While the holidays in 2020 certainly look different than in years past, there’s one tradition that isn’t going anywhere. Sadly, scammers and cyberthieves only ramp up their efforts during the busiest shopping season of the year. According to a recent press release from the FBI, shoppers looking for a good deal this holiday season should be aware of increasingly aggressive and unorthodox scams designed by criminals to steal money and personal information. Below are examples of what to look for:
Online Shopping Scams: Typing one word into a search engine to reach a particular retailer’s website may be easy, but it sometimes won’t bring you to the site you are actually looking for. Scam websites may contain URLs that look like misspelled brand or store names to trick online shoppers. To help you determine whether an online retailer is reputable, research sites before you shop and read reviews from previous customers. Look for https:// in the URL and not just http://, since the “s” indicates a secure connection.
And it’s always wise to remember, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand-name merchandise.
Phishing Emails: Beware of emails that contain links or ask for personal information. Legitimate shopping websites will never email you and randomly ask for your personal information. In addition, be aware of fraudulent emails disguised as package delivery emails. Make sure that all delivery emails are from reputable delivery companies you recognize.
Payment Red Flags: Be cautious of sellers and websites that demand payment solely through gift cards. Scammers sometimes encourage shoppers to conduct wire transfers, allowing criminals to quickly receive illicit funds. Credit cards provide several layers of security against fraud and are typically the safest way to conduct online shopping.
Charity Scams: Charity-related frauds increase during the holidays as individuals seek to donate money to those less fortunate. Criminals use phone calls, email campaigns, and fake websites to solicit on behalf of fraudulent charities. Scammers target people who want to donate to charity, then hoard their well-intentioned donations while those most in need never see a dime.
Steps to avoid holiday fraud:
- Secure all financial accounts with strong passwords or passphrases, and use different passwords for each financial account.
- Check bank and credit card statements routinely, including after making online purchases and in the weeks following the holiday season.
- Be extra cautious when responding to text messages or emails from an unknown source. Do NOT click links or provide any personal information to a sender that looks unusual. Instead, navigate directly to a provider’s website or mobile app.
- Beware of any request with a sense of urgency. Scammers encourage you to act quickly, as you’re more likely to make a mistake or miss a red flag.
- Be wary of promotions and giveaways that request your personal information.
- Prior to donating to any charity, verify that they have a valid Taxpayer Identification number by visiting their website or calling the charity directly.
As always, we encourage you to continue utilizing your secure, online client portal to send and receive sensitive documents pertaining to your financial accounts. If you need help getting started with a portal, contact your service team.
For more tips to protect yourself and remain secure online, visit our Cybersecurity Resource Center.