Posted on 05 January 2012.
This week a security company’s computer was hacked and money stolen from many customer accounts. It’s more important than ever to resolve to be a savvy internet user and wise consumer. Your Better Business Bureau offers the following New Year’s resolutions to become a safer and wiser consumer in 2012:
1. Fight identity theft. Always shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely. Don’t provide your social security number, credit card number, debit card pin, bank account information, or your driver’s license number to anyone on the phone unless you are certain they represent a legitimate business. Don’t leave financial information in your mailbox that might be accessed by identity thieves.
2. Keep criminals from stealing information on your computer and online. Every password and every computer can be hacked with enough time and effort. Purchase virus software and keep it updated. Don’t click through to links or websites you are unsure of. The more difficult you make it for someone to get your password, the better. Use at least 8 characters in your password, only do business online with reputable organizations on secure (https) websites. Don’t use the same password on different important online accounts.
3. Beware of job offers to make easy money. Scammers are targeting job hunters, so beware of offers, work-at-home schemes or business opportunities promising big money for little work and no experience.
4. Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Many scammers request that you wire money back to them. Scammers know tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult. Even more troubling, it’s nearly impossible to get your money back.
5. Fight fake check fraud. Educate yourself on the common types of check fraud and be wary of checks that come with claims you’ve won the lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper.
6. Get everything in writing. Don’t just take a business’ word for it. Get agreements in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business delivers.
7. Look for the BBB seal and always check businesses out before buying. 400,000 businesses meet the BBB’s Standards for Trust and bear the BBB Accreditation Seal. Your BBB doesn’t just report on Accredited Businesses, you can access BBB Business Reviews for nearly 4 million businesses by visiting www.bbb.org or calling (616)774-8230 or toll free (800)684-3222.
8. Ask your BBB for help. File a complaint with your BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or been ripped off by a scammer. The BBB will contact the business and ask for their explanation of the issue. Often, the BBB can assist in reaching a resolution.
Posted in Business
Posted on 17 November 2011.
By Sen. Carl Levin
Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which I chair, began an investigation of counterfeit electronic parts finding their way into the systems that our military uses to defend us. We recently held our first hearing to look at what our investigation has discovered so far, and what we have found will shock the American public.
There is a flood of counterfeit electronic parts entering the defense supply chain. It is endangering our troops and costing us a fortune. And the overwhelming share of these counterfeits comes from one country: China.
Here is some of what we have found:
*Looking at just a slice of the defense contracting universe, the committee reviewed 1,800 cases of electronic parts suspected to be counterfeit. Those 1,800 cover more than 1 million individual parts. Now, 1 million parts is surely a huge number, but remember, we’ve only looked at a portion of the defense supply chain. Those 1,800 cases are just the tip of the iceberg.
*Staff selected more than 100 of those cases to trace the suspect parts back through the supply chain. In more than 70 percent of cases, the trail led to China, where a brazenly open market in counterfeit electronic parts thrives. In most of the remaining cases, the trail led to known resale points for parts coming from China.
*We also conducted detailed investigations of how suspect counterfeit parts from China ended up in three key defense systems. In each case, we traced the parts through a complex web of subcontractors and suppliers back to Chinese companies.
*It is stunning how far the counterfeiters are willing to go. We asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO), acting undercover, to go online and buy electronic parts used in military systems. Every single part the GAO has received so far has been counterfeit. GAO found suppliers who not only sold them counterfeit parts when they sought real parts; suppliers were also willing to sell them parts with nonexistent, made-up part numbers. Every one of the counterfeit parts they received came from China.
Too often, the cost of replacing counterfeit parts once they are discovered falls on taxpayers. We are working on legislation that would change Pentagon rules so that contractors, not taxpayers, pay to replace counterfeit parts when they are discovered. We will require that contractors notify the military immediately when they discover electronic parts that are suspected to be counterfeit, and that they report those counterfeit cases to a computerized system that contractors and the government use to track such problems.
But as we do that, we also must stop the flood of counterfeit parts at the source – and that source is mainly in China.
Witnesses told us how counterfeiters in China remove electronic parts from scrapped computers and other electronic waste, how they wash the parts in dirty rivers, and dry them in the street. Counterfeiters make this scrap look like new parts and sell them openly in markets in Chinese cities and through the Internet to buyers around the world.
Chinese authorities impeded our investigation, refusing even to issue visas to our investigators to enter mainland China. At one point, a Chinese embassy official told staff that the issues we were investigating were “sensitive” and that the investigation could be “damaging” to U.S.-China relations.
They got it backwards. What is damaging to U.S.-China relations is China’s refusal to act against brazen counterfeiting.
If China does not act promptly to end counterfeiting, then we will have no choice but to treat all electronic parts coming in from China—whether for military or civilian use—as suspected counterfeits. That would mean requiring inspection of all shipments of Chinese electronic parts to ensure that they are legitimate.
We cannot afford to put our troops at risk by arming them with unreliable weapons or asking them to fly planes with fake parts on them. We cannot afford to spend needed defense dollars on fake parts. And we cannot allow our national security to depend on electronic scrap salvaged from trash heaps by counterfeiters in China.
Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Posted in Voices and Views