The hectic holiday season is upon us and it’s a busy time for scammers as well. Minimize the risk of fraud from shopping scams to charity scams with our heads up for holiday fraud tips.
Online Shopping Scams
When shopping online, beware of swindlers looking to gain access to your personal information. It’s of the utmost importance to be sure the site you are shopping is a legitimate one.
- Is the website secure? Look for a lock symbol in the address bar of the website, along with https:// at the front of the web address. The s in https stands for secure. https with its secure information transfer is particularly important for sites where sensitive information, such as payment or personal information, is submitted.
- Check for errors in the website address. The name of a major brand may be off by one letter, or perhaps a number is added at the end.
- Use Google to search for the site. Typically, the highest-trafficked sites will be near the top of the search engine results, you should be able to compare if the site in question is the actual brand’s site or a fraud.
- Does the website look off? If there are obvious spelling and grammatical errors, it is probably a fraudulent site.
- Check the contact page. Are there multiple means of contact, such as a physical address and a phone number?
- Confirm the domain age. The domain age can be a great indicator of a legitimate website. You can check the domain age on whatsmydns.net.
- If the site contains an offer that is too good to be true, it probably is.
Scammers are taking advantage of holiday shoppers’ shipping packages in record numbers.
- Beware of scam texts that look like they are from legitimate delivery companies, such as UPS, Fed Ex, or Amazon containing a link. They may say it is a tracking link or a link to a rescheduled delivery. Once you click, you will be prompted to input personal information, as well as a credit card to pay a fee. It may also download malware on your device.
- Remember that legitimate delivery services typically leave a “missed delivery” notice on your door. Keep track of your orders online, where you should be able to find legitimate tracking information for your packages. Most retailers will email you tracking information immediately or it will appear on your online accounts.
- Use your mouse to hover over a website link to view the underlying URL. You will see where a link is actually sending you. This is an important holiday fraud alert.
Holiday Traveler TSA PreCheck Scams
No one likes to wait in line at the airport, and scammers know it. They are building sites to look like legitimate TSA PreCheck sites. They advertise signing up for TSA PreCheck or global entry through sites, which target holiday travelers. The sites may actually be a scam to steal your personal and financial information.
- If you are interested in signing up for TSA PreCheck, go directly to the TSA site. Don’t just click on a random ad or text link for this.
Charitable Donation Scams
It takes a real Grinch to pose as a charity to steal donations that would have otherwise gone to those in need. Charity fraud is growing with scammers deceiving donors out of money they believe is going to a reputable charity.
- When you are considering giving to a charity you are unfamiliar with, search its name plus “complaint,” “review,” “rating,” or “scam.”
- Search a charity on the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance site.
- Resist pressure to give to a charity on the spot.
Check for Skimming Devices
If you’re out shopping and head to an ATM for cash, check for card skimming devices that may be attached. The credit card machine at the fuel pump is another popular spot for scammers to affix skimmers. They may be hard to detect and can steal your card information and PIN.
- Examine the card reader for signs of tampering. All pieces should be securely affixed to the machine.
- Cover the keypad when entering your PIN.
- Pay inside rather than at the pump.
- Check your credit union and credit card statements frequently.
- Use only high-visibility ATMs in safe and secure locations, such as your credit union office.
We urge you to practice caution this holiday season. If you suspect a scam, you are encouraged to report it to the Federal Trade Commission as well as your financial institution.
Read more holiday tips with our “6 Tips to Stretch Your Holiday Bucks.”