Avoid being bait, don’t go phishing



Photo Courtesy of University of San Diego/ Facebook Students and faculty talk security issues inside the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

It’s difficult to imagine a world without gift cards, since many students were born around the same time gift cards were created.

Many retailers are making it tougher to buy gift cards, which is a consequence of new credit card rules that have made them more vulnerable to fraudulent activities.

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, gift cards didn’t make it to the mass market until around 1994 when Blockbuster introduced them to their customers. Ironically, the gift cards were designed to prevent fraud.

Meanwhile, the University of San Diego has experienced some issues with frauds, more specifically, with phishing scams. But what exactly is phishing?

According to Microsoft, phishing is the activity of defrauding an online account holder of financial information by posing as a legitimate company.

Students at the University of San Diego express their concern about identity theft as well as the phishing scams that have occurred in the past few weeks.

Senior Colton Michael Moore discusses his views towards identity theft and fraud.

“I’ve never incurred a loss of money due to credit card fraud,” Moore said. “But scammers have tried to reach out to me, there was this time a couple of years ago I got a letter in the mail from a nameless merchant asking me to send a two-dollar check in order to receive massive discount to Sam’s Club, Costco, and Wal-Mart, which I thought was very weird.”

Moore goes on to explain how he handled the situation and how he was able to evade a loss of money and not compromise his credit.

“Of course I disregarded the letter,” Moore said. “Not without first taking pictures of it and making sure my bank accounts and credit cards were not affected.”

What Moore described is a case in which some scammers tried to phish him, or lure him in.

Smithsonian Magazine claims that two out of every three people have bought a gift card sometime in their lifetime, which puts many people at risk of fraudulent activity.

While the gift card industry is continually tapping into different market segments, the industry is expanding exponentially and is now over the $125 billion threshold.

Although the rising use of gift cards is a convenience for shoppers to purchase their everyday items, gift cards also are a favorite among criminals, who pay for them with stolen credit card data. Historically, the cost of that fraud was produced by the financial institutions that issued the credit cards.

Creditors, lenders, and other financial institutions have taken significant steps to avoid scams and fend off grim prognostications.

In fact, there are only three large consumer credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Any of these reporting agencies may give you all of your credit information and they will let you know for any suspicious activity.

According to the Wall Street Journal, some merchants are requiring that customers buy the cards with cash or asking that they show identification at the time of purchase.

However, other merchants have put limits on repeat purchases or stopped selling certain cards altogether.

Another measure credit card and gift card manufacturers have implemented is the use of microchips in their cards. In fact, Visa and Mastercard have already started putting microchips in their gift cards.

Chip cards are designed to eliminate a criminal’s ability to create counterfeit cards by creating a unique code for each transaction. This is of course different from the previous gift and credit cards that contained a traditional magnetic strip on the back, which held data about the cardholder’s account and could be used to create a fictitious card.

These new card industry rules went into effect making merchants liable for fraud-related losses if they haven’t upgraded their checkout technology such as credit cards that are embedded with computer chips, which have been proven to be more secure.

The email sent by USD’s Information Technology Services, on Tuesday, March 8 stressed a concern that potential criminal activity may have tried to infiltrate various user accounts.

ITS suggested a few tips students can apply today in order to avoid being scammed by these so called phishers. First and foremost be informed, it’s easy to be tricked if you don’t know what to look for. Phishing scams usually travel via emails.  Another thing students should know is that USD will never ask for passwords, IDs, and social security numbers.

All too often successful phishing scams ends up compromising one’s identity. According to ITS phishing scams have even to perpetuate credit card information, income taxes, and even work files. Needless to say, the stakes are high.

Whether you’re purchasing groceries with a credit card, gift card, or simply logging    on to your San Diego email, be mindful that there are scammers that might try to gain access to your personal data by asking seemingly relevant questions. Be sure to keep up to date with what goes on in the cyber world, especially since we’re all constantly linked in.