Hopefully, everyone has made their preparations and are celebrating the holiday season. With the holidays comes time with family, lots of food, gifts, and unfortunately constant theft. Technology is constantly changing and as a result, more opportunities become available to steal from or scam consumers. Particularly consumers are becoming exposed to credit card, banking account, and internet fraud.
If you are one of the millions who have begun using your email as a major source of communication, you could be exposed to phishing. Phishing is one of the major forms of scamming through the use of online technology. Phishing normally occurs through email and sometimes through text messages. When you receive emails stating you have won a contest or an email from a company asking you to confirm your personal information, they could possibly be phishing scams. Always contact any companies requesting personal information directly. This means call the company on the phone and speak to a customer service representative. If you have not registered or entered into a contest, more than likely it is a scam and you should not provide any form of personal information.
Additionally, be aware of any links you may receive in emails, even if they are coming from friends and family. Sometimes computer scammers are able to gain access to personal email accounts and will send out emails with viruses that will allow them to be able to obtain personal and private information. If you are not familiar with the link or if you receive an email with a link and no additional information, try to do additional research before clicking on the link. This may also apply to links in social media such as Facebook, funny websites, or links to shocking websites online. Computer scammers try to use these resources as distractions, so you are tempted to click on the link and they are able to download viruses. Virus protection software is the best form of protection. This software is able to detect something immediately and provide you with an alert.
Online shopping has also been a major tool used to steal money, banking, and credit card information from consumers. Be careful shopping online at electronic stores that you have never heard of or that you wouldn’t normally see, because they will use great deals as another form of phishing. Some individuals have gone as far as using the Better Business Bureau to gain the trust of online shoppers to buy big ticket items such as flat screen televisions at very low prices. Always go one step further and check before purchasing any of these items.
Similarly, actual online action sites are used in fraud schemes. Online auctions have become increasingly popular as a method to buy certain items at lower prices. Sometimes, items are used to trick consumers into wire transfer schemes or second-chance schemes. Wire transfer schemes involve misleading or fake ads for the sale of high-value items on popular auction sites. Once it catches the buyer’s attention, they are directed to pay for the item wire the money using a money transfer company. Once the buyer has wired the money they never receive the item and never hear from the scammer again. Second-chance schemes offers a bidder who lost in an auction another chance to buy that same time at a reduced price. Again, they will direct the buyer to pay for the item through a money transfer company, and never deliver the item.
There are numerous other scams and forms of identity fraud. Always be careful about sharing your personal banking and credit card information with anyone, including family and friends. If you ever have questions about a website or company contact the Better Business Bureau or the North Carolina Attorney General. As always, contact an attorney for additional information concerning possible fraud. Be Informed. Be Prepared.