The holiday season is officially upon us. As you prepare your budget for the extra expenses the next few months may bring, it’s important to remember that this season brings an increase in the number of scammers and scammers out to take advantage of your generous holiday spirit. While it’s important to be aware of fraudulent activity throughout the year, here are some helpful tips you should review to protect yourself online and in stores when shopping for the holidays.
▪ Secure your online accounts. According to a study by consulting firm Deloitte, online holiday spending is expected to increase from 12.8% to 14.3% for 2022. We get it! Holiday shopping is so easy to do online! But, while it’s convenient for you, it’s also the easiest place for fraudsters to get your personal financial information. Whether you use an Amazon account or buy items through Facebook Marketplace and send payments using money-sharing apps, it’s important to follow certain steps to keep these accounts secure, like doing your research before selling/buying anything.
▪ Be aware of popular scams: Although the following scams can take place throughout the year, we are sure to see an increase this holiday season in scammers using these methods to scam you out of money or obtain your information personal.
Gift Cards: A scam that is prevalent during the holidays is the gift card scam. In short, if someone you don’t know contacts you via social media, email, text or phone call and asks you to buy gift cards or pay for them with a gift card, it’s is a scam. They expect you to purchase the gift cards and provide them with the card number so they can immediately spend the funds before they receive the physical card. You just need to block the scammer and move on.
Shipping Notifications: Another popular scam is the use of fake shipping notifications. If you receive a text or email with a link to what appears to be a shipper’s website, such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, or a link from an e-commerce site, such as Amazon or eBay, when it comes to tracking a package, you need to check the message and whether or not you even ordered something before clicking any links. These notifications should contain confirmation numbers, contact methods and specific information relating to your order. If none of that is there, or you know you didn’t order anything, don’t click on it.
Online employment scams: Looking for a second job during the holidays is very common to earn some extra money. If you’ve asked for job recommendations online, be sure to keep an eye out for offers that may be too good to be true. Nowadays, remote work is becoming more and more common and fraudsters seek to take advantage of it by creating fake job opportunities in the hope of obtaining your personal information.
▪ Buy directly from reputable online stores.
While this Facebook ad for the random item that’s the perfect Christmas gift for your mom might seem legit, there are clear signs to know that it’s pointing to a fake website. A clear sign of an illegitimate business website is the inability to find the contact details of the store, be it a phone number, email address, return address or physical store location. There should also be no spelling mistakes in the business URL or obvious typos in the ad itself. It’s important to read multiple reviews of the seller or company and do your homework before buying.
▪ Use a credit card rather than a debit card.
While using your debit card may seem like the safest bet to stay on budget with your vacation spending, using your credit card may be more beneficial. If you have the opportunity, the holiday season is the perfect time to take advantage of the cash back or points you could receive with purchases made with your credit card. Also, if your card is compromised during a purchase, it could be less of a financial burden for you in the short term.
When your debit card is compromised and money is withdrawn from your account, that money is gone, at least for a little while. You will need to dispute these charges with your financial institution, and it may take some time for the charges to be refunded. With a credit card, federal law limits your liability for unauthorized charges to $50, and charges can be quickly disputed and reversed as a billing error.
▪ Avoid using public Wi-Fi. While it may be tempting to join your local mall’s public Wi-Fi when your service is lagging due to crowds, these public networks can be very dangerous to your device’s privacy. Public networks are not secure, which can allow fraudsters to hack into the network and see everything you have saved and accessed on your device. Instead, protect yourself by having a little patience and waiting for your device to charge.
“Let’s Talk Money” is powered by CommunityAmerica Credit Union and this week’s feature comes from Fraud Investigations Manager Roxanne Doss. If you feel like you’ve been the victim of a fraudulent attack through your accounts, CommunityAmerica has the tools and resources to help you through the situation. Visit your nearest branch, call us at 913-905-7000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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