Holidays are supposed to be a joyous time – but scammers can replace the joy of the season with the headaches of fraud. Help yourself and take some simple precautions to keep the Grinches out of your bank accounts during the holidays.
- Phishing emails – Phishing, or emails with fake links designed to get your personal information, often ramps up at the end of the year. Fake delivery confirmations are an annual favorite.
Popular ones include the personalized letter from Santa to your child, solicitations from unknown third parties that offer gift cards or discounts in exchange for taking a survey, and fake renewal requests for things like insurance coverage.
- Fake Charities – Unfortunately, fake charities often pop up during the holidays to take advantage of people’s generosity. Social media has become a popular method of attack for these scammers.
Please support your favorite charities, but thoroughly vet any new charities that ask for your money. Legitimate charities will be happy to answer your questions.
- Phone Scams – More people are home over the holidays, so phone scammers step up their efforts accordingly. In general, you should not give your personal information over the phone in any call that you did not initiate.
- E-cards – Holiday e-cards are increasingly popular, but they can contain viruses. Verify them separately with the sender before opening.
- Bogus Websites – Online-shopping bargains may be unusually good for a reason. Scammers may create slick websites offering merchandise at cut-rate prices without any intent of delivering – or worse, as a front to steal and misuse your account information. If you would like to monitor your credit to prevent identity theft and see your credit reports and scores for free, join MoneyTips.
Before you order from a website, verify both that the company is legitimate and that you have not been directed to a spoof of their website. Do not use external links; enter the correct company URL in your browser. Look for "https" in the header – the "s" reflects a secure web page.
- Take Care with Mobile Use – Ordering on your mobile device may be convenient, but if you are using a public, unsecured wireless connection, you are increasing the risk that your information may be intercepted and stolen.
It is more difficult to verify on a smartphone that you are connecting to a legitimate site, and more tempting to use convenient links that could redirect you. Per the above suggestions, type in the correct URL in the browser. If you are connecting through retailer apps, verify that the app is valid.
- Gift Cards – You can buy major retailers’ gift cards almost anywhere now – even at gas stations – but check them carefully. If the activation codes are exposed, scammers may have already copied and used the information, leaving you with a worthless card.
- Change Your Passwords – What could be more fun than sitting in front of a roaring fire with hot apple cider and changing all of your passwords? There are plenty of things that are more fun, but not many that are more useful.
- Use Credit over Debit – Credit cards will not protect you from scams, but they can limit the damage. Your liability for defective/undelivered items or fraudulent use of your card is $50, and many credit companies will waive that. Debit cards are linked to your bank account, so it is easy for thieves to drain your account without your knowledge.
We hope that these tips can protect your personal information and keep you safe from the evil schemes of the holiday Grinches. They are mean ones, those Grinches. Don’t touch them, even with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole. Happy holidays!
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