The joy of the Holidays can quickly dissolve and turn into a catastrophe if a criminal gains access to your personal information, steals your identity and racks up thousands of dollars in debt in your name. The FBI posts regular warnings about the aggressive and creative schemes thieves come up with to take what doesn’t belong to them. In recent years, scammers have ventured into some surprising areas, for example, selling stolen gift cards and setting up fraudulent auctions. Here are some of the most common scams used to gain your personal information — and others that you may not have heard about.
Common Scam Techniques
As you search around for that perfect gift and start thinking about charitable donations to provide during the Holidays, keep in mind that there are unscruptulous scammers trying to take advantage of your giving Spirit. Every year thousands of consumers fall for offers that are too-good-to-be-true or bogus charitable requests that appeal to the heart. Here are some of the most common methods used to steal your information .
- Phishing Schemes: Phishing is one of the oldest scams and continues to fool people. An email arrives from what appears to be a legitimate company requesting personal information, i.e., account numbers, user names, passwords. But in actuality, the request is a con to gain access to enough information to use your accounts or, even worse, your identity.There’s a simple prevention tip to phishing – don’t respond. Reputable companies never ask for personal information via an email. If you believe it may be a legitimate request, contact the company on your own by phone and talk to a representative.
- Smishing Schemes: This is a newer form of phishing, the difference is that the messages are sent via text messages to bait the victim into revealing personal information. They may direct you to follow a link to a fake website or call a phone number to provide the request information to a bogus agent. Comply with their request and your personal information will be in the hands of thieves.Don’t be tricked. Be wary of text or emails that indicate a problem with your bank account or credit cards. Email addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious request. Also beware of unsolicited emails from companies with which you have no association. If you respond, you may find that your financial accounts have been compromised.
- Skimming Schemes: More credit card companies are upgrading to PIN and chip authentication; but in the meantime, anyone using a magnetic strip credit or debit card is vulnerable to skimming. This is when a crook gets his hands on enough information to begin shopping on your dime. There are several ways they can gain access to your account number, password and security code. Special readers are placed by the crook in strategic locations: isolated ATMs, gas stations and other self-serve locations.To protect against skimming, keep your card in sight at all times and cover the keypad when you enter your PIN at the checkout or an ATM. Always check your receipts after each purchase you make.
Smishing, phishing or skimming schemes attempt to compromise your personal information, and eventually your finances. Check your bank and credit card statements every month for inaccuracies and contact the financial institution immediately, if you discover any errors. Be diligent about keeping your antivirus software current and apply all security patches to your computer as soon as they’re available.
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