It’s an unfortunate reality that scammers and cyberthieves only intensify their efforts during the busiest shopping season of the year. Aside from the normal holiday rush, consumers are conducting more digital transactions in their day-to-day lives, increasing their vulnerability to identity theft, phishing scams, and other cyberspace risks.
While nothing can guarantee complete safety online, knowing what to look for and how to protect your privacy go a long way in minimizing your risk exposure. This holiday season, remain vigilant for these common scams, and implement the following steps to protect yourself.
Online Shopping Scams
Entering a broad search term to find a retailer’s website may be quick, but it sometimes won’t lead you to the real site you’re looking for. To trick online shoppers, scam websites may contain URLs with minor misspellings that closely resemble brand names.
To help you determine whether an online retailer is reputable, research websites before you shop and read reviews from previous customers. Additionally, look for “https” in the URL (not just “http”), since the “s” indicates a secure connection.
Be wary of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand-name merchandise. As the wise saying goes… if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Phishing scams and similar crimes involve thieves posing as trusted contacts to steal personal information like your name, password, or bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device.
Beware of any suspicious links or attachments in emails, text messages, websites, or through social media. Also, be aware of fraudulent emails or text messages disguised as package delivery notifications. Never click links or provide personal information to an unusual sender.
Payment Red Flags
Be cautious of sellers and websites that demand payment solely through gift cards or over the phone. Scammers will also encourage wire transfers, allowing them to quickly intercept stolen funds. Credit cards provide several layers of security against fraud and are typically the safest way to shop online.
Always make sure you receive written confirmation when making a payment online, and obtain tracking numbers for the items you buy so you can follow the delivery process.
Charity fraud rises as individuals give more to those in need during the holiday season. Cyberthieves may use phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to disguise themselves as trusted representatives and solicit on behalf of a fraudulent organization.
When donating to a charitable cause, always use caution and do your research. Before sending money, verify that the organization has a valid Taxpayer Identification Number by contacting them directly by phone.
More tips to avoid holiday fraud:
- Secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases, and use different passwords for each account.
- If you receive an alert from your bank or other financial institution, navigate directly to the provider’s website or mobile app to log into your account and verify the request or other activity.
- Check your bank and credit card statements routinely, including immediately after making online purchases and in the several weeks that follow.
- Beware of any request with a sense of urgency. Scammers encourage their victims to act quickly, as they’re more likely to make a mistake or miss a red flag. Pause and take a breath before acting out of impulse.
As always, we encourage you to continue utilizing your secure, online client portal to send and receive sensitive documents pertaining to your financial accounts. If you need help getting started with a portal, please contact any member of your service team.
For more tips to protect yourself and remain secure online, visit our Cybersecurity Resource Center.