Scam of the day – November 19, 2014 – The twelve scams of Christmas

It seems that the holiday season starts earlier and earlier each year so it certainly is not too early to warn you about some of the many scams that will be threatening your holidays if you are not careful.  As it says, in “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” you better watch out.  My list of twelve scams of Christmas isn’t meant to be sung, but it is meant to provide an early warning of the fact that although every season is scam season, the holiday season is a particularly dangerous time of year for scams.  Here is my list of twelve scams of Christmas.  Over the next month I will be explaining them in detail here on Scamicide.

1.  Major data breach at retailers.

2.  Phony online shopping websites purporting to sell the latest toys and gadgets.

3.  Gift card scams.

4.  Delivery service scams.

5.  E greeting card scams.

6.  Phony charities.

7.  Puppy scams in which you are sold non-existent dogs.

8.  Phishing emails that appear to come from major retailers.

9.  Phony holiday vacation deals.

10. Phony holiday apps for your smartphone.

11. Phony holiday contests and lotteries.

12. Grandparent scam – holiday style.

TIPS

Although I will be explaining these scams in detail over the next month, here are a few major tips to keep in mind.

When shopping in a retail store, if you have the Apple iPay, use it.  It may not be perfect, but it is a great improvement over the magnetic stripe credit cards still used by almost all American retailers.   You also might want to consider getting a smart chip card from your credit card provider and using it at the stores such as WalMart which are switching to these safer credit cards well ahead of the October 2015 deadline to change over to the new cards.  Also remember not to use your debit card while retail shopping.  The consumer protection laws relating to debit card use are not as strong as those relating to fraudulent use of credit cards.  It is important to remember that there will be major data breaches at retail stores where we all shop and the hacked companies won’t be quick to discover that they have been hacked so carefully monitor on line your credit card’s usage more often than your monthly statement to be able to learn as quickly as possible if you have been victimized in a data breach.  Also, when shopping at a brick and mortar retail store, keep an eye on your credit card as it is processed by the sales clerk.  There will be more than a few seasonal, rogue employees who will have small electronic devices called skimmers that enable the sales clerk to run your card through this card reading skimmer to steal your credit card information before running the card through the store’s legitimate credit card processing equipment.

Here is a link to a column I wrote for USA Today that describes these holiday scams.  Within the column is another link to an additional column on the same subject.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2014/11/22/holiday-scams-identity-theft/19340731/

Scam of the day – October 30, 2014 – Gallup poll shows hacking of retail stores is the crime most feared

A recent Gallup poll shows that the hacking of retail stores and the resulting theft of credit and debit card information is the crime that is feared most by Americans – and with good reason.  Identity theft, including the fraudulent use of credit cards by identity stealing hackers accounts for more dollars lost than all other property crimes combined.  Soon we will be heading into the holiday shopping season when credit card shopping both at brick and mortar stores and online will dramatically increase as will the attempts by hackers to steal credit card and debit card information so it is particularly important for everyone to be vigilant when using their credit and debit cards.  The bad news is that there is nothing that we, as individuals can do to reduce the chances of a major data breach at large and small retailers with which we do business, however, the good news is that there is a lot we can do to minimize our exposure.

TIPS

First and foremost, do not use your debit card for any purchases.  Limit its use to ATMs.  The consumer protection laws regarding fraudulent debit card use are not as strong as the laws pertaining to fraudulent use of credit cards.  Potentially, you could lose the entire bank account tied to your debit card if you are not carefully monitoring its use.  In addition, even if you do notify your bank immediately upon promptly noticing fraudulent use of your debit card, your access to your bank account will be frozen while your bank investigates the crime.

Also, when shopping in brick and mortar stores, you may wish to patronize those stores, such as Wall Mart which are ahead of the pack when it comes to transitioning from the old magnetic strip credit cards to the new smart cards with computer chips that would eliminate the risk of your credit card number being captured by a hacker and used for fraudulent purchases.  You also may wish to consider using the new Apple iPay system which also provides greater protection from hackers.

When shopping on line, limit your shopping to the websites of stores that you know are legitimate and make sure that your communications with the website including the providing of your credit card number is encrypted. You can confirm this by looking at the website address and making sure that it begins with “https” rather than merely “http.”  It is important to note that even if you are using a smart card with a computer chip you are not protected from hackers when shopping online because in this instance you are not generating a new number each time you shop.

As we get closer to the holiday season, I will providing you with more tips to avoid holiday scams and identity theft schemes.