Look Out for these Common Holiday Scams
|The holiday season often brings gift-giving, good cheer and quality time with family and friends. Unfortunately, it also brings plenty of opportunities for cyber crooks and scammers to spoil your celebrations. Below are some strategies to avoid four common holiday scams. Awareness is your best defense!|
Learn about these holiday scams below:
1. Gift Exchange Scams
It sounds like a fun Secret Santa-like gift exchange, but it is actually a pyramid scheme in disguise. These scams are shared every year on social media. Participants typically get nothing in return. Plus, gift chains like this are actually illegal! Watch the video below to learn more:
2. Porch Pirates
|Although package thefts happen all year round, the holidays are peak season for package thefts. Criminals who steal packages that do not belong to them are called “porch pirates.” Try some of these tips to make sure your packages stay safe.
Visible security cameras may make thieves avoid your property. You can install internet-enabled cameras inside and outside your home to watch your property from anywhere through the internet. You can also record any suspicious activity to share the video with law enforcement. If you have security cameras, make sure they are working, unobstructed and visible.
If you do not expect to be home when your package arrives, you can provide specific delivery instructions for the driver. You can ask the delivery driver to leave packages somewhere specific, such as at a back door, out of plain sight, or with a neighbor. You can also ask to pick the package up at the delivery company’s local office.
Some companies offer other options for delivery. For example, purchases made on Amazon.com can be delivered to an “Amazon Locker” for free. Amazon Lockers are secure, self-service kiosks that allow you to pick up your package at a time that is convenient for you.
3. Fake Charities
The holidays are often a time of giving and generosity. Scammers are smart and they want to use our desire to give against us. The following are some strategies for avoiding charity scams.
If you get a phone call, ask the caller for the charity’s EXACT name, web address, and mailing address, so you can confirm it later through your own research. Scammers often pretend to be calling from large, well-known charities.
You can find contact information for legitimate charities on the following websites:
- Charity Watch - www.charitywatch.org
- Charity Navigator - www.charitynavigator.org
- Better Business Bureau Giving Alliance - www.give.org
ALWAYS take time to do your research before donating to a charity. Ask the organization to send you a brochure so you can look it over at your leisure and make your own decision.
If you do decide to donate, call the verified phone number listed on one of the above websites. Scammers can alter their caller ID information to appear to be a reputable company. This technique is called “spoofing.” Rather than calling back a number you see on the Caller ID, verify and call the phone number listed for the charity. That way, you can be sure that the person you speak to is a real representative of the charity.
Don’t let a caller pressure you to give right away. A legitimate charity will be happy to get your donation at any time. If the caller is pressuring you to make a donation immediately, they are likely a scammer.
Reputable charities will NOT ask you to make a donation through foreign banks, gift cards, prepaid cards, money transfers or by mailing cash. If someone asks you to donate using one of these methods, it is a scam.
If someone promises to enter you in a sweepstakes or refuses to provide proof that your contribution is tax deductible, they are a scammer.
Be suspicious of anyone who contacts you online, such as through Facebook, to ask for donations. Legitimate charities will not message you individually on social media to ask for money.
4. "Juice Jacking"
We do a lot of traveling and shopping during the holidays. However, think twice about using those USB charging ports at airports, malls, and cafes. A cyber threat known as “juice jacking” could put you at risk for identity theft. The ports at these charging stations can be loaded with malware or viruses by thieves. Then, when you use the charger, your phone and other electronic devices can get infected. Once infected, thieves can steal bank account information, credit card numbers, passwords, photos and emails.
Luckily, there is a way to prevent this threat. If you do use a charging station, do not plug your phone cable into an open USB port. Instead, plug your own A/C adapter (wall charger) into an electrical outlet. This is the safest option because it prevents the transfer of viruses from the USB port to your phone.
We wish you a safe and scam-free holiday season!