Tis’ the season for giving. And taking. As more Christmas shopping is completed online, scammers and cybercriminals are always coming up with new and clever ways to con you out of your hard-earned dollars. Learn what to look for so you can avoid getting scammed:
The days of worrying about fraudulent cashier’s checks in the mail are long gone. Scammers are creating more sophisticated ruses to trick you into giving them your money. Now is the time to be most vigilant while shopping online to protect your finances and assets.
Don’t fall victim to scammers who are waiting for you to make a mistake with your private financial information. As you work on and finish your holiday shopping, it is important to stay alert and make sure you’re purchasing from reputable websites.
What Holiday Scams Should I watch Out For This Year?
Scammers and cybercriminals have a plethora of scams from which to choose around the holidays.
- One popular scheme, sometimes known as a discount scam, involves luring potential victims with an ad. The scammers know what you’ve been searching for online often because they place cookies on your computer to track your activity. Or, they serve up a banner ad offering a coupon or sweet deal for that particular product.
For example, you click on a banner claiming to offer just the right gift for dad at an extreme discount. You land on a spoof site, like “Amaazon.com,” that looks like the legitimate site. From there, the site either asks for personally identifiable information criminals can sell on the black market, or it requests your credit card to purchase the item. You’re charged the full amount, but the item never arrives.
The holidays are a time of increased spending, so it is easier to miss a bad charge on a credit-card statement. Attackers can easily blend in with all the noise.
- Another big scam this year is the shipping scam, sometimes called the FedEx scam. With this, criminals send an email or text telling you that your package has been delayed, but you can get it expedited for a fee if you click on a link. They then steal your personal information along with your credit card.
Losing money in a scam like this is bad, but to make it worse, criminals can also drop malware on your phone or laptop when you click on a link. This malware is easy to install, and the scammers can come back and get into your machine for whatever they want later.
- The gift-card scam is also escalating, cyber experts say. This scheme takes advantage of how gift cards act much like cash. They don’t have personal information attached or fraud protection like credit cards, so someone can steal card information and use it with very little fear of getting caught.
It works like this: A criminal sets up an online store, or uses a platform like eBay. The seller only accepts gift cards, or they say, “There is a problem with your credit card, do you have a gift card you can use?” Now they have an anonymous, untraceable gift card.
- Two other scams you could see around the holidays: travel phishing and charity scams. The travel phishing scam might arrive in the form of an email stating a booking has been canceled, sending you to a spoof site where you’re asked to enter your credit-card number to set up a new reservation. It might also be an email directing you to a clone site offering outrageous deals on a house rental, flight or hotel room as long as you hold your reservation with a deposit.
These are popular now because people are traveling again, even though there is still a lot of anxiety around ever-changing Covid-related restrictions.
The charity scam might target victims through social-media feeds, asking you to donate to an organization that turns out to be phony. This scam exists in the other 11 months of the year, but the messaging becomes more targeted towards the things you would be doing around the holidays.
What Can I Do If I Believe I Have Been Scammed?
Cybercrimes and online scams are booming. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2020 report, Americans reported more than $265 million in nondelivery scams, when consumers are charged for an item purchased online but it never arrives. They filed nearly another $130 million in losses related to credit-card fraud, $54 million in “smishing” campaigns—when bad actors send texts urging recipients to reveal personal information—and $4 million in charity scams.
It is understandable to feel overwhelmed if you have fallen victim to a holiday scam; however,it is important to act quickly to fix the situation.
- Contact your bank: If you have paid using your credit or debit card, contact your bank immediately and explain you have been a victim of fraud. Ask for the transaction or transactions to be canceled and for your money back.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): If you decide to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, you are helping others from falling victim to the same practices. Once you have completed filing the report, the FTC will provide the next steps on how to protect yourself, such as ways to get your money back.
- Freeze your credit report: If your identifying information has been stolen as part of the holiday scam, it may be in your best interest to freeze your credit reports immediately. Doing so is free, and potential creditors won’t be able to access information required to approve a new credit application. This will help with the prevention of scammers from opening up any new accounts in your name.
Here’s some additional advice to take if you see any suspicious online activity:
- Don’t give away personal information unless necessary.
- Use strong passwords or login as a guest on shopping sites
- Tether to your phone if using a laptop, rather than connecting to the public or open Wi-Fi network, where criminals typically harvest personal information.
- Don’t pay with hard-to-trace forms of payment, such as wire transfers.
- Use two-factor authentication for your most sensitive information, like bank and credit-card logins.
- Check your credit-card statement daily during the holidays to isolate any strange purchases.
Woodall & Woodall Cares
It’s difficult to recover after a holiday scam. The aftermath can be stressful, especially if you’ve fallen behind on bills. For this reason, it is important to remain vigilant during the holiday season.
If you find yourself struggling with debt, contact Woodall & Woodall. We can help you with your next step to remove the dark cloud of debt from over your head and find financial peace.