It’s that time of year again: a time for sharing, shopping, family gatherings… and scams.
No, you read that right. Scammers are just as excited about the holiday season as you are. Why? Because this is the time of year when people are in a frenzy to finalize gifts, travel, and arrange all sorts of payments in just a short period of time.
In other words, it’s the busiest season of the year for scammers, too. Where you’re spending money, you bet there are scammers waiting for you to make a mistake.
Common Holiday Scams
No one wants to be a victim of fraud this holiday. To that end, let’s go over some of the most notorious scams you should be on the lookout for:
Fake Delivery Notices
Many of us are bound to be receiving packages this December. Scammers are hoping you’ll make the mistake of clicking through fake delivery emails to reveal personal info. If you’re unsure whether you’re expecting a delivery, call your mail delivery provider directly to see if you’re expecting any packages before you click on anything you’ve been emailed. In fact, don’t click links in emails at all if possible; instead, right-click the link to copy and paste the destination into the address bar.
Fake Public Wi-Fi
Don’t ever send any personal information on public Wi-Fi. There are literally dozens of ways that scammers can intercept and access your personal information through fake Wi-Fi channels. One option is to buy a personal hotspot. This means you never have to access your personal banking credentials or accounts on someone else’s wifi.
Remember when we said not to click on email links? Yeah, these are included in that list of no-no’s. It’s great if people are sending you cute eGreetings for Christmas. But, if any links are included, you should pass. Maybe contact the sender directly and ask what they included in the link. There’s a chance your friend’s account could have been compromised and they’re unaware it.
It’s probably a good idea to divert any emails asking for money or personal emails into your spam folder, right off the bat. If you want to donate to a charity this holiday, choose the places you intend to sponsor and contact them directly.
This one can be tricky. Lots of scammers know how to manipulate established branding to promote fake deals using imagery and branding you immediately recognize. Rather than following any links provided in the email, you should go to the website and see what deals are available on their site directly.
Fake Vacation Scams
When was the last time you won a vacation through a random email? Never? Yeah, probably not, and you didn’t win anything this time either. DON’T CLICK ANY LINKS! Send these messages to your spam folder immediately!
How to Prevent Scams
Besides simple awareness of the scams above, the simplest way to protect yourself from fraud during the holidays is to be conscious and cautious of every email, notification, and text you receive from unidentified sources. Treat literally every email like it could be a potential scam.
Some further steps you can take to ensure that you don’t become a victim include:
Checking it Twice
When the holiday is over, check all of your statements to make sure that everything you spent or received can be accounted for and nothing unusual has cropped up.
Get With the Times
Use contactless payments wherever possible. Your mobile wallet software contains complex tokenization that is incredibly difficult for scammers to crack. A good rule of thumb this season is to shop only where you can use your mobile wallet payments, and leave the cards safe inside your wallet.
Remember, scammers are always evolving, so it’s a good idea to occasionally check the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Scam Alerts site for a list and descriptions of the latest rackets.
Ultimately, the smartest money move you can make is to start with recognizing the dangers, and taking reasonable precautions. By remaining alert and shopping smart, you can prevent the majority of scams waiting to grab you this holiday season.