... you might want to read a few words from Lyn Chitow Oakes, chief marketing officer for TrustedID. In advance of the Super Bowl, which could inspire about $10 billion worth of gambling worldwide, she gave us some advice for protecting yourself if you decide to do a little gambling online. Here's our conversation.
MJD: So, say someone like myself wants to place a wager on the Super Bowl online. What are the things I need to know to keep myself safe?
Oakes: Well, you know, the first thing is to make sure you're on a site that you're supposed to be on. Do your homework and make sure it's a legitimate site. Make sure other people you know have had successful relationships with the website, and that the website itself is secure. Make sure the information that you're sharing with the owner of that website or company that's running that website is going to be taken care of.
A few things to look out for: Make sure that they have a box in the top left-hand corner of the browser that indicates it's a secure website. And they have done the work they need to do to show you that they've been validated by a third party, and that their environment is safe and secure for you to share personal information, especially financial information. Companies like VeriSign and TRUSTe are a couple of really good ones. Their logo should appear on their website to ensure that. Make sure you read their security policy; that they're not going to share your information with anyone else, and they're not going to sell it to anyone else. That's really important, especially when you're betting. So those are some things to watch out for.
And also, if you're going to participate in an online environment like this, make sure your computer is safe. That is has anti-spyware software, anti-phishing software and keylocking software. What that does is protect your computer if you get a virus, or you download something from the site and there's a file that rides along with it from an identity thief, and that file's job is to get on your hard drive and start collecting information and sending it back to that thief.
All of these things are important, and if you're getting e-mail communications from the site, we really recommend, especially if you're going to do a fair amount of online betting, that you set up a unique e-mail specifically for that purpose, so that you're separating any e-mails or information you're getting from that site that could be a risk, separate from standard e-mail, where all kinds of personal information is there. So those are a few things.
MJD: You said that there are some sites that are safer than others. Can you name any of those sites, or name any of the ones that aren't safe?
Oakes: No, I'm not -- you know, I don't want to get into name calling, but I think the things I've suggested that your readers look for are the things that are going to keep them safe.
MJD: Right. So do you have any particular horror stories about people who have gambled online and have been scammed?
Oakes: We have information from our consumers, so I've got a couple of stories to share with you. One is that a consumer received an e-mail about online betting, from a company that they had done some work with, but that was a while ago. And so they were comfortable because they recognized the name, and they went ahead and clicked on the link in the e-mail and went to the site and shared some information. And of course, that site wasn't really that site, it was what's called a phishing site. It went to a false website that was created by an identity thief. So all the information they provided was basically not for the purpose it was intended. So they lost their information there, all their personal information, financial information and their social security number was then compromised. So that's one example.
Another example is where they went to a website that they thought would be good. They didn't do enough homework, and that site was not secure. He ended up getting a letter saying that their site was compromised by a third party, and the information they held in their database for him was stolen. So those are a couple of examples.
MJD: Is gambling online legal?
Oakes: It is not.
MJD: How do these sites get away with it?
Oakes: A lot of them, as I understand it -- I'm not an expert on online betting, I understand the security you need to keep your information safe -- but my understanding is that they're offshore. Or they're presenting things like poker games where there's no cash going back and forth, it's more "points" or other prizes. So in that case it's okay. But if there's real money being exchanged, then my understanding is that they're offshore, which then increases your risk. It's a worldwide problem and more likely to happen on sites that are not based in the U.S.
MJD: And I would imagine that would make it more difficult to fight something like that if it did happen.
Oakes: It certainly would. And once that happens to you, it's really hard to prosecute or fight in any way, or to get anything back.
MJD: I'm sure that millions of people still gamble online. Could you put a percentage on maybe how many people get scammed?
Oakes: You know, I don't know the answer to that. I think that scams and phishing e-mails are growing dramatically across the board. I don't know what percentage of those that are betting are having this happen to them, but if it's consistent with what we see across everyone, about a third of the population at this point, has had some sort of identity theft happen to them.
Oakes: So, whether that be credit card fraud, or their information was being held at a major retailer or other institution, and they'd been breached. So last year alone, over 300 million identities were breached. That's almost the entire population.
MJD: Say someone's already opened an account online, and they're starting to think now maybe it was a mistake. What's the next step then? What can they do to protect themselves?
Oakes: Yeah, that's a great question. So, a couple of things. First of all, whatever form of payment used, whether it's a credit card or a debit card, close the account so they can't get access to the information and can't get access to your credit.
Second is to put a fraud alert on your credit report. This is really important, because that means that if they have access to your personal information, they want to use that to get new credit in your name. Anyone who tries to do that will trigger the fraud alert on your credit report, and they are required by law to contact you and verify you've asked for this credit to be issued. If you have not, then they won't issue the credit. So that's a really great tool for us to keep track of what's going on. Get a copy of your credit report and make sure there's nothing on there that you don't recognize and take the appropriate actions that there are.
And what we suggest in this day of technological advances, you know, I've been doing this for a number of years, and when I first started, I felt really comfortable saying, "Look, shred your documents, make sure you're not putting anything in your outgoing mail, protect your computer, etc.," and likely, that would really reduce your risk. Today, this is big business, it's international business, and it's very sophisticated and there's a lot of technology involved now in getting access to our personal information. So that's not enough anymore. That's why companies like TrustedID and others exist, because we are using the technology to stay ahead of the latest scam and the latest identity theft ploy. So really, consumers need to be proactive.
We protect our homes, we protect our cars. Our identity is one of the most important things we own, and can be really used against us. You and I are talking about sports betting, but there is identity theft against children, against elderly parents, our social security numbers can be compromised, our medical benefits and our medical records can be compromised. You could be arrested because someone used your identity to commit a crime. So it's really important to protect it, and that's really what we suggest at this point.
MJD: Well, thank you very much, and those are all the questions I have. Do you have any other advice when it comes to Super Bowl betting online?
Oakes: We can't underestimate our gut, right? If it doesn't feel right, and it doesn't look right, and you're doing all the things to make sure it's a secure environment, if you feel uncomfortable, don't do it. Your gut's telling you something, and that's important to listen to.