Don't Fall for These 5 Holiday Cyber Scams

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KEY POINTS

  • Three-quarters of Americans will be targeted by or experience a holiday scam.
  • These include requests from (often fake) charities, online shopping scams, and fraudulent communications
  • Always verify any communication claiming it's from someone you know before responding.


Watch out!

The holiday season is here, and with it comes a surge of online shopping activity. Unfortunately, it also brings the risk of falling for one of the many holiday cyber scams that criminals use to try to steal your money or personal information. Approximately three-quarters of American consumers will be targeted or have experienced some sort of holiday scam. Here are five common scams to watch out for so you can protect yourself from becoming a victim this holiday season.

1. Phishing emails

Phishing emails are one of the most popular tools used by cyber criminals during the holidays. These messages will typically appear to come from a trusted source like your bank or favorite retailer, but they'll be asking you to click on links or enter personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers. To avoid falling victim to these scams, never click on links sent in emails and never provide personal information unless you're absolutely sure you know who's asking for it and why. Recognize pressure tactics. Fraudsters will create a false sense of urgency to get you to act without thinking. Don't fall for it.

Pay attention to any email claiming to be a bill, security alert, or bank account statement. If the message looks suspicious, and includes problems such as misspelled words, your name not appearing on the email, links that appear to go to the wrong place, or requests for you to "verify" personal account information, delete the message and don't respond. Also check to see who the email is from, as the name may appear to be right but the actual email address seems shady.

2. Fake store websites

Criminals often create fake websites that look almost identical to legitimate shopping sites. They may even use a domain name that is just slightly different from the real site in order to trick unsuspecting consumers into thinking they're dealing with a trusted retailer. Always double check any site you are considering making a purchase from by looking for details like customer service contact information or secure payment options. If something looks suspicious, don't take any chances, and shop elsewhere!

3. Gift card fraud

Gift cards are an easy way for scammers to get money without having to go through the hassle of setting up fake websites or sending phishing emails. Scammers will buy gift cards at retail stores and then resell them online at discounted prices. When unsuspecting customers buy these cards, they find out too late that the cards have already been used and there's no money left on them. To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, only purchase gift cards directly from retailers or their official websites.

4. Charity scams

In a charity scam, someone pretends to be from a charity or nonprofit organization in order to get people to give them their credit card information. They hope to take advantage of the giving season. The scammers may set up fake websites or social media accounts and send out mass emails or messages asking for donations. Before you put in your credit card information, contact the legitimate charity to verify that the request is real. Do not respond to any solicitations like this.

5. Impersonation scams

An impersonation scam is when someone pretends to be another person in order to gain access to sensitive information about you or your family members. Criminals might do this via social media messaging apps or email accounts. To protect yourself from this type of scam, always verify any communication claiming it's from someone you may know before responding -- especially if it seems too good (or bad) to be true!

This holiday season, don't let cyber criminals spoil your festive cheer! Fraudsters are smart, but you are smarter. By following these simple tips, you can help protect yourself against these common scams and enjoy peace of mind this holiday season. With just a little bit of caution and vigilance, you can make sure your hard-earned dollars stay in your pocket instead of ending up in some criminal's bank account. Happy holidays!

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