In the current spirit of Thanksgiving and the coming Christmas Holidays, many of us may…
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“That shopping app you downloaded might be fake.”
Fake news isn’t the only thing that smartphone users should be cautious about these days.
As the holiday shopping season is in full swing, a slew of fake retail apps are appearing in smartphone app stores. These apps, which usually look like official shopping apps from retail brands, install malware on the phones of unsuspecting customers once downloaded. From there, identity and credit card information can be stolen, or downloaded ransomware can remotely lock a user’s phone until they pay up.
Last week, researchers at cybersecurity company RiskIQ released a report estimating that 1 in 10 apps advertising Black Friday deals was fraudulent.
“This problem has been worse this year than any of the previous years,” said Ian Cowger, security researcher at RiskIQ. “Malicious authors targeting app stores have become much more adept at targeting holidays and other events that can net them users.”
As shopping increasingly moves online, the holiday season has become a traffic boon to shopping apps and websites. This past Black Friday, phone and tablet app shopping hit a record $3.34 billion revenue, an increase of 33 percent from last year, according to an estimate by software and analytics company Adobe. Meanwhile, the number of brick-and-mortar Black Friday shoppers has dropped.
In an interview with CBS News, fashion blogger Michelle Madhok cited the ease of price shopping on mobile platforms. “It’s a click to see what the other prices are,” she said. “Before, you had to drive from store to store to compare prices or go through tons of inserts in your newspaper.”
(Information continues from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/11/29/that-shopping-app-you-downloaded-might-be-fake/?utm_term=.d1ca85c8fbc4)
Gift cards get new protections under state law
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recently signed legislation instituting new consumer protections for consumers using gift cards.
The bill (S.4771E / A.7610E) increases the minimum time before cards are charged a user fee, places additional restrictions on those fees and expands the expiration dates of gift cards in order to protect consumers.
“These new protections will help prevent New Yorkers from being nickeled and dimed by hidden costs and fees,” Governor Cuomo said. “No one expects an asterisk when buying a gift card and I’m proud to sign this legislation to help ensure consumers get their money’s worth.”
Under this new law, the time period in which fees can be charged to unused gift card balances has been increased from 13 to 25 months and any monthly service fees that are applied after this time must be waived if the consumer uses the gift card within three years of the issue date. In addition, this law will require the gift card’s terms and conditions to describe exactly what the procedure is to replace a missing card. Finally, no gift card may now have an expiration date of earlier than five years from the date of issuance.
“Is there anything more frustrating than receiving a gift card for the holidays or a birthday, only to misplace it and learn later it is now worthless?” said state Sen. Rich Funke. “I think your money should be your money, whether it’s lost in the couch cushion for a few months or not! That’s why our new law will ban non-activity fees for two years, require clear disclosure of all terms and conditions, and waive all penalties when a lost card is found within three years.”
(Information from; http://www.thelcn.com/lcn04/gift-cards-get-new-protections-under-state-law-20161123)
Gift cards aren’t just popular with exasperated holiday shoppers puzzling over what to buy Aunt Gertrude. They’re also a gift to scam artists.
There’s plenty of pickings. The gift card market grew to $97.2 billion in 2010, up 12 percent from a year earlier, according to Brent Watters, senior analyst for prepaid services at Mercator Advisory Group, a Massachusetts company that tracks the consumer payments industry. This holiday season, according to an October 2011 survey by the National Retail Federation, 58 percent of shoppers said they’d like to receive a gift card.
The cards are attractive targets for fraud because, unlike credit or debit cards, there’s no identifying name attached to them — only strings of numbers, says Steve Weisman, author of “The Truth About Avoiding Scams” and a legal professor at Bentley University. They’re also relatively easy to pull off.
Most commonly, thieves case racks of gift cards in stores, writing down the identifying numbers or using a scanner to lift information from their magnetic strips, Weisman said. Armed with data, they head home to their computers and wait for customers to buy the cards. They repeatedly check websites that display gift card balances, which tell them when the card is activated. As soon as it’s activated, they spend the balance in an online shopping spree.
In a more sophisticated variation of the scam, the thieves also steal a blank card to create a counterfeit card they can use in a store as well as online. In both cases, customers often don’t find out their gift is null and void until the intended recipient receives it, weeks or months after the original purchase.
Packaging leaves a vulnerability
The scams are possible because most retailers simply don’t package their gift cards well enough to conceal the identifying numbers, said Peter Camenzind,* founder of the blog “Gift Card Advocate.” And while the greatest risk lies with so-called “closed-loop” cards that can only be used at a single store such as Target or Best Buy, thieves can also target “open-loop” cards issued by credit card companies. They swap activation stickers attached to the outside packaging, so that a consumer buys one card but activates the one possessed by the scam artists.
Other scam artists target consumers who buy gift cards from online exchanges such as PlasticJungle or auction sites such as eBay.
(Information continues at: http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/tips-avoiding-gift_card-scams-1271.php)