It may be the most wonderful time of the year, but the holiday season is also one of the busiest times of the year for online scammers. The three common frauds scammers use to target consumers are online shopping scams, social media scams, and charity scams. FBI Omaha has some simple strategies that will help keep you from getting caught in a fraudster's snare.
For online shoppers, the old-adage “If it’s too good to be true, it is” should be top-of-mind. Scammers count on harried consumers looking for a deal to click on their phony phishing e mails and advertisements. But you can protect yourself.
Avoid untrustworthy sites or ads offering items at unrealistic discounts, or with special coupons. Fraudulent sites often end in .club or .top instead of .com. If you are not familiar with the site, research its name for reviews and complaints. Also, look for https in the URL before entering your credit card information.
Another strategy is to routinely check your credit card statements. Many fraudulent charges can show up even several weeks later. If possible, set up credit card transaction auto-alerts or check your balance after every online purchase.
It’s important to be proactive as you shop online, but be just as cautious when on social media platforms. Scammers are inundating those sites with special promotions and contests as another way to target your bank account.
Always beware of posts that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards. Often, these are scams that ask you to participate in an online survey. They are really designed to steal your personal information.
Keep a watchful eye on your email. Don’t click on links contained in unsolicited email. Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal information. Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files. Those files could contain a virus. Only open attachments from people you know. We all like to get holiday mail—just be cautious when it’s email that you weren’t expecting.
Charity related fraud is also on the rise during the holiday season. Scammers try to take advantage of those who want to make end-of-the-year donations. Doing a little research will make sure your donation supports a legitimate charity.
Charity scams are set up and designed to make it easy for you to donate money. Before you give, keep in mind legitimate charities do not solicit donations via money transfer services or ask for donations via gift cards.
If you are not familiar with a charity, search its name plus “complaint” or “rating” to see if fraud has been reported. Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to genuine charities. Most reputable charity websites use .org, not .com.
Finally, make contributions directly, never through a third party. Pay with your credit card or check. Don’t give cash donations.