Now that the holiday season is upon us, there were an estimated 190 million shoppers over the Thanksgiving Day weekend to Cyber Money. With shoppers in full force searching for bargains and holiday deals, there are others out in full force, as well.
Scammers are lurking in the shadows to steal your money, but these tips below, you can outsmart the Scrooges and safely keep your money. You will discover ways to know if you are being scammed and how to identify a scammer.
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1. Pay by Credit Card When Shopping Online
Usually, I do not encourage credit card purchases; however, if your financial institution doesn't protect from erroneous online purchases, then using credit will provide that added protection.
If you notice unauthorized charges on your statement, you can easily dispute such charges. Not all cards are created equal, so you will need to check with your card issuer to learn the protections available.
2. Avoid Gift Card Scams
Gift cards are one of the most popular presents over the holiday season, making up 54 percent of most U.S. consumers' shopping lists, according to a Deloitte survey.
The FBI reports that a common trick is for thieves to go to stores and surreptitiously scratch off the film strip on the backs of gift cards to get the personal identification numbers (PINs), which they cover back up with easy-to-obtain replacement stickers.
The card numbers and PINs are entered into a computer program that repeatedly checks the retailer's website.
Avoid being scammed by checking the package on a gift card to ensure it hasn't been tampered or compromised. When buying gift cards, avoid the card on the top or out front. This is a common area for tampered cards to hide, right in plain sight.
3. Watch Out for Fake Websites
There are numerous websites created by online con artists looking to steal your information. They do this by creating websites and posting to Social Media with the hopes of fooling online shoppers. Before clicking retail links, ensure the path to the website is legit. More websites pretending to be popular retail sites are becoming more common.
For example, an AARP article noted how some "sites often have similar web addresses (for example, "amazon-shop.com") and look visually identical to the retail sites they are "spoofing," or copying."
4. Research Charities Before Donating
In the latest report I could find, Americans are very generous when it comes to charitable donations. It is estimated that 37 million tax returns claimed charitable contributions averaging $5,491 in 2016.
With a lot of donation-dollars comes donation scams. These types of scams generally come in two manners: phone calls and phony websites.
Check for unsolicited phone calls. If you believe the phone call may be a scam, you can generally verify it by searching its website.
When it comes to online charity websites, always ensure it is a legit charity. You can verify its legitimacy by going to Charity Navigator or Give.org.
5. Do Not Shop on Public Wifi
You have heard about online security breaches and malware. When shopping online through an unprotected connection, such as retail Wifi or coffee houses, you are putting your credit card numbers, bank account, and personal data at risk.
Protected websites will generally start with "https://" with the "s" standing for "secure".
During the holiday season, limit your exposure to unsecured Wifi and do not shop online when not using your home's internet.
6. Be Aware of Fake UPS or FedEx Tracking Links
More consumers shop online than with retailers. With millions of packages being delivered, scammers are taking advantage by pretending to be package deliverers.
Do not click on the tracking link unless you can positively identify the link address is from the retailer you purchased your product, or it is from a legitimate delivery agency. If you click on the tracking link, you increase your chances of a virus attack that is commonly used to access your digital files from credit card information saved on your computer or smartphone to personal information.
This holiday season, ensure you are protected so every dollar given is to your family and friends, not to scammers. Following these tips above will reduce your risk to being scammed while ensuring you have a happy holiday season!