8 Scams To Watch Out For This Holiday Season
8 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season
The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers.Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds,unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to- person scams. By theend of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to thetune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for yourcredit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how toprotect yourself from the eight most common scams.
Big Data Breeds Data Breaches
Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it's a bonanza of consumer information touse to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle inthe chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company's cyber-security.According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches areinevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during theholidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in2015 than in 2014!
The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases.According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay withcash. If you're part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card.You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breachoccurs or fraud happens.
Other protections from data breaches include:
Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.
Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at theretailer.
E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it's also great for thieves. Last year,Insurancequotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!
To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office ordelivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker. You can also set uptracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.
And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on thefront door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to apricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phonerates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify youridentity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found,don’t get involved.
Online Shopping Scams
The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lureshoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items.These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulenttransaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information,they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your onlinebank.
To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you knowand trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site forreviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-checkthat “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent securitycompliance standards.
Poisonous Holiday E-Cards
E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch upwith friends and family members. But beware because it's just as easy for scammers to usefake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are fromyour hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance,the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you've been phished.
The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell ofa fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or yourfriend's name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number:T1msmith@comcast.net for instance.
ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail andproduct apps found in Apple's App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers' financialinformation. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app lookreal. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it's legit.
Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details.Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for thefollowing:
A nonsensical description
No history of previous versions
Gift Card Scammers
Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they're bought. After thecard has been activated, the scammers drain the card's funds.
To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cardsdisplayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make surethe protective scratch-off strip is flawless.
During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play onthis sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in youre-mail inbox.
There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website CharityNavigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operatingthroughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities isthrough the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
You'll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you'll probablyhave your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful becauseskimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffeeshops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic thesignal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.
To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don't make online purchases with your creditor debit card when you're in a public space.
Who Should You Turn To?
If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If youdon’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone boughtan appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then youmight not get approved for the loan!
If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair andneed help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.
Author: Brenda Miller
December 13th 2016
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