Empower Blog

December 19, 2021

Fraud Prevention Tips for the Holiday Season

Fraud and Security
With an increase in online shopping during the holiday season, scams and fraudulent activity are likely to be on the rise, too. Find out how to keep your personal information safe and your holidays happy.

Scams to Look Out For

Unfortunately, scammers know how to take advantage of people during the holiday season, whether that means going after your generosity, vulnerability or tendency to be on the lookout for a good discount. Some common scams this time of year include:
  • Charity Scams - 'Tis the season for giving, but make sure you vet causes and websites before you pull out your wallet. Fraudsters can create fake websites and even charities that pull at your heart strings in an attempt to collect cash. This is especially common on digital and mobile payment apps, so it’s important to consider where and how you’re being asked to donate. Trustworthy charities will not request that you send money through a money transfer service.
  • Delivery Scams - Double check any emails or text messages from companies that allegedly contain shipping information. Look for misspellings, odd email addresses or overly generic language. Scammers can disguise phishing emails to look like tracking communications to take advantage of the large number of packages being shipped. Be wary of clicking on any links if something seems off, especially if you aren't expecting a package.
  • Travel Scams - At the end of the year, many people are looking forward to planning a vacation. Use caution when searching for travel deals or when opening marketing emails. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Like the other forms of scams, identity thieves can spoof communications and websites for travel bookings in order to steal your personal information.

Online Shopping Safety Tips

With advances in technology, shopping for gifts has become much easier, but so have new ways to steal your information. One practice fraudsters use online is called e-skimming, where they place a skimming code on payment processing webpages to capture your credit card info. This type of theft can happen on any website or app, and is difficult to detect, as the skimming code can capture info in real time.

To protect against this kind of fraudulent activity, only enter your payment information once. Don't repeat the entry on a site multiple times if it doesn't go through. When possible, it's also a good idea to use third-party payment systems, such as Amazon Pay or PayPal, so your card information isn't being directly entered into the site. When on the go, use Apple Pay, Google Pay or other similar mobile payment systems. These send a one-time token of your credit card information to complete the transaction, so fraudsters won't be able to access your info.

Scammers take advantage of deal searching by spoofing emails, social media posts and websites to get you to give your financial information. These usually create a sense of urgency or deadline around scoring the discount or special offer to increase the likelihood you'll take action. As a reminder, it's important to use caution when clicking on links you receive in emails or text messages.

Avoid clicking on banner or online display ads to avoid malware-infected or misleading pop-ups that could take you to fraudulent websites. While shopping, type in web addresses yourself, and only shop on well-known, reputable sites while using a secure browser. In addition, don't make purchases, donations or access your bank information on public or unsecured Wi-Fi.

Additionally, porch pirates are rampant this time of year. Set your shipping address to work or a relative’s house who will be home to accept your package, so it’s not sitting on your porch in plain sight. Or utilize many merchants’ offering of shipping to a nearby store or pickup locker. This option is usually free and allows you to protect your package and pick up your purchase when it’s convenient for you.

And while you've heard this one before, it's important enough to repeat: don't use the same password across multiple accounts, even if you don't think they're important, like online shopping logins.

Tips for Buying from Other Vendors

The desire to support local vendors and artisans in your community is a good one, but you still need to be careful about how and who you are paying. Here’s some advice for shopping safe:
  • Pay by credit card. Most cards offer extra protection for online purchases. If unauthorized charges show up, you can usually dispute them, but check with your card provider to better understand your protections.
  • Vet the sellers' reputation. If you're shopping on a site where you can see reviews or an online profile, be sure to check their info to make sure they're located in your area and see what other buyers are saying about their purchases and interactions.
  • Set up safe pick-ups. If your purchase requires you to meet to exchange goods and/or payment, be sure to do so in a public place, such as a restaurant or coffee shop parking lot, ideally during the day. Many police stations allow you to use their parking lots. It's also a good idea to bring a friend, or at least make sure someone knows where you're going, who you're meeting and when to expect you back.

We hope this handy guide will help you keep your financial information safe this holiday season. To learn more about protecting yourself from fraud, read more here or tune in to our recent podcast.
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About the Author
CommunityAmerica Author
Marissa McEntire

Empower Writer

Marissa is the Marketing Content Writer on the CommunityAmerica Marketing team.

This article has been provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a loan representative or financial advisor. The examples provided within the article are for example only and may not apply to your situation. Since every situation is different, we recommend speaking to a loan representative or financial advisor regarding your specific needs.