« May 2007 | Main | July 2007 »

June 28, 2007

Justice Department Warning About Spam E-Mail

I have received an alert from the Department of Justice about hoax e-mails designed to make it look like the recipient is the subject of a complaint filed with the DOJ. The alert wasn’t clear if this was a phishing attempt to perpetrate identity theft or an attempt to spread malicious software. In any case, the DOJ would never notify any individual or company of a complaint via e-mail. If you get one of these e-mails, don’t worry – and don’t respond. Just delete it.

Here’s the full alert from the DOJ:

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ALERTS PUBLIC ABOUT FRAUDULENT SPAM EMAIL

Justice Department Urges Public Not to Respond to Email

WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice has recently become aware of fraudulent spam e-mail messages claiming to be from DOJ. Based upon complaints from the public, it is believed that the fraudulent messages are addressed "Dear Citizen." The messages are believed to assert that the recipients or their businesses have been the subject of complaints filed with DOJ and also forwarded to the Internal Revenue Service. In addition, such email messages may provide a case number, and state that the complaint was "filled [sic] by Mr. Henry Stewart." A DOJ logo may appear at the top of the email message or in an attached file. Finally, the message may include an attachment that supposedly contains a copy of the complaint and contact information for Mr. Stewart.

THESE EMAIL MESSAGES ARE A HOAX. DO NOT RESPOND.

The Department of Justice did not send these unsolicited email messages — and would not send such messages to the public via email. Similar hoaxes have been recently perpetrated in the names of various governmental entities, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Internal Revenue Service. Email users should be especially wary of unsolicited warning messages that purport to come from U.S. governmental agencies directing them to click on file attachments or to provide sensitive personal information.

These spam email messages are bogus and should be immediately deleted. Computers may be put at risk simply by an attempt to examine these messages for signs of fraud. It is possible that by "double-clicking" on attachments to these messages, recipients will cause malicious software – e.g., viruses, keystroke loggers, or other Trojan horse programs – to be launched on their computers.

Do not open any attachment to such messages. Delete the e-mail. Empty the deleted items folder.

If you have received this, or a similar hoax, please file a complaint at www.ic3.gov. Within the complaint, please list "DOJ Spoof Email" in the "Business Name" field of the complaint, where complainants are directed to place the name of the business which has victimized them, as this will allow the IC3 to easily retrieve and process these complaints.

Consumers can learn more about protecting themselves from malicious spyware and bogus e-mails at OnGuardOnline.gov, a Web site created by the Department of Justice in partnership with other federal agencies and the technology industry to help consumers stay safe online. The site features modules on spyware and phishing, at http://onguardonline.gov/spyware.html and http://onguardonline.gov/phishing.html.
Consumers can also obtain information on Internet safety at
www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com
www.ic3.gov

June 25, 2007

IRS launches small business e-newsletter

The Internal Revenue Services (IRS) has introduced a weekly news service, e-News for Small Business, that will contain timely, useful tax information for businesses and the self-employed. It’s free and scheduled for weekly distribution on Wednesdays. To subscribe, go to http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/content/0,,id=154826,00.html.

Jackie

June 21, 2007

Renters like to recycle

A recent survey by Apartments.com revealed the following interesting statistics:

• More than 63% of renters currently recycle.
• 26% of renters state they would pay more to rent in an environmentally friendly building.
• 50% of renters who recycle live in buildings that provide recycling programs.
• Plastic is the most commonly recycled material by renters.

If you own multi-unit buildings and are not currently offering recycling, you may want to investigate what’s involved in adding a recycling program.

Jackie

June 14, 2007

Has your computer been compromised?

The Department of Justice and FBI has announced the results of an ongoing cyber crime initiative to disrupt and dismantle “botherders” and elevate the public’s cyber security awareness of botnets.

Here’s the complete release from the FBI:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 13, 2007
www.fbi.gov
OVER ONE MILLION POTENTIAL VICTIMS OF BOTNET CYBER CRIME
Washington, D.C. – Today the Department of Justice and FBI announced the results of an ongoing cyber crime initiative to disrupt and dismantle “botherders” and elevate the public’s cyber security awareness of botnets. OPERATION BOT ROAST is a national initiative and ongoing investigations have identified over one million victim computer IP addresses. The FBI is working with our industry partners, including the Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University, to notify the victim owners of the computers. Through this process the FBI may uncover additional incidents in which botnets have been used to facilitate other criminal activity.
A botnet is a collection of compromised computers under the remote command and control of a criminal "botherder." Most owners of the compromised computers are unknowing and unwitting victims. They have unintentionally allowed unauthorized access and use of their computers as a vehicle to facilitate other crimes, such as identity theft, denial of service attacks, phishing, click fraud, and the mass distribution of spam and spyware. Because of their widely distributed capabilities, botnets are a growing threat to national security, the national information infrastructure, and the economy.
“The majority of victims are not even aware that their computer has been compromised or their personal information exploited,” said FBI Assistant Director James Finch, Cyber Division. “An attacker gains control by infecting the computer with a virus or other malicious code and the computer continues to operate normally. Citizens can protect themselves from botnets and the associated schemes by practicing strong computer security habits to reduce the risk that your computer will be compromised.”
The FBI also wants to thank our industry partners, such as the Microsoft Corporation and the Botnet Task Force, in referring criminal botnet activity to law enforcement.
Cyber security tips include updating anti-virus software, installing a firewall, using strong passwords, practicing good email and web security practices. Although this will not necessarily identify or remove a botnet currently on the system, this can help to prevent future botnet attacks. More information on botnets and tips for cyber crime prevention can be found online at www.fbi.gov.

The FBI will not contact you online and request your personal information so be wary of fraud schemes that request this type of information, especially via unsolicited emails. To report fraudulent activity or financial scams, contact the nearest FBI office or police department, and file a complaint online with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov.
To date, the following subjects have been charged or arrested in this operation with computer fraud and abuse in violation of Title 18 USC 1030, including:

o James C. Brewer of Arlington, Texas, is alleged to have operated a botnet that infected Chicago area hospitals. This botnet infected tens of thousands of computers worldwide. (FBI Chicago);

o Jason Michael Downey of Covington, Kentucky, is charged with an Information with using botnets to send a high volume of traffic to intended recipients to cause damage by impairing the availability of such systems. (FBI Detroit); and

o Robert Alan Soloway of Seattle, Washington, is alleged to have used a large botnet network and spammed tens of millions of unsolicited email messages to advertise his website from which he offered services and products. (FBI Seattle)

The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate individuals that conduct cyber criminal acts.

June 13, 2007

Possible credit crunch on the horizon?

Another aspect to the current high foreclosure rate investors should be aware of is this: With lenders stung by losses related to mortgage defaults, the amount of available credit may be restricted and that may prevent some potential buyers from purchasing their own homes. One solution is to help buyers with strategies such as lease options.

The credit issue is discussed in “Credit Crunch May Follow Mortgage Crisis, Warns Study.”

“New mortgage laws that restrict access to certain loans would be an overreaction to the current foreclosure situation and deprive hundreds of thousands of Americans the opportunity to own their own homes, according to a study released today by the American Financial Services Association (AFSA).

The study, conducted by the Center for Statistical Research (CSR), finds that more restrictive mortgage regulation would deny credit not only to those who would actually experience a foreclosure, but also to the whole class of borrowers in a particular risk category -- the vast majority of whom would otherwise use the credit successfully.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Jackie

June 06, 2007

IRS warns taxpayers of new e-mail scams

If you get an e-mail saying you are being investigated by the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division, relax – you can just delete it, because it’s a scam. The IRS doesn’t notify anyone about a criminal investigation through e-mail. In fact, the IRS never sends unsolicited e-mails and never requests personal or financial information through e-mails. The IRS doesn’t need you to provide them with PIN numbers, passwords, or similar secret access information to credit card, bank, and other financial accounts.

If you get one of these e-mails, forward it to phishing@irs.gov, then delete it from your system. Do not reply to the e-mail, click on any of the links in the e-mail, or provide any information that would allow an identity thief to commit fraud either against you or using your name.

Here’s the full text of the news release from the IRS:

May 31, 2007

IRS Warns Taxpayers of New E-mail Scams

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today alerted taxpayers to the latest versions of an e-mail scam intended to fool people into believing they are under investigation by the agency’s Criminal Investigation division.

The e-mail purporting to be from IRS Criminal Investigation falsely states that the person is under a criminal probe for submitting a false tax return to the California Franchise Board. The e-mail seeks to entice people to click on a link or open an attachment to learn more information about the complaint against them. The IRS warned people that the e-mail link and attachment is a Trojan Horse that can take over the person’s computer hard drive and allow someone to have remote access to the computer.

The IRS urged people not to click the link in the e-mail or open the attachment.

Similar e-mail variations suggest a customer has filed a complaint against a company and the IRS can act as an arbitrator. The latest versions appear aimed at business taxpayers as well as individual taxpayers.

The IRS does not send out unsolicited e-mails or ask for detailed personal and financial information. Additionally, the IRS never asks people for the PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for their credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

“Everyone should beware of these scam artists,” said Kevin M. Brown, Acting IRS Commissioner. “Always exercise caution when you receive unsolicited e-mails or e-mails from senders you don’t know.”

Recipients of questionable e-mails claiming to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the e-mails. Instead, they should forward the e-mails to phishing@irs.gov (the instructions may be found on IRS.gov by entering the term “phishing” in the search box).

The IRS also sees other e-mail scams that involve tricking victims into revealing private personal and financial information over the Internet is known as “phishing” for information.

The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration work with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and various Internet service providers and international CERT teams to have the phishing sites taken offline as soon as they are reported.

Since the establishment of the mail box last year, the IRS has received more than 17,700 e-mails from taxpayers reporting more than 240 separate phishing incidents. To date, investigations by TIGTA have identified host sites in at least 27 different countries, as well as in the United States.

Other fraudulent e-mail scams try to entice taxpayers to click their way to a fake IRS Web site and ask for bank account numbers. Another widespread e-mail tells taxpayers the IRS is holding a refund (often $63.80) for them and seeks financial account information. Still another email claims the IRS’s ‘anti-fraud commission’ is investigating their tax returns.


June 04, 2007

How much can you learn on the internet?

Yesterday’s Bound & Gagged comic strip showed doctors in an operating room with surgeons holding their instruments and one doing a WebMD search on “quadruple bypass.”

The internet has become a resource for all kinds of information, but it’s no substitute for comprehensive training. If you really could find everything you need to know about wealth-building and real estate investing doing searches on the internet, everyone with a computer and modem would be wealthy.

Of course, there are some tremendous training programs available online and Wealth Intelligence Academy offers a growing number of them. These aren’t just reading a few articles—they’re serious, structured programs taught live over a period of time.

Here’s an article Jordan Taylor wrote about Wealth Intelligence Academy’s online and on-demand training:

Learn at Your Convenience
Online and On-Demand Training: The Education of the Future is Available to You Now

You’d love to take advanced real estate or stock investing training, but you just can’t find the time to travel to a three-day comprehensive course. Now you can get that exact same training in your own home—or a hotel room, or anywhere else that’s convenient for you.

Wealth Intelligence Academy, a leading provider of advanced real estate investing, stock trading, and other financial education, is now offering both online and on-demand programs. Kevin Shriner, the Academy's director of education, says both distance learning methods are well-received by students.

“Today’s adult students need alternatives to the traditional classroom and the three-day training format,” Shriner says. “People with jobs, families, and other responsibilities are looking for a way to get the education they want and need, but to do it on their own schedule. Online and on-demand training provides that flexibility.”

Online training is live instruction held in a virtual classroom on a scheduled basis. Students go to the WIA website and log onto their course for the visual presentation and call a conference line for the audio portion. Questions can be asked out loud or privately; homework is assigned and reviewed the following week; and students have the opportunity to practice the techniques between classes. The Academy's online classes typically run for six weeks and are held on the same day and time each week.

“Our online courses are taught by the same instructors who do our live three-day courses,” Shriner says. “We limit each class to 32 students, so each online student gets personal attention. In fact, over the life of the course, our online students typically get more personal attention and hand-holding than our live class students.”

On-demand training features the same content as the live training, but without the interaction. The advantage is that students can take the classes whenever it’s convenient, and stop and start as they choose. “On-demand training is an excellent way to prepare for a live class,” says Shriner.

A significant benefit to both training formats is that they can be done at the location of the student’s choice and no travel is required. Students who travel in the course of their work can take their training in hotel rooms anywhere in the world.

The convenience of online training in no way reduces the intensity of the Academy's programs, Shriner says. “Our online programs have the same content as our live programs and require the same amount of dedication and commitment,” he says. “This isn’t ‘lite education’—it’s the real thing. Our online students work hard and get the same, and sometimes even better, results as our live class students.”

Shriner believes the online and on-demand training is the future of education. “As technology improves, it will be easier to do online courses than live trainings,” he says. “Online training will dominate the market.”

Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Online Training

1. Be sure you have the right equipment. Your computer should meet the specs of the training provider. In addition to Internet access, you’ll also need a voice line.
2. Get comfortable with the delivery format and technology. Online training is modeled after traditional classes, but there are differences. Familiarize yourself with how the process works before the class actually begins.
3. Attend the orientation. Wealth Intelligence Academy requires students to participate in a comprehensive orientation so they are prepared for class.
4. Set up a learning place. When you sit down at the computer for your class, you need to be in a place free from noise and distractions, and with sufficient space for your computer and any other materials you may need.
5. Honor your commitment. Online training is as legitimate as classroom training; don’t be tempted to skip sessions just because they’re virtual instead of real-world, and insist that your family demonstrate the same respect for your efforts as they would if you were going to a traditional school.