We take a break this week from answering readers’ questions to provide helpful advice on how to avoid Holiday Scams. Unfortunately, the holiday season isn't just a time of giving. It is also an opportunity for identity thieves, computer hackers and fraudsters to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
There are several popular scams this holiday season. These tips may help you avoid being a victim.
Bogus shipment notifications: Watch out for e-mails notifying you about package shipments. Scammers send out bogus notifications prompting people to click on links to track packages. Those links can contain computer viruses. If you're not expecting any shipments, it's easy to recognize these e-mails as fakes. TIP: If you've made purchases online, go directly to shipping companies' sites to track your packages instead.
Used gift cards: A lot of retailers display gift cards at the checkout. Thieves can take advantage of this by taking the cards, copying the numbers and putting the cards back on the rack. Thieves can then drain the cards of all the funds. This leaves the consumer with a card that cannot be used. TIP: Instead, ask the sales clerk to give you one from behind the counter.
Malware e-cards: Scammers are taking advantage of the fact that more people are sending holiday greetings by e-mail. Scammers are sending e-cards with malicious software embedded in them. TIP: If you receive an e-mail from someone you don't know, don't let curiosity get the best of you. Just delete the e-mail.
Phony Web sites: If you do a Google search for a popular toy your kid wants for Christmas, there's a good chance that some of the results will be links to fake sites or images that have viruses or malware. That's because scammers build sites based on popular search terms. TIP: When doing your holiday shopping online, stick with sites you know. Scammers also create sites with Web addresses similar to those of legitimate retailers. TIP: Always type the Web address of a site you wish to visit directly into the browser rather than clicking on links in e-mails or on social media sites.
Fraudulent charities: Scammers hope to take advantage of people's desire to give to those in need during the holidays by sending e-mails or texts asking for contributions. Some even use copied logos from legitimate charities in e-mails or on fraudulent Web sites. Often you can hover over links in such e-mails and see Web addresses that point to fraudulent sites instead of the legitimate charity's site. TIP: Visit CharityNavigator.org for reviews of charitable organizations to find a cause that will benefit from your generosity.
Eavesdropping: Cyber thieves aren't the only ones taking advantage of consumers. You can easily become a victim if you provide personal information to a sales clerk and someone's listening to your responses. TIP: Avoid giving out your e-mail address, phone number or other similar information that isn't necessary to complete a transaction.
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