“Soft Mugging” and Other Holiday (Mobile Wallet) Frauds

Actimize Fraud Product Team, Fraud Detection & Prevention

The 2015 Holiday Season will be different. Suddenly, as you walk through the mall parking lot or on a city street with your chipper holiday step, you might get the feeling that someone walking next to you is just a little too close. What you are probably not thinking about, when you are on your smartphone talking to your mom on what to get the kids for holiday gifts, is that this guy is after your phone. With one quick move your smartphone is ripped from your hands. This kind of crime is now called “soft mugging”, and the prize is your smartphone. But why is this activity on the rise?

Your smartphone is now not only your phone, but your cool mobile wallet, your communications device, (SMS), and your “on the go” email. In fraud risk circles the smartphone is called the “super channel” and the cyber fraudsters and the soft muggers know the value of its data-rich contents.​

So how do you protect yourself from “soft mugging,” not only during the crowded holidays, but on your daily routines throughout the rest of the year? Consider these steps:

  • Avoid using your smartphone “out in the open” in a large public place or crowded city street –  you are just advertising your “mobile wallet”.
  • Develop situational awareness, if you are shopping alone stay alert with respect to people crowding too close. Don’t leave your smartphone on the table at a restaurant or on the counter of the store when you pay up; it is a prime time for distraction.
  • Passcode your phone. Yes, smart crooks can often bypass this, but make it harder for them.  You would be surprised how many people don’t passcode their phones!  
  • Don’t put your “wallet” in your back pocket. That is easy stealing!
  • Remember also to use these same tips for your regular “wallet” –​ your new EMV card with the chip is a prize for those soft muggers looking to score during the holidays. 

Some of the other holiday trends that we see on the rise are fraudsters who will try to pay their fraudulent credit cards off with your bank account details. The nerve! So also remember to secure any check books that could fall into the wrong hands.​

I hate to mention this last one, but unfortunately we also see friends and family fraud during the holidays. Make certain that during those large family gatherings that those very distant cousins or neighborhood drop-bys that you have not seen for years are really there for the turkey and pumpkin pie and not a second helping of your credit cards or your “mobile wallet”.



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