The holidays are here! This time of year is filled with exciting activities and much-needed downtime. It is also a time of increased online activity and shopping, which unfortunately also brings an increase in online scams. This is especially true on major shopping holidays, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, in 2021 Americans lost $173 million to credit card fraud and more than $337 million to nonpayment or non-delivery scams.
While you may be looking forward to a few days off, remember bad guys never take a vacation. Be on the lookout for these scams which are particularly common during the holidays.
Online Shopping Scams: These scams often involve fake websites or counterfeit goods, and shoppers are lured by extremely low prices or hard-to-find items. To avoid these, always shop from reputable sources, check website authenticity, and be wary of deals that seem too good to be true.
Phishing Scams: Hackers love to steal personal information and install malware on your device, and often come in the form of emails or texts that appear to be from legitimate sources like banks or credit card companies. To protect yourself, do not click on links from unknown senders, verify the authenticity of the message, and use two-factor authentication wherever possible.
Delivery Notification Scams: Incredibly prevalent during the holidays, scammers send fraudulent delivery notifications from what seem to be legitimate couriers like UPS, FedEx, or the U.S. Postal Service. These notifications may lead to fake sign-in pages designed to steal personal information or to sites loaded with malware. To stay safe, track your packages directly on the courier’s official website and never share personal information with anyone sending unsolicited emails or texts.
Gift Card Scams: Scammers can tamper with gift cards available in stores, recording the PIN numbers after scratching off the protective coating, and then wait for them to be activated to drain the funds. To avoid this, inspect gift cards before purchasing them and better yet, buy them directly from the retailer’s website.
Charity Scams: More donations are given to charities around this time of year when we are feeling more generous and looking to reduce our tax burden in 2024. Scammers know this and set up fake charity sites to take advantage of unsuspecting donors. To make sure your money goes to those you want to support, always give through the official site for your charity, and if you aren’t sure if a site is legitimate, use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search Tool to double check the site.
- Use strong, unique passwords for different accounts.
- Be cautious with personal information on social media, as scammers can use this information in targeted attacks.
- Monitor bank and credit card statements regularly for unauthorized transactions.
- Keep your devices updated with the latest security patches.
- Educate yourself and family members, especially those who may not be as tech-savvy or familiar with these risks such as older parents.
By being vigilant and following these tips, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to holiday scams.