Fraud

Watch out for Good Ol’ Scammer Claus: Practice safe shopping online this holiday season

Watch out for Good Ol’ Scammer Claus: Practice safe shopping online this holiday season

(revised from an article written in the RIT University Magazine by Ben Woelk)



Consumers spent more than $46 billion shopping online last holiday season and will spend even more this year. According to Internet Retailer, this year’s online spending is estimated at $54 billion, and, “This holiday season will mark the fourth consecutive year of e-commerce spending growth.” To cyber criminals, more spending and the busy-ness of the season means more opportunity for identity theft and fraud.

As you begin your shopping, follow these guidelines to help ensure that you don’t become a victim.

  1. Make sure you’ve protected your computer. According to a survey by the National Cyber Safety Alliance, most home computers aren’t as well protected as their users believe. We recommend that you make sure your home computer meets the requirements of the RIT Desktop & Portable Computer Standard, especially updated anti-virus, before going online.

     
  2. Know from where you’re buying. Plug the website name into a search engine. What kinds of consumer reviews are returned?
  • Understand the seller’s return/exchange policy before buying.
  • Check the seller’s privacy policy to understand how they will protect your information.
  • If you’re shopping on an auction site, check the seller’s feedback to see what kind of experience others have had.

     
  1. Know what you’re buying. Don’t fall for a deal that looks too good to be true. Extremely low prices could be an indication that the item is a counterfeit. The website may also harbor malware that could attack your computer.

If you’re making several purchases, try to combine them in the same order if possible. It saves the amount of transactions you have to make and may also save you money on shipping costs.

  1. Only send your private information using secure web forms. Make sure the address bar begins with either shttp or https.
  • Look for a padlock or an unbroken key on your web browser to confirm that the site is secure. The padlock will be located at the left end of the address bar or in the bottom right part of the browser window.
  • Don’t respond to requests for private information. No legitimate retailer will ask you to submit private information by e-mail. Never give out bank account numbers or Social Security numbers online or in response to an e-mail.

     
  1. Use a secure payment method. Find out if your financial institution offers one-time use “virtual credit cards” or “temporary account numbers.” These use different numbers than your regular account and expire after a set time period. Credit cards offer the most protection. Federal law limits your fraud liability to $50 for unauthorized transactions. MasterCard and Visa offer zero liability for most debit transactions as well. If you’re not using a credit or debit card, don’t use cash or wire transfers. Use a money order or cashier’s check instead, since these methods are much easier to trace if something goes wrong.

     
  2. Keep a paper trail. Print copies of all of your orders and receipts as well as e-mail correspondence and product descriptions. Monitor your bank account and credit card statement after your transactions for any suspicious activity.

     
  3. If you suspect something is wrong: Contact the seller and inform them of the problem. Contact your financial institution or credit card issuer immediately to freeze your account(s). If necessary, file a complaint or identity theft report with the proper authorities:

 

For more information on safe online shopping, visit our Safe Online Shopping and Banking page and the following Web sites:

  1. NYS Attorney General’s Office: http://www.dhses.ny.gov/ocs/
  2. FTC: http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0020-shopping-online
  3. Staysafeonline.org: http://www.staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/protect-your-personal-information/online-shopping
  4. Safeshopping.org: www.safeshopping.org/

 

Identity Theft

Identity Theft

Scams and malware are not the only way criminals can steal identities. There are many ways for identity thieves to victimize you, damage your credit, steal important documents or information.

Read our Avoiding Identity Theft Online brochure to learn how to spot basic online scams and how to protect yourself.

Although online scams and malware have reached epidemic proportions, they are not the only way criminals can steal identities. Discarded bank statements, receipts, bills, etc. are also great sources for identity thieves. The Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft page provides more information on the different methods criminals use, and the precautions you should take.

Check out our Disposal Recommendations to find the best way to dispose of any media that might contain your personal information.

Students

The U.S. Department of Education has created their MISUSED website as a resource for college students and identity theft. You can learn about how scholastic identity theft occurs, how to reduce your risk, and what you should do if you discover you're a victim. They also offer several resources for identifying scholarship scams and finding legitimate financial aid.

The Sallie Mae college loan corporation also offers advice on how to guard against identity theft.

Victims

If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, take action immediately. Contact any credit card issuers and financial institutions with whom you have an account to temporarily freeze all transactions. Contact the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to have them flag your file with a fraud alert. This will require any credit grantor to verify your permission before taking action in your name.

More on Identity Theft

 

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