With the holiday season upon us and the coronavirus pandemic forcing many of us to do most of our shopping online, scammers are out in force. It’s easier than ever for scammers to trick unsuspecting shoppers into providing financial information or paying for items they will never receive. The Better Business Bureau reported a big rise in online scams this year, stating that a staggering 80.5 percent of consumers reporting online purchase scams in 2020 lost money. Here are 11 tips to help prevent you from falling victim to an online holiday scam.
1 Don’t click on links in emails
Although an email might look like it’s coming from a familiar merchant, it may actually be a scammer phishing for personal or financial information. Be wary of any email requesting private information, such as passwords or financial information. Offers that seem urgent and too good to be true, usually are. This goes for holiday delivery scams as well. Email or text notification of a missing delivery may lead to a fake site asking for personal information. If you just hover your cursor over a link in an email, a box should pop up showing the destination URL for the link. It’s a good way to see where you would go if you clicked.
2 Avoid amateurish-looking websites when shopping
Spammers have actually tried posing as popular retailers to steal from shoppers. There are many bogus websites out there trying to lure holiday shoppers. If you see a huge discount on a popular gift item or a website that looks a bit odd, it’s probably a scam. Look for spelling errors, bad grammar, odd graphics, and the lack of contact information. The Better Business Bureau reported that scammers are even creating phony copycat events like pop-up holiday markets and craft fairs to steal admission fees.
3 Try to use a credit card, rather than a debit card when shopping online
Most credit cards have zero fraud liability and by using a credit card, you’re not providing any links to your financial accounts. Federal protections are also greater for purchases made using credit cards. You can dispute the charges and limit the damage if you were scammed. Simply put, people that pay with a credit card are less likely to lose money. Need a low-rate credit card? Apply for Benchmark FCUs 0%* introductory rate VISA Platinum Credit Card.
4 Buy only from reputable sellers online.
Even when shopping on a reputable reseller, such as Amazon, try to buy from sellers in the U.S. Better yet, shop local.
5 Beware of holiday charity scams
Pop up social media ads taking you to a bogus website and pushy telemarketers are common ways scammers pose as charities. If you want to make a donation, call the organization yourself, or go directly to their website without clicking on any ads or links. Do your research on any charity you may be unfamiliar with.
6 Be careful when buying gift cards from a rack in a store
Check the gift card to be sure the packaging has not been tampered with. A thief that accessed the PIN code, can drain the value.
7 Avoid public Wi-Fi networks when shopping or making donations online
Although it might be convenient to do a little shopping while you’re enjoying that cup of coffee at the café or while waiting for your takeout, you really should avoid it.
8 Use only secure and traceable payment transactions
Ever get one of those strange requests to pay for something with a non-traditional payment method such as a wire transfer, a cash transfer app, or prepaid money card? Don’t do it, it’s a scam.
9 Change your passwords
If you haven’t recently changed your passwords for your financial accounts, credit cards, and other important accounts, do so now. Use strong passwords and avoid easy to guess passwords. It makes it tougher for scammers to access your accounts.
10 Keep a close eye on all of your accounts
Closely monitor your credit card and financial transactions on a regular basis, especially when you are doing a lot of shopping. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report as well. If the technology is available to you, set transaction alerts on your accounts to alert you if there is a problem.
11 Do your research before you buy online
Before you buy anything online do your research. Be sure the website where you are shopping is secure and legitimate. Check the URL for errors or inconsistencies. This includes pop up social media ads that appear to deals that are too good to be true. Think twice before clicking on a social media ad. Secure web addresses begin with HTTPS:// and not just HTTP://.
Learn more about how scammers are targeting shoppers by reading the Better Business Bureau 2020 Online Purchase Scams Report. At Benchmark Federal Credit Union, your safety and security is our top priority.
*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Rate subject to change & based on an individual’s credit history. 0% Intro Rate is valid for purchases & balance transfer from other institutions within 90 days from card opening. The 0% rate will be in effect for 12 months from first qualifying transaction within the 90 day period & after 12 months the rate on all unpaid balances will convert to the rate member qualified for at card opening. 0% APR promotional rate is only valid on new VISA® Platinum Cards & subject to expire without prior notice.