Security expert shares tips to thwart scammers

DELMAR — As we all gear up for the holidays and holiday shopping, scammers are ramping up their efforts now, too.

When it comes to shopping, experts say use your credit card, not your debit card, in case your card is compromised.

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While gift cards are popular, they are for gifts, never for any kind of payment.

“The scammers will use this time to kind of sneak the stolen gift cards through the system without getting as much attention because there’s already such a volume of gift cards being purchased,” said Berkshire Bank First Vice President Tina Pickup, head of Security and Fraud Investigations. “People need to remember that no legitimate company is going to ask you to buy gift cards to make a payment.”

“If someone on the phone is asking you to buy a gift card, it’s a scam, and stop right there, hang up,” she continued, adding that she sees that kind of scam all the time.

Pickup flags dozens of scams every week.

Berkshire Bank tellers on the front lines are trained to ask questions about suspicious activity, all to help protect the customer.

Pickup says it’s better to use a bank’s app, than to google to get to a bank’s website.

“Bank sites are spoofed all the time and when they spoof online it is very, very good. You cannot tell the difference between a legitimate Berkshire Bank site and a spoofed Berkshire Bank site.”

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Those social media quizzes look fun, but sometimes they have a sinister purpose.

“Social media quizzes are all the security questions that companies will ask you to verify you online,” said Pickup.

Some scams target young adults — for example, remote jobs that are not what they seem.

“An important thing to realize is that an employer is not going to send you a check for you to purchase your equipment,” she said.

Victims end up depositing fake checks, but sending out their own money.

“Well, what will happen is the scammer will say here’s a check, go out and buy your computer and a printer and everything, and here’s our vendor, use our vendor to buy them,” Pickup explained. “Well, they are the vendor so you’re just cashing that fraudulent check and sending them the money. Then you’re left holding the bag because that check is no good. It’s going to come back, be charged to your account, and you’re going to be left having to pay for it.”

When shopping online, she says go to known sites and make sure that in the address line, it says “htpps.” The “s” means it’s a secure site.

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People will be traveling during the holidays. Pickup says never carry your social security card, and make copies of your credit cards, in case you have to cancel them.