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December 2013 Smart Shopping FROM PAGE 1

days the thief will check the balance and redeem the card's value online without you or your gift recipient’s knowledge. When buying a preloaded card, always have the cashier scan the card to verify that the full amount is available. Also, check to make sure that the packaging has not been tampered with or damaged. This may be sign that the gift card has been compromised or replaced with a stripped gift card. If possible, register your gift card with the retailer.

Scam #3: Phishing and SMiShing

Schemes In phishing schemes, a fraudster

poses as a legitimate entity and uses e-mail and scam websites to obtain victims’ personal information, such as account numbers, user names, passwords, etc. SMiShing is the act of sending fraudulent text messages to bait a victim into revealing personal information.

Be leery of e-mails or text messages

that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, fraudsters direct victims to follow a link or call a number to update an account or correct a purported problem. The link directs the victim to a fraudulent website or message that appears legitimate. Instead, the site allows the fraudster to steal any personal information the victim provides.

Current SMiShing schemes involve

fraudsters calling victims’ cell phones offering to lower the interest rates for credit cards the victims do not even possess. If a victim asserts that they do not own the credit card, the caller hangs up. These fraudsters call from TRAC cell phones that do not have voicemail, or the phone provides a constant busy signal when called, rendering these calls virtually untraceable.

Another scam involves fraudsters

directing victims, via e-mail, to a spoofed website. A spoofed website is a fake site that misleads the victim into providing personal information, which is routed to the scammer’s computer.

Phishing schemes related to

deliveries are also rampant. Legitimate delivery service providers neither e-mail shippers regarding scheduled deliveries nor state when a package is intercepted or being temporarily held. Consequently, e-mails informing of such delivery issues are phishing scams that can lead to personal information breaches and financial losses.

Scam #4: Charity Scams It is important to recognize the

warning signs of charity scams in order for you not to be robbed of your good intentions. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has two websites for consumers on charity fraud and scams: consumer/telemarketing/tel18.shtm charityfraud

In addition, the Internal Revenue

Service (IRS) has a search feature on its website that allows consumers to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductable. For more information, visit app/pub-78/.

Scam #5: Fraudulent Classified

Ads and Auction Sales Internet criminals post classified

ads and auctions for products they do not have and make the scam work by using stolen credit cards. Fraudsters receive an order from a victim, charge

the victim’s credit card for the amount of the order, then use a separate, stolen credit card for the actual purchase. They pocket the purchase price obtained from the victim’s credit card and have the merchant ship the item directly to the victim. Consequently, an item purchased from an online auction but received directly from the merchant is a strong indication of fraud. Victims of such a scam not only lose the money paid to the fraudster, but may be liable for receiving stolen goods.

Shoppers may help avoid these

scams by using caution and not providing financial information directly to the seller, as fraudulent sellers will use this information to purchase items for their schemes. Always use a legitimate payment service to ensure a safe, legitimate purchase.

As for product delivery, fraudsters

posing as legitimate delivery services offer reduced or free shipping to customers through auction sites. They perpetuate this scam by providing fake shipping labels to the victim. The fraudsters do not pay for delivery of the packages; therefore, delivery service providers intercept the packages for nonpayment and the victim loses the money paid for the purchase of the product.

Diligently check each seller’s

rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100 percent positive feedback, with a low total number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date and time.

Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Criminals create new ways every

year to steal your money and personal information, especially during the holidays. Do your homework before making an online purchase, or donating to a charity.

Here are some additional tips, from

the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

• Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) email.

• Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email.

• Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.

• Always compare the link in the e-mail with the link to which you are directed and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.

• Log directly onto the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.

• Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.

• If you are asked to act quickly, or

there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.

• Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information.

Syrian refugees in a tent at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. // Photo: Jamal Dajani BY JAMAL DAJANI In a few days, snow will blanket

the mountainous areas of Lebanon, where many Syrian refugees live. Throughout the region, a brutal winter is just around the corner, according to weather forecasters. For Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, Jordan and surrounding countries, time is running out.

There were 20,000 Syrians living

at Zaatari refugee camp when I visited there a year ago. Today, the number exceeds 100,000 crammed into the two-square mile camp. Worldwide, the number of Syrian refugees has swollen from 300,000 a year ago to more than two million, with an estimated 4 million displaced within their own country.

According to the United Nations,

the Syrian refugee crisis is the worst since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, yet humanitarian organizations have so far received only a fraction of the donations given in response to the Haiti earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami; and with the focus on the typhoon that has recently struck the Philippines, there are concerns that aid to Syria will diminish.

From the beginning of the crisis,

Syria was not a priority for donor countries. Governments that made Syria their casus belli invested more in guns and ammunition than food, shelter and medicine. Syria is the battleground of a proxy war, and the Syrian people are caught in the middle.

I’ve recently returned from

Lebanon, where close to 1.5 million Syrian refugees have taken up residence. The official number stands at about 800,000 -- which represents only the number of Syrian refugees who have actually registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters in Beirut. Almost as many remain unregistered.

The refugee situation in Lebanon

is utterly different than in other host countries, such as Jordan, where

conditions are tough in camps like the one at Zaatari, yet access to aid and services are nevertheless manageable and self-contained. Technically, there are no “refugee camps” in Lebanon because the Lebanese government, fearing a scenario similar to when Palestinian refugees ended up staying in the county for decades, has decided not to erect them.

Instead, there are more than 400 “encampments,” or informal tented settlements, spread across the country. Some of these encampments have morphed into corrugated tin shanties or “tanak camps,” as the Lebanese refer to them. Tanak is the Arabic word for sheet metal or tin. The resulting lack of organization and infrastructure at the settlements makes the work of local and international aid agencies challenging.

Basic information could save

lives -- but many Syrian refugees in Lebanon have little awareness of the lifelines that might be readily available to them. Where is the closest clinic or hospital? Where can one obtain potable water? This is the type of information that refugees are in desperate need of.

UNHCR developed a LEBANON

Winterization Partner Coordination Map, which has been distributed to embassies and international organizations. However, there is no solid plan for how to get that information to refugees in desolate areas. Many Syrian refugees in Lebanon do not have access to electricity, Internet or mobile technology. The fortunate few have access to satellite TV and can watch regional channels such as al Arabiya, al Jazeera and Lebanese and Syrian news programs, which by and large focus on the conflict itself rather than those who have been affected by it.

With the onset of winter, many

children and elderly who are among the refugees will certainly suffer. Some will perish. And it will be due not just to the weather and a lack of adequate shelter, but to the absence of proper information – news that people can use, to improve their situation.

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As Winter Descends, Syrian Refugees Lack Vital Information


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