6 Tips to Protecting Yourself from Holiday Shopping Fraud
#1 – Secure Your Online AccountsAccording to research done by consulting firm Deloitte, online holiday spending is expected to increase from 12.8% to 14.3% for 2022. We get it – holiday shopping is so easy to do online! But, while it’s convenient for you, it’s also the easiest place for fraudsters to obtain your personal financial information. Whether you’re using an Amazon account or purchasing items through Facebook Marketplace and sending payments using money sharing apps, it’s important to follow certain steps to keep these accounts secure such as knowing red flags to watch out for and doing your research before selling/purchasing anything.
Bonus Note: Your passwords are key to protecting your identity online. Be sure to update them regularly, using lengthy, unique passwords for each account.
#2 – Be Aware of Popular ScamsWhile the following scams may take place all year long, we are sure to see an uptick this holiday season in fraudsters using these methods to scam you out of money or obtain your personal information.
A scam that is prominent around the holidays is the gift card scam. The short story is, if someone you don’t know reaches out to you via social media, email, text message, or phone call and asks you to purchase gift cards or pay them via gift card – it’s a scam. They are hoping that you will purchase the gift cards and provide them the card number so they can immediately spend the funds prior to receiving the physical card. You should simply block the fraudster and move on.
Another popular scam is the use of fake shipping notifications. If you receive a text message or email containing a link to what appears to be a shipper’s website such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, or a link from an e-commerce site, such as Amazon or eBay, regarding the tracking of a package, you should verify the message and whether or not you even ordered something before clicking any links. These notifications should contain confirmation numbers, contact methods, and specific information pertaining to your order. If none of that is there, or if you know you didn’t order anything, don’t click it.
Online Job Scams
Searching for a second job around the holidays is very common to make a little extra money. If you’ve been asking for job recommendations online, be sure to keep an eye out for offers that may be too good to be true. These days, remote working is becoming more and more common, and fraudsters are looking to take advantage of this by creating fake employment opportunities with the hopes of obtaining your personal information. If you find a job listing you’re interested in, it’s important you do your research on the company to ensure the listing is legit before providing them with any information. You should never work for a company before they hire you and be weary of job offers that don’t require an interview. Also, valid employers will never ask for payment upfront for supplies, so don’t trust a company that asks this of you.
Bonus Note: All these scams typically come with some kind of “urgency” behind the requests to pressure you into committing before doing research. Keep an eye out for that type of message and always make sure you’re completely comfortable before committing to something.
#3 – Purchase Directly Through Reputable Online StoresWhile that Facebook ad for the random item that is the perfect Christmas gift for your mom may seem legitimate, there are clear signs to know that point to a fake website. One clear sign of an illegitimate business website is not being able to find contact information for the store, whether that be a phone number, email address, return address, or physical store location. There should also be no misspellings in the URL for the business, or obvious typos in the ad itself. It is important to read several reviews for the seller or business and do your homework before purchasing. Also, don’t fall for unrealistic promises such as sales and shipping – they’ll likely never even ship the item.
#4 – Use a Credit Card vs. Debit CardAlthough using your debit card may feel like the safer choice so you don’t go over budget with holiday spending, using your credit card may be more beneficial. If you have the option, the holiday season is a great time to cash in on the cash back or points you may receive with purchases on your credit card. Plus, if your card happens to be compromised with a purchase, it could be less of a financial burden on you in the short run.
When your debit card is compromised and money is withdrawn from your account, that money is gone – at least for a little while. You will have to dispute that charge through your financial institution, and it could take some time before the charge is refunded. With a credit card, federal law limits your responsibility for unauthorized charges to $50 and charges can be quickly disputed and reversed as a billing error.
Just remember, make smart choices with your credit card so you don’t put yourself in debt.
#5 – Check Out as a GuestUnless you’re using a common site such as Amazon, Walmart, or Bath and Body Works that may offer rewards and loyalty programs for signing up, providing random sites with your personal information isn’t always the best decision. Sign-ups require personal information like your cell phone and email, so even if they’re offering deals, research into the company’s legitimacy. If you are satisfied with your experience and trust their security levels, then by all means – take advantage of what they have to offer!
#6 – Avoid Using Public Wi-FiWhile it may be tempting to join the public Wi-Fi at your local mall when your service is lagging because of crowds, these public networks can be very dangerous to your device privacy. We would strongly advise that you do not connect any of your personal devices to a public Wi-Fi network, ever. Public networks are unsecure, which can allow fraudsters to hack into the network and see anything you have saved and are accessing on your device. Rather, protect yourself by having a little patience and waiting for your device to load.
Even the most cautious spender can succumb to the sneaky tactics these grinches use to throw a wrench in holiday plans. It helps to be aware of your surroundings and remember the tips above. If you feel as though you’ve been a victim of a fraudulent attack through your accounts, CommunityAmerica has the tools and resources to help you through the situation. Visit your nearest branch, give us a call at 913.905.7000 or send an email to [email protected].
Be sure to also check out our latest podcast, which dives further into protecting yourself from fraud in the coming months. Here’s to a safe holiday season!