Mark Pribish

Conduct a pre-vacation ‘ID-theft check-up’

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

So you're having a great time on vacation when you attempt to pay for a meal or a souvenir only to learn that your purchase is denied. The upcoming Memorial Day weekend is a time when millions of Americans will begin taking summer vacations, and all too many unwittingly will enable ID theft criminals to steal personal information and use it.

Much like commercial pilots who conduct extensive pre-flight checks to make sure they don't have in-flight problems, I encourage you to conduct a pre-vacation "ID theft check-up." ID-theft criminals will be targeting your personally identifiable information such as your credit card, debit card, passport, driver's license, frequent flier and hotel guest program numbers while you're on vacation.

No. 1 on your check-up should be social media, as it's a big problem when you or your kids leave a vacation trail on social media by posting updates and photos. This enables ID-theft criminals by telling them the best time to rob your home - because you're away. Where possible, you should turn off your location settings and delay the posting of your vacation photos until you return home, especially if those photos contain geographical information (geotagging).

Second, assume you're a ID-theft scam target. That means be on the lookout for scams that involve ID theft via pharming, phishing, pre-texting, skimming, spoofing, spyware, and vishing or voice phishing.

Your third check-up reminder is that the most common of the above scams is phishing, including websites promoting free vacations, financial institution phishing (fake bank websites), fake job phishing (fake job offers) and voice phishing (fake caller ID and fake customer service representatives calling you pretending to be with companies you have a relationship with).

Lastly and as a reminder, ID theft is more than a financial event. ID theft can also affect your children, drivers license, employment, government benefits and medical benefits.

Here is an ID-theft check-up vacation checklist for you to share with family and friends:

  • U.S. Postal Service mail should be put on hold, or arrange for your mail to be collected by a trusted family member or friend.
  • Newspaper deliveries should be put on hold or designated for charity.
  • Schedule on-site house or apartment visit by a trusted family member or friend.
  • Use just one credit card and one debit card to minimize risk.
  • Password-protect your smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices.
  • Pay cash at gas stations or use your credit/debit card inside to minimize the risk of credit/debit card skimming.
  • Do not let your debit card out of your sight as unscrupulous servers can skim your card without your knowledge.
  • Use caution with wireless Internet connections; most Wi-Fi networks are not secure.
  • Keep your receipts and reconcile them with your credit and debit card statements.
  • Never leave documents such as registration/insurance in the glove compartment when valet parking.
  • Use hotel safes and/or room safes to secure valuables while you are outside your hotel room.
  • Call your financial institution and credit card company to let them know the dates of your family vacation, as they will monitor your accounts for irregular activity and unauthorized transactions.

ID theft criminals love when you're on vacation, as many people forget to be ID theft vigilant. Take action to avoid helping criminals make you a victim by using my ID theft vacation checklist.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Alert -- Survey Scam is Back with a Summer Twist

Take a Survey, Get $100? Don't Fall for It!

Booking a summer vacation? Steer clear of fake offers promising you gift cards in exchange for taking a quick customer survey. This scam keeps cropping up, and it's back with a seasonal travel twist.

How the Scam Works:

You receive an email or see a social media post urging you to claim a free voucher or gift card. "You have-earned-yourself a $100-GiftCard: Take Our-Survey," reads the subject line of one version. This time of year, fake airline offers are particularly popular, but the "gift card" could be from any well-known brand. The email urges you to click a link and complete a short customer survey.

It sounds easy... but don't do it! These survey scams have a variety of tricks. The link may lead to a real survey, but when you complete it, the $100 gift card happens to be "out of stock." Not coincidentally, all that remains are "free" samples of spammy products like diet pills and wrinkle cream. In other versions, the form is actually a phishing scam that requests banking and credit card information. Or the link may download malware to your computer to steal your passwords and other critical information.

Tips to Spot a Fake Voucher Scam:

With many businesses offering discounts in exchange for customer feedback, it can be hard to tell a real offer from a fake one. Here are some pointers.

  • Look up the website on WhoIs. Right click on the link and select "Copy Link Address." Then, paste this destination URL into the WhoIs.net directory. This directory will tell you when and to whom a domain is registered. If the URL is brand new, or if the ownership is masked by a proxy service, consider it a big warning sign of a scam.
  • Watch out for look-alike URLs. Scammers pick URLs that look similar to those of legitimate sites. Be wary of sites that have the brand name as a subdomain of another URL (i.e. brandname.scamwebsite.com), part of a longer URL (i.e. companynamebooking.com) or use an unconventional top level domain (the TLD is the part of the name after the dot).
  • Legitimate businesses do not ask for credit card numbers or banking information on customer surveys. If they do ask for personal information, like an address or email, be sure there's a link to their privacy policy.
  • Watch out for a reward that's too good to be true. If the survey is real, you may be entered in a drawing to win a gift card or receive a small discount off your next purchase. Few businesses give away $100 gift cards just for answering a few questions.

For More Information

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper (bbb.org/scam).

Courtesy of the Better Business Bureau - for more information visit http://www.bbb.org/phoenix/news-events/

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.