Posted by: Kimberly Howard, CFP®, CRPC®, ADPA® | February 19, 2013

Protect Your Identity from Online Scammers

To educate

As the trend in online shopping and Internet use increases, so does the risk of being victimized by the scams of cyber crooks.  Not only do we have more people using pc’s, but the growing phone technology is also making it easier for both thieves and consumers alike. According to the security firm McAfee in their 2012 Shopping Study, nearly a quarter (24%) of the people surveyed plan to use a mobile device, even knowing the increased threat of doing so.

Online banking using a Smartphone and downloading certain apps to shop may turn out to be a key that opens up your accounts to a thief. Compromised or malicious applications are being designed by scammers to fool you and may give them access to sensitive information, which they use to steal your identity and spend your money.

With so much personal information being transferred electronically, the opportunity is hard for thieves and scammers to resist. The crooks continue to educate themselves and so should the consumers. There are some practical ways to protect yourself. Here are the most insidious online scams and tips to avoid becoming a victim.

Social Media Websites – MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites aren’t totally harmless or simply good places to meet friends. These social sites often become places where you may let your guard down to a crook’s devious deeds. The hook works like those sent to your email. A gotta’-have-it advertisement or contest entry appears as a post from a friend, but is actually from your friend’s hacked account. Click on the link and you’ll end up on the hacker’s fake site where you’ll be asked for personal information in order to enter a phony contest or get a rock bottom deal. Don’t do it! If you’re interested in a contest or special offer, visit the product website directly.

Smartphone Apps – One out of seven people own a smart phone, and it’s been estimated that there have been more than 25 billion app downloads since their introduction. The danger begins when a malicious application is downloaded to your phone that was designed to steal your information or even send out premium-rate text messages without your knowledge.

Online Merchants and Charities – While the vast majority of online stores and charities are legitimate, the few unscrupulous ones appear real and lure you in with great promotions or ways to help the less fortunate to steal your personal information. One thing to look for is the Veri-Sign logo; click on it to verify that the site is legitimate. Sites that use PayPal or another trusted online payment system are much safer than those that require your direct credit card information to make a payment.

Credit Card Questions – Perhaps the most successful scheme crooks use, involve credit cards. Recent warnings report fake phone calls made to consumers from someone claiming to be a worker for the credit card company. In this case, the criminal most likely has the account number, name and address but still needs the three-digit security code from the back of the card.

The scammer tells the victim that their card has been flagged for an unusual purchase and that they need to verify some information. He then asks whether they’ve made a purchase for a certain amount of money. When the victim says no, the scammer says they will credit the victim’s account for that fraudulent purchase. The scammer then verifies information with the victim, including their address and credit card number. Once they get the code, they can then use the victim’s credit card for identity theft.

General Tips
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is make sure you become educated. Learn if you have the right kind of security software installed. If not, get it! If you already have security software installed, make sure you keep it updated and have the software running at all times. Never click on email links from any questionable source. Immediately report any fraudulent activity to local police, as well as to the involved parties – banks, credit card companies, merchants, etc.

Noreen Ruth is a regular contributor to http://www.wowcreditcards.com/ and numerous financial-related blogs and websites. She specializes in credit and debt-related issues and enjoys educating consumers about the latest rules and regulations, as well as ways to build, improve and maintain good credit. Follow her additional posts on the Wow Credit Cards Blog to stay up-to with the latest credit card news, reviews, inf

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