Cyber Monday: Can't Trust that Day

Charlene OHanlon
Cyber Monday has come and gone, and so far online retailers have given two very large thumbs up on the amount of revenue generated. (I, for one, noticed a drag on my Internet connection due to the increase in traffic.) But for every transaction conducted via the Web, how many do you suppose were the direct result of identity theft?

According to Javelin Strategies, in 2009 there were 11 million victims of identity theft in the United States, with damages totaling more than $54 billion. I don't think that's what the New Testament phrase, ''Tis better to give than to receive' means.

For the average consumer, a little common sense can go a long way in protecting one's identity online. And since Cyber Monday is pretty much every day until Christmas Eve, thanks to the economy, the Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3) has published some tips on keeping your identity your own when going online.

So CTOs, post this in your employee break room; we all know not much work gets done in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but a whole lot of online shopping does:

Classified Ads and Auction Sales - According to IC3, Internet criminals advertise products they do not have and make the scam work by using stolen credit cards. Once these criminals receive an order from a victim, they charge the victim's credit card for the amount of the order but use a separate, stolen credit card for the actual purchase. They then have the merchant ship the item directly to the victim, pocketing the payment from the original victim.

Victims of such a scam not only lose the money paid to the criminal, but they also may be liable for receiving stolen goods.

Gift Cards-Don't purchase gift cards through auction sites or classified ads-chances are they have been stolen or are fraudulent. Enough said.

Phishing and Smishing Schemes-Phishing is back, accompanied by its little friend smishing.
For those in need of a refresher, phishing refers to an attempt to obtain personal information by fraudulent means, such as posing as a legitimate entity and using e-mails and scam sites. Smishing, meanwhile, is essentially the same thing, except the fraudster uses text messages to get the information.

IC3 warns consumers to be leery of e-mails or text messages that indicate a problem or question about a user's financial accounts. When in doubt, contact your financial institution directly.

These are but three scams working their way through cyberspace this holiday season. And while every year alerts go out about these very cons, inevitably a plethora of folks get burned. All it takes is a few seconds to do major damage to your identity so keep your guard up this holiday season and make it a happy one.

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