Holiday season - a time of joys, cheers, phishing scams and crime?

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kenneth W. Norman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
An alert about a United Services Automobile Association phishing scam was dispatched to service members via e-mail Nov. 30.

In early November USAA members began receiving e-mails claiming to be from USAA with the subject line "USAA Protection Alert". The e-mail informs members about a failed login attempt and instructs them to click a link to update their identity.

According to an alert distributed by the 97th Security Forces Squadron force protection intelligence fusion cell, clicking on the link directs the member first to a counterfeit website to log on. Logging on produces a second website and asks for a Personal Identification Number. Clicking "next" produces another website asking for the member to set up security questions and after clicking "next" again, a final website opens, asking for the member's sensitive information such as, card holder's name, card number, expiration date, card verification code, billing address, billing zip code, billing phone number and e-mail address.

This phishing scam targets USAA members. If you get an e-mail or pop-up message asking for personal or financial information, never reply and don't click on the link in the message.

Legitimate companies don't ask for personal information via e-mail, said Joshua S. Leach, 97th SFS investigator. If a member is concerned about their account they should contact the organization mention in the e-mail using a telephone number known to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company's correct Web address themselves.

When accessing a secured site, always double check your address bar in your web browser. If the website does not have the https:// protocol used to provide encrypted and secure communications, then the site is not verified and should not be trusted.

A person who has become a victim of this scam or one like it should immediately report it to the three credit bureaus, file a consumer fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and contact their bank.

"The damage caused by this kind of scam ranges from nothing happening to someone stealing your identity and then running up bills in your name," Leach said. "Unfortunately when it is time for your security clearance review, your security clearance can get revoked because someone has destroyed your credit rating without you knowing it."

Internet scams are not the only crimes to be on the lookout for during the holiday season. In theĀ Altus area, shop-lifting, burglary and larceny increase during this time of year.

"In [Jackson] county the crime of burglary usually goes up almost 50 percent in reported events between November and December," Leach said. "Larcenies tend to go up 45 percent and shop lifting goes up 44 percent in reported events."

There are actions people can take to reduce their chances of becoming victims of these types of crimes.

"Don't leave things out in the open, lock your doors and set your alarm if you have one," Leach said. "If you go store-to-store, people are actually watching here in town. Say you buy a new high-dollar electronic item, load it in your car and then go into another store to finish shopping. The person who was watching may take that opportunity while you are gone to break into your car."

Criminals are always on the lookout for their next victim.

"People who are looking to rip you off will drive down your street Christmas day and a few days after to look at what boxes are on the curb," Leach said. "If they see a box that was for your new 55-inch TV, they now know exactly where to go for their next hit."

Suggestions to reduce the chances of becoming a victim of burglary are: rip labels off boxes, shred the boxes or recycle the boxes at another location. If someone decides to recycle the boxes at another location, they should be sure to remove any shipping labels.

"There is no way to completely prevent yourself from becoming a victim, but there is many different ways to mitigate your chances of becoming a victim," Leach said.

For more information, contact Joshua Leach at 481-5999.