Stay Safe From Scams This Holiday Season

young family making holiday cookies

The holidays are a great time for giving, but crooks target this time of year for taking. Personal information or your money, scams can happen even during the most wonderful time of the year.

Don’t fall victim to the Grinch this season. Below are some common holiday scams and pitfalls to watch for during the holidays.

Deals Too Good To Be True? It’s Probably a Scam

If little-known sites are showing prices far below normal or if they claim to have popular products that major retailers can’t keep in stock, think twice before purchasing. This can be especially prevalent when buying online. Some tips to protect yourself include:

  1. Make sure the business is legitimate. If you’ve never heard of it, check online reviews or articles. Don’t be tricked into giving out personal or financial information to scam sites that will never deliver the product you want.

  2. Only shop on secure sites. The website URL should include “https://” and many browsers have a lock icon that indicates it is a secure website. Avoid entering your personal information if the website is not secure.

  3. Pay with a credit card. Built-in consumer protections are likely included in your credit card to guard you in cases of fraud.

    Related: Debit Card vs. Credit Card: What’s the Difference & Which You Should Use

  4. Do not download or click from suspicious emails. Even if the promise is of coupons or free products, stay vigilant. Unsolicited messages from unknown senders could be fraudsters trying to steal personal information or to place malware on your computer.

  5. Look for the seller. Many big shopping sites also serve as a storefront for independent, third-party sellers. Sometimes the seller information is not obvious, so pause to locate it. Try to only buy from sellers that have a good reputation rating with lots of reviews.

When Holiday Generosity is Exploited

‘Tis the season for giving, but sometimes your charitable donation is actually going to a criminal. Or the donation you assume is supporting a cause is funding administrative costs or something else unintended.

When making a charitable donation, consider these tips:

  • Do your research before giving. Check out the charity online to make sure it’s valid and is clear about what it does with contributions. Don’t get tricked by pleas from groups that seemingly pop up overnight.
  • Review names and links closely. Scammers will use very similar names or websites that are close to the real organization. They are intentionally trying to confuse you to take advantage of your generosity for their own gain.
  • Be wary for donations that are asking for cash or a wire transfer immediately. Don’t feel pressured to give if you’re uncomfortable. Do your research then give when you’re ready.

Problem With Package Delivery? Don’t Be Fooled

A common scam is when you receive a phone call, email or text claiming there is a problem delivering a product. Scammers use these methods to try to trick you out of personal information or money. If you have ordered a package, make sure to only reference the delivery tracking information sent to you once your order was placed. Do not call the number listed or click any links stating your problem; search for the business’ official web address or call their official phone number to see if the issue is legitimate. Or refer to the online receipt you received after your purchase and make contact through an official website address, phone number or live online chat.

Stay Vigilant & Be Alert

Beware of messages that impersonate your financial institution and ask for personal or account information . Remember, your bank will never ask you for this. Be careful of messages that try to get you to download ‘free’ holiday software or to click for a special greeting. It is likely an attempt to try and steal personal information, account numbers, or infect your computer with malware. Never click on links or download files from these (or other) unsolicited emails.

While you should regularly check your debit and credit card online accounts or statements for irregularities, it’s especially important to inspect them for unexpected purchases during the holidays. Report any problems immediately and be careful. Don’t let a scam spoil your holiday season.

For more information about keeping your information safe, check out our other blog post about Start With Skepticism: Beware The Account Update Scam.


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