6 Ways to Avoid Holiday Fraud Scams

Author: Denise Owens, Fraud Manager 12/02/2022

It’s beginning to look like holiday shopping season! Retailers and shoppers are about to experience their busiest shopping season of the year. Unfortunately, fraudsters are also gearing up for their most profitable months. Fraud scams are more prevalent during the holidays as consumers are both shopping online and swiping their credit cards more often than usual. You can help protect yourself by using the following tips.

Update Anti-Virus Software Before Shopping Online

Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date before you shop online. New viruses and malware are emerging every day. For maximum protection against these new threats, you should also update your anti-virus program regularly. Many software programs will automatically update to fix any bugs or improve their efficiency. You should have an anti-virus program on your phone as well, not just your computer.

While shopping online, you might encounter pop-ups that say malware has been detected on your device. The pop-up may prompt you to run a scan to check for viruses. It is important that you do not click on any pop-ups as they can download malware to your device. If you suspect your device has a virus, manually open your anti-virus software and check for updates or run a scan.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings When Shopping

If you decide to do your shopping in a physical store, there is a risk of your property or information being stolen. Always be aware of your surroundings when you are in a parking lot, inside a store, or using an ATM. If you leave any packages inside your vehicle while you shop, make sure they are secure and out of sight.

When checking out, you might be invited to sign up for a rewards program. The sales associate will usually ask for an email address or phone number. Since anyone could be listening nearby, it is recommended that you do not give your information out loud. Ask if you can enter your information manually on a pin pad instead. Or say “no, thank you” and sign up online later.

Make Sure Web Addresses Begin with “https”

When you are shopping online, make sure the website you are visiting has “https” at the beginning of the URL. HTTPS means that the site is secure and encrypted. If the site you are using only has “http” at the beginning of the URL, then any information you submit can be accessed by anyone. To be extra cautious, use a credit card, not a debit card, when making online purchases. Credit card purchases are much easier to dispute if they are fraudulent.

Your anti-virus program should be set up on your browser to screen websites for any potential threats. If you visit a website that could be harmful, the program will usually issue a warning before you can proceed.

Don’t Click on Fake Shipping Emails or Texts

A phishing scam that shows up more during the holidays is a fake shipping or delivery confirmation. Fraudsters will send an email or a text message that says a delivery or shipment to you failed due to an incorrect address. The message may look like it came from FedEx or UPS or USPS. If you receive a text or email like this, do not click on any links within the message.

If you are expecting a package, go to your original shipping confirmation and use the link or tracking number provided to check the status of your delivery. If there is a delay or update in your shipment, the company will usually send a notice in the same format as the order confirmation.

Monitor Your Online Banking Regularly

It is a good practice to review your online banking account regularly. Read through every bank statement carefully and check for any unfamiliar purchases or transactions. You can go into your account settings and turn on alerts for account activity. Call your bank if there are any discrepancies or fraudulent charges.

You should never give anyone access to your online banking account. If someone is using your device in-person or remotely, make sure that you are signed out of your online banking. If someone were to access your online banking and initiate a transfer, the IP address will match your account information, and the transfer request will not appear suspicious.

Beware of Phony Charities

While it is good to donate to charities during the holidays, there are many phony charities and illegitimate fundraisers during this time of year. If you want to make sure your donation is going to the right cause, research the charity online. Most charities will have a website explaining who they are and how they use donations. A charity that is well-known or that can be clearly verified is the best place to send your generosity.

Don’t let scammers ruin your holiday shopping experience. Always be aware of your surroundings, both physically and online, as you’re taking advantage of holiday sales. Verify websites and organizations before parting with your money or information. By taking these few extra steps, you will be more financially safe this holiday season. To learn more about common fraud scams, visit our Fraud Resources page.

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