Southwest survey scam is again popular

Southwest survey scam and ticket scam
Image from snopes.com and their post about an older Southwest ticket scam

Who wouldn’t love to receive a $100 gift certificate from Southwest Airlines? Unfortunately, the Southwest survey emails currently making the rounds are nothing more than a lure to have you willingly provide your personal information to scammers. Hereʻs the scoop on the Southwest survey scam.

Background on the Southwest survey scam

Southwest is the largest low-cost airline in the world, thus making it a prime target for scammers looking for a believable story with which to hook victims. In the past, the scams have taken the form of “two free Southwest tickets” in exchange for filling out a survey. The scams have been run via email as well as on Facebook.

Current Southwest survey scam

===================================.

RE: Southwest-Airlines-Survey

====================================.

Dear (my email address was here)

At Southwest Airlines, we pride ourselves on remaining-dedicated

to the best quality customer-service delivered to you with a sense

of individual pride, friendliness, warmth and company spirit.

Do you enjoy-flying Southwest?

Give us your thoughts now to receive a $100-Voucher for your next-Flight (this was a link to a website)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *.

-Notice No.25470122993

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *.

-Voucher #62615376923

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *.

As it turns out, we recently flew Southwest for a convention in the Midwest and this email came in just days after our trip. With no typos, grammatical errors, or extraneous garbage at the bottom of the email, this one could have passed for a legitimate solicitation from Southwest. It’s not.

Avoiding the Southwest survey scam

As always, do not follow the links for the Southwest survey or any other email. If you do accidentally make the mistake of following the links, your browser will be redirected to a new website (there may be multiple redirects). When you eventually land on a page, you will be confronted with a popup notification that you’ve been selected as a winner. It will be tempting to close the popup. Do not do this, either. Instead, take the time to close your browser.

Scammers are very tricky. They’ll disguise their download links in different ways, which is why you never want to click anything once you’re on their site. Also, even if they don’t download a file to your computer, but simply take your information, you’ll be giving away your most valuable asset and your privacy.

Don’t miss the July edition of “The Snitch” in which my scam tip is about rewards programs in general. Click here to view “The Snitch.”

Friday Fotos — Palapala Ho’omau Church

Palapala Ho’omau Church on Friday Fotos

Where exactly is the Palapala Ho’omau Church? Try in one of the most remote sections of Maui. I’ve chosen to use these photos today for a couple of reasons. First, this is the location of the gravesite of Charles Lindbergh, one of our great American heroes. For those that don’t know (and there were quite a few on our tour who fell into this category) he was the first man to fly across the Atlantic. His flight in a single-engine, single-seat airplane went from New York to Paris. It took him 33 hours and 30 minutes to complete the flight, which began on May 20, 1927. Lindberghʻs plane, the Spirit of St. Louis is on display in the National Air and Space Museum.

The inscription on Lindberghʻs grave marker in the Palapala Ho’omau Church cemetery reads, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.” So, letʻs celebrate the Fourth a little by saluting Charles Lindbergh and his truly amazing accomplishment.

McKenna, the Palapala Ho’omau Church, and a new adventure

The second reason I chose the Palapala Ho’omau Church for this weekʻs photos is that this is the setting for an upcoming McKenna Mystery. This will be a short piece and Iʻll have lots more information later. For now, all Iʻll say is that itʻs called Murder on the Road to Hana and McKenna is going on the ride of his life.

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for good Hawaii photos. If you have some you’d like to share, let me know and we’ll talk about featuring your shots on Friday Fotos!

Hint: you can manually advance through the slides by placing your mouse over the slideshow and clicking the pause button, then use the forward/back buttons to navigate.

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Go behind the story with Brad Meltzer

Brad Meltzer The Presidents ShadowBrad Meltzer’s first published book, “The Tenth Justice,” was an instant New York Times bestseller. Meltzer now has nine bestsellers to his credit. In this behind-the-story interview, Meltzer discusses his latest release, “The President’s Shadow.”

Beecher White returns as the protagonist in “The President’s Shadow,” which is the third Culper Ring novel. Meltzer describes Beecher as an ordinary guy who is exceptionally smart. Beecher fans might be disappointed that Brad Meltzer’s next novel won’t be about Beecher. That disappointment need not last long. “I’m going with a brand new character because I always want to come back with something fresh and new,” Meltzer said. “But, you better believe I want to bring Beecher back.”

“The President’s Shadow” began with what Meltzer calls a nugget. “I can’t even tell you where it came from, but it was the First Lady, in the Rose Garden at the White House, reaching into the dirt under the mulch and finding buried in the Rose Garden a severed arm. That image and the idea that she didn’t know who this arm belonged to stuck with me. She didn’t know how someone put it there or how they got it past security. And, she certainly didn’t know the puzzle that was hidden inside that severed arm’s fist.”

Meltzer knew he had a compelling start when his wife read the concept and said, “This is one of those moments when you’re scaring me.”

For Meltzer, though, that nugget was only the beginning because he wanted “The President’s Shadow” to be about personal transformation. He said, “Over the past two books that I’ve been writing, I lost my mother and I lost my father. Both passed away and I think the last two books were really just me struggling to deal with that loss. When you lose your parents or you lose a significant person in your life, you really have to transform yourself.

“You almost become a different person because you have to fill those holes that are our lives. I knew that that’s what this book was going to be about. All the main characters face that transformative moment where you see some heroes become villains and you see some villains become heroes. That’s just how we are.”

Once he’d decided on transformation as the book’s theme, Brad Meltzer began researching great transformative moments in history. “One of my favorite was with the killers of Abraham Lincoln. Dr. Samuel Mudd was one of the killers of Lincoln. He killed the greatest president of all time, got put in jail forever, and they took him to a secret island south of Florida that almost nobody knew about.

“On this island, in this secret space that housed Abraham Lincoln’s killers, Dr. Mudd went from becoming an awful person to actually saving everyone from an epidemic. He became a hero. And when I found that story, I realized that this island of transformation was just going to be vital to the plot of ‘The President’s Shadow.’

“I struggled personally for a long time with how I was going to honor my parents and whether they would be forgotten. I finally realized they deserve to be remembered. They deserve to be missed. They earned that spot and that’s not a bad thing. It’s okay to miss someone in your life and to think about them.”

Despite that personal struggle, Brad Meltzer maintained his writing pace, style, and fan base. That fan base includes people in all levels of government, up to and including US presidents. As a result, Meltzer has access to details that delight readers who crave authenticity in their fiction. Those details include the fact that Ronald Reagan sometimes carried a gun in his briefcase. They also include Meltzer’s knowledge of secret rooms beneath the White House. Meltzer prides himself on being able to share such details with his readers.

“I love that the book is fiction, but the details are real,” Meltzer said. “When you see the secret room below the White House that’s below the basement, you realize that there are almost as many rooms below the White House as there are in it. I love that you get to see those details and that you get to see Mount Weather and some of the locations at Mount Weather, which is one of the secret locations the Department of Homeland Security still uses as a safe house for the President in case something bad happens.

“I also love that I get to take you inside Secret Service Headquarters in Washington, DC, and you get to see the world there. And, to me, especially the details involving the death of Abraham Lincoln or what happened to his killers or where they were really taken and stored—I love that you get to see things that happened in real life.”

Brad Meltzer first approached the Secret Service more than a decade ago. He said, “When I went to see them, I thought there’s no way they’re going to help me. It’s called the Secret Service for a reason.”

Things went very differently than Meltzer expected, however. He met with an agent who had read and liked “The Tenth Justice.” The agent agreed to help him with research, which was what Meltzer describes as “just a lucky moment.” Now, the Secret Service has helped him with a half dozen books. Meltzer said, “The reason I think they do it is because I take their trust very seriously.”

To Meltzer, that is the fun of what he does. He sees the Secret Service as being made up of ordinary people willing to help effect change in the world. Meltzer said, “I love getting to use these novels to show people their real power.”

Learn more about Brad Meltzer on his website at bradmeltzer.com.

Book & a Latte Contest with Brad Meltzer

What: This month, Brad is giving away two hardcover copies of “The President’s Shadow” and I’m adding two $5.00 Starbucks gift cards. Two random entries will be chosen as winners. Each winner will receive a book and a gift card.

How to enter: Choose one or more of the options below. Each option gives you an additional chance to win.

Who can enter: This contest is only open to continental US residents over 18 years of age.

When: Contest closes at 12:00 a.m., July 14. Winners will be selected on Sunday, July 14. Selected winners must claim prizes within 72 hours of notification.

Verification of entries: All winning entries are subject to verification.

The Snitch Bonus Code: #CulperRing 

Due to an error in the newsletter mailing, I providing The Snitch Bonus Code. Rather than send another email, I’m going to provide it to everyone this month. Next month, it will be back to business as usual and only The Snitch subscribers will have the code.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cym Lowell uses his fiction to help wounded veterans

Cym Lowell - Jaspar's WarCym Lowell is an author, an international tax attorney, a Vietnam veteran, and the founder of Operation: Next Chapter. Lowell founded Operation: Next Chapter to support the men and women who have made sacrifices in the line of duty. In this interview, Cym Lowell discusses his 2014 release “Jaspar’s War” and how he used the proceeds from that book to purchase voice-activated computers for wounded veterans.

Jaspar’s War is a thriller about financial bailouts after a market crash. Lowell said, “As a writer, I enjoy taking a topic of current newsworthiness, asking myself ‘what is really going on here?’, then putting characters into a context to make a thrilling story. In this case, the topic that had my interest was the financial bailouts after the most recent market crash. I always thought the money went to the bad guys. ‘Who could they be?’ I wondered.”

Lowell said he used two of his favorite characters to explore the bailouts. ”My intent was to tell a thrilling story as I explored the emotions of the characters. Jaspar is a socialite who must become a warrior to save her children from certain death, and Nulandi is a warrior who desperately wants to become a human being to find his own redemption. In the end, I suspect that what I am doing is exploring my own feelings about life as it evolves.”

A veteran, Lowell remembers the days when he returned from Viet Nam. “In my generation, we were spit on and called ‘baby killers’ when we came home. At the Vietnam Memorial, I can feel honor for those who gave their lives in service to their country. Whether politically correct or not, they were heroes in the tradition of all those heroes who paved our way to freedom with their lives and honor.

“When I can be of assistance to the heroes of today, it feels in my heart as if I am paying homage to my comrades who did not get to come home and have a life. Maybe this is all a process of the need for redemption I feel in my characters. Maybe it is also a means by which I can find that sense of redemption for myself. After all, as writers we can only write about emotions that we feel.”

One new way Cym Lowell is continuing his philanthropy efforts is with his next novel, “Molly’s Legacy.” Due out this year, Lowell is working with Patriot Paws and hopes to raise at least $27,000 to provide service dogs to veterans.

“I was blessed to have served in the military in Vietnam times and learned about life in such a context. All proceeds from my fiction go to help our wounded heroes. I have been working with Soldiers’ Angels to provide voice-activated computers for heroes who cannot use their hands, and have started working with Patriot Paws to provide service dogs.”

Lowell donated 100 percent of the profits from the sales of “Jasper’s War” to Soldiers’ Angels, a 501(c) 3 organization. He raised over $17,000 and has had about 200 computers presented to Soldiers’ Angels.

“I love and I have passion for everything that I do,” said Lowell. “I have been blessed in my life to have learned what it takes to build life from failure. I also have respect for forces in life far greater than me which propel us toward our own destiny. Call it religion if you like, or other life force, but it is there.”

Learn more about Cym Lowell on his website at cymlowell.com.

Review of Scam Chowder by Maya Corrigan

Scam ChowderVal Deniston knows that her grandfather’s plan to cement his position as an excellent cook is a bad idea. After all, the man can’t even cook. But, what Granddad wants, Granddad gets, including the title of “Codger Cook.” So, they set up the dinner to appear as though the Codger Cook made the meal even though Val did all the work.

At the dinner party with five guests, one of the guests becomes very ill and soon dies of food poisoning. It looks like the Codger Cook’s reputation may be ruined unless Val can determine who poisoned the dead man.

Things go from bad to worse when it’s discovered that the dead man was a con artist who scammed the Codger Cook’s best friend. With none of the other guests talking, it looks like the Codger Cook may be facing murder charges.

Val begins checking out the suspects, who range from a reporter eager to expose the Codger Cook as a fraud to her Granddad’s gold-digging girlfriend. As the evidence piles up against her grandfather and another one of the guests is murdered, Val realizes that she must dig deeper to save her grandfather from being charged with murder.

This is the second of Maya Corrigan’s five-suspect, five-ingredient, five-clue murder mysteries. The focus in “Scam Chowder” is definitely on the plot and clues. Val Deniston is a likable protagonist. Other characters are interesting, but not compelling and the writing became somewhat predictable. The plot, however, was well-layered and fans of puzzle mysteries will enjoy the opportunity to sift through the clues to solve the puzzle.

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

Times Up is a sparkling debut for Janey Mack

Times Up by Janey MackMaisie McGrane’s life dream of becoming a Chicago police officer is destroyed when the police academy expels her. Her family has a history of serving in the Chicago police and she was the top cadet in her class. Determined to make it onto the force, Maisie takes a job as a meter maid, which she reasons will set her up for a promotion in a year.

While despondent over her expulsion, Maisie seeks solace from her secret crush, ex-Army Ranger Hank Bannon. Their friendship turns into a hot love affair and Maisie sees hope for her future until she discovers the dead body of a City Hall employee. She’s determined to solve the murder despite warnings from her family to stay away from the case.

What Maisie wants most is to keep her nose clean until she can get promoted to the police force, but everything she does backfires. Even her career as a meter maid appears to be doomed when she and her partner put a parking boot on a limo that belongs to Chicago’s mayor.

Maisie’s confrontation with the mayor goes viral and soon the meter maid who wants to be a cop is catapulted into local stardom. With the mayor, several jealous Chicago officers, and a killer gunning for her, Maisie realizes the worst is yet to come—if she lives to see it.

This is a sparkling debut from author Janey Mack. Maisie McGrane is likable, engaging, and thoroughly adept at finding her way into trouble. The dialogue is crisp and the action nonstop as Maisie goes from one crisis to another. There are times when Maisie’s thoughts become a bit heavy-handed, but overall, this is a very nice debut and a bright spot for fans of funny mysteries with female protagonists.

That is not my debt! Resolve credit bureau errors

not my debt - Anatoliy Babiychuk | Dreamstime Stock Photos
Tips to help resolve the problem when you say, that is not my debt. Image courtesy of Anatoliy Babiychuk | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Last weekʻs tip was Collection agency contacts and tips to deal with them. That post discussed how to deal with collection agencies when the contact relates to a bill you incurred. What about those times when the bill doesn’t belong to you?

Many years ago, I was contacted by a collection agency about an unpaid bill for an ambulance call in Petaluma, CA. I must confess, I did not handle the situation well. I was angry that any company could make this kind of mistake. Iʻd driven through Petaluma a few times on the way to the wine country in Sonoma County, but had never stopped, let alone been picked up by ambulance or taken to a hospital.

Dealing with the collection agency was one thing (see last week’s post for tips on how to do this), but the unpaid bill was already on my credit. To keep my credit record clean, I needed to prove the debt wasn’t mine and get it removed from my credit report.

Tips to solve the “not my debt” problem

  • Obtain copies of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. This can be accomplished in one step by using the website annualcreditreport.com. You can also call 1-877-322-8228.
  • Send a letter via certified mail to the affected credit bureaus explaining that the debt isn’t yours. A sample letter is located on the Federal Trade Commission website here. The credit bureau has thirty days in which to respond. Also, be sure to keep a copy of all correspondence to and from the credit bureau.
  • If an erroneous debt isn’t removed within thirty days, you’ll need to escalate and possibly sue. This should be the very rare exception and you’ll want to be absolutely positive that the debt is not yours, but if it happens, find your state Attorney General in this list.
  • Be aware that just because you say, “That is not my debt!” a credit bureau may choose to not remove the item from your record for legitimate reasons. If they deny your dispute, look for additional proof to support your claim. The best course of action is to provide as much documentation as possible up front, thereby avoiding a longer and more tedious process of investigation.

Friday Fotos — on the way to Kokee State Park

Whenever we visit Kauai, we always try to make the trek to Kokeʻe State Park. It’s an absolutely beautiful drive and on our trip in May it was no different. Because we had work being done on the condo that day, we thought we might spend a bit more time in the park, have a picnic lunch, and just hang out. As it happens, I wasn’t feeling well that day and the weather was also somewhat unsettled. We cut the trip short after spending a short time at the park and braving the drizzle with a few other intrepid visitors. On the return trip, we stopped at Salt Pond Beach and had a nice, leisurely—and warm—picnic lunch. Here are some of the shots we took on the way up.

By the way, I’m always on the lookout for good Hawaii photos. If you have some you’d like to share, let me know and we’ll talk about featuring your shots on Friday Fotos!

Hint: you can manually advance through the slides by placing your mouse over the slideshow and clicking the pause button, then use the forward/back buttons to navigate.

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The President’s Shadow is filled with secrets and lies

The President's ShadowWhile gardening in her private section of the White House Rose Garden one night, First Lady Shona Wallace digs up a human arm with a hand tightly wrapped around an old object.

Beecher White works in the National Archives where he stores and protects America’s history. He’s also a member of the Culper Ring, started more than 200 years ago, whose mission is to protect the Presidency. When Shona discovers the arm, it’s obvious there’s been a breach in security. President Wallace isn’t sure who in the Secret Service he can trust, so he calls Beecher for help.

The object in the hand turns out to be a flattened penny that has The Lord’s Prayer on one side and the logo of the Plankholders on the other. Beecher recognizes the logo as that of the Naval company his father belonged to. In exchange for Beecher’s help, the President offers to share confidential information about the incident in which Beecher’s father was killed. Unsure of President Wallace’s true motives, Beecher reluctantly agrees to investigate the meaning behind the the severed hand and penny.

The clues lead to a man who once served with Beecher’s father in the Plankholders. The man, Nico, is an escaped sociopathic killer who Beecher believes wants to assassinate the President. With help from friends, none of whom he’s sure he can trust, Beecher puts his life on the line to find out what really happened to his father and stop the assassination plot.

“The President’s Shadow” is filled with little known historical facts that Meltzer threads throughout a plot rich with government cover-ups, secret military locations, and hidden agendas. The story’s vivid descriptions of place and characters are captivating. Beecher is savvy and perceptive, the type of character you’d really like to have as a friend.

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

Book & a Latte…

 

Meltzer - President's ShadowMy July special guest and featured author in the Book & a Latte Contest is Brad Meltzer, New York Times Bestselling author of The Inner Circle and The Fifth Assassin. Don’t miss this special interview. Subscribe to “The Snitch” to increase your chances of winning! Click here to enter.