Brash Books promises the best crime fiction in existence

Brash BooksOn September 2, 2014, a new book publishing company will open its doors. In this interview, Joel Goldman, one-time trial attorney, bestselling author, and now book publisher, talks about the new company he is creating with Lee Goldberg. Brash Books (www.mysterythrillerbooks.com) will launch with thirty books from award-winning and bestselling authors. To understand why Goldman and Goldberg think a new publisher is a good idea, one must begin at the beginning.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Goldman. “My partner and I, for the last several years, have been self-publishing our backlists. We’ve both been traditionally published and we had tremendous success. Between the two of us, we’ve sold over 800,000 copies of our backlist books. Our friends, when we would go to conventions were always asking us how we were doing it and what was the secret. The more we thought about that, the more we thought we might be able to take advantage of the lessons we had learned.”

Goldman and Goldberg were at Bouchercon in September 2013 when discussions became more serious. Goldman said, “Lee was telling me about his efforts to acquire some out of print books by one of his favorite authors who was from the 70s and had been sort of obscure, but wrote books Lee really loved. We talked about it and I said, ‘I think there’s a business model here.’“

At that point, the brainstorming between two friends became more serious and they began exploring their options. Goldman described their conversation as an “epiphany moment.” The two began exchanging emails, and about a month later, it was Goldberg who proposed they move forward. Without much thought, Goldman agreed they should proceed.

The company’s tagline is, “We publish the best crime novels in existence.” This seems like an appropriate marketing plan for a company with the name “Brash Books.” The question authors and readers might be asking themselves is, who gets to decide? Goldman said, “The mystery tent is very wide, very deep, and there are many fabulous books. We want our books to be the best and we have some criteria for that. We’re looking for books that are award nominated, have won awards, or are critically acclaimed.

That’s where we start. The next part of that analysis is to ask what books we like from that group of books. Obviously, we’re not publishing every award-winning book from 1970 on. We’re focusing on books that are meaningful to us, that we like, have shaped our writing, or authors we have found who we think really deserve an opportunity for a new audience. So, it’s a combination of both the objective and the subjective.”

The main focus of the company will be books that have gone onto an author’s backlist. Primarily, this means older books. However, Goldman said they are also releasing two new titles in their September launch. He added, “We’re going to release eight to ten books per quarter next year and there will probably be one or two new titles in each of those releases.”

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In the future, Goldman said the company would like to shift its focus away from publishing predominately backlist books. While the exact ratio of new to backlist books may fluctuate, Goldman said they are committed to both types of books. “A couple of our authors whose books we’re releasing in September had self-published and they weren’t satisfied with how they were doing. They’ve decided to work with us even though they had already self-published the titles. We brought them into the Brash family and we think we’re going to do well with them.”

Goldman also described what he sees as the major difference between Brash Books and traditional publishers. “Before the advent of the Kindle, if you were a mid list author and didn’t break out, it didn’t matter how great the book was or how many awards you won, publishers moved on. We have the opportunity to introduce these books to a new audience.”

He added, “I think it’s very important that Lee and I are authors, not just publishers. We know how authors want to be treated.  What I tell our authors is that we don’t want a contract or a relationship that an author can just live with. We want a relationship they’re thrilled with. Because we come at this as authors I think we have a different perspective. That’s been very appealing to all the authors we’re working with.”

The fact that both authors are bestsellers in their own right raises an issue that might concern authors interested in dealing with Brash Books. Goldman said, “Lee and I are both continuing to go as hard as we can with our own writing. However, Brash will not publish our books and there’s a very important reason for that. We don’t want our authors to feel like we’re in competition with them. We have dedicated resources to promote the Brash books and we want that to be for the benefit of our readers and our Brash authors.”

Goldman said he and Goldberg are in complete agreement that they need to keep their  writing pursuits separate. “Our authors need to feel that they have our full attention and support and that we’re not trying to leverage Brash in any direct sort of way with our own books.”

The publishing business is certainly more volatile than it’s ever been. With millions of books to choose from, writers and publishers are all struggling with one major issue—discoverability. Goldman said, “It’s the hottest topic in publishing today, discovery and discoverability. We have a well-conceived marketing plan that’s a combination of old school and new school.”

The “old school” methods include taking out ads in trade and convention magazines. “We’re making sure that we’re doing a lot of ‘hand selling,’” said Goldman. “We’re giving away books at conventions.”

And what about the online world Goldman referred to as “new school?” He said, “We’ve engaged an advertising company and a PR firm to mount and execute an online campaign that includes advertising. We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, and Google +, and we have a very active blog with other authors as bloggers from time-to-time. We have a terrific website that was designed by PML Media. We also are making our e-books exclusive to Amazon in exchange for promotion opportunities that are substantially more than are available through KDP Select.”

With everything that he’s working on for Brash Books, Goldman says his most interesting project is giving birth to the company. “Just creating and starting something from scratch is exciting. Our books will also be available as print on demand. We have gorgeous covers. With every author we sign, I get to see the birth and rebirth of the events that happen along the line. When I got the first POD book for Brash, I was as excited as when I received my own first book.”

In a world in which quantity seems to define success. Goldman sees Brash Books as different. “We are publishing a very curated list. We’re not like some of our competitors who are publishing thousands of books and literally swallowing up list after list. We want to stake out our ground as publishing the best crime novels in existence and limit our list to the books we can support and promote. Given our criteria for what we’re publishing, given the scope and type of books that we’re publishing, it’s the special relationships between us and our authors set us apart.”

Because they’re focusing on quality, the company will also need to quickly get books into consideration for major awards. “We’ll submit our authors’ books for the Edgar Awards and the Thriller Awards and others that we feel are appropriate,” said Goldman.

Along the way to the company’s birth, Goldman and Goldberg have certainly had many decisions to make. Fortunately, they get along well. “We agree on almost everything and it’s like a perfect marriage,” said Goldman. “In fact, our wives refer to each other as the other’s second wife. We complement each other very nicely.”

With Goldman in Kansas City and Goldberg in Los Angeles, the two seldom met. Goldman said, “We got to know each other first on the convention circuit. We also spent some overlapping time on the board of MWA. We each naturally gravitated toward parts of the business that, based on our lives to date, seemed to be natural. I was a trial lawyer for twenty-eight years, so I work with our lawyer, handle the contracts and financial side of things. Lee spends more time working with the authors.”

The business venture has not been without challenges. Goldman said, “It took longer than expected to get our website up. We’ve run into problems with some authors who wanted to come with us, but weren’t able to get their reversion of rights from their original publishers. The other thing that turned out to be true was the time commitment required is taking a lot more time than we anticipated. It’s been a blast every step of the way, but there have been a lot more steps than we thought there were going to be when we started.”

The Apple ID email scam

512px-Apple-logoThe latest fake Apple email used by scammers to obtain Apple IDs might cause problems for many users. The first clue that this is a scam should be the subtle grammatical errors. Miss those errors, however, and we’re into dangerous territory. The sender spoofed the “service@apple.com” email address by using a third-party mailing service. The source code showed the real address for the email I received came from a server on a free email service, SendGrid, Inc.

Apple’s support website clearly states, “In general, all account-related activities will take place in the iTunes application directly, not through a web browser. If you are asked to update your account information, make sure that you do so only in iTunes or on a legitimate page on Apple.com, such as the online Apple Store.”

The Apple support article is important because it means if you do click on a link in one of these fake Apple emails, or fake iTunes emails, and end up on a page that is not a part of the “apple.com” family, it’s a fraud. The internet is becoming a very dangerous place and the opportunities to make mistakes are everywhere. Here are six tips to help you stay safe.

  1. If you receive an email indicating that your iTunes account has been restricted, your AppleID compromised, or some other such nonsense, READ the email closely. Are there typos? Grammatical errors? Is the return address from an apple.com domain? If you don’t see anything suspicious, go to Tip 2.
  2. Is the email telling you to use your browser to update your account? Remember, Apple doesn’t do that. So, do NOT click a link in the email. Instead (and you need do this only if you’re worried), go to iTunes and log in. If all is well, the email was a fake.
  3. You can help shut down the source of these fraudulent emails by forwarding a copy to Apple at reportphishing@apple.com.

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  4. If you do click on a link in any phishing email, all is not necessarily lost. In most cases, you can simply close the browser tab and then the browser to avoid any further problems. And remember, phishing websites only look exactly like the real deal.
  5. If you suspect the absolute worst has happened and your beloved Mac has become infected with malware or a virus, go to clamxav.com. This free virus checker does a great job of ferreting out and eliminating those nasty surprises. You’ve got to be a bit of a techie to use this one, so if you’re not, go to Tip 6.
  6. If you’re not the techie type (and how many users really are?) make an appointment at your nearest Apple Store. The techs at the Genius Bar can run a diagnostic check on your machine for free. If your Mac is infected, they’ll provide an estimate to cure the problem. If all is well, take a deep breath, and relax. The upside to this step is it’s the perfect opportunity to check out all the whiz-bang new Apple toys in the store.

5 Ways to Avoid a Rental Scam on Craigslist

Keys in a doorWe’ve all had to change postal addresses at some point or another, whether it’s roommates you can’t live with any longer or a change in jobs or needing a bigger house for a growing family. Moving is an arduous process that begins with a long search for a suitable place. Craigslist is often the first place we turn to. Like everything else online, it has its stories of deals gone wrong. Here are a five ways to ensure you don’t get scammed:

What’s your name again?

A rental listing by hufretty85 is probably as fake as the name. Along with checking out the property, it is essential to look up the landlord. A simple Google search of the property lister’s name should give you basic information about the person.

Do the photographs tell the truth?

The listing should have plenty of good photographs. No matter how genuine the excuse sounds, stay far away from listings that do not include photographs or do not mention the address. Looking for a rental property online is similar to online dating in this aspect — the absence of a picture is justifiable reason to worry.

Photoshop and clever photography can work wonders. Check the address provided on the Google Maps website or download the app on your smartphone to see the location and check out aerial and street views to verify the photographs. This way you can check out the area surrounding the house. Sometimes, a listing will fail to mention the house is near a noisy industrial unit or far from all basic amenities.

Can that really be true?

One of the cardinal rules of any online listing is “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” The most common sign of this is a ridiculously low-priced property with everything you could ask for included. Other signs to look out for are a landlord who is willing to pay for extras that other listings do not include or a landlord who doesn’t want to meet you or is too busy to meet you.

Does the landlord really need to know so much?

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Craigslist is notorious for identity thieves, and the rental section is the most common playing field for them. Beware of listings that ask for too many details, especially ones that entice you to give away bank account information. Lifelock is a service that constantly monitors your personal information and scans for misuse of your identity to protect you from identity fraud and theft. Make payments only once you have seen the place in person and met the landlord. In cases where you’re moving to a new city, it’s always better to pay a holding amount until you move there. Wiring money leaves you with very little protection in case something goes wrong.

What’s the paperwork needed?

A landlord who claims to not need any written documentation for a rental agreement is probably someone you do not want to deal with. If not a lease, you should get at least a contract that mentions the rental amount and the duration of your stay. Under no circumstances should you pay money without getting a receipt for the same. Though a lease is not always necessary, it is always better to have one to ensure that the “landlord” isn’t subletting a property or renting out a property that isn’t his at all.

Even with all its horror stories, Craigslist is a very useful site to find a new place for yourself. However, it isn’t easy so take your time and go through each listing carefully.

Big Island Upcountry – stunning scenery and cool nights

This would be a great spot for a writer's retreat!

This would be a great spot for a writer’s retreat!

On the Big Island, they call this part of the island Upcountry. It’s home to beautiful Rolling Hills, cattle, cowboys, and incredibly friendly people. During our two-day stay in Waimea, which is also known as Kamuela, depending on who you happen to be talking to at the time, we discovered that upcountry also has some excellent restaurants. One in particular, Merriman’s, has a five-star rating and food that is rumored to be among the best on the island. Sadly, we didn’t make it to Merriman’s before the end of our short stay.

At the other end of the spectrum is a little cafe known mostly to locals, the Hawaiian Style Cafe. This is an old diner complete with a large counter where the locals assemble for breakfast. Their food? Incredible. Service? Very friendly. And, if you have food allergies, they’re very helpful.

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We had enough time to visit the Parker Ranch Visitor Center, which gives insight into the history of the industry that shaped the upcountry. Parker Ranch began in 1847 when John Palmer Parker assisted King Kamehaha I by ridding the island of feral bulls. The grateful king granted land to Parker, which he used to start a cattle ranch that eventually grew to more than 250,000 acres and made it the largest cattle ranch in the US. While the ranch is much smaller today, it’s influence can be seen everywhere upcountry.

Are you thinking of a trip to the Big Island? One word of caution, upcountry is not a popular tourist destination like Volcanos National Park, the Kohala Coast, or Kona. What you will find, however, is time to decompress in a place where the hustle and bustle of the world is replaced by cool nights, fabulous scenery, and peaceful surroundings. For writers and artists especially, a few days upcountry just might be a dream come true.

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Behind the story of No Time to Die

No Time to Die by Kira PeikoffImagine a world in which parents determine the genetic makeup of their unborn children. That’s the world Kira Peikoff, the author of “No Time to Die,” writes about. Peikoff’s novel is a bioethics thriller in which the science of aging is brought front and center. Currently attending Columbia University’s Master of Science program in Bioethics, Peikoff said she wants to encourage discussion about this hot-button issue by exposing readers to the not-too-distant future through her fiction.

“I am addressing a couple of issues that fall under the realm of bioethics,” said Peikoff. Those issues are whether scientific interventions to slow down the natural aging process should be condemned or supported and whether scientific research should be subjected to less oversight so as not to restrict progress. Peikoff added that she sees these topics as complex with many subtle complications.

“In fiction,” said Peikoff, “you can only do so much to tackle the issues without distracting from the point—the story. So I just hope to provoke some thought and debate, and leave readers to come to their own conclusions.” One problem Peikoff faces is that many people see science as very abstract. “It’s actually extremely relevant, because your life could literally depend on the next medicine or treatment to come out of a lab. I hope to inspire respect for the researchers and doctors who toil in relative obscurity in order to make our lives better.”

The idea for “No Time to Die,” Peikoff’s second novel, came to her after she saw a documentary about a teenage girl who had inexplicably stopped aging as a toddler. “I couldn’t stop thinking about what life would be like for someone like that. Everyone wants to be young, but it would also be a tremendous curse not to age. I was also fascinated by the real-life medical mystery aspect of the case, which still has not been solved, though scientists believe the answer lies in some as-yet-unidentified sliver of DNA. The research remains ongoing.”

Details of genetic research are certainly not normal dinner-table conversation for most readers. This was an issue Peikoff knew she must deal with. “My biggest challenge in writing the book was trying to recreate the science in a way that paid homage to the real research going on today. I didn’t want to do a disservice to the scientists or my readers by totally fudging it, but when I started the book, I had truly no plan for how to tackle those all-important parts of the story.”

Although she only included research details when they were essential to the story, Peikoff wanted to get her facts correct. To do that, she emailed a well-respected researcher, Dr. Richard Walker. She said, “A few days later I got an email from him telling me that for the first time in human history, we are ‘close to unraveling the mystery of why we age and die.’ That email set off a professional correspondence that continues to this day. I am deeply grateful to have had his expert advisement with the nitty gritty details in my book.”

The world in which we live is changing rapidly. Terms such as personal genomics, 3D organ printing, and DNA sequencing, which once seemed foreign to all of us, are becoming the subject of mainstream conversation. Peikoff, who is studying for her Master’s in Bioethics at Columbia University, said, “Major advances in personal genomics are headed our way, given how dramatically cheap the price of DNA sequencing has become.

“In the future, we should be able to have our genome sequenced and told our disease risks in a much more accurate manner than today, so we’ll be able to take greater control over our health. Babies will be born with their entire genomes known in advance. Organs will be routinely printed, obviating the need for transplants. People may be able to genetically enhance themselves or their kids.” This may be a world few of us feel ready to deal with, yet it’s one we can experience now in “No Time to Die.”

More information

Learn more about Kira Peikoff on her website at www.kirapeikoff.com.

Six tips to avoid disaster after a disaster

Photo courtesy of Valerie Maria Sophinos

Photo of a house damaged by Iselle on the Big Island provided courtesy of Valerie Maria Sophinos

What two things are guaranteed to never show up on a bucket list? First, how about becoming the victim of a natural disaster? Nobody wants that. But, if that disaster does strike, the next item guaranteed to be on that list is having someone scam you while you’re trying to recover.

One of the side effects of Tropical Storm Iselle was to provide an early reminder that the people who make a living by taking advantage of others are alive and well, even in paradise. A scant two weeks after Iselle pounded areas of the Big Island of Hawaii in early August with over four inches of rain per hour and high winds, Hawaii Electric Light reported that customers were being called by someone claiming to be a claims representative of the company. The caller was reportedly asking for social security numbers to expedite claims.

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The main point to take away from this example is that no matter what disaster occurs, no service provider, legitimate company, or charitable organization is going to be calling or emailing to ask victims for personal information. Sadly, in the heat of crisis, we tend to want to believe even in small miracles. That “miracle” might come in the form of a call or email saying help will be on the way after the caller provides a few personal details. Nothing could be further from the truth, but plenty of people still fall for this scam.

Here are six tips to keep in mind should that terrible day arrive:

Do NOT:

  • Provide personal, confidential or financial information to an unidentified individual.
  • Respond to callers from an unidentified phone number.
  • Trust CallerID or any information the caller provides. Today’s technology makes it easy to spoof a caller’s phone number. In other words, those HELCO customers might have thought it was their electric company calling when in fact it was a crook with special software.

DO:

  • Ask questions and demand identification. However, be cautious because some scammers have fake IDs.
  • Verify what the caller is saying by calling the company or organization they claim to be from. Look up the phone number or website address independently.
  • Report any suspicious activity to local police.

Mauna Kea Resort – even the grounds are wow

DSC02164The Mauna Kea Resort on the Big Island is an example of pure wow. Even the grounds are lush and beautifully manicured. With artwork scattered throughout the grounds, the resort feels more like a “tropical experience” than a place to stay. Not much has changed since the last time we were here, which has been many years. The resort still looks as good today as it did on our previous trip.

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We did not stay at the resort, but did make a trip there because I have a few scenes in “Big Island Blues” that will occur at the resort. Access to the grounds is somewhat controlled via a checking process at the main gate. The security guard asked why we were there, then explained that we must—yes, must—use valet parking. Interestingly enough, when I tried to bypass valet parking for the lot where there is public beach access, I was turned away and instructed to use valet parking. Ah well, I tried.

In typical Hawaiian-resort style, there aren’t really any “interior” public areas at the entrance. The architecture definitely lends itself to the use of planters with large palms and other tropical foliage. For this post, however, we’re going strictly with the grounds. So, sit back and enjoy a virtual trip to the Mauna Kea Resort grounds. No parking hassles here. This is definitely time for “no worries.”

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Behind the story of Herbie’s Game with Timothy Hallinan

Herbie's GameTimothy Hallinan’s latest Junior Bender mystery, “Herbie’s Game,” is a mixture of humor and suspense that Hallinan calls, “A tour of the nine circles of Hell, but with better weather. And laughs.” For this interview, Hallinan talked about the conundrum facing humor writers: how to make an argument while keeping the story funny.

“I think comedy is almost always about something serious,” said Hallinan. “We like to think we shape our own lives, but at some point I believe most of us arrive at a moment when we look at how we live and ask, ‘How did I get here? Was this who I wanted to be?’ At that point we realize that at least part of our choice was made for us, either by circumstance or by the influence of another person.”

Hallinan uses the analogy of a home to describe how someone might feel when faced with that question. “So there we are, living in a sort of imaginary house that we built day by day, thinking we were the sole architects, and then realizing that we don’t really like it very much, and that it might be too late to tear it down and start over. And then what do we do?”

“In the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers,” said Hallinan, “I used the fourth book, ‘The Queen of Patpong,’ to take the reader back to an impoverished little town in the Thai northeast to see how a shy, awkward village girl with no real choices in life turned into the ‘queen’ of Patpong Road, one of Bangkok’s most lurid red-light districts.”

While Hallinan likes using the fourth book for the character’s backstory, the number two also seems to have special significance for him. He co-founded two companies in the television industry before turning to writing full-time. He writes two books a year, one each in two different series. And, he and his wife divide their time between two cities, Los Angeles and Bangkok.

For those unfamiliar with the Junior Bender series, Junior is a burglar who moonlights as a private eye for crooks. In “Herbie’s Game,” when one of the San Fernando Valley’s “executive crooks” finds his office burglarized, he knows instantly what’s been taken is the list of criminals through whom he’s commissioned a killing. The crook also suspects that whoever took the list of names intends to work his way through the chain for revenge. When Junior is brought in to solve the case, he’s sure he knows who is behind the heist.

Hallinan said, “Since the first book it’s been established that he had a mentor in his teens, a sort of uber-burglar named Herbie Mott, who served as a surrogate father. I wanted to go back and explore that relationship and ask what would become of Junior if he discovered that Herbie was a much less admirable character than Junior always believed him to be. Junior also asks himself how much of his life is actually of his own making, and how much of it is Herbie’s Game.”

When he was starting out, Hallinan says he received helpful advice from successful writers. Now that he’s writing full time and has received multiple award nominations, he wants to pass along that same type of help to others. “I’ve used most of my website as a platform for a section called ‘Finish Your Novel,’ which contains most of what I know about writing a book, or about making the commitment to integrate into your life any long-term creative undertaking. It’s been used by literally thousands of writers.”

Much like his protagonist, Hallinan may wonder if he was the sole architect of his career. On the other hand, perhaps there was another factor. He said, “When my wife was undecided about whether she should accept my proposal, my mother said to her, ‘Marry him, honey. He’s lucky.’  And I have been absurdly lucky (he says, knocking wood): to be able to live with the woman I love, in two cities I love, doing the thing I most love, writing. If my life were to end tomorrow, I would be owed nothing from anyone.”

More information

Learn more about Timothy Hallinan and the free writing resources he provides on his website at www.timothyhallinan.com. For the writing resources, use the “Finish Your Novel” button.

Blind Moon Alley ripe with speakeasies, crooked cops, and the mob

Blind Moon Alley by John Florio“Blind Moon Alley” is set in 1931, prohibition-era, Philadelphia. Jersey Leo is an albino working as a bartender at a speakeasy called the Ink Well. Jersey’s working hard to support the Hy-Hat social club in Harlem, run by his father, and to keep himself off the bread lines. When his grade school friend, Aaron Garvey, calls from death row requesting Jersey to join him for his last dinner, Jersey wonders why Aaron picked him.

Aaron’s favor involves their grade school friend, Myra Banks, twenty thousand dollars, crooked cops, and the mob. Jersey’s not sure he can help his friend, but when Aaron escapes from prison and goes into hiding at the Ink Well, Jersey realizes he can’t say no. With help from his father, the champ Ernie Leo, and a few other friends they set out to help protect Aaron until they can get the money needed for him to leave the country.

In Jersey’s fight to help his friends and find the real truth about why Aaron killed a cop, he wants very much to do the right thing and be like the champ he admires. As Jersey becomes more involved, he questions himself, his honesty, and his integrity, eventually wondering how far he will go to save his friends.

This second Jersey Leo novel weaves just enough background into the story to orient the reader without bogging down the plot. The story is well-written and filled with unforeseen twists and turns. Descriptions of character and place, with language reminiscent of the 1930s, makes one feel as though they are right there with Jersey. This is a fun read for anyone who wants to take a peek back at the prohibition-era.

FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by its publisher.

 

The E-ZPass email scam

EZPass screenshotIf you’re a commuter in a metropolitan area where E-ZPass is used to pay tolls, the E-ZPass email scam can be quite alarming. You may wonder if the credit card used to pay your account has expired or been rejected for some reason. Carpoolers who might be allowed to use the toll road for free may wonder if something has gone wrong in the system and they’re being accused of illegally using the roads resulting from an error. That threatening email appearing to be from an E-ZPass email address is, however, a fake.

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With twenty-four million E-ZPass users, the “market” for scammers on this email scam is huge. Currently, there are twenty-five toll agencies in fifteen states that cooperate in the E-ZPass program. The system eliminates the need for toll booths by allowing commuters to equip their vehicles with transponders. Those transponders automatically charge tolls to a commuter’s online account, thus allowing commuters to pay their tolls online rather than during their commute.

The email claims that you have not paid for driving on a toll road and demands that you “service your debt” immediately. This email is not from E-ZPass, however. It is a scam used to download malware or collect personal information that will be used to steal your identity.

The real E-ZPass Group has become aware of this scam and has posted information on their website at ezpasslag.com. The FBI has also become aware of this scam and advises anyone who is victimized to file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.