Consumer protection advocate Lisa McCormick is reminding Americans to watch out for possible scams while shopping this holiday season.
The day after Thanksgiving has become the launch of the Christmas present buying season but it is also like open season for unscrupulous scammers who are hunting for potential victims.
“Fraud artists create fake companies promoting discounted offers during high-volume sales periods but instead of delivering savings, these online opportunities cheat and rob people,” said consumer protection advocate Lisa McCormick. “If you’re going to do comparison shopping looking for the best price, do so among retailers with whom you already have accounts and have successfully done business with in the past or use other means to confirm that the offer is legitimate.”
“Particularly when doing business with new vendors, it may be safer to use a one-time payment service that prevents the vendor from retaining your account information beyond the individual transaction, and protects you in the event they experience any data breach,” said McCormick. “A card masking service is one way to protect your account information.”
A masked card service will provide you with a one-time-use credit card number upon request. You can then use that temporary card number, expiration date, and security code to make purchases online and in-stores. Once you’ve used the card combination, it will no longer be valid.
Some credit cards and banks, such as Discover and even Bank of America, offer masking services to their clients. The only problem with these free services, though, is that you will still be handing over personal information to retailers: while the credit card number and expiration date are one-time-use, you’ll still be entering your own billing address.
Third-party masking services, like Abine mentioned above, do a more complete job at hiding your information. They not only provide you with a temporary card number to use for your in-store and online purchases, but you will also use the company’s address and telephone number for said purchases. This way, you literally don’t hand over a single shred of your personal information to retailers, where it can then be compromised. Of course, the trade-off is that this service isn’t free.
Abine’s masking service, called Blur, offers premium features for a very reasonable cost. For only $3 a month, you can protect all of your personal information when you do anything on the web–you will never again have to hand out your real email address, phone number, credit card information, address, and more when shopping online.
You’ll also get added features (some of which are included in the Blur Free service) such as tracker blocking. This way, you can browse the web privately, without cookies watching your every move. You can also protect your online passwords and emails through either the free or paid versions of Blur. However, if you plan to use Blur for masking your credit card purchases, you will need to opt for the Premium, $3/month plan.
“Remember, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said McCormick.
If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you can file a complaint by visiting ReportFraud.ftc.gov or find your state’s consumer affairs agency at https://www.usa.gov/state-consumer