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Online shoppers should hoard credit, debit card data

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you love the convenience of shopping online, then it’s likely you have your credit- or debit-card information stored on a favorite website or mobile app.

You know, that easy way the site will autofill your card information so you don’t have to type it in.

But be aware that there risks when you do this – as so many of us do, according to a recent survey by creditcard.com. The survey showed that two out of every three online shoppers have their card information stored on at least one website or app for future purchases. About 10 percent said they always save their card information online, no matter where they’re shopping.

“If you extrapolate that out across the population, that means 94 million Americans let retailers store their credit- or debit-card data, and 14 million always do so,” according to the site, which surveyed 1,000 adults.

Here’s the problem: If your computer gets hacked or your smartphone is stolen, the thieves will have an easy way to make purchases in your name.

“For online consumers, there’s a trade-off: The more you store your payment info in a variety of places, the greater your odds of being a victim of fraud,” Alex Johnson, senior marketing manager at FICO, told creditcards.com. “But saving your information offers a definite advantage in terms of convenience, because you don’t have to have your card on hand to make a purchase.”

The safest thing to do, of course, is to type in your card number for every purchase. If you’re not willing to do that, then choose a credit card over a debit card because there are more protections when it comes to fraudulent purchases.

While certain protections cover both debit- and credit-card transactions, most credit cards go further and offer their own form of zero-fraud liability. That means you likely won’t be out any money, regardless of how much fraud is involved. Also, most credit card issuers put the fraudulent charge on hold while they investigate, so you won’t be out the money in the interim, either.

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No matter what happens, Medicare is not going to call you about a back brace.

Keep this in mind in case you’re a target in yet another Medicare scam. This one involves someone claiming to be with Medicare, either offering you a free brace outright or saying that a caregiver had previously called about receiving one, the Better Business Bureau says.

If you show any interest, the caller will start asking for personal information, such as Social Security number or Medicare number. Hang up.

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And one more “don’t.”

Do not click on the big red egg featured in an email that purports to be from Amazon. It’s one of those fake “Your order has arrived” notifications, and when you open the message, you are treated to a view of a large red egg. It says there’s a possible reward inside, if only you will click the matching red “crack” button.

• • •

I have heard my share of stories from abashed readers, saying they can’t believe they were naive enough to fall for this or that scam. In retrospect, they say, it’s perfectly clear that they were being conned.

But scams are ever-evolving, and those who commit them know how to find our weak spots. Really, we’re all vulnerable.

And here’s more proof: The Colorado resort town of Snowmass forked over nearly $60,000 earlier this month because of a “sophisticated spear phishing ploy,” according to the Aspen Daily News.

The culprits mimicked a town email account and requested a wire transfer of town money. The transaction appeared related to construction materials, and the town’s finance department fell for it and wired the money.

Spear phishing is when an imposter email appears to come from a trusted source as a way to seek confidential information or money.

Snowmass officials noticed the crime the following week and reported it to police.

They added that they aren’t optimistic about getting any of it back.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210​.

 

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