Tips from Philadelphia's district attorney on holiday scams

Posted: November 24, 2011

Among the many scams to be aware of over the long holiday shopping weekend, the award for best name goes to smishing.

With Black Friday fast approaching, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams warned city shoppers Wednesday about a host of consumer cons, among them smishing or SMS phishing, the texting version of those common, crooked e-mail come-ons.

With smishing, scammers send unsolicited text messages to cellphones notifying unsuspecting consumers of phony vacation deals, or warning that their bank accounts are compromised and instructing them to call a phone number through which personal information is extracted.

Cyber-criminals use messages with seasonal themes to lure victims around the holidays, according to Williams. As always, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Williams instructed shoppers to protect both personal information online and physical safety in stores this holiday season, including basic advice on avoiding department-store brawls.

"Be cordial," Williams urged. "Too many times we have cases in which people are fighting over that Tickle-me Elmo. Try to relax, take your time."

Mall shoppers should park in well-lighted areas and store gifts in the trunk, out of sight of potential criminals, Williams said.

He said residents should withdraw cash only from ATMs in well-lighted, populated areas and opt for credit over debit to avoid revealing personal identification numbers.

To avoid Internet scams, online shoppers should be wary of offers on social networking sites and in unsolicited e-mail messages.

"Try to do all that you can," he said, "to utilize common sense."

Contact staff writer Reity O'Brien at 215-854-2771 or

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