Better Watch Out! 6 Online Scams That Could Steal Your Joy
My Favorite Bank posted this great article.
Keep the jingle in your pocket and ward off fraudsters this holiday season.
Cybercriminals are always hard at work this time of year. They’re corrupting e-cards with viruses, creating fake online auctions, imitating charity sites — all to take advantage of your holiday habits, says Katherine Hutt, spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Each year, scammers use the season of giving to devise new schemes — and relying on their tried-and-true tactics — to steal your money and personal information, warns Dave Marcus, director of security research and communications for McAfee Inc., a leading security technology company. Here are six major holiday scams to look out for this season and tips on protecting yourself.
1. Quizzes, Polls and Contests
The promise of something for nothing is a classic ploy of online crooks. One typical scam promises the first 20,000 responders will receive $1,000 gift cards to a popular electronics store if they “Like” the store on Facebook. Clicking the link takes you to a bogus page that asks for numerous personal details, which can be used for identity theft. And, of course, there are no gift cards.
To protect yourself: Ignore these kinds of offers or go directly to a company’s Facebook page or website to verify the offers are legitimate.
2. Auctions and Deals Too Good to be True
Shopping on online auction and classified ad sites can be a great way to save money, but may not be such a deal after all — especially if the seller wants you to wire money in advance.
To protect yourself: Remember the old saying: “If the deal’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Before considering any deal, Hutt says, check the seller’s ratings and reviews on the selling site. Be extra cautious: Some fraudulent sites may even imitate a Better Business Bureau seal to throw you off. You can verify BBB-approval at bbb.org. And whatever you do, never pay by wire transfer, a surefire indication of a fraudulent sale.
3. Phony Charities
Scammers take advantage of your good nature and generosity by asking for donations via a website or text message, particularly after a natural disaster (such as the earthquake in Haiti) or during the holidays.
To protect yourself: Check to see if a charity is legitimate at the BBB Wise Giving Alliance or American Institute of Philanthropy websites. Another alternative would be to donate directly through a charity’s website, if that option is available.
4. Malware-ridden Holiday Cards and Programs
Animated greetings, seasonal screensavers and winter-themed games become popular this time of year. Sadly, many of these programs are accompanied by spyware and other malicious technology.
To protect yourself: A good anti-malware product — try McAfee, Norton, Kaspersky or Avira — will stop virtually all of this stuff in its tracks. But your best bet is simply to not open any email — even from a loved one — that contains a forwarded greeting card or holiday game. Get extra protection by ensuring your computer software updates are downloaded and applied automatically.
5. Vacation Homes Not Really for Rent
This up-and-coming scam is surprisingly simple: Fraudsters set up a vacation rental site for a real home (complete with photos), and they rent it out for weekend and holiday getaways. The problem: The scammer doesn’t own the house, and it’s not actually for rent, much to the surprise of both owner and renter come arrival day.
To protect yourself: Use trusted travel sites and rental agencies when booking. Low-resolution photos of the home and super-low rental prices are also a giveaway that something is fishy, says Marcus.
6. Fake Emails and Phishing
A common holiday scam is a fraudulent email that gives you confirmation about an order, payment or shipment you know nothing about. The email, which may appear to be from a reputable company, advises you to click a link or attachment in the email to view the status of your order or shipment. When you click the link or attachment, you are routed to a fake website that will ask you to enter your personal information, which is the target of the scam.
To protect yourself:
- Avoid opening emails from people and companies you don’t recognize or trust. Permanently delete those emails.
- If the email seems to be genuine, don’t click on the links or attachments contained within it. Type the address into the address bar.
- If you are not expecting a shipment, delete the email. You can go directly to the shipping company site to discover if you have a surprise shipment.
- If you receive an order or payment confirmation for something you aren’t certain about, contact the company directly or check your debit card or credit card to verify you made the purchase and it’s valid.