Each week, the ITRC works with Scam-Detector to bring you news of the most prevalent or most harmful scams to affect consumers during the previous few days. This information, compiled from sources like the Better Business Bureau, is intended to help you stay alert and informed in order to avoid becoming a victim.
#1 – Digital Pickpockets
You may have seen infomercials for nifty new wallets that protect your credit cards from the 21st century’s answer to the common pickpocket. These wallets, which often feature some kind of metal casing to protect your data, are designed to prevent thieves from scanning your pocket or purse with a special device and nabbing your cards’ info. But is this really true, or is it the latest internet rumor?
It’s both. It’s true, but it only affects cards that have a special radio frequency chip built in. Your typical “swipe” credit card with a magnetic strip is safe from this kind of attack. But what is this radio frequency?
If you own a credit card that lets you simply touch it to a special card reader at checkout instead of swiping it through the machine, then your credit card could be in jeopardy. You can easily contact your credit card provider and request a card that does not utilize this technology, or you can make the small investment in a wallet or card case that is designed to block this kind of reader.
#2 – Malicious Flashlight Apps
This unbelievable scam seems like something straight out of the movies, but the experts at SnoopWall have written a detailed report on their discovery. They reviewed the top selling and top free flashlight apps—apps that activate the flash on your smartphone’s camera in order to let it work as a handy little flashlight—and discovered some highly unusual and alarming information about the way these apps work. Essentially, the flashlight apps shine a light on an object you wish to see, diverting your attention from the fact that it’s gathering up your personal information, including your location, your phone number, your contacts list, and more.
Some of the apps even accessed the smartphone’s camera (such as apps that also worked as magnifiers), sifted through the stored data in the phone’s memory, enabled the geolocation services, and engaged in other malicious behaviors. What really stood out to the experts was the file size and memory requirements of these apps, with many of them using as much as five megabytes of memory. That’s simply too large to be believed, and hints at the potential for dangerous software running in the background that is feeding your information to cybercriminals.
If you have a flashlight app, SnoopWall recommends deleting it immediately, especially if you use a mobile banking app as well. The threat was serious enough that the company even suggests certain phone users, like Android device owners who bought apps from the Google Play store, consider resetting the phone completely and reinstalling their accounts.
#3 – Prepaid Debit Card Scams
Prepaid debit cards like the kind issued by Vanilla Reload are a convenient way to transport funds with some measure of security. Travelers have taken to carrying them for security, online consumers have started using them for transactions over the internet, and parents are even opting for these kinds of cards for their kids, knowing that the young person will have necessary buying power but cannot rack up high bills or let a high-limit credit card fall into the wrong hands.
Unfortunately, there are a wide variety of scams designed to take advantage of prepaid card owners, and almost all of them require you to turn over the card number and the PIN on the back. Since most consumers recognize that these cards don’t work like a credit card, they often think nothing of using the PIN number that’s clearly printed on the card.
If anyone ever asks for that PIN number, terminate the conversation immediately. It’s a scam. Once the person has access to the card number and the PIN, he can deplete all the funds on the card, and there’s no consumer protection like you find with a credit card. That money is simply gone.
To find out more about these scams and to see the rest of the top ten, check out the Scam-Detector.com website or follow this link to the ITRC list.