The holidays are meant to be a festive celebration where you gather with your loved ones. It’s also the time-of-year when you spend a lot of money, especially online. In fact, it was expected that in 2016 nearly half (47%) of consumers would be shopping online this holiday season.
Unfortunately, swindlers are also aware of this fact and are looking to scam online shoppers. So, how can you protect yourself this holiday season?
Being aware of the following online scams is the first line of defense.
Too Good To Be True Online Sales
Probably the most prevalent scam throughout the holidays are those too good to be true deals. You know. The pair of Ray-Bans for $40 or new iPad Air 2 for $100. Not only are those bargains unbelievable, they’re often from a website that you’ve never heard of. But, who cares? You’d be foolish not to take advantage of such a deal!
The truth is that if something is too good to be true, then it is.
Scammers build fake websites that appear legit and then send-out unrealistic discounts on brand name products and gift cards to unsuspecting customers in order to gain their personal information.
How to avoid it: Again, if a deal is too good to be true, it is. Most importantly, never make a purchase on a site that you’ve never heard-of and keep a lookout for misspelled websites, instead of Target it would be Tarrget.
Phishing Scams Via Email, Social Media, or Text
Phishing scams and malicious links are some of the most common scams that we face on a daily basis. It’s just a part of living in a digital world. However, no matter how hard we try, it’s still easy to get tricked.
Here are some of the more infamous phishing scams to pay attention to whenever you open your inbox;
- Fake purchase invoices
- Fake shipping notifications
- Bogus deals
- Fake surveys
Also pay attention to the links that you click-on. Just because it was delivered to your inbox, smartphone via text message, or was on your friend’s Facebook feed doesn’t mean it’s legit. It could be a malicious link that will download spyware or a program that will capture passwords and other personal information
How to avoid it: Keep tabs on where you made your holiday purchases. If you didn’t buy anything from Amazon, but just received an email regarding a shipping notification, then it’s probably a scam. If you received a shady link from a friend, ask them if they sent it to you before opening it.
Bogus Smartphone Apps
Whether if it’s a game or a retailer’s app that grants access to exclusive sales or limited products, apps have become a big part of our lives. And scammers are obviously aware of that fact. They’ll create a fake app in order to to steal personal information from your device.
How to avoid it: Look for reviews before downloading an app from third-party sites. If there aren’t, then that’s a red flag that this app was just created and may not be safe. And, stick to downloading apps from trusted app stores and websites.
Scammers use the holidays to tug on your heartstrings. They’ll dress-as Santa and ask for you to donate to their charity. They’ll make unsolicited phone calls or flood your inbox with tear-jerking tales.
How to avoid it: If you’ve never heard of the donation then don’t give them cash, and especially your credit card information. If you’re curious, verify the legitimacy of the charity online. If it’s on the up-and-up you can always make a donation directly. However, it’s best to donate to the charities that you’re familiar with. And, once we make a donation you can set-up recurring donations so that you can continue to be charitable without getting scammed.
We could all use some extra-cash during this time-of-year. That’s why there are nefarious individuals who set-up fake work-from-home offers. After all, working from home is a convenient way to pay off all of that debt you’ve been building as you holiday shop. They’ll promise you a sweet work-at-home gig as long as you make an upfront payment to get started.
How to avoid it: Do your research. There are hundreds of legitimate work-from-home jobs and they rarely ask for an upfront payment or say “no experience necessary.”
We focus a lot on digital scams. Unfortunately, the you’re still prone to some old-school scams like;
- Pickpockets in crowded areas.
- Being short-changed at a cash register.
- Packages being stolen from your front-door.
- Ticket scalpers selling tickets for hard-to-find holiday events.
- Signing or calling for an unexpected parcel, like the 809 scam.
How to avoid it: To prevent theft, take precautions like locking your doors at all-times, counting your money after making a purchase, only carrying vital information on you, switching to a digital wallet, asking a neighbor to hold onto packages that arrive in the mail, and never giving personal details to anyone that you don’t know.
How to Enjoy a Holly Jolly Shopping Season
To ensure that you don’t become a victim of fraud or theft this holiday season the FBI suggests that you take the following measures;
- Reviewing your bank and credit card statements frequently and whenever you make a purchase.
- Only purchasing merchandise from a reputable source.
- Not responding to spam emails or clicking on links contained within them.
- Not filling out forms sent in emails that are asking for personal information.
- Being cautious of all email attachments.
- Always verify requests for personal information from businesses or financial institutions by contacting them directly.
- Being cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
I would also recommend that you take general security measures like installing antivirus software, running the latest updates of your software, and using strong passcodes for each of your online accounts.
If you do believe that you’ve been scammed, run your antivirus software immediately and contact your bank or credit card company so that your account will be monitored for any suspicious activity.