Shop Smart this Holiday Season

The holiday season is full of joy. For most people, that joy comes from spending time with loved ones, getting time off work, or volunteering your for a charitable cause. But for scammers, it’s a different kind of joy.

 

With every passing year, financial predators ramp up their efforts to take advantage of distracted consumers in a variety of ways, with scams becoming more believable and elaborate.

This annual game of cat & mouse has become just as much a part of the holiday season as eggnog and Mariah Carey on the radio. At Signal we believe education is an essential tool in defending your identity and money, so we’ve put together several tactics you can employ to protect yourself from these financial Grinches!


Click Cautiously

Think you’re at your favorite brand’s website? Think again! Scammers use phony URLs to make you believe you’re at a reputable site, but that’s not always the case. For example, let’s say you like Nike shoes and you see an online ad for them. You click the ad and it might take you to a fake website that looks a lot like Nike’s site but it isn’t. There may be extra letters in the URL (i.e., Niike.com). The domain may end in something other than “.com” or “.org”. There may be typos or strange grammar in the text on the site, or different contact information listed on different pages. These are all red flags to watch out for when shopping online.

Don’t go by the images on a site, either, as even a scam site can have the real company’s logo and products on it. If you’re not sure it’s a legitimate shopping site, DO NOT type in any of your personal or credit card information—look for a more trustworthy place to shop.

Don’t Download any Suspicious  Files

Scam sites are minefields when it comes to downloading applications. On a legitimate shopping site like Amazon, how many times are you prompted to download anything? Hardly ever. If a site is constantly prompting you to download a “coupon” or an “application,” chances are it’s designed to steal your information.

Beware of Fake Data Breach Claims

Data breaches have been a high-profile problem this year. Scammers are taking advantage of the fear of data breaches by impersonating retailers, urging you to give up your information in order to “protect” it. Don’t fall for it. This is not a practice that reputable retailers are known to do. If you receive a call like this, hang up and dial the valid customer service number to verify.

(The same goes for calls about package deliveries: go directly to the actual delivery company’s site to check for your package. Never give your personal information to someone who calls you or comes to your door, and do not open or click on an automated email asking you to click on a link.)

Beware of Fake Texts

Scammers may try to get to you through text messages also. A scam is going around that tells you you’ve “won” a gift card to a major known retailer. It will send you to a URL that may look a lot like a real retailer. Don’t be fooled. If you think the deal is too good to be true, it probably is.

Enable “Two Factor Authentication” on Social Media Accounts

Unfortunately, social media can be a point of personal vulnerability. During this time of year, we are being served ad after ad. This can be a window for hackers to get into your private information. Most social media networks allow you to have a text sent to your phone to verify a log-in from a new device or console. Make sure this is turned on to add an extra layer of protection. This is good advice for email accounts as well.

Use Internet Tools to Validate

There are several apps that allow users to filter any URL and check for viruses before actually visiting the site. Apps like VirusTotal (virustotal.com), Quterra (quttera.com), and Detectify (detectify.com) can scan any URL for malware, viruses, or other malicious means of stealing your information. You can see a more detailed list here: https://geekflare.com/online-scan-website-security-vulnerabilities.

The holiday season should be a relaxing, joyous time of the year. But don’t let your guard down. We hope that these tips can lead you to financial peace of mind all the way into the new year!


Sources:

Forbes
https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2017/12/08/7-ways-to-avoid-holiday-cyber-scams/#2663f83326d9

Consumer Reports
https://www.consumerreports.org/consumer-protection/avoid-online-scams-while-holiday-shopping/

Better Business Bureau
https://www.bbb.org/pittsburgh/holiday-resource-center/avoid-holiday-scams/

GeekFlare
https://geekflare.com/online-scan-website-security-vulnerabilities