Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seniors vs. Crime; Ensure It's 'Happy Holidays' and Not 'Hacker Holidays' Take Precautions When You're Shopping Online to Reduce the Risks of Cyber-Theft

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seniors vs. Crime; Ensure It's 'Happy Holidays' and Not 'Hacker Holidays' Take Precautions When You're Shopping Online to Reduce the Risks of Cyber-Theft

Article excerpt

Byline: Martha R. Tromberg

Seniors vs. Crime is a special project that uses the force of the state Attorney General's Office and volunteers to help educate and protect seniors from harmful activity. On the first Tuesday of the month, we will highlight information that could help you and your family avoid scams.

With the possible exception of life on other planets, everyone on Earth knows the holiday season is upon us. We've made it through Black Friday. Christmas decorations are up everywhere, and retail stores are super-shopper friendly. Online marketing and advertising have reached their crescendo.

Every merchant, whether online or in a brick and mortar store, will be delighted to accept your credit or debit card. In fact, they're counting on you to get your shopping momentum going. The transactions are quick, simple, easy and painless - for you and for cyber-thieves.

Cyber-thieves recognize easy pickin's at this time of year and opportunities are endless for hackers to steal credit and debit card information from unwary consumers. What do they do with it? How do they use it? How can you protect yourself? Let's analyze the problem, and give you information to avoid being victimized.

Where do internet schemers and scammers go to sell your credit or debit card information? How do they exchange it for anything of value and can't law enforcement agencies just follow the money trail and put the bad guys in jail? As discussed in prior columns, there is an alternate universe of the internet referred to as "The Dark Web." It has been referred to as the "insidious side of the internet," for good reason. It's part criminal flea market, part auction block and for good measure, just about anything illegal can be bought, sold or traded among some very bad people. This includes stolen credit card information.

It's tough to reach this "Dark Net," even though law enforcement on every level is acutely aware of its existence. The problem with apprehending the bad guys on the Dark Net is the sheer volume of net traffic. It's a few steps past busy, and the cyber-thieves are clever and elusive. In most cases, it would take more time and money to attempt to track down a nefarious or illegal transaction than it is worth. Of course, guns, crimes of violence and drugs are very important to criminal investigators; stolen credit card information, while important, is of second-tier interest.

You should immediately report any theft or unauthorized use of your credit cards. Law enforcement will make a report, as will the credit card company. But don't expect a full-blown criminal investigation. There's simply too much cyber-theft for every case to be investigated and prosecuted, unless of course, there's a common thread or systemic scam that leads directly to the cyber-thieves, which is usually not the case. …

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