Feature Article
Mark Pribish
Consumer Alert: Protect your Identity, Wallets, On-line Purchases, Cars, and Luggage from Holiday Thieves
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

According to new research conducted by Merchants Information Solutions, Inc. (Merchants) - protecting your identity and the identity of family members is the number one consumer concern with the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and year-end Holiday events taking place.

Based on the 1st Annual Merchants' Consumer ID Theft and Fraud Survey, the Top five consumer concerns relating to Holiday thieves include the following:

  1. Identity Theft
  2. Lost Wallets
  3. On-Line Purchases
  4. Automobiles
  5. Luggage

In addition, the day after Thanksgiving (commonly known as Black Friday) which is known as the beginning of the holiday shopping season and Cyber Monday (where online shoppers recognize the Monday after Black Friday as the beginning of the online holiday shopping season) can also bring you and family members closer to being victims of ID Theft and Fraud based on the following survey results:

  1. Identity Theft - one way your risk of identity theft can increase during the year-end Holidays is when you and family members receive numerous cards that include cash, checks, and/or gift cards via the U.S. mail. Since ID thieves are not on vacation during the Holidays, families should be proactive in communicating to one another when these cards and gifts are being sent to help minimize and prevent them from being stolen by ID Theft thieves.

  2. Lost Wallets - according to a November 7, 2006 Holiday consumer alert from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) - please see attached link for this 2006 ITRC consumer alert (http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/m_press/
    ). This alert states that; "Every year ITRC gets more calls about lost and stolen wallets than any other time of the year. This is the season to enjoy, not to be stressed as an identity theft victim. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the biggest shopping season of the year. As we enter the holiday season, we would like to remind everyone to take additional precautions against identity theft. Identity theft is not just something you read about in the paper."

  3. On-Line Purchases - there have been news reports over the last three years - and this year will be no different -- where online buyers have holiday packages stolen from their homes by thieves (please see LiveLeak link at (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=317_1238074724). A common scenario is when criminals follow overnight delivery trucks (e.g. FedEx, UPS, etc.) to the homes of individuals who have made on-line purchases. Once these thieves realize no on is home, they walk up to the house and steal your Holiday package - so you may want to have packages sent to you during this Holiday season require a signature.

  4. Automobile Thefts and Burglaries - automobile thefts and burglaries also increase during the holiday season - especially when people leave new purchases, Holiday gifts, and valuables in plain sight while shopping and running errands during the Holidays - so be sure to put any new purchases and/or valuables (e.g. a laptop computer) in the trunk of your car.

  5. Stolen Luggage - The AZ Republic reported on how two thieves stole 1,000 pieces of luggage from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (for more information please see attached AZ Republic link at (http://www.azcentral.com/community/phoenix/articles/
    ). This is a great reminder to be more aware of your surroundings when traveling on vacation - whether it is the thief after your wallet/purse, laptop computer, or luggage.

Based on the above five consumer concerns, you should pay special attention during the Holiday season in protecting your personal information - as ID thieves ranging from organized crime, to petty thieves to social engineering (e.g. current and former employees of businesses that you come in contact with during your Holiday and vacation travel) have an interest in your personal information and using your credit cards, checks, gift cards, and cash.

Also, be prepared by making copies of all your credit/debit cards, drivers license and any other card and information supporting your identity and address along with copying all account numbers along with related customer service numbers.

To conclude, be prepared for fraudulent charitable organizations, fraudulent social media including new friend networking emails, fraudulent anti-virus software solicitations, fraudulent Holiday e-cards that deliver malware, fraudulent bank emails and solicitations, fraudulent financial services and email solicitations, fraudulent collection company scams, and fraudulent on-line job scams -- along with the standard spoofing, phishing, and vishing attempts.

Separate from my comments in the last paragraph, I hope you and your family have a safe and relaxing Holiday season.


Scam Central

Social Media Sites and Phishing

Social websites such as Facebook and Twitter are all the rage these days. And, it hasn't taken long for would be identity thieves to rework some clever landing pages in an effort to dupe you out of your username and password, or more.

How it Works:

You receive a "tweet" or a Facebook alert from someone wanting you to look at a funny video. You click on the link and are taking to a page that looks like your normal Facebook or Twitter login page. However, the URL of the site is different and you have just given your login information to identity thieves. This is not a new scam, but rather a different spin on an old scam. In fact, it's called "phishing", and it's been around for a long time.

Your Defense:

Before you click on any link you receive in any email make sure you know where the source is coming from. If you receive a tweet, find out who sent it, and if you are setup to follow that individual. The same caution should be exercised with any Facebook updates or alerts regarding new posts to your wall. Verify the source of the email.

In either case, the absolute best defense you can use against potential phishing attempts is to go to the website's regular login page and login there. If a friend did indeed "tweet" you, you should be able to read about it from there. With Facebook, if someone has posted something on your wall, simply login at Facebook and view it from there. One should never follow links in emails when the source cannot be verified.