death, the news was inevitable, but disappointing. Here’s what happened this week: On Monday, according to reports, the comedian’s brother, Michael, appeared at a comedy club in New York and, while introducing a woman he claimed was his brother’s daughter, read a letter purportedly from Andy. Thursday, the website Smoking Gun reported that the …

Oh, no! Gilligan is dead! I read it on Facebook!

Sad, and true: the Skipper’s “little buddy,” Bob Denver – who also starred, unforgettably, as Maynard G. Krebs in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis – died. Seven years ago this week, as it turns out. Didn’t remember that? You’re not alone: “news” of his death, reposted and re-tweeted breathlessly with the requisite comments of social media mourning – such as “RIP, Gilligan!” “Another part of my childhood gone” etc. – spread via Facebook and Twitter this week as if he had …