While most holiday traditions are filled with joy, family and friends, the fraudsters and their scams ramp up their efforts over this season. These cyber scammers devise schemes in an effort to exploit our habits of giving and gift-buying for loved ones to hopefully cash out as many of us become preoccupied with all the festivities.
For example, imagine your are busy texting a family member about Thanksgiving travel plans when you get an email from what appears to be Amazon. It says your account has been double charged and you need to click on the link in the email to be reimbursed. You immediately notice a grammatical mistake in the subject line: “Your account have been overcharged.” You scroll over the link and realize it’s not an Amazon URL at all, but a jumbled mess of numeric and alpha characters. You realize it’s a scam, and contact Amazon directly.
Here are some helpful hints to keep in mind to protect yourself from scam attempts:
- Scroll over links in emails and social media ads to display the true destination of the website to make sure it’s a legitimate site.
- When possible, use a credit card. It’s easier to dispute charges and may limit the damage if it turns out it was a scam.
- Stay away from unfamiliar retail, travel, and charity sites online or research them by searching for their names on review sites.
- Carefully examine gift cards at the point of purchase. Any sign of tampering could mean a scammer already has the pin and can deplete the funds once it’s bought.
- Beware of huge discounts on hot gift items, especially when touted on social media posts, unfamiliar websites or in an email.
- Spelling errors or shoddy grammar could be signs of scams.
- Stay away from sites which do not provide a physical address or phone number.
- Beware of unsolicited email asking for a link to be clicked on or for an app to be downloaded to access a deal or arrange a delivery.
- If an email, phone call or text says it’s a financial institution, don’t act on it. Call the financial institution directly. Most credit unions would never call unexpectedly to demand account information (such as account numbers, passwords, PINS, Social Security Numbers, etc.)
- Do not give out any password, credit card, debit card or account information to unsolicited calls, emails, or texts.
- Be very skeptical of free or too good to be true offers.