5 Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping

The holiday season is here and identity thieves are ready to take advantage of holiday shoppers. Consumers must take caution while shopping in stores and online in order to keep their identity safe. Make sure to follow these 5 tips for safe holiday shopping:

1. Pay with cash. Instead of using a credit or debit card, plan out your purchases in advance and bring cash. This will eliminate the chance that your card information is stolen by someone or even used in a skimming device. It will also make it much easier to review your credit card statement if you did not make several small purchases on your cards. Best of all, you can prevent yourself from over-spending!

2. Keep track of your receipts. Always ask for you receipt instead of letting the cashier put in the bag. Keep all of your receipts in one secure place so you can easily review your bank account and keep track of your spending. Make sure you shred your receipts before throwing them away.

3. Be cautious using credit/debit card. If you decide to use a card, it is better to use a credit card over a debit card. If a thief gets a hold of your debit card they have access to your whole checking account and fraudulent charges are harder to spot. When using a credit/debit card, make sure no one is close behind you in line and can see your actions. Cover the card device so that your pin number or other information you submit cannot be seen. Do not swipe your card if the device looks tampered with, it may have a skimming device.

4. Be stingy about giving personal information. Be careful about giving away personal information such as email addresses, phone numbers, home addresses, etc. This information may be necessary if you are applying for a card or shopping online, but always make sure you know why the information is needed. If you are shopping online, check to make sure you are on a legitimate and secure site. Look for a lock signal in the browser and https for secure. At no time should you ever be asked to give out your social security number.

5. Watch out for contests. There will be several offers to tempt you while you are out shopping. While some of them will be legitimate, there may be some contest offers that are simply designed to collect your information for marketing purposes or to steal your identity. Do not give away your social security number or credit card information to these contests. As always, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

We wish you a happy and safe holiday!


5 hackers charged with largest data-breach scheme in U.S. history

On Thursday July 24th, Federal prosecutors charged 5 hackers with stealing 160 million credit card numbers over the past 7 years. This worldwide scheme targeted major corporate networks and resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, making it the largest data theft case in United States history. So how did just 5 hackers manage to do so much damage? Here is the scoop from bloomberglaw.com:

“The men operated ‘a prolific hacking organization’ that ‘penetrated the secure computer networks of several of the largest payment-processing companies, retailers and financial institutions in the world,’ according to the indictment. They are accused of stealing user names and passwords, personal identification information, and credit and debit card numbers.

After stealing data, known as ‘dumps,’ the men sold it to ‘dumps resellers,’ who then sold it through online forums or to individuals and organizations, prosecutors charged. The men encoded the data into the magnetic strips of blank plastic cards and withdrew money from automated teller machines or incurred charges or bought goods through credit cards, the U.S. said.”

The leader of the scheme, Albert Gonzalez, is currently serving 20 years in federal prison from stealing 130 million credit card records from retailers such as 7-Eleven and OfficeMax.

Visit about.bloomberglaw.com to view the original article.


Scam Watch: Warning signs of a Rental Scam

If you’re in the market for a new apartment or vacation rental, make sure you watch out for rental listing scams. Scammers will fake a rental listing in order to trick you out of your money and leave you empty handed. Here is the latest scoop on rental listing scams brought to you by the FTC:

How Rental Scams Work: 
Hijacked Ads: Some scammers hijack a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, and placing the modified ad on another site. The altered ad may even use the name of the person who posted the original ad. In other cases, scammers have hijacked the email accounts of property owners on reputable vacation rental websites.

Phantom Rentals: Other rip-off artists make up listings for places that aren’t for rent or don’t exist, and try to lure you in with the promise of low rent, or great amenities. Their goal is to get your money before you find out.

Signs of a Scam:
They tell you to wire the money: This is the surest sign of a scam. There’s never a good reason to wire money to pay a security deposit, application fee, first month’s rent, or vacation rental fee. That’s true even if they send you a contract first. Wiring money is the same as sending cash — once you send it, you have no way to get it back.

They want a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed a lease: It’s never a good idea to send money to someone you’ve never met in person for an apartment you haven’t seen. If you can’t visit an apartment or house yourself, ask someone you trust to go and confirm that it’s for rent, and that it is what was advertised. In addition to setting up a meeting, do a search on the owner and listing. If you find the same ad listed under a different name, that’s a clue it may be a scam.

They say they’re out of the country:
But they have a plan to get the keys into your hands. It might involve a lawyer or an “agent” working on their behalf. Some scammers even create fake keys. Don’t send money to them overseas. If you can’t meet in person, see the apartment, or sign a lease before you pay, keep looking. What if the rental itself is overseas? Paying with a credit card, by PayPal, or through a reputable vacation rental website with its own payment system are your safest bets.


Scam Watch: BBB warns of “Clickjacking”

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about the latest trend used by scammers called “Clickjacking.” What is clickjacking? Clickjacking is when a victim is tricked into clicking on a seemingly harmless link that actually activates a scam. Here are the specifics:

“It starts like most online phishing scams. You receive an email, social media message or text that directs you to a website. For example, scammers may claim to be from a major store chain, and they are giving away something cool like a free iPad. They instruct you to go to a website and enter to win.

When you get to the site, everything looks normal. But scammers have hidden links and other content on the page using a web design trick. In addition to the content you can see, scammers have added an invisible layer. They set the opacity to zero, so the content is transparent but still active.

You complete the form and hit the “Register Now!” button. But scammers have placed an invisible link on top of the register button. This is ‘clickjacking.’ You think your click is entering you for the free gift, but you are really activating some code. This code can do anything from ordering something on Amazon (using the “one click” purchase feature) to changing the settings on your computer. This technique is also used to trick you into “liking” something on Facebook that normally wouldn’t. This is called ‘likejacking.’”

So how do you spot a clickjacking scam? The BBB has provided tips to help:

  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t set yourself up for “clickjacking” by going to the website in the first place. Stay away from teasers for sensational videos (Click here to see shocking footage!) and offers that are too good to be real (Free Hawaiian vacations!).
  • Update your web browser. The newest versions of browsers have security updates that warn you of suspicious websites.
  • Log out of websites. Many clickjacking scams take advantage of web users’ habit of staying logged into sites like Facebook or Amazon. This makes it easier for scammers to “like” or even purchase something in your name
  • Don’t believe what you see. It’s easy to steal the colors, logos and header of any other established organization. Just because a site looks real, it does not mean it is.

To view the original article, visit bbb.org/blog


Scam Watch: FTC Warns of Affinity Fraud

Ever heard of “affinity fraud?” According to the FTC, affinity fraud is when someone in a group uses their membership in that group to scam another member. For example, a member of say a religious, or ethnic, or professional group uses the trust of another member to scam them out of their money or even identity. Dan Choi, an attorney with the Northern Virginia office of Legal Aid Justice Center explains affinity fraud is a very often targeted towards immigrants.

“Our immigrant clients tend to place a special trust readily and rapidly with other people who share their language, culture, and physical attributes. In some cases, this fellow community member attends the same church and knows the same people. In other cases, this fellow community member is a complete stranger, hundreds of miles away.”

Choi also explains that many immigrants who are scammed through affinity fraud often do not have the knowledge or language ability to report the fraud and get help. As a result, the FTC has laid out some tips to help you stay safe from affinity fraud.

When you hear about a “great” deal:

  • Take your time. You don’t want any deal that requires you to act now. Time is your friend. Use it.
  • Don’t buy the hype. You might hear promises of guaranteed results (profit on your investment, or thepromise of legal immigration status, for example). You might also hear you can get the results risk-free. Not so. If anybody tells you either thing, it means you’re seeing a scam.
  • Get it in writing. Before you part with your money, look at the terms of the deal in writing. Then take your time and review. Are the terms what you expected?
  • Check it out. No matter who offers you a deal, do your homework. Talk to others. Look up the company online and search for consumer complaints. Most important, is this deal good for you? Can you afford the loss if it doesn’t work out as promised?
  • Report it. The FTC can investigate only the scams it knows about. When you tell us that you suspect a scam, you might just be helping protect others in your community. Go to ftc.gov/complaint to report scams.