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10/6/2011
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iTunes Fraud Generates New Publicity, But Who Is Responsible For Online Fraud?

Consumers should take steps to proactively protect themselves against an attack

It has been more than two years since reports surfaced of scammers using iTunes to drain bank accounts. However, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s recent announcement that her office will investigate Apple’s compliance with her state's data breach notification laws has generated new buzz around this fraud. Coakley, herself, was a victim of an iTunes scam.

Still, the question remains: Who is responsible when an iTunes account is used to drain one’s bank account or rack up charges on a credit card?

Apple hasn’t been particularly responsive to the problem, but iTunes fraud reports have been so varied that it’s difficult to pin the blame on iTunes. The argument that iTunes should enforce more sophisticated password requirements doesn’t protect consumers using the same password for multiple online accounts.

Ultimately, it’s up to you, the consumer, to protect yourself from these types of scams. Why? Because it’s your data -- your personal information, your credit score, and your money -- that’s at risk. There’s no guarantee that a PayPal or credit-card company will reimburse you for fraudulent charges. Even if they will, proving the charges are faulty is a hassle.

Wondering how to prevent an iTunes or similar fraud from happening to you? Here are three proactive steps you can take to stay safe online.

1. Pick a strong password. My colleague Graham Cluley has created a short video on how to do so.

2. Use a separate password for every account. Time -consuming? Yes. But one fraudulent charge is easier to deal with than two or more.

3. Check your statements regularly to spot any inconsistencies, and report them to your bank or credit-card company.

Chester Wisniewski is a senior security adviser at Sophos Canada

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