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’Tis the season for scams and cons

By Staff | Dec 18, 2010

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office is warning citizens to watch out for scams this holiday season.
When shopping online for the perfect gift, buy from only reputable sellers. If the deal sounds too good to be true on websites like Craigslist and eBay, then it probably is. Fake travel sites will offer amazing deals on vacation and hotel rentals to lure people into providing their personal information to steal their identity or access their bank account.
Residents should beware of clicking on a holiday e-card from someone they do not know — it could deliver malware, spyware or pop-ups. Cybercriminals trick consumers into divulging their bank details by sending officials-looking e-mails. They may allude to purchases being made using your accounts.
“Don’t respond to these e-mails, instead contact your bank directly,” Stacey Payne, LCSO community relations manager, wrote in a prepared statement.
The use of credit and debit cards increases during the holiday season. Keep track of your cards and purchases and check all statement notices carefully. Cybercriminals also send fake invoices and delivery notifications that appear to be from FedEx, UPS or the U.S. Postal Service.
“To confirm authenticity, contact the phone number listed on the official website of the delivery agency,” Payne wrote.
Before donating to charities, check them out online at: www.charitynavigator or www.bbb.org. Citizens also can contact the LCSO Fraud Line at 477-1242.
“Don’t let the warmth of the season cloud your judgement,” she wrote. “Be careful and be safe.”
While most cyberscams target a computer, “smishing” or “vishing” scams target a mobile phone using text and voice messaging — vishing scams also target landline phones. An automated dial system texts or calls people in a particular region or area code, sometimes using stolen phone numbers.
The victims receive a text message or an automated phone call instructing them that there is a problem with their bank account or that their ATM card needs to be reactivated. It then directs the victims to key in their account information, PIN or credit card number or directs them to a website.
If the recipient responds to the messages, they are likely to have money withdrawn from their account. If they log onto the phone website using the provided link and a smart phone, they could download malicious software.
“These scams are a growing threat to millions of Americans who own cell phones, and due to a rise in cell phone and Internet usage, we expect to see an increase in cyber related crimes in 2011,” Payne wrote. “So taking a few moments now to educate ourselves on what to be aware of will go a long way in protecting our money and our personal information.”
Officials recommended that residents do not respond to text messages or automated voice messages from unknown or blocked numbers on their mobile phone. Treat a mobile phone like a computer and do not download anything unless you can trust the source.
Contact financial institutions using the official website or telephone number located on the back of a bank card or statement. Banks and credit unions will never text customers to notify them that there are problems with accounts.