With the holidays right around the corner, you're probably shopping more and spending more as you prepare to break bread, share gifts with loved ones, or spread holiday cheer to those in need. This also means that you're potentially providing sensitive financial information to more entities than at any other time of the year. While holiday preparations can keep you busy, don't let it be a distraction from keeping tabs on your finances and financial security. We're sharing common holiday scams to look out for and tips to help you protect your finances and personal information.
While you shop around during the holidays, it's important to be wary of offers that seem too good to be true because they often are. It's not just shopping for products and merchandise that pose a risk. Offers of easy money, no approval necessary for loans, or quick credit repair should raise red flags. You should also regard any entity asking for your online credentials or any other personal information with caution.
- Shop from familiar or well-known retailers and providers.
- Watch out for websites that try to mimic reputable companies. Check the web address for extra or misspelled words and rewording.
- Use only secure websites when making online purchases. Always look for the lock icon or a URL that begins with "https://" before you enter your information and make a purchase.
- Be wary of debit or gift card only payment options or requests for P2P (peer-to-peer) app payments.
- Consider creating and utilizing an email account specifically for online purchases to help you keep track of purchase confirmations, electronic receipts, and protect other sensitive data from potential hacks.
Scammers and thieves don't take a break during the holidays, so it's crucial to be wary of emails; phone calls; text messages; voicemail; or social media accounts, content, and personal messages during the holidays and throughout the year. Be suspicious of links, attachments, and any requests you receive asking you to disclose or "verify" sensitive information like your username, password, payment card information, or account information. Always be selective about what you share in texts, emails, messages, on the phone, and online.
- Be cautious of unexpected or unsolicited emails, texts, phone calls, and messages you receive.
- Don't click on links or open attachments from unfamiliar parties and verify the authenticity of any links or attachments you receive — ensure you know and trust the sender.
- Before sharing information with anyone, know who you're dealing with. Independently verify the information you're given by conducting your own research. Search online for an entity's name or website and read any online reviews of the business or person.
- Pay close attention to any communication that requests money or pressures you into acting now — it's probably a scam.
- Think carefully about what information you share online. Sharing too much could leave you vulnerable to scammers and thieves. For instance, don't share your travel plans on your personal website or social media and wait to share photos of your travels until after you get home.
Congratulations on being the lucky winner of cash, a car, an exotic getaway, or any other incredible prize... or not. Emails, messages, or pop-ups urging you to "claim your prize" are generally a trick to get you to share personal information or money.
- Be suspicious of claims saying that you won a prize, sweepstakes, or contest that you didn't enter.
- Be wary of notices that urge or pressure you into acting quickly, request that you pay fees or shipping charges, or begin with "Dear Sir/Ma'am."
- Never share financial or personal information to individuals or companies that you don't know or trust.
Fake charities or causes pop up every day but especially around the holidays or after tragedies like a natural disaster. Scammers count on our good nature for their devious plans, but there are ways to protect yourself and still help those in need.
- Validate any charity you choose to donate to. Check the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator®, or CharityWatch.
- Request written information about the charity so that you can do a bit of fact checking.
- Beware of sound-alike charities. Some scams use a name that sounds similar to a well-known charity to try and trick you. Check the name and spelling of a charity and examine the web address to make certain you're on the charity's legitimate website before making a donation.
Fake job postings are everywhere — on social media, job boards, or legitimate employer websites. This can be especially true around the holidays when more people are looking to earn a bit of extra cash. However, instead of you getting paid, the scammer is.
- Be wary of jobs that advertise "no experience required" with easy work, excellent pay, and no interview necessary.
- Be cautious about jobs/business ventures that start with you purchasing something from your "employer" to get started.
- Remain suspicious of "employers" that offer to pay you before you start the job.
- Beware of email communication you receive if the address is different from the company offering the job or if they want to talk only via a messaging service.
- Conduct a search of the company online. Check with the Better Business Bureau and look at reviews. If you only find job postings and no other evidence that a legitimate company exists, it's likely a scam.
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