Holidays are supposed to be a joyous time – but scammers can replace the joy of the season with the headaches of fraud. Throughout the season, make sure you are taking these simple precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones protected.
- Phishing emails– Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals send an email that appears to be from a legitimate company and ask you to provide sensitive information. Popular ones include the personalized letter from Santa to your child, solicitations from unknown third parties that offer gift cards or discounts in exchange for taking a survey, fake delivery confirmations and fake renewal requests for things like insurance coverage.
- Fake Charities– Unfortunately, fake charities often pop up during the holidays to take advantage of people’s generosity. Thoroughly do research on any new charities that ask for your money. Legitimate charities will be happy to answer your questions, not wanting to do so should be the big red flag you need to let you know you could be about to fall for a holiday scam.
- Social Media Scams – Be aware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards, holiday promotions or contests, or shared linked from known friends. These scams can lead consumers to participate in an online survey that is actually designed to steal personal information. In this day in age, we post absolutely everything but, in this case, consumers should not post pictures of event tickets on social media sites. Scammers can create a ticket using the barcode obtained from the photo and resell the ticket. Protect ticket barcodes as you would credit card numbers.
- Phone Scams –In general, you should not give your personal information over the phone in any call that you did not initiate. Some phone companies have done us the favor and labeled certain calls as “spam risk” so you already know to ignore who is calling. In the cases that the call has not been labeled as such, use your best judgement.
- E-cards – Holiday e-cards are increasingly popular, but they can contain viruses. Verify them separately with the sender before opening.
- False Websites – Online-shopping bargains may be unusually good for a reason. Scammers may create slick websites offering merchandise at cut-rate prices without any intent of delivering – or worse, as a front to steal and misuse your account information. Before you order from a website, verify both that the company is legitimate and that you have not been directed to a spoof of their website. Do not use external links; enter the correct company URL in your browser. Look for “https” in the header – the “s” reflects a secure web page.
- Gift Cards – You can buy major retailers’ gift cards almost anywhere now – even at gas stations – but check them carefully. If the activation codes are exposed, scammers may have already copied and used the information, leaving you with a worthless card.
- Use Credit over Debit – Credit cards will not protect you from scams, but they can limit the damage. Your liability for defective/undelivered items or fraudulent use of your card is $50, which many credit companies will waive. Debit cards are linked to your bank account, so it is easy for thieves to drain your account without your knowledge.
We hope that these tips can protect your personal information and keep you safe. If you have heard of any other fraud schemes and would like to share, comment below.