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Scam Watch: Seniors conned into revealing personal information

Thieves impersonate Social Security Administration workers and claim to be updating records when they telephone seniors, AARP warns. Also, charges are filed against seven international suspects accused of infecting more than 4 million computers with malicious software.

November 14, 2011|By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times

Here is a roundup of alleged cons, frauds and schemes to watch out for.

Social Security — Thieves have been impersonating Social Security Administration employees in an attempt to steal seniors' personal information, the AARP said in a recent bulletin. The con artists contact seniors by telephone, claiming to be updating their records. They ask for seniors' Social Security numbers, birth dates and bank account numbers, the AARP said. Consumers should never disclose such information over the telephone to strangers, the AARP said. If concerned, consumers can call or visit a Social Security office to verify that the contact was legitimate.

Malware — The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has charged seven international suspects — six from Estonia and one from Russia — with operating an Internet fraud scheme that infected more than 4 million computers worldwide with malicious software, or malware. At least 500,000 computers in the United States were infected during the scheme, which ran from 2007 until October, the U.S. attorney's office said in a news release. The malware enabled the suspects to hijack Internet searches and reroute computers to certain websites and advertisements that paid the suspects for Web traffic. The scheme generated $14 million for the suspects, the news release said. Victims' computers were infected with the malware when they visited certain websites or downloaded certain software to view videos online, according to an indictment.

Investment fraud — The Securities and Exchange Commission has accused a San Diego-area investment advisor of failing to disclose that his firm received a 10% commission whenever clients invested in a nonpublic stock offering he promoted. The SEC said it has initiated administrative proceedings to determine whether Western Pacific Capital Management and its president, Kevin James O'Rourke, inappropriately profited when clients purchased shares of Ameranth Inc. in 2005 and 2006. The company paid Western Pacific a 10% "success fee" each time it directed a client to purchase shares of its nonpublic stock, the SEC said. In addition, the SEC accused O'Rourke and the firm of misrepresenting the liquidity of a hedge fund they operated.

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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