Simple reminders for safer online shopping.
National reports indicate an uptick in Americans who reported an online scam last year.
Holiday scams are common and they come in many forms: fraudulent ads, emails, calls, and even texts. The following reminders can help you protect your identity and your finances throughout the busy holiday shopping season:
Phishing attacks are on the rise. Phishing is a type of online scam that targets consumers by sending an email that appears to be from a well-known source. For example, there have been a rash of scams designed to look like Amazon order confirmations. These emails often ask the recipient for identifying information, financial data, or they may request that the user click on specific links. No retailer needs your date of birth or Social Security number. If you receive a suspicious email, log on to the authentic website directly, rather than clicking on any link provided in the email.
Use a credit card when shopping online. There are laws that limit an individual’s liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but debit cards may not have the same level of protection. Moreover, because debit cards draw directly from a bank account, funds can be depleted faster leaving the victim without money to pay for bills and other necessities.
Purchase gift cards from reputable sources. To minimize your chance of getting scammed, the Retail Gift Card Association advises shoppers to only purchase gift cards from trusted retailers and brands whether it be online or in store. If you purchase a gift card in store, check the card to see if the wrapping has been tampered with or if the PIN has been revealed. Recently, scammers have been calling people and posing as government agency representatives claiming that the recipient owes money surrounding incorrect tax refunds. If any random caller encourages the use of a gift card for outstanding payment, it should be an immediate red flag.
Check websites for the HTTPS and padlock symbol. The presence of the ‘https’ and padlock icon in the URL indicate the web traffic is encrypted and that visitors can share their data safely. That being said, the ‘https’ protocol and padlock symbol can still be present on malicious sites. This is yet another reason why you should never click on suspicious email links—instead, type in the site’s URL directly.
Check your monthly statements. During the holidays, it’s especially important to keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages or emails so you can compare them to your monthly bank statements. Banking apps make it easy to check your balances regularly. If there are discrepancies, report them immediately.
Install and update antivirus software on all devices. Security software such as firewalls, anti-malware, anti-spam, and anti-virus is a critical part of your defense strategy. And remember, it’s not just your desktop computer that needs protection! Anytime you make a purchase on your smartphone or tablet, you put yourself at risk. If you haven’t updated your smartphone or tablet in a while, the operating software is likely out of date. Be sure all devices are updated and protected.