Scam of the day – December 8, 2016 – Holiday online shopping scams

Imagine Andy Williams singing, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and it may indeed be the most wonderful time of the year for many people, but it is not so wonderful if you have been scammed by cybercriminals who really do find the holiday shopping season to be the most wonderful time of the year – for them.   I received an email today showing me how I could get iPads and iPhones at 90% discounts by clicking on links and ordering them online.  If I had clicked on the links, all I would have succeeded in doing would have been paying electronically for goods that I never would have received.  Meanwhile, by clicking on the links, I also would have run the risk of unknowingly downloading keystroke logging malware that could have stolen all of the information from my computer, such as my Social Security number, credit card number and other financial data and made me a victim of identity theft.

People also get in trouble when they go to phony websites that appear to be those of legitimate retailers and turn over their credit card information to a scammer and never get the goods they think they are purchasing.

TIPS

If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Scammers always pick the most popular and expensive items to lure people into sending them money for goods that never are delivered.  Never click on links in emails, tweets or text messages unless you are sure the communications are legitimate and it is hard to do so without calling the legitimate company because even if it truly appears to be coming from a legitimate person or entity, their email, twitter, or smart phone may have been hacked into and the communication you receive is from a scammer.  Only deal with companies that you know are legitimate and confirm that you are actually on a legitimate website because phony websites can look quite good.

As for online shopping websites, there are a few ways you can determine whether or not a shopping website is legitimate or not.  First, find out who actually owns the website. Websites such as http://lookwhois.net/ will enable you to merely put in the URL and see who actually owns the website you are considering using for shopping.  If it doesn’t match the  legitimate company that you think you are doing business with, you will know to stay away.  Also, call the company at a telephone number you know is legitimate to confirm the precise website URL that they use.

Scam of the day – November 25, 2016 – Holiday scams

Today is Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year and the kickoff to the 2016 holiday shopping season.  There are many scams that attempt to turn our holiday awareness into scams.  They include malware contaminated e-cards, phony charitable solicitations and, of course a myriad of shopping related scams.  Over the next few weeks, I will be warning you about these scams and telling you what you can do to protect yourselves.

TIPS

For those people shopping in the malls and stores around the country today, remember to use your credit card  instead of your debit card. While federal law limits the amount for which you are liable when fraudulent charges are made using your credit card to no more than $50, with a debit card, if you do not recognize that your account has been compromised right away, the identity thief could potentially empty the entire bank account tied to your debit card.  In addition, even if you do notice the fraudulent use immediately, your account will be frozen while the bank does its investigation into the matter, thereby limiting your access to your funds.

Also, if you are using your credit card in a store that is not equipped to take the EMV chip credit card, be on the lookout for skimmers, which are small devices that a criminal uses to steal your credit card information by swiping the card through a portable skimmer before running it through the store’s credit card processing equipment.  In addition, some skimmers are surreptitiously installed on the credit card equipment of the stores and other times, the store’s processing equipment has been hacked to steal this information as your card is being processed. Keep an eye on your credit card every minute that the clerk has it in his or her possession to make sure that he or she only swipes it through the store’s credit card processor and doesn’t do that extra swipe through a skimmer.  Also, check your credit card account balance periodically online to detect if there have been any security breaches.  Don’t wait for your monthly statement.

Steve Weisman’s latest column from USA Today

Here is a link to my latest column from today’s edition of USA Today.  It deals with the timely topic of identity theft and data breach threats while holiday shopping.  Happy Thanksgiving to all.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/columnist/2015/11/25/weisman-emv-cards-holiday-shopping/76265450/

Scam of the day – December 3, 2014 – Phony electronic coupons

Discount coupons are a way of life and with good reason.  Many coupons can reduce the cost of your purchases dramatically.  During the holiday shopping season, people are looking for extra savings wherever they can find them.  One place you may find them is in an email or text message from a company with which you do business.  The email may look just like a legitimate message from a retailer with which you do business, but in many instances it will be a counterfeit coupon that will either lure you into clicking on a link that will download keystroke logging malware on to your computer or smartphone that will enable the criminal to steal personal information from your electronic device and use it to make you a victim of identity theft or you will be required to provide personal information in order to access the coupon.  Again, this information is used to make you a victim of identity theft.

TIPS

It is impossible to be able to be sure as to whether or not a coupon you receive in an email or text message is legitimate or not.  Even the email address or number of the sender can be faked to make it appear legitimate.  However, this does not mean that you have to lose out on the coupon.  If indeed it is a legitimate coupon, it will also be available on the particular retailer’s website so merely go to the company’s website (and not by clicking on a link in the text message or email) and you will be able to access real coupons.

Scam of the day – November 30, 2013 – Holiday shopping scams

As the holiday shopping season is in full swing, over the next month I will be warning you about the latest scams and identity theft schemes related to holiday shopping, both in brick and mortar stores and online.  Today, I will start with shopping in a store.  Most of us use either a debit card or a credit card when shopping in a store.  The biggest risk when using either card occurs when a criminal clerk takes your card of either variety and swipes it through a small device, no bigger than the palm of your hand, called a skimmer.  This device will steal all of the information from your card and store it for the identity thief behind this scam to use either for purchases online using your credit or debit card number or by actually taking the information and imbedding it on a phony credit card.

TIPS

The first thing you should do is retire your debit card to use only as an ATM card.  While federal law limits the amount that you are liable for when fraudulent charges are made using your credit card to no more than $50, with a debit card, if you do not recognize that your account has been compromised right away, potentially the identity thief could empty the entire bank account tied to your debit card.  In addition, even if you do notice the fraudulent use immediately, your account will be frozen while the bank does its investigation into the matter, thereby limiting your access to your funds.  As for the danger of skimmers, you should watch your credit card every minute that the clerk has it in his or her possession to make sure that he or she only swipes it through the store’s credit card processor and doesn’t do that extra swipe through a skimmer.

Scam of the day – November 20, 2012 – Holiday shopping scams part 2

As we continue our countdown to and through the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, today I want to discuss the dangers presented when shopping with credit cards in brick and mortar stores.  Credit cards are an easy way to shop, but they also present an easy way to become a victim of identity theft.  Just recently the card swipe machines at many Barnes & Noble stores were disclosed to have been tampered with and many shoppers, including myself, were warned to be on the alert for identity theft because the identity thieves had captured the credit card information from these machines as well as debit card information and PINs.

TIPS

Credit cards are still a good way to shop.  However, to minimize your chance of becoming a victim of identity theft in a brick and mortar store, ask the clerk to run the credit card through his or her cash register in full view of you rather than using the card swipe machine which is easier for identity thieves to tamper with.  In addition, whenever you make purchases in a retail store with a credit card, make sure that you keep your credit card in sight throughout the transaction so that a rogue clerk does not swipe your card through a small electronic device about the size of the palm of your hand that is called a “skimmer” that is used to capture the information imbedded in your credit card.  Finally, don’t use debit cards for purchases because if you do become a victim of identity theft, you do not have the same protections and $50 limit on unauthorized purchases that you have with a credit card.  Limit your debit card use to being used as an ATM card.