Tis’ the season for everything magical and wonderful. Tis’ also the season for the uglier side of the holidays-holiday scams.
There are several things to look out for as you go about spending your hard earned money.
Be careful about the use of your credit or debit card online and in the store. Most retailers now have chip card readers, so fraud at bricks-and-mortar stores is actually down. Scammers have moved a lot of their efforts to the online world. If you plan on using your card to place an order off of the internet, make sure you’re only buying on secure websites. Look for https in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and for a lock symbol.
You need to watch for look-alike websites. Watch out for URL’s that use the name of a well-known brand and then have extra words attached to them. Many times, people think they’ve got the official site and they actually don’t.
A common phishing tactic involves fake shipping notifications. They can have attachments or links that actually download malware on your computer and they can be used to steal your identity and passwords.
Beware of E-Cards. Two things to watch out for: The sender’s name may not be apparent and that’s a big red flag. Also, do not provide any additional information if you are required to do so to get the card.
Look for unusual forms of payment. If anyone asks you to pay for your holiday purchases using prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, or even use a third party for payment, just run away. Those types of payments can’t be traced and they can’t be undone. That money is forever lost.
Lastly, watch out for free gift cards. Pop-up ads or emails offering you a free gift card is often just a way to get your personal information and they can use it for identity theft.
The extra steps may feel like they take away from the excitement of buying the people you care about gifts. But it really isn’t. Identity theft and hacked bank accounts can have repercussions that last long after you’ve eaten the final piece of the fruitcake that you’ve been avoiding.