It’s easy to become distracted during the holidays when you’re enjoying the festivities of the season, but it’s this time of year when should pay closer attention to your finances. Scammers are working all year round, but the increased retail activity, especially online, makes consumers particularly more vulnerable than other times of year. Here are some scams for you to watch out for.
Phishing Emails and Spoofed Sites
Right about now is when retailers really ramp up their email promotions. From limited-time sales to steep discounts, stores are trying hard to get the word out. Scammers are fully prepared to capitalize on these activities, and sometimes, they do so very well. Cyber crooks can create emails and websites that look alarmingly similar to those of legitimate businesses. It’s often the small details that will reveal whether or not the email you’ve received or the site you’re browsing is legitimate. Be on the lookout for:
- Poor grammar and misspellings.
- The “s” in “https” in the web address. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates that the site uses encryption to transfer data and protect it from hackers. Sites that begin with “http” are not always spoof sites, but it does pay to be aware and to look for other signs of an illegitimate site.
- The domain name. This one may seem obvious, but if you are not paying close attention you may very well be tricked by “gooogle.com” or “amazon.net”. Take an extra second to make sure that you’re really on the site that you think you’re on.
- Deals that are too good to be true. You know the saying; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
“Free” Items and Sweepstakes
If you’ve spent any time on social media, you have probably seen posts that promise free items or possibly received a message informing you that you are the winner of a sweepstakes or contest. Often, in order to receive your free gift or prize you will either need to pay a small fee for shipping or answer a few questions about yourself. This creates a perfect opportunity for scammers to steal your credit card information and/or collect information about you that can be sold and used to steal your identity. The best way to avoid this scam is knowing when an offer is simply unrealistic. We all enjoy freebies; just make sure you are getting yours from a reputable company.
Gift Card Rip-Offs
These scams are popular year-round, but with gift cards being at the top of so many wish lists during the holidays, now is when scammers double down on their efforts.
- Be wary of callers who claim to be from the IRS or other government agency and say you owe money that should be paid with a gift card. This is an immediate red flag as these agencies would never request payment in this manner.
- Take a careful look at emails that appear to come from someone you trust. Scammers will pose as someone you know, such as your boss or supervisor, asking you to secretly buy gift cards for colleagues. Once you do, they will ask you to tell them the gift card information and steal the fund on the card.
- Carefully inspect gift cards you buy in-store. Scammers can tamper with the barcode so that when you load money onto your card, it goes straight to them. Be sure that the original barcode has not been concealed and replaced by another.
Holiday scams are not uncommon and can be quite easy to fall into. Take an extra moment to evaluate any suspicious emails or phone calls, offers that seem a little too good, and that the items you are purchasing have not been tampered with. Just a little caution can make for an even better holiday season.
Need help keeping your budget in check while you spread holiday cheer? Start Here!