Watch out! Scammers are active this holiday season.
As the end of the year approaches, it’s a great time to focus on the memories you've made this year and the hopes and dreams for the new year. One step to take to make sure that you enter 2024 ready for the future is to be aware of all the scams that people try to pull this time of year so that you can avoid them and keep your money where it belongs – with you.
It can be daunting to fall victim to a scam that you could have avoided. It’s easy to blame yourself for not being careful enough or acting too quickly. But it’s important to remember that any scam is the fault of the person choosing to take advantage of people, and is not the fault of the victim. However, there are some actions you can take to try to protect yourself.
The best way to avoid a scam is to stay up-to-date on the current methods used to unjustly separate you from your hard-earned money. Then, once you know more about the scams that are being run, make sure you have a process in place to avoid them.
One of the most common scams we hear about this time of year is people buying from a website that doesn’t deliver the promised good or service. If you see something for sale at an unbelievable price … don’t believe it. Unless you know the website is legitimate, it’s likely someone trying to entice people into giving up their personal data. And, even if the website looks like one you have visited before, make sure that you didn’t accidentally end up on a copycat site. Some people will try to spoof a real website by taking advantage of common typos people make when keying in an address. If a site has a lot of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or even just the logos they are using don’t look right, it might be the wrong site.
Similarly, if a website only takes one payment method, that’s a huge sign that something might not be right. Most reputable sellers will have multiple ways to pay, most commonly by credit or debit card. If they only accept wire transfer or a payment app (like Cash App, Venmo, or Zelle®), that’s a good sign to take a close look at who exactly is being sent your money. And if someone is requesting you pay for a good or service using gift cards. Don't. It is an extremely common scam to ask for a payment method that is almost never used by a reputable business.
Also, another scam that is common this time of year as people are tidying up their finances and making year end donations to their favorite charities is to pretend to be a charity soliciting donations. Remember: don’t click links in emails or texts that you receive when you are not confident about who they are from. If you’re ever confused about who is contacting you, it can be a good practice to search for an organization’s website on your own and make any donation you want to make there. That way, you know exactly who it is going to. And, when choosing a charity, do a little bit of background research to ensure that they are a legitimate nonprofit. You want to know that, when you donate to help people, your donations will be taken care of and will be used in an appropriate manner. If you’re not sure, the federal government has a tool to help you check a charities’ tax exempt status before donating. That can be a good check to ensure that a charity is legit. Don’t let your good instincts keep you from verifying that your money is going to the correct place when someone is asking for a donation. After all, if it’s a legitimate organization, they’ll be fine with you taking time to do your research, while a scammer might try to pressure you or impose a time limit to get you to take action.
With this knowledge, you can head into the holiday season confident that you have what it takes to spot scams before they happen so you can avoid them. That way, you can take one thing off your plate, and head into the new year only excited for the future and not worried about having been scammed at the end of the year. Check back in the future for more updates on common scams as we learn of them. Our cybersecurity experts are always on the lookout to keep our customers safe.