Beware of Holiday Scammers
‘Tis the season for fall leaves, first snowfalls, hot apple cider, and holiday cheer. For most of us, the holidays are full of giving, getting, and goodwill.
But we must also realize that the holidays are the time of year when scammers are out in droves. Unfortunately, not only is the number of scammers multiplying each year, but scammers have also become more and more adept at creating new scams to rip you off both in person and online.
Thousands of people become victims of holiday scams each year. The numbers are staggering. Consumers lost $770 Million to scams that originated on social media in 2021. Non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million, and credit card fraud accounted for another $173 million in losses. That is a large chunk of change! Not only is it the hard-earned money you can lose, but scammers can rob you of your identity and personal information and ruin your festive mood.
When shopping online this holiday season—or any time of year—always be aware of deals that seem too good to be true. Do your part to avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim!
Tips to Avoid Holiday Scams
Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself—and your wallet.
PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL INFO. It’s easy to hit a button and “Buy” from anyone anywhere on your phone or laptop. However, be sure you’re not sharing personal or credit card information over public Wi-Fi. Only “BUY” when you are on a secure network.
DON’T CLICK. Don’t click on just any links or attachments in emails, websites, or social media. Phishing scams and similar crimes offer a link to click on whereby you give up some personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. You may unknowingly download malware to your device with just a few link clicks.
GIFT CARDS. Yes, gift cards are a convenient holiday gift, but they also open the door to several scams. Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If someone asks you to pay them with a gift card, that’s a scam. Gift cards are popular with scammers because they’re easy for people to find and buy. They also have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options. They’re more like cash: once a scammer has the gift card number and the PIN, they have your money.
If you are going to use gift cards, stick to stores you know and trust. Avoid buying from online auction sites because the cards may be fake or stolen.
Check out your gift card before you buy it. To ensure your gift card is protected, avoid the rack and ask for one directly from the counter. Make sure the protective stickers are on the card and that they do not appear to have been tampered with. Also, check that the PIN on the back isn’t showing. Get a different card if you spot a problem. And always keep your receipt with the card’s ID number on it, as that will allow you to file a report if your gift card goes missing.
TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE DEALS. There may appear to be deals galore over the holidays, and many are on social media – but not all of them are legitimate. Carefully read reviews, look for security credentials on websites, and research unfamiliar retailers before you take advantage of a deal or discount. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
BEWARE OF PORCH PIRATES. When you’re expecting packages over the holidays, shippers will often provide us with updates on the status of our orders. Knowing this, scammers will send phishing emails pretending to be from companies like FedEx and UPS to lure us to phony web pages and get us to share personal information. So, look closely at delivery notifications and email updates before you click on links or input information. And remember, UPS and FedEx won’t ask for personal information via email.
DON’T RESPOND TO REQUESTS FOR UPDATES. Be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company.
ROBOCALLS. The robocall scams continue. I’ve had two calls this year that appeared to be from a utility company. Lucky for me, the caller didn’t realize that I was going to interrogate him more aggressively before he was going to get information from me. Those calls appeared legit on my phone, and identified the call as the phone number for the utility company. Otherwise, I would never have picked up the calls in the first place. The caller attempted to tell me a past-due utility bill had been overlooked. I started asking very detailed questions to which the utility company would have the answers. I did report the calls to the utility company, and they enlightened me to the fact that scammers can now disguise their call and have it appear that it is the actual telephone number of the company itself.
The bottom line is don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. Scammers often use this time of year to call and solicit donations for fake charities. Don’t ever agree to donate to a charity or buy anything over the phone without first looking into the organization.
As we move into the holiday season, remember that we can all be targeted by unscrupulous persons. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to be AWARE of the newest scams out there and verify the identity of the person or organization to be sure they are legit. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, pause, think, and hang up if any red flags arise.