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December 2008

Be Wary: Backorders Loom; New ID-Theft Scams Develop

This may be one of the most difficult Christmas seasons for retailers in several decades due to the meltdown in the financial markets, poor consumer sentiment, and the increasing rates of unemployment. Retail merchants are reporting that they will keep inventories light this year. This means the earlier shoppers will likely have the better chance of purchasing the gifts they want and there may not be as many markdown sales prior to, and after, the Christmas holiday.
Tight inventories could lead to substantial problems with mail orders since many items could be back-ordered. This, in turn, could mean your gifts do not arrive before December 24. Remember that federal law requires all retailers to ship an order within the time stated on their web sites. If no time period is specified, the retailer then has 30 days. If the company is unable to meet this timeline, it must contact you to determine if you agree to a delay or you want to cancel the order and receive a prompt refund. 

Scams to Watch for in 2009

2009 is coming quickly and so are new ways to steal your personal and financial information. First, are “phishing surveys” where you receive an e-mail survey that promises some kind of reward. You are directed to click on the link to fill out the survey. Unfortunately, when you do, you unexpectedly load in “malware” that takes over your computer. A second method is “vishing,” or voice-mail phishing where you receive an incoming call directly into your voice mail. The caller states he or she is calling from your cell phone provider and that your service is going to be cut off. When you call the number, you are told to provide your social security number and other personal identifying information. Unfortunately, you’re likely providing the information to a criminal.
Third is “Smishing,” which uses text messaging. This scams works when someone sends you a text message that asks you to click on an imbedded link. Here too, when you click on the imbedded link you are getting far more than you asked for because you have just downloaded spyware that will allow the criminal to get information about you when you go on the Internet. Don’t be fooled by a message that allows you to unsubscribe from receiving more messages. That link is also apt to be harmful.

Grandmas and Zombies

Fourth is the “grandma scam.” Here, you receive a recorded message on your cell phone that a relative is in trouble and needs you to wire money right away. This recently happened to a relative of mine in another state and I supposedly was the person in trouble. Fortunately, my relative’s son called me because he was suspicious about the call.

Another threat is being developed: “zombie cell-phone hack attacks.” This attack will likely result from our cell phone’s increasingly good connections to the Internet and its greater computer power. Computers are already vulnerable to Internet criminals who infect thousands of personal computers with viruses and then tie the computers together into “botnets” to then send out massive amounts of unwanted computer spam to other computers.

The bottom line is to be very careful and delete e-mails or voice mail when you cannot verify the message is from someone you know.

Have a safe and happy 2009!

Copyright ©2008 Wisconsin Energy Cooperative News
All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.