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Tips to avoid scams adapted to new technology

November 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Susan Feinberg was stunned to find out that criminals had raided her home equity line of credit by pretending to be her.

"We discovered that they had cashed checks for $17,000," Feinberg said.

Feinberg isn't sure how the crooks got crucial information like her Social Security number and mother's maiden name. But people are frequently fooled into sharing those details online.

Consumer Reports reveals America's worst scams, many of which tap into ever-changing technology.

"We've cautioned against phishing e-mails that trick you to reveal your personal information, but now scammers have figured out how to lure you on your cellphone," said Kim Kleman, the editor in chief of Consumer Reports magazine.

In this type of fraud called "smishing," a phony link from a major retailer appears in a text message offering, for instance, a $1,000 gift voucher. The goal is to grab your information. Even e-mail phishing scams have gotten more sophisticated. Some look like an e-mail to confirm a flight, and others like an invoice from UPS.

"Old-fashioned scams also work," Kleman said. "We found plenty that come in the mail, as a knock on the doo, or over the phone."

For instance, callers who say they're from a reputable company offer to slash your credit card interest rate or fix a computer virus they've detected. All you need to do is pay a fee or disclose sensitive financial information.

"Bottom line: never, ever give out your personal information or money to someone who seeks you out," Kleman said.

Fortunately, the bank agreed Feinberg was not responsible for the stolen $17,000. She did set up a fraud alert with the three major credit-reporting bureaus.

Consumer Reports also recommends a security freeze, which blocks access to your credit report.

To add insult to injury, victims of scams can be targeted by another scam: crooks who promise to recover your stolen money. They charge hundreds of dollars and don't recover your losses.


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