Be Aware of Scams and Rip Offs During the Holidays
Thanksgiving and Black Friday have already come and gone, and Christmas is now fast approaching. As the holiday season gets into full swing, merchants are doing everything possible to bring shoppers in. Another group that is very busy during the holidays is scammers. They know that consumer financial activity accelerates this time of year, and they have set numerous traps in an attempt to steal your personal information and separate you from your money.
Here are some of the most common scams and rip offs to avoid during the holidays:
Beware of pricing that seems too good to be true. There are many legitimate bargains to be had during the holidays, which makes it an ideal time for scammers to seize on this notion with fraudulent offers of their own. If you see an item that is marked far below retail value, read the reviews carefully and verify that the merchant is legitimate and has overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Unusual Payment Options
Never pay for an online item using a bank wire transfer, cashier’s check, money order, or cash. If these are the only payment options the merchant offers, it is probably a scam and there is a strong likelihood you will not receive the item you ordered. When making an online purchase, use a secure and trackable payment option, such as Paypal, Google Checkout, or your credit card. This way, the transaction is tracked, and you can always dispute the charge if the merchandise does not arrive or is not what you ordered.
Email Phishing Scams
There are numerous scams that come into our email boxes these days, and many of them are very convincing. This time of year, when consumers tend to be busy and looking for a deal, these scams are even more prevalent. For example, beware of fake shipping notifications. With all the packages we order, it is easy to fall for what looks like a legitimate UPS or FedEx notification. But if you click on the link or attachment, it could place malware on your computer that is designed to steal your personal information. Other email scams include free gift card offers, fake charity solicitations, holiday job offers, and many others.
Text Message Scams
More and more scammers are now using text messages to lure shoppers in. One of the most common is a text claiming you won a free gift card from a major retailer. And when you click on the link, it leads to a website that looks authentic with the company logo and colors. However, once you enter your personal information and give up your identity, you will be waiting until the 12th Day of Never to receive your “free” card.
Insecure Online Shopping Websites
To ensure that you are on the website of the actual retailer, you need to look at the domain name in the top corner. The domain should begin with https:// rather than http://. This indicates that the domain has been secured and authenticated, and that it is not a fraudulent site.
Social Media Gift Exchanges
In the past few years, there has been a scam going around on social media platforms known as a “gift exchange.” The promise is that if you buy one inexpensive gift for a stranger, you will receive as many as 36 back. Some scammers even post photos of all the “gifts” they have received to lure people in. This gift exchange is actually an internet version of a chain letter or pyramid scheme; except this is worse, because many of the links are to malicious sites designed to steal your personal information along with your money.
Incorrect or Fraudulent Bank Charges
Because of all the scams going on, we are all at risk of thieves getting a hold of our bank or credit card information. For this reason, it is important to check over your bank and credit card statements (on a daily basis if possible) and look for any fraudulent activity. The sooner you catch something, the easier it is to rectify the problem.
An Added Layer of Protection
Scams and rip offs are rampant during the holidays, and throughout the rest of the year as well. While it may not be possible to avoid every scam, it is possible to purchase inexpensive protection in the event that you are victimized. Companies such as Legal Shield have identity theft protection plans starting at just $9.95 per month for an individual, or $19.95 per month for a family.
With identity theft protection, you can rest easy knowing that trained professionals are continually monitoring your personal, financial, and social media information for anything suspicious. They immediately alert you when they uncover something that does not look right, and if you do suffer any type of breach, they will spend up to $5 million to restore you back to pre-theft status.