Feature Article
Mark Pribish
Getting Ahead of Holiday and Tax Identity Theft
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

The end of each year is a great time to make new resolutions, break old habits and reenergize for a fantastic start to the New Year.

Unfortunately, identity theft continues to be a significant and growing issue for consumers and small businesses. Before you finalize your New Year's resolutions - you may want to take note of how to avoid identity theft during this holiday season and the upcoming 2014 tax season.

For example, you need to be aware of the fact that the use of Wi-Fi enabled devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops to share personal information (e.g. credit card information to make an online purchase) could increase your risk of identity theft and fraud.

ID Theft

That said, McAfee Security has created the following Holiday safety tips titled the McAfee's Online Safety Tips for the Top 12 Holiday Scams (see the article here).

In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week will take place January 13-17, 2014 (see the article here).

The FTC will host national and regional events designed to raise awareness about tax identity theft and provide consumers with educational tips on how to protect themselves, and what to do if they become victims of identity theft and fraud.

According to the FTC, Tax identity theft represented more than 43 percent of the FTC's identity theft complaints in 2012.

Tax identity theft was also the largest category of identity theft complaints by a substantial margin. In addition, the percentage of tax ID theft complaints nearly doubled, from just over 24 percent in 2011.

While I encourage all of our readers to be safe this Holiday season and the 2014 Tax season, I would like to take this time to wish everyone a Happy Holiday and Happy New Year!

Sincerely,
Mark

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 Central

Online Holiday Shopping Gone Awry

One of the greatest conveniences the internet has brought us is online shopping. Rather than having to get dressed, drive in traffic, or face hostile crowds in a popular storefront, you can find what you need much quicker through the store's website. You can also easily compare prices between stores to find the best value for your money. Depending upon how much you spend, you may also receive free shipping and often receive your order in just a few days. For those of us that do not like to shop, this is heaven!

Scammers and thieves are quick to find ways of exploiting these modern conveniences to their advantage, and they are often quite good at fooling consumers. You need to be ever vigilant in their online activity to stay ahead of the criminals. This is especially true during the holiday seasons. Scammers are quickly creating websites designed to fool the user into thinking they are shopping at one of the better-known websites, when they are actually using a fake site designed to take their money.

How It Works:

In this particular case noted by the Better Business Bureau here, scammers are using the keyword "overstock" in their domain names to fool people into thinking they are actually shopping at the popular online website Overstock.com. The shopper believes they are the official website and shops away, only to wind up supplying their credit card information and pay for goods they will never receive. Once the thieves have that credit card information, they can use it at their whim.

Your Defense:

Thieves are using slight-of-hand tactics to trick you all the time. While today's target is Overstock.com, tomorrow it could be Ebay.com, Amazon.com, or any other popular online shopping site, so vigilance is needed.

Some handy techniques to lessen your risks and avoid fraud, provided by the BBB in the same article, include:

  • Do not click on links provided in emails, even from those that appear legitimate. Do not take that risk.
  • Type the URL of your online shopping destination directly into your browser's address bar, or search for the store if you are not sure of the exact URL. If you misspell the company name, some search engines will ask if you meant to type in another, more prominent name and point you to the official site, as they usually advertise with search engines.
  • Ensure that "https" is in the URL, and verify the certificate by clicking the lock and viewing the certificate. If the certificate is not issued to the retailer you are visiting, leave the website immediately.
  • Make sure you shop with a credit card. Credit cards offer greater protections against fraud than debit cards. And, if you give your debit card information to scammers, they can clean out your entire bank account and leave you with nothing.
  • If the site has the BBB Accredited Business seal, click on it. If it does not link directly to the BBB company review, leave immediately.

There are other ways to ensure that your online shopping experience is a pleasant one, but the main idea is to keep your eyes open and keep track of where you are. With screens changing left and right as you click links, you can easily find yourself on a site you had no intention of visiting. If you find yourself on a site that seems suspicious, leave it immediately. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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