Protect yourself from holiday shopping scams

Roxanna Doss

Roxanna Doss

The holiday season is officially upon us. As you prepare your budget for additional expenses that the next couple of months may incur, it’s important to remember that this season brings an increase in the number of scammers and scammers who aim to take advantage of your generous Christmas spirit. While it’s important to be aware of fraudulent activity year-round, here are some helpful tips you should review to protect yourself online and in stores while shopping for the holidays.

Protect your online accounts. Online holiday spending is expected to increase 12.8% to 14.3% for 2022, according to research by consultancy firm Deloitte. 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 scammers to get your personal financial information. Whether you’re using an Amazon account or buying items through Facebook Marketplace and sending payments using money sharing apps, it’s important to follow a few steps to protect these accounts, like doing your research before selling/buying anything.

Beware of Popular Scams: While the following scams can occur year-round, we’re sure to see an increase in scammers using these methods to scam you out of money or getting your personal information during the holiday season.

Gift Cards: One scam that is prominent around the holidays is the gift card scam. In short, if someone you don’t know contacts you via social media, email, text or phone call and asks you to buy gift cards or pay for them with gift cards, it’s a scam. They hope you will purchase the gift cards and provide them with the card number so they can spend the funds immediately before receiving the physical card. You should just block the scammer and move on.

Shipping Notifications: 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 sender’s website such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, or a link from an e-commerce site, such as Amazon or eBay, relating to the tracking a package, you should check the message and whether or not you ordered something before clicking any link. These notifications should contain confirmation numbers, contact methods, and specific information about your order. If there’s none of that, or if you know you didn’t order anything, don’t click on it.

Online Job Scams: Looking for a second job during the holidays is very common to earn some extra cash. If you’ve been asking for job advice 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 scammers are trying to take advantage of it by creating fake job opportunities with the hope of getting your personal information.

Buy directly through reputable online stores.

While the Facebook ad for the random item that’s the perfect Christmas gift for your mom may seem legit, there are clear signs you know that they point to a fake website. A clear sign of a rogue business website is the inability to find contact information for the store, whether it’s a phone number, email address, return address, or physical location of the store. Also, there should be no spelling errors in the company URL or obvious typos in the ad itself. It’s important to read several reviews for the seller or company and do your homework before buying.

Use a credit card or debit card.

While using your debit card may seem like the safer choice so you don’t go over budget on vacation expenses, using your credit card may be more beneficial. If you get the chance, the holiday season is a great time to cash in any cash back or points you may receive with purchases to your credit card. Also, if your card is compromised with a purchase, it could be a minor financial burden on you in the short term.

When your debit card is compromised and money is withdrawn from your account, that money is gone, at least for a while. You will need to dispute this charge through your financial institution and it may take some time for the charge to be refunded. With a credit card, federal law limits your liability for unauthorized charges to $50, and charges can quickly be disputed and reversed as a billing error.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi. While it might be tempting to join public Wi-Fi at your local mall when your service is delayed due to crowds, these public networks can be very dangerous for your device’s privacy. Public networks aren’t secure, which can allow scammers to hack into the network and see everything you’ve saved and accessed on your device. Instead, protect yourself by being patient and waiting for your device to charge.

“Let’s Talk Money” is powered by CommunityAmerica Credit Union, and this week’s article is by Fraud Investigations Executive Roxanne Doss. If you believe you have been the victim of a fraudulent attack through your accounts, CommunityAmerica has the tools and resources to help you overcome the situation. Visit the branch closest to you, call us at 913-905-7000, or email abuse@cacu.com.

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