Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Black Friday and Cyber Monday means opportunity for a number of people.
Consumers have the opportunity to get a great deal, businesses have the opportunity to make a profit, and thieves have the opportunity to steal as much from you as they can. In a cyber world, crime can come at you using many different methods, but luckily a good number of those crimes can be prevented by being aware to the tricks and scams bad guys will try to use on you.
In order to help you have a crime-free shopping season, LASD’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau offers you this list of suggestions:
Don’t use a debit card. Many people like using a debit card due to convenience or as a budgeting tool, but debit cards lack the same consumer protections that credit cards do. Should your account be compromised, you can be responsible for a greater share of the loss than if you had used a credit card. Remember, when you give someone your debit card, you point them to a pot of money which may contain living expenses or even your life’s savings.
Be wary of online deals that are too good to be true. Do your research on whoever you are buying from. There are a number of online blogs, forums and reviews sites that can help you determine between a legitimate business and a scam.
If an online seller asks you to wire payment, be suspicious. Many times fraudsters will advertise a great deal on a high dollar item, but will only accept a money wire transfer. Be careful. Once the money is wired to an account, it is very difficult to recover it if later on it turns out you were the victim of fraud. Vendors requesting money through a wire transfer should be a red flag for further scrutiny.
Only do business with vendors who use secure websites. A secure website will have a padlock icon and “https” in the web address. If you doubt a website is secure, find someone else to do business with.
Keep an eye on your credit cards at all times. A common tactic of fraudsters employed by a legitimate company is to take the card you present as payment, swipe it through the legitimate payment system, and then swipe it again through their own collection device. Your credit card information can then be used by the crook for their own purpose or sold to other crooks.
Guard your identity the same as you would your pocketbook. Criminals not only want your money, they want your identity. With it, they can use it to get credit and make purchases while sticking you with the bill. Your information is valuable and can be sold to other criminals as well. Guard your personally identifiable information like you would any other item of value. Personally identifiable information can include your, full name, home address, email address, social security number, passport number, driver’s license number, credit card numbers, date of birth, birthplace, telephone number, login name or screen name. If asked to provide personally identifiable information, evaluate the need to supply this information prior to giving it.
Be suspicious of people claiming to be from your credit card company who need to “verify” information. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from your credit card company asking you to verify Personally Identifiable Information be careful. The caller could be a scammer who is gathering information that will later on help him steal your identity. If you feel there is some legitimacy to the callers questions, terminate the call and call back the company using a phone number you know is legitimate. You can find these numbers on your credit card statement or the company’s website.
Monitor bank statements for suspicious activity. With increased activity during the shopping season, it is easy for a bad guy to slip in a few unauthorized transactions without you knowing it. Monitor bank and credit cards regularly for suspicious transactions and question anything that does not look legitimate regardless of the amount. Most financial companies offer online access to your account and you can monitor transactions in real time.
Limit use of free Wi-Fi. Don’t use free wireless networks, such as those in coffee shops, when you shop online. Fraudulent Wi-Fi hotspots are too easy to set up and are often disguised to look like legitimate services offered by reputable companies. Bad guys use these fraudulent sights to capture your data or install malware on your device. Waiting until you have a secure connection at home or using data from your own personal cellular plan is a good way to eliminate this type of operation.
LASD’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau wish you a happy, productive and crime-free shopping season.
If you have additional questions or comments, please call LASD’s Fraud & Cyber Crimes Bureau at 562-946-7201.