Ready for the holidays? Maybe not

During the busy holiday season, shoppers flock to Divisoria, a haven for bargain hunters. Increased shopping activity, however, can also mean an increase in crime.

During the busy holiday season, shoppers flock to Divisoria, a haven for bargain hunters. Increased shopping activity, however, can also mean an increase in crime.

Holiday shopping is in full swing, but are you ready?

Here are some things to consider when you are out buying gifts.


Practice safe shopping



Shopping today requires a number of electronic transactions, whether you are swiping your credit card or pulling cash out of the ATM.

Of course, data breaches and identity theft continue to be a problem.

So take note that there are different ways criminals can steal your credit card data.

Skimmers, for example, are electronic devices that are designed to either slide on top of or over an existing card reader, or can be inserted into the card reader slot in something like an ATM.

They look remarkably like the original credit card reader, but they capture your credit card data and PIN when you make your transaction.

What to look for:

  • “We’ve been having trouble with that card reader all day.” That may be true. It also may be because a skimmer has been placed on that reader that uses those extra card swipes to capture your data before letting you make your purchase. You might want go to another line or rethink your purchase.
  • Look for signs of tampering. Are the colors or materials on the device consistent? Are the graphics aligned? Are there gaps or seams between components? Do components line up exactly?

Is there any damage around the card slot that might indicate that it was forcefully removed or replaced?


  • Hide your PIN. Some skimmers have a pinhole camera located nearby to capture your PIN. They can be disguised as anything. Best practice is to cover the keypad with one hand while entering your PIN with the other.
  • Compare devices. Does the device you are using look like the ones around it? Check colors, flashing lights, size of the device, materials used, etc.
  • Wiggle everything. ATMs and credit card machines are designed to withstand thousands of users. They don’t have loose parts or components. If the cover moves, the keypad is loose, the card slot wiggles or moves when you push on it or when you insert your card, or anything feels less than industrial grade, move on.
  • Check to see if the tamper-proof tape on the credit card component placed on many gas pumps and public ATMs is intact. Most will display a VOID message if they have been tampered with or removed. And if there is no tape on your pump, look to see if there is tape on other pumps. If there is, use another device.
  • Use your credit card rather than your debit card as it provides you with fraud protection.
  • Report what you find. Most ATMS have a phone number to report something suspicious, and cashiers and store managers need to be alerted. It’s the holiday season—take a few minutes to help the next shopper in line.

Protect your purchases


The last thing you want to do is spend hours and money finding that perfect gift, only to have someone else walk off with it.

Here are a few things you should know.

Don’t leave stuff in your car. – Even if it’s locked in the trunk. Here’s why. Electronic car key fobs that allow you to remotely lock and unlock your car, open the trunk, or even start it and run the heater or air conditioning are now standard issue. They might be convenient, but they aren’t necessarily secure.

Your key fob and your car’s electronic security system both use algorithms to generate a random lock code.

When the devices are synched together, and you press on your fob, the numbers match and the car locks or unlocks itself. Unfortunately, these devices sometimes get out of synch.

Manufacturers solve that problem by letting the devices store a rolling set of numbers, called a rolling code scheme, so that if the numbers don’t match right away it can search for other codes looking for a match.

It doesn’t matter what you drive— with few exceptions, most manufacturers all pretty much use the same concept, and in certain cases, may be vulnerable to this type of attack.

Unfortunately, so do a number of other devices that connect to each other, like walkie-talkies and other connected toys. And with a few simple modifications, a criminal can use these devices to communicate with other systems, like your car. And online hackers have made it easy, with step-by-step instructional videos and libraries of stolen algorithms for virtually any car imaginable.

All a criminal needs to do is follow the instructions, download the algorithm and rolling code schemes for a range of automobiles, and then broadcast it across a parking lot. And like magic, car doors unlock and trunks pop open.

Unfortunately, this technique is not just limited to automobiles. The same hack can be used to open other electronic locks that use the same sort of rolling code scheme, and step-by-step instructions are likewise available online to enable cybercriminals of just about any skill level to take advantage of this vulnerability.

So while you’re out shopping, keep your guard up and don’t let criminals rob you of your Christmas spirit. —CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: Christmas 2016, Philippine news updates, safe shopping
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