The holidays are quickly approaching. Amid the hustle, bustle, and busyness, be on the lookout for scammers. Holiday scams are on the rise, and the FBI reports that thousands of Americans fall victim to scammers every year.
Read on to learn more about why scams are common, the most popular types of scams, and ways to keep yourself safe this holiday season.
Why Are Online Scams So Common?
Online scams have become more common over the last few years as technology has improved. Better technology means more phishing emails, spoofed phone calls, and scam callers pretending to be from companies like Amazon or UPS.
People fall victim to online scams all year. However, one in three people take more risks with their information during the holiday shopping season, primarily online. More risks mean an increased chance of being victimized, even for the most cautious of us.
According to PRNewswire and Norton Security, nearly 20% of Americans are more likely to give their personal and banking information to online retailers to obtain a popular gift. Scammers take advantage of people’s desperation to get the year’s most requested gift. They create fake websites or advertise items for sale that they don’t have as a way to get people’s banking information.
Additionally, scammers use technological improvements and people’s lack of knowledge to create believable holiday scams. Between desperation to obtain high-demand gifts and better spoofing and phishing technology, holiday scams are at an all-time high.
Most Common Holiday Scams
There are many scams out there, and we can’t discuss all of them. However, by highlighting the most common, we can provide you with information to pay attention to when holiday shopping.
Online holiday scams pose a significant online threat. If you’re not careful, scammers can get your passwords and banking information, leading to financial loss or identity theft.
Pronounced “fishing,” this is one of the most popular digital scams. In fact, 80% of companies fell victim to this common bait-and-switch scam in 2021. Often, these scams originate from realistic emails from a reputable company. However, instead of being from the actual company, they are just a scammer hoping to obtain your credit card information.
Let’s use Amazon as an example. You receive an email purportedly from Amazon Customer Service saying there’s a problem with your payment method. You visit the link provided in the email and enter your credit card information. A few weeks later, you check your bank account statement and see fraudulent charges.
Website spoofing is related to phishing. Sometimes, scammers may send you an email. Other times, they’ll use a fake advertisement to draw your attention. Website spoofers usually use a fake coupon or too-good-to-be-true deal to draw you to a fake website.
This target website may resemble a reputable website, or it may be a site you’ve never heard of that seems legitimate. However, once you complete their form or fill out your payment information, they capture your information and take the website down before you know what happened.
Over-The-Phone And In-Person Scams
Scammers don’t only utilize the internet or fake websites. They also use the phone and face-to-face interactions to convince people to provide their banking information.
Another popular holiday scam involves gift cards. Nine times out of ten, these scams start with a phone call from someone pretending to be from a well-known business like PayPal, Apple, or even the IRS. Often, the scammer will tell you that purchasing these gift cards will help relieve a debt or account problem.
The caller will ask you to buy a specific brand of gift card (usually Apple, Amazon, or Visa) from a specific location and ask for the gift card information, including the security code. Once given the information, they will use it to purchase items for themselves.
These gift card scams are effective because gift cards, once used, cannot be refunded. Additionally, it’s harder to track who made the purchase using the gift card.
Text Message Scams
Another common scam is the fraudulent text message. There are a variety of text messages that are popular, including:
- Package delivery failure
- Account information compromised
- Money waiting for you
The thing that these scams have in common is that there will also be a link for you to click on in the text message. Instead of resolving the problem, the link usually leads to your phone information being compromised. Once the scammers have access to your phone, they can access any personal information stored there, including passwords and bank account information.
How To Protect Your Personal Information
With 36% of Americans falling victim to holiday scams over the years, how do you keep yourself safe online?
Experts say one of the best ways to protect your information is to pay attention when shopping online. In the phishing example listed above, we mentioned how scammers might send you an email pretending to be a legitimate company. Often, these emails contain mistakes or spelling errors. By inspecting every detail of the email, as well as the URL the email sends you to, you can spot scams.
Other ways to protect your information include:
- Styling vigilant. Inspect every text message, email, or online coupon you come across, especially if it seems too good to be true. If you’re not sure whether an offer is legitimate, it’s better to air on the side of caution. Alternatively, you can visit the real website and see if the same offer appears on the real site.
- Create hard-to-guess passwords. If a scammer does get your email address, it will be harder for them to access any online platforms you may use if your password uses a variety of numbers, special characters, and letters.
- Check every website URL in any email or text message. Shortened hyperlinks or misspellings are a tell-tale sign that something is amiss.
- Check a website’s reviews. If it’s a website that seems legitimate but you’ve never heard of it, Google the company. See what other users have said about it.
- Never wire money directly to anyone. Never use pre-paid gift cards when shopping online. If you do purchase an item online, check your bank account statement regularly and make sure you receive a tracking number.
Protect Yourself From Holiday Scams This Season
While following this list will help protect you, the scams described here are not exhaustive. You can take other steps to protect your personal information this holiday season, and all year long. For more information on common scams and how to avoid them, be sure to follow us on social media (no payment information required).