Thanksgiving is approaching fast, as is the holiday shopping season. As such, it is important for shoppers to remain vigilant this time of year—while you’re scouring the internet for the best gift deals, scammers may also be trying to steal your money and personal data.
Holiday scams vary and evolve each year as hacking techniques advance. Stay up to date on this year’s most widespread scams and protect yourself with these preventative tips from Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys.
We know how easy it is for hackers to steal our information, and yet sometimes we are less attentive than we should be. Holiday scams are everywhere, including the Internet.
Phishing scams often target people via email by posing as a big-name retailer like Walmart or Amazon and offering an enticing sale or giveaway. These emails link to a fraudulent website where victims may divulge personal information or credit card details thinking they are making a legitimate purchase.
To prevent falling victim to a phishing scam, look carefully at emails you receive claiming to be from major corporations. Scammers will often use an email address that looks similar to the legitimate company, but with minor alterations like extra letters or numbers. Generic greetings, misspellings, and supposedly urgent notices that ask for credit card information are major tip-offs that an email is a phishing scam.
If you’re unsure whether or not an email may be legitimate, call the company directly (and double check that you’re using verified contact information).
Many choose to give back during the holiday season by donating their time or money to various charitable organizations. With so many charities out there and so many different ways to donate, scammers may try to take advantage of others’ altruism by collecting “donations” for fraudulent charities. Fraudulent charities will often try to guilt victims into giving them money, whether it be over the phone, through email, or in person.
To make sure your donation ends up in the right place, research charities before you hand over your money. Keep an eye out for phishing holiday scams that may try to impersonate well-known charities like the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
Confirm that the charity is registered with your local Secretary of State and follow the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) guidelines for donating wisely. Even if a charity is reputable, it’s also important to clarify whether your donation is going directly to those who need it, or if it’s simply funding administrative costs.
Digital Credit Card Skimming
Physical card skimmers have been around for decades, but public awareness has driven this scam underground. Holiday scams targeting digital credit card information have penetrated some of the biggest companies in the country, from Target back in 2013 to Macy’s this past October 2019.
Digital credit card skimming is often difficult to detect until after data has been compromised. But digital security experts say that consumers can minimize the risk of digital credit card skimming by following these tips:
- Make sure a vendor’s website has a proper Transport Layer Security (TSL) or Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate (look for “https” instead of “http” in your browser’s address bar).
- Don’t allow you browser to save payment information.
- Utilize a third party payment method such as PayPal.
- Set up automatic alerts for spending activity.
- Don’t make purchases over public Wi-Fi connections.
Pumps at gas stations are also a common target for physical credit card skimmers, which is a concern for those driving to see friends and family during the holidays. Inspect card readers for obvious signs of tampering or play it safe and pay for gas inside.
Secret Santa Pyramid Schemes
This one may seem a little out there, but this holiday scam has continually resurfaced year after year, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In this illegal pyramid scheme, victims receive an email or social media invitation to join a Secret Santa gift exchange often referred to as “Secret Sister.”
“Secret Sister” promises that by purchasing one small $10 gift for a stranger and forwarding your personal information (along with that of several of your friends), you’ll receive up to 36 free gifts in return from strangers.
Victims have no idea who they are purchasing gifts for and whether or not someone will send them a gift in return. Not only is this a scam, but the practice of pyramid schemes is illegal in the U.S. Consumers should avoid accepting any of these types of invitations.
Compromised Gift Cards
For many holiday shoppers, gift cards are the most convenient way to shop for family and friends. Unfortunately, they are also another way scammers target consumers and retailers during the holidays. The best way to protect yourself from buying fake, used, or otherwise compromised gift cards is to buy them directly from the store that issues them.
Inspect the gift card before you purchase it. If the security code has been scratched off, don’t buy it. Scammers sometimes write down the gift card number and security code and then patiently wait for someone to load it with funds they can then use online. Always hold onto your receipt in case you have any problems with the gift card.
Exercise Caution to Avoid Holiday Scams
Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys encourages consumers to exercise caution this time of year to prevent theft of your personal information and credit card details. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t risk your personal information just for a great deal.
If you have been injured as a result of a holiday scam, don’t hesitate to contact our personal injury attorneys for a free consultation. You can reach us day or night at 844-977-1900 . You can also speak to a representative online, or submit your free case review 24/7.