Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again – the holiday season brings days of snowman building, hot cocoa, time spent with family and friends and of course, holiday shopping. And as many of us look forward to our favorite holiday traditions, we may forget that scammers enjoy this time of year even more than we do! No doubt they are cooking up schemes and scams to steal your money and personal information to make the season a lot less bright.
But you can protect yourself from identity theft and reduce the chances of falling victim during the season of scams – be vigilant and stay alert for these 7 scams.
Scam #1: Look-Alike Websites – Many consumers will see an increase in the number of emails promoting deals, gifts and sales. While they may look legitimate, the links could lead to look-alike websites that are meant to trick you into providing your private and financial information.
What You Can Do: Look for “https” in the web address and a locked padlock icon on the left side of the URL to make sure a website is secure.
Scam #2: Social Media Gift Exchange – A “Secret Santa” with your coworkers, friends and family is fun, but an online gift exchange with people you haven’t met is one you should not participate in. Purchasing a gift and receiving several in return may sound fun, but this seasonal scam is one you should avoid.
What You Can Do: Ignore it and report it! If you receive an invitation to join a gift exchange on social media, you can report it by selecting “report post”. Remember to secure your social media accounts and protect your identity.
Scam #3: Gift Card Scams – In this scenario, a scammer may send a spoofed email, text message or contact you by phone acting as a person in authority requesting you purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons. The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods or services which may or may not be legitimate. If someone asks you to purchase gift cards for them, don’t do it!
What You Can Do: Ask for more information and specific details – who are the gift cards for? Why are they unable to purchase the gift cards themselves? Then, kindly decline the request.
Scam #4: Grandparent Scams – Scammers pose as a grandchild or other family member claiming they don’t have money to purchase holiday gifts.
What You Can Do: Verify the caller’s identity by asking questions that a stranger wouldn’t know the answers to. And better yet, hang up and contact the relative directly that the scam artist is claiming to be to verify it is really them. For additional information on this type of scam, read “How to Spot Elder Abuse Scams and Protect Your Loved Ones”.
Scam #5: Fake Shipping Notifications – Delivery notifications can often be expected throughout the holiday season. Scammers use this to their advantage and send false notification emails disguised as UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service to trick you into opening the email.
What You Can Do: To avoid thieves gaining access to your personal information, call the delivery service to verify the notification.
Scam #6: Unusual Forms of Payments – Is someone asking you to pay with an iTunes or Amazon gift card? Or telling you to wire money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram? This should be a red flag for a scam. Scammers often ask for payment in ways to get the money fast and make it nearly impossible to get back.
What You Can Do: Use a credit card instead of a debit card since any purchases with credit aren’t linked to your bank account. Check your credit card and bank eStatements routinely and sign up for online and mobile banking to closely monitor your accounts. And remember to enable live updates to receive mobile alerts in the app you trust to manage your finances.
Scam #7: Fake Charities – Donating to a charity is a holiday tradition for many families – it’s an important time of the year to share with people in need. Sadly, perpetrators use the holiday season to set up false charities to take advantage of good will. Scammers may divert some or all of the funds for their personal use and those less fortunate may never see the donation.
What You Can Do: Beware of organizations with names similar to reputable charities. Review the charity’s website and see if it uses .org as most legitimate charity websites do. Use the Charity Navigator to make sure you are dealing with a known and trusted charity before you donate. Make contributions directly and pay via credit card or check. Avoid cash donations, if possible.
Look Out For These Warning Signs:
- Huge discounts on popular gift items, especially when promoted on social media or unfamiliar websites.
- An unsolicited email requires you to click on a link or to download an app in order to access a deal or receive a delivery.
What You Can Do to Reduce Your Chance of Being Victimized:
- Sign up for scam alerts from the Federal Trade Commission to stay on top of the latest scams.
- Make it a routine to check your debit and credit card statements. Set up card controls and transaction alerts or check your balance frequently.
- Utilize online and mobile banking to securely monitor account activity.
- Do not click on links within an unsolicited email and do not respond to the email.
- Verify requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them directly at the phone number on their official website.
- Secure all of your accounts with strong passwords that are hard to crack.
- Use Zelle, a fast, safe and easy way to send, request and receive money with friends, family and others you trust.
- Take advantage of digital wallet to pay with your debit and credit cards. Digital Wallets use enhanced security features including device-specific numbers and unique transaction codes so your card number and financial information is never stored on your device or shared with merchants.
If You Believe You are a Victim of Identity Theft:
- Contact your financial institution immediately upon suspecting or discovering a scam. Explain that your identity or personal data may have been compromised. The more information you provide, the more they can help you.
- Contact law enforcement and file a police report.
- File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Report an identity theft incident to the Federal Trade Commission.
For more tips to help protect your personal information, check out our other blogs on Privacy & Cybersecurity and visit our identity theft information center. If you believe your personal information has been compromised or you think you are a victim of identity theft, we’re here to help! Contact us or visit your local branch.