As usual, scammers are after your money and identity this holiday season.
You can save hundreds of dollars on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But if you’re not careful, you could also get ripped off by scammers taking advantage of your eagerness to knock out most of your holiday shopping.
If you’re like many consumers, you’re probably counting the days until you can get the best deals on holiday gifts for your friends and family on Black Friday, Nov. 25, and Cyber Monday, Nov. 28. Chances are, you may plan to purchase a few bargain items for yourself, too. After all, who can resist deep discounts on toys, clothing, electronics, and more?
Every holiday season, thousands of people fall for holiday scams, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). In 2020, non-delivery scams throughout the year cost American consumers more than $265 million. Credit card fraud caused another $129 million in losses. So, of course, scammers love to take advantage of holiday scamming opportunities.
But that doesn’t mean you have to become a holiday scammer’s next victim.
Before you pull out your credit card for online and in-store shopping this holiday season, check out these six scams to avoid.
1. Phony order confirmations
When you’re on an online shopping roll, scammers know that it can be hard to keep track of all those orders and delivery times. That’s why sending phony order confirmations is one of the top Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams.
With this scam, you receive an email or text message confirming an online order and asking you to click on a link or attachment. But it’s actually just a “confirmation” for items you never ordered.
The purpose: To download malicious software (malware) to your computer or device or to steal your identity by asking for personal information.
Never click on links or attachments from senders you don’t recognize. Keep track of your orders on a spreadsheet so that if you get one of these messages, you’ll know it’s a scam.
2. Fake tracking links
This scam is similar to the phony order confirmation but includes a fake package tracking link in an attachment. Don’t open the attachment or click on the link.
“Legitimate retailers won’t send tracking numbers in an attached file,” warns security software provider McAfee. “If you see anything like that, it’s surely a scam designed to inject malware onto your device. In the case of a link, the scammers aim to send you to a site that will steal your personal info.”
3. Non-delivery scams
When you see a great deal online and purchase the item but don’t receive an email confirmation or your package, you’ve likely been swindled by a non-delivery scam. No matter how good the price, avoid buying items from retailers you’re not familiar with.
Stick with reputable retailers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases.
4. Gift card payments
When it comes time to pay for an online purchase, if the retailer says you must pay with gift cards, don’t fall for it. Cybercriminals love this trick because it’s easy to steal your money and there are no fraud protections on what’s considered a cash payment, so there’s no way you can get your money back.
Don’t buy anything from a retailer that asks for gift card payments. Shop elsewhere and always pay with a credit card, since most credit cards come with zero liability for fraudulent purchases.
5. Fake charity pleas
If the holiday season makes you want to help others, you may want to make donations or buy gifts for those in need. Be careful, though. Criminals impersonating charities are also hoping you’ll give them the gift of allowing yourself to get scammed.
Fake holiday charity scams include asking you to pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, money orders, or wire money.
“To avoid this [scam], never make an impulse donation in response to an ad or plea on social media,” says software provider Norton. “Take time to research charities using resources that track and rate nonprofits.”
6. Imposter websites
Scammers may “spoof” legitimate retailer websites, hoping to lure their victims into providing log-in and credit card information, and buying non-existent items.
If you get tricked into this scam, make sure you change your login credentials if you have an account on the actual retailer’s website, since the scammer probably obtained your password when you logged in to the imposter site.
Talk to a debt relief specialist to find the best way to pay off credit card debt.
Published by Debt.com, LLC