Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Credit card scam + warning about wireless home computer networks

A credit card scam with an unusual twist is operating in the our area. The criminal gets hold of someone's credit card details - possibly via a poorly secured wireless computer network. Next they contact a home catalogue company and order an item they already know is out of stock - this is enough to set up the home shopping account.

They wait a few days and then order something valuable, and follow the delivery van on the expected day of delivery. If the cardholder is out the scammer pretends to be a helpful neighbour and offers to accept delivery - or simply takes the parcel from the doorstep or behind the garage where the delivery driver leaves it.

There are several things we can do to protect ourselves and our neighbours. First, look out for anybody unknown hanging around your street. They could be waiting to intercept a delivery, or sitting in a van with a laptop to intercept wireless communications.

Second, from a more technical point of view, lots of people now have wireless home networks for a laptop or a games consoles like an Xbox. Wireless home computer networks need to have strong security:

  • Use the stronger WPA encryption, not the weaker WEP.

  • Definitely don't leave networks completely unsecured.

  • Use a long "passphrase" - not just the typical 6 or 8 characters.

  • What's more it's a bad idea to have your router ID called something identifiable, like your name or your house number. That just tells the thief what delivery address to specify.

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