Fraud Prevention

ID TheftOne of the most common methods of identity theft is through stolen purses and wallets, but, increasingly, crooks are using technology to commit fraud. Here are some of the most common scams and tips for guarding against them.

Skimmers swipe your credit or debit card through a handheld device, or they install an overlay device (which will be a slightly different color than the machine) on an ATM or gas pump. The device gleans information off the magnetic stripe on the back of the card. The thief copies information from your card to a fraudulent one and sells it to a counterfeiter. A way to avoid it is try not to let your card out of your sight when shopping or in a restaurant and watch for devices on ATMs and gas pumps.

A criminal gets your personal information under false pretenses, such as by calling and posing as a survey firm, then sells it to people who may use it to get credit in your name, steal your assets, or investigate or sue you. It is recommended to never give out your financial information via phone or email unless you initiated the contact.

Smishing is phishing via SMS (short message service) and it's targeted at cell phone users who use text messaging. You receive a text message along these lines: We're confirming you've signed up for our dating service. You will be charged $2 a day unless you cancel your order. The message includes a Web link that routes you to the main phishing page, where you're prompted to download a program. Many times the program is a Trojan horse, which turns your computer into a zombie controlled by hackers and used within a larger network to steal personal account information and perform other malicious activities.

The best way to avoid it is to be cautious about terminating from a service when you're sure you didn't make a formal arrangement with the sender. Be as vigilant about security for your cell phone as you are for your computer. If you have children who have cell phones, warn them about this scam as well. Fraudsters have long tried to talk people out of their money with hard luck stories.

You will receive a phone call from an automated random dialer informing you that your credit card has been used illegally and asking you to call a fake 800 number, where you'll be asked to confirm your account details. Or you may receive an email asking you to call a toll-free number. If you get a call asking you to give personal information, hang up and call the financial institution that issued your card, using the number on the back of the card. Your provider will know if the call is legitimate. Delete any email requests making similar requests, and never provide personal information in response to an email.

To Prevent Fraud
Visit the Direct Marketing Association to get your name and names of those in your care off mailing lists, telemarketing lists, and email lists. The site also offers information about preventing identity theft, avoiding sweepstakes scams, and being a smart catalog shopper. Keep your firewall and virus-protection software up-to-date.