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Protect Yourself From Gift Card Scams

So maybe Christmas now means the very predictable gift card swap, but hey, who can’t use a gift card? But beware, there are a ton of scams. This includes physical, not just digital, gift cards.

Regardless of who gave you the card, you should always practice security measures. Below are two common ways that fraudsters operate.

Transform Gift Card to Cash Twice.

If someone gives you a $200 gift card to an electronics store and then it’s stolen, you technically have lost money, as this is the same as someone stealing a wad of cash from your pocket.

Nevertheless, you’ll feel the loss just as much. Crooks who steal gift cards have numerous ways of using them.

  • Joe Thief has plans on buying a $200 item with your stolen gift card from your gym locker.
  • But first he places an ad for the card online, pricing it at a big discount of $130 saying he doesn’t need anything, he just needs money.
  • Someone out there spots this deal and sends Joe the money via PayPal or Venmo.
  • Joe then uses the $200 gift card to buy an item and sells it on eBay
  • And he just netted $130 on selling a stolen gift card that he never shipped.

Infiltration of Online Gift Card Accounts

Joe Thief might also use a computer program called a botnet to get into an online gift card account.

  • You must log into your gift card account with characters.
  • Botnets also log into these accounts. Botnets are sent by Joe Thief to randomly guess your login characters with a brute force attack: a computerized creation of different permutations of numbers and letters – by the millions in a single attack.
  • The botnet just might get a hit – yours.

Here’s How to Protect Yourself

  • Be leery of deals posted online, in magazines or in person that seem too good to be true and are not advertised by reputable retailers.
  • Buy gift cards straight from the source.
  • Don’t buy gift cards at high traffic locations, at which it’s easier for Joe to conceal his tampering.
  • Change the card’s security code.
  • Create long and jumbled usernames and passwords to lessen the chance of a brute force hit.
  • The moment you suspect fraudulent activity, report it to the retailer.
  • Spend the card right away.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

Protect Yourself from Holiday Shopping Scams

Even though the highly publicized retail data breaches have involved off-line brick and mortar stores, this doesn’t mean that security is high with online shopping. Scammers and hackers are waiting for you in more ways than you know, such as: 9D

  • Fake product reviews
  • Non-existent products
  • Delivered products that don’t match what was seen on the retail site
  • Shoppers being tricked into typing their credit card information into a purchase form on a phony shopping site
  • Malicious attachments and phishing emails offering too good to be true discounts to install malware on your device.

Let’s explore online shopping scams in more detail.

First up are malicious links and malments (malicious attachment).

  • You receive an e-mail pitching a great product deal; click on the link to learn more or to make the purchase. The scammer often makes the e-mail look like it came from a leading retailer. Clicking the e-mail may download a virus, or take you to the scammer’s website where you’re tricked into “buying” non-existent products—giving out your credit card information.
  • An e-mail may contain an attachment that, when opened, downloads a virus.
  • The e-mail may appear to come from UPS (but it’s really from the crook), and if you just by chance recently ordered something for delivery by UPS, you’re then easily tricked into clicking a “track your order” link.
  • Never click links or open attachments from e-mails that you’re not outright expecting, especially if there are typos in the message.

Coupons

  • If it’s too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.
  • Be suspicious if a coupon site with fantabulous deals wants all sorts of personal information from you, as in, “What do they need to know that for?”
  • Fraudulent coupon sites often have typos including poor punctuation.
  • Annoying pop-up windows should send you running.

Gift Cards

  • Same thing as above: If it’s too good to be true, then assume it’s a scam.
  • Just delete any gift card e-mails pitching amazing deals, especially if there’s a link in the message.
  • Never fill out personal information in a form inside an unsolicited e-mail for some fantastic deal.

Not every gift card related e-mail is fraudulent. If the e-mail appears to be from someone you know, contact that person for verification before opening any attachment or following any links. A tip that it’s legitimate is that it has a code so that you can claim the gift; a tip that it’s a scam is that it’s asking you for your credit card information.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to TheBestCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention.

10 Skeevy Scams to watch

You may think you’re not dumb enough to fall for scams, but consider that someone you care deeply about is naïve enough to be conned. Besides, some scams are so clever that even those who think they’re scam-proof have actually been taken for a ride.

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-online-risks-sign-road-banner-image34668294Sometimes fraudsters pose as an authority figure. Some claim you won a prize, while others claim you’re in trouble. Some even claim they’re a family member (needing money) and have figured out a way to convince you of this.

Some scams are done via e-mail, while others involve a phone call or snail mail. One common ploy is for the crook to pose as a rep from the electric company and threaten to shut off your electricity unless you pay a delinquent bill. Of course, the payment must be in the form of a reloadable debit card. People will actually give these cards to the “rep,” without calling the company to confirm the situation.

A big tip-off to a scam is that you’re told you won a prize or have been hired for employment—but must send money to get the prize or be trained for the employment.

Some scams are so very obvious, but still, people get taken, like those ridiculous e-mails claiming you inherited a windfall from some deceased prince named Gharbakhaji Naoombuule. But people actually fall for these, not considering that this same e-mail was sent to 10,000 others.

Top 10 Scams

  • Caller ID spoofing. Has your phone ever rung and you saw your phone number and name in the caller ID screen? How can your own phone be calling you? It’s a scam. Ignore it. If you pick up you’ll hear an offer for lower credit card rates. You’ll be told to press 1 to opt out—but you should not even be on that long to hear this option; you should have hung up the second you heard the credit card offer. Anyways, pressing 1 indicates your number is legitimate; it’s then sold to scammers. Caller ID spoofing is also perfect for scammers posing as the police, government agency, corporations etc all with the intention to get you to part with your money.
  • Mystery shopping. Though mystery shopping is a legitimate enterprise, scammers take advantage of this and mail out checks (phony) before the “shopping” is done. A legitimate company will never do this. They also get victims to give up credit card data to pay for getting a job!
  • Calls about unpaid taxes. Always hang up, regardless of threatening nature to pay up or else. The IRS always uses snail mail to notify people of unpaid taxes.
  • Puppy scam. You find a website offering purebred puppies at very low prices or even for free, but you’re told you must pay for shipping or transfer fees (wire transfer) to get your puppy. The money is gone and you never get your puppy.
  • You get a call from someone claiming to have found buyers for your timeshare. You receive a contract, but are told you must pay funds to cover some fees. The contract is phony.
  • Tech support. Someone calls you claiming your computer needs servicing. They’ll fix it after you give them your credit card information. Legitimate geeks don’t call people; you must call them.
  • Postcard survey. Out of the blue you’re told you’ve won a gift card, or, just take a brief survey to get one. Go along with this and soon you’ll be asked to provide your credit card number. Don’t bother. You’ll get no gift card while the crook gets your credit card information.
  • A notice says you’ve won a big fat prize. To claim it, just pay some fees. Yeah, right. Never pay fees to collect a prize!
  • You’re told you’re eligible for a grant or have been awarded one, but must first pay processing fees. Federal grants don’t require fees.
  • Subscription renewal notice. The notice says you can renew for a lower rate. Check to see if the notice was sent by the publication itself or some third party (the crook).

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention.

10 Tips to avoid Scams when traveling

Vacationers and tourists provide a vast feeding ground for all sorts of crooks: from the simple pick-pocketing specialist to the hotel room burglar to the e-thief: credit card skimming and computer crimes. You can even have your identity stolen while sunning on that white beach.

9DAvoid Traveling Scams with These Tips

  • Don’t post your vacation or other travel plans on social media. Thieves peruse social media to see who will be out of town and when.
  • Protection begins before the trip. Put a vacation hold on your snail mail.
  • Beware of hotel room scams. A person posing as front desk staff will call random hotel rooms to sucker travelers into giving up their credit card number. Never give private information over the hotel phone.
  • When using public Wi-Fi, encrypt your activities so that hackers can’t pluck them out of the air.
  • Always know where your mobile phone is, and have it protected with a password.
  • Must you always pay with a credit or debit card? Cold cash can’t be hacked into. But I still prefer credit over debit cards (and even cash).
  • Don’t withdraw more cash than you need. Don’t take out wads of high bills because you “might” spend a lot of money. And use an ATM at a bank, not a public kiosk.
  • When you do use a card (credit, not debit!), do not let the server or sales clerk walk out of your sight with it. You just never know who might be an “inside” thief.
  • As soon as you can upon returning from traveling, check your credit card statements for suspicious activity.
  • Leave the expensive jewelry, handbags, etc. at home. A thief has a lot of interest in a well-dressed person who acts like a tourist. If you want everyone to see how exorbitantly styled you are, you’ll have to include muggers and other thieves in that group.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

‘Tis the Season for the 12 Scams of the Holidays

Fa la la la la, la la la la. Yes that’s me singing, but thank goodness you can’t really hear me (I save that for the shower). If you can believe it, it’s that time of the year again (even though it seems like we just finished Halloween). Time for holiday parties, family traditions, ugly sweaters, and… scams? Yes, that’s right. Now that the holiday season has begun, many of us are sharing, shopping and booking travel online— even more than we normally do.

And scammers know that with all that money and personal information floating around, they have a big opportunity. Using techniques like phishingsocial engineering, fake charities and infected USB drives, cybercriminals can invade your privacy and drain your bank account.

Don’t let these hackers and thieves dampen your holiday cheer. To help you stay safe this season, McAfee has compiled a list of the 12 Scams of the Holidays. Check it out and educate yourself on what scams you need to look out for this holiday season.

12-scam

Here’s some tips to help you stay safe during the holidays:

  • Be careful when clicking. Don’t click on links in email or social media messages from people you don’t know, and use a URL expander to know what site you are going to before clicking on a shortened URL.
  • Be suspicious. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Practice safe surfing. Use a Web safety advisor, such as McAfee® SiteAdvisor®, that protects you from going to risky sites.
  • Avoid public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi might be convenient, but it’s also accessible to anyone who wants to see what you are doing online.
  • Shop safely online. Make sure you stick to reputable e-commerce sites that have been verified as safe by a third-party Trustmark, like McAfee SECURE™. Also look for “https” at the beginning of a site’s URL, which indicates that the site is using encryption to protect your information.
  • Use security software on all your devices. Make sure you have comprehensive security protection, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, for all your devices, including your mobile phone and tablet that also safeguards your data and includes identity protection.

Season of Sharing Sweepstakes

To make sure that we all have a safe and merry holiday, McAfee and Dell have teamed up to bring you the Season of Sharing Sweepstakes—and give you a chance to win prizes. By sharing safe shopping and online safety tips around the 12 scams with your friends and family, you’ll not only be helping others to stay safe online this holiday season, but you’ll also earn a chance to win a $1,000 gift card to Dell.com** along with McAfee LiveSafe service to make sure all your devices are protected!

‘Tis the season to be jolly, so make sure you stay safe online.

*Sweepstakes open to US residents only. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes is from November 4 – December 12, 2014. See www.12scams.com for full terms and conditions.
**Terms and conditions apply. See www.dell.com/giftcard.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

How to Prevent Summertime Scams

Summertime is here…and that means sunshine and vacations. Most people love summertime, including scammers! Hackers can use this time to take advantage while we are planning vacations or on vacation or just enjoying fun in the sun. Here are some key scams to watch out for this summer:9D

  • Family or Friend Requests Money
    You receive an email from a friend or family member. They tell you a sob story and say they need money. It sure seems like the right person. You even ask them for more details and they give them spot-on. Convinced they’re the real McCoy, you wire them money. But what you just did was wire money to an imposter who got all those personal details off social media. One way to prevent this it to establish a secret code that your friends and family promises not to post on social media (and the code should be a nonsensical sentence or something that isn’t easily guessed). If a person can’t type out this secret code, then you know it’s a scam. Another way to avoid this scam is to always speak live to the person asking for the money.
  • Home Improvement
    Summer is when homeowners are most gullible to people offering home repairs. In many of these cases, repairmen do only superficial repairs to make something look nicer or others take your deposit money and then disappear into thin air. To avoid this, make sure you check references and be leery of anyone appearing out of the blue offering home improvement services or those who are not insured.
  • Moving Scams
    As summer is a time when many people move homes, it’s also a time ripe for moving scams. You could experience something like the moving company suddenly charging you more if you want your belongings unloaded from the truck. To avoid moving scams, be careful when you choose a moving company, check references and make sure you use an accredited moving firm.
  • Vacation Rental Scams
    Vacations are something you want to enjoy and getting a great deal makes it even better. But not if it’s a sham. Scammers offer deals on vacation rentals and then you arrive to find that the keys don’t work or worse—the rental is an empty lot. Before you pay for a vacation rental, make sure that the rental address exists by using Google Earth search. And just like other things, get references and only rent from trusted sites like TripAdvisor.
  • Online Employment Ads
    If you’re job searching, you need to be aware. This scam is usually found on free job listing sites, but can be found in emails too. The red flag is when they want YOU to pay THEM (never mind how legitimate it sounds) or they ask you for a ton of personal information like your driver’s license or birthdate. Just don’t give out your information. Stick to well-known job sites when hunting online.

Summer is a time that we should all enjoy—both online and offline. Make sure you educate yourself on the latest scams and be wary of things that seem too good to be true. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Stay safe this summer!

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

McAfee 12 Scams Season of Sharing Sweepstakes: Win a Dell Ultrabook!

It’s that time of year again. Yes, I know it seems like we just got past the spooks from Halloween, but the holidays are just around the corner. While we are busy buying gifts and making travel arrangements, cybercriminals are making their lists, and checking them twice, as they prepare to unleash a host of scams designed to take advantage of the seasonal surge in online shopping and sharing. Since it only takes one scam to spoil your holiday season, it’s a good idea to get familiar with our list of the 12 Scams of the Holidays, and learn how to avoid them.

To help you stay protected as you search high and low both on and offline for the perfect presents for your loved ones, McAfee has released its annual 12 Scams of Holidays list full of digital dangers to be on alert for as you surf the web for holiday deals and steals and how to be safe in the coming months and beyond.

And to make sure that we all have a safe and merry holiday, McAfee is hosting the Season of Sharing Sweepstakes*. By sharing the #12scams content with your friends and family, you’ll not only be helping others to stay safe online this holiday season, but you’ll also earn a chance to win a Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook or Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet along with McAfee LiveSafe™ to make sure all your devices are protected! And while you’re at it, check out the deals on the Dell tablets as well!

12 Scams of holiday Here’s how you can help spread the joy so we can all avoid the 12 scams of the holidays.

HOW TO ENTER

  • Go to 12scams.com
  • Sign into the page using your Facebook or Twitter account
  • Share the #12scams content to earn entries into the sweepstakes drawing
  • Sit tight for winners to be announced on December 17.

WHAT YOU COULD WIN

  • Grand Prize: 1 winner will receive a Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook™ and a 1-year subscription to McAfee LiveSafe
  • 1st Place: 1 winner will receive a Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet and a 1-year subscription to McAfee LiveSafe
  • 2nd Places: Ten (10) winners will receive a 1-year subscription to McAfee LiveSafe

Have fun and stay safe this holiday!

*Sweepstakes open to US residents only. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes is from November 18 – December 13, 2013. See www.12scams.com for full terms and conditions.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.