The holiday season officially kicks off this week and the Attorney General is warning holiday shoppers of payment card vulnerabilities.
“In the past, shoppers only had to worry about someone snatching their wallets, including their cash, and credit or debit cards,” said Attorney General Hood. “Now, credit card payment information can be stolen by invisible thieves who may have hacked into the retailer or restaurant's payment system.”
Shoppers should take extreme caution when using debit or credit cards, especially debit cards. Debit cards are especially sensitive because the cards allow access to the consumer's bank account.
Recognizing an unauthorized user will be more of a challenge for retailers, banks and credit card companies with the high volume business the holiday season brings.
Here are some recommendations from the Attorney General to better protect yourself:
• Consumers should regularly monitor their credit card and bank statements especially during and following the holidays. It can take 7 to 10 days for a card to be reissued if it is compromised. As a result, shoppers need to be prepared to use cash in the event their card is compromised so that they are not prevented from completing their holiday shopping or essential purchases.
• When shopping online, shoppers are advised to watch for unsolicited fake emails which are not related to their actual purchases. Shoppers are encouraged to utilize credit cards or small amounts of cash when shopping in person. However, the Attorney General does not encourage consumers to travel with large amounts of cash.
• Shoppers should use trusted websites and look for those with security certifications such as VeriSign or TRUSTe. A good rule of thumb is to look for an “s” in the website's address line or the URL. “HTTPS” indicates a safe and secure site. Please keep in mind that U.S. law enforcement can assist you more easily if a problem arises with a U.S.-based online merchant rather than a foreign business.
Scammers have also been known to take advantage of people by pretending to be a legitimate financial institution and calling them about an alleged breach or compromise. They can even spoof and use the institution's real phone number.
Remember, your financial institution will never initiate a call to you and then ask you to verify your account or personal information on the phone.
The Attorney General advises consumers to hang up the phone without talking to the person and immediately speak to their bank in person or call the financial institution by another phone number - not the number provided by the scammer.
For more information on holiday shopping safety, see the Attorney General's publication “Consumer Safety Tips for Holiday Shopping” available at www.agjimhood.com, under “media center”, then “publications”.
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