Holiday Scam Alert: Watch Out for Cyber-Scrooge
With the holiday season upon us, we all must be ever-vigilant about internet scams aimed at online and mobile device shoppers! Since many of us use these tools to shop at Christmas, be particularly careful to prevent identity theft and avoid potentially devastating financial loss.
Even social media sites are not safe; some contain fake offers purportedly from major retailers. Please don’t bite — these offers are likely scams to gain access to your social media account and any accounts you may be tied to.
Here are just a few of the most dangerous holiday scams to watch out for. These scams target your credit card information and send viruses from text messages, fake classified ads, and bogus charities.
1. Social Media Scams: There are many risks here. Be cautious about Twitter ads using blind and shortened links that could be malicious. Other scams include fake raffle contests and fan page deals advertising the hottest holiday gifts and sales. And beware of installing apps just to get a discount – you may get far more than you bargained for!
2. Phony E-tailers: These fake retailers try to lure you into entering your credit card information and personal details by offering great (maybe even unbelievable deals). It’s better to focus your online shopping to reputable e-commerce sites you know are secure.
3. Bogus gift cards: Cybercriminals are more than happy to offer bogus online gift cards to take advantage of frugal shoppers. Avoid buying gift cards from 3rd parties and instead buy directly from retailers.
4. Dangerous e-cards: That holiday greeting sitting in your Inbox may not be legitimate. Some e-cards contain malicious spyware or viruses that infect your computer once you click the link to view the card.
5. Malicious Mobile Apps: Be particularly cautious when downloading apps to your mobile device. There’s always a risk you may download a malicious app designed to steal your information or create charges to your phone bill. Always pay attention to app permissions and don’t take risks just to save a few bucks.
6. Fake charities: I don’t know about you but I constantly receive pleas for donations from charities. They really ramp up this time of year. The bad guys are hoping to benefit from your holiday generosity by sending spam emails advertising fake charities. Don’t fall for it!
How to Protect Yourself
Here are a few tips to stay protected during the holidays and any time of the year:
- Stay cautious: Use your common sense and gut instincts when presented with offers that sound too good to be true. Be on the lookout for signs that an email or website may not be legitimate such as misspellings, poor grammar, odd links, or low resolution images.
- Practice safe surfing: As you shop online, look for a lock symbol and “https” at the beginning of the URL which indicates the site uses encryption to protect your information.
- Use strong passwords: Passwords should be a minimum of 8 characters long and contain a combination of letters, numbers, and other characters. It’s also best that your passwords don’t spell anything. Never share your passwords with anyone, or use the same password for your important accounts.
- Use care when clicking: Never click into a link from people you don’t know – trouble may be just a click away!
- Be sure to educate yourself: Keep informed about the latest scams and new tricks to avoid future attacks by cybercriminals. Some resources include your state’s Attorney General’s website or the Federal Trade Commission.
Using the internet can be a convenient, efficient, and safe way to do your holiday shopping as long as you’re careful how and who you “click” with. Here at LSS, we want you to have a joyous holiday season and keep your identity and finances intact!
Do you have credit card debt? Counselors at LSS Financial Counseling will empower you to conquer your debt with helpful tools and tangible action steps. So don’t wait — call us at 888.577.2227 or get started online right now with a budget counseling session.
Author Barbara Miller is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS and she specializes in Bankruptcy Counseling and Education.