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Avoid credit card fraud and identity theft online
by Izzy Goodman

The net is filled with horror stories about scams, credit card fraud and identity theft. It has been for years. You might believe people knew by now basic safety procedures . Our experience has shown that the net is filled with people from those who are basically smart but perhaps grow confused once they get online to outright fools who basically advertise their desire to become victims.

Cases in point: the geniuses who e-mail us with their credit card numbers, expiration dates, cvv number, address, phone and even pin numbers to place an order. This information should never be sent in an e-mail. With our shopping cart, paypal and credit card button, there is no need to do this. Some of them order things we don't even sell! We are CCS-Digital.com and we sell ink cartridges. There is a company called CCS Sportswear. We once received an e-mail with all this financial information and the cryptic sentence: "I'd like to order a shoe." The e-mail did not even include a style or size. I responded, "Left or right?" then explained that 1) we are not CCS Sportswear and 2) this information should never be sent in e-mail. Several weeks later, this genius called up to ask why he hadn't received his shoes!

This article is not addressed to these genuises. I suspect most of them can't read or simply don't bother. These are the same people who buy off websites or ebay and then complain they got exactly what was described and not what they imagined it would be. I am addressing myself to those people who are otherwise intelligent but somehow lose the ability to think rationally once on the Internet.

We all want our credit cards to remain safe. So why do so many people balk at taking simple precautions and using basic common sense? What prevents a scammer from setting up a website offering items at low prices for one specific purpose - to amass credit card numbers he can then use for fraudulent purposes? Nothing other than the common sense of anyone visiting that site. Yet articles about Internet fraud have proven time and time again that many people stop exercising common sense when they go online.

If the prices seem too good to be true, perhaps they are. Do a little investigating before you give a stranger your financial information. Is there a phone number and address on the site? If you call or e-mail, do you reach a human being? Does the site look like it was carefully and professionally set up, or hastily thrown together? Is the language used grammatically correct? Do the sales terms and warranty sound logical? Most scam sites are set up in foreign countries where English is not their main language.

Even if the site appears legitimate, you can still search further. Check the domain name owner at NetworkSolutions.com or similar site. For example, if you were to enter ccs-digital.com into the box, you would see that it IS registered to the Far Rockaway address at the top of each page, the contact is the same phone number, and it has been in existence since 2002. That should give you some reassurance. For obvious reasons, scam sites don't stay around too long.

Be suspicious of any seller who requires a money order, Egold, or Western Union payment. These payments can not be reversed if you are cheated. My opinion is - based on numerous reports I have received - that Western Union should be prosecuted for aiding and abetting scammers with a particularly nasty method. A seller, let's call him George, will tell you to send a thousand dollars to a Western Union office with a password which you will not reveal until you have received the merchandise. When George receives confirmation that the money is waiting, he will ship. That way he feels safe that payment is made and you feel safe that you will receive the merchandise. Days or weeks go by and you receive nothing. You contact Western Union to be told they already released the funds to George! But how can they do that when you have never given him the password? That's when they tell you they don't really enforce that. They just turn the money over to anyone who shows up saying "I am George and you're holding a thousand dollars for me."

If you are unsure of the seller, always pay by credit card or Paypal. Most credit card services allow you to charge it back if you don't receive the merchandise. Never give ANY site your pin number, social security number, mother's maiden name or information which can be used to steal your identity.

There are security methods in place to prevent credit card fraud. First, there is the CVV on the card. This is the 3 or 4-digit number on the back of the card which follows the last 4 of the card itself. This number is not recorded on the slip when your card is processed at a store. For online transactions, the vendor is not permitted to store this on their server where a hacker might find it. So if a scammer finds a discarded credit card slip or hacks into an e-commerce web site, they won't have the CVV number. When you place an order online, most sites will ask for this number. This is an extra verification that the person placing the order has the card and didn't just find a discarded slip. Yet some people place credit card orders with us and leave the CVV blank. For your protection, we will not process orders without it.

The most basic protection is to have the merchandise shipped to YOUR address, registered with the card. A crook with your stolen credit card is unlikely to order merchandise and have it shipped to your address. Yet a number of people insist on entering other addresses in their orders. This is a waste of your time and ours because these orders will not go through. Some people argue. "I do it all the time on other sites." If those other sites are foolish enough to ship orders to incorrect addresses, that's their problem. What stops anyone from finding your credit card number and using it online to order merchandise except for the fact that the address will not validate? If every site insisted - as we do - that merchandise only be shipped to the valid address, it would go a long way toward reducing online fraud.

Case in point: A scammer began selling large ticket items on ebay. Because he accepted credit cards, everyone assumed he was reputable. Someone won a $600 camcorder and paid by credit card. He received his item and posted positive feedback. Somehow he missed the fact that this item came from a well-known site with a different name than the seller. Seeing that positive feedback, others began buying from this seller and also received their items. Some people paid by money order. It took about a month for the full scale of the scheme to unravel. What this scammer did was take the first few customers' credit cards and open accounts with large, reputable websites. He then ordered the exact item won and sent it to the customer. Since the address of the card matched the shipping address, the order was processed. However, the customer was charged the regular price of the item, not the discounted price he had bid on ebay. Now having successfully placed an order, the scammer began placing additional orders using the same account, but having the merchandise shipped to other addresses. The site only validated the account the first time around, so these orders were processed as well. The customers who paid by credit card received bills for hundreds of dollars above the cost of their original order and it became their problem to straighten it out with their credit card issuers. How this affected their credit rating is unknown. In the end the biggest victim were the sites who stupidly sent out expensive merchandise to the incorrect addresses because they bore the loss of the charge backs. All of this could have been avoided if the sites had not shipped to the incorrect addresses.

With Paypal the situation is even riskier. We don't see the card number. We see only what Paypal sends us. If Paypal sends us a transaction and warns us that the address is not confirmed, we don't know whether the order was placed by the account holder, someone who managed to hack or phish his way into that account, or someone who found a credit card slip and used it to open an account under someone else's name.

So when we insist that we only ship to the account holder's address we are protecting both the cardholder and ourselves. If someone wishes to flout the rules and risk being defrauded or becoming the victim of identity theft - which can take years to clear from their record - that is their choice. Our choice is not to enable such behavior. When I order merchandise, I always have it shipped to my address. Several times some scammer obtained my credit card number and tried to order online. Each time my issuer called me to verify the transaction because they knew that I never order something to be shipped to another address.

Thank you for your cooperation.


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