Don’t let hackers hijack your holiday season. With the holiday season upon us, it is time to be extra vigilant against holiday scams. From holiday charity scams to package theft, there are a number of ways scammers may try to trick you out of your money or personal information. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones from holiday scams.
Avoiding holiday scams
With the new year just around the corner, it is a busy time for scammers. Four popular holiday scams that occur this time of year are charity scams, phishing scams, spoofing, and package theft. Read on to learn more about these scams and how to protect yourself.
Holiday Scams #1: Charity Scams
December and January are often known as the season for giving. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has warned consumers against holiday charity scams. According to the FCC, these sorts of scams take advantage of the giving spirit present this time of year. This is especially relevant this year, when many families may need extra financial help due to the pandemic.
These types of holiday scams include fake charities created specifically to steal money/personal information and scammers who pretend to be known charities. Scammers may use a variety of tactics to persuade you to donate, such as mentioning tax write-offs or emotional stories meant to pull on your heartstrings.
Don’t let scammers keep you from donating this holiday season – instead, follow these tips from the FCC in order to protect yourself while donating:
- Donate to charities that are well-known and have a good reputation. When in doubt, do your research. The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance has a site where you can check out reports on charities. Click here to do a background check on a charity.
- Look up the charity to see if it is registered with the National Association of State Charity Officials.
- Double-check contact information on a charity’s official website like the charity’s phone number and email.
The risk of a holiday charity scam shouldn’t prevent you from donating this year, so long as you are careful. Make sure a cause that is pulling on your heartstrings and purse strings is legitimate by doing a bit of research and carefully vetting the charity before donating. This can help ensure that your donation reaches the cause you intended to support instead of falling into the pockets of a scammer.
Holiday Scams #2: Phishing scams
Consumers should also be on the lookout for phishing holiday scams. PRNewswire released a list of 10 common phishing scams employed during the holiday season including real estate or wire transfer scams, locked out social media account scams, delivery order confirmation, fake job search/recruitment, bank account notifications, refund/prize scams, charity/donation scams, legal scares, impersonation of company management/executives, and trusted-party scams.
What should you do when you encounter a potential phishing scam?
According to the Better Business Bureau, there are a number of steps you can take to avoid phishing attempts:
- Do not click on links or attachments from unfamiliar senders.
- If you receive an unexpected email, be careful.
- Use your mouse to hover over links to see where they go to.
- Get your information from the real source.
When encountering a potential scam, you can check the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker: https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/. There is also an option on this page to report known scams. This helps alert others who may receive the same phishing scam in their inboxes.
Holiday Scams #3: Spoofing
Spoofing scams are popular year-round – not just during the holidays. What is spoofing? Have you ever gotten a phone call from an unknown number but the area code on the caller ID looked familiar? Then you may have experienced spoofing. According to the FCC, spoofing occurs when scammers use fake phone numbers to disguise their real identity. When you look at the caller ID from a spoof phone call, you will likely see a number with a familiar area code or from a familiar company/governmental organisation. This is meant to trick you into a false sense of security so that you will answer the call. These scams can lead to the loss of money or personal information.
Want to avoid spoofing?
The FCC offers a variety of tips such as:
- Avoid answering calls from unknown numbers (even if the area code is local). Instead, wait and see if they leave a message.
- Do not give personal information over the phone until you have verified the source. For example, if you get a call from a number claiming to be your bank, check your bank’s website to verify the phone number. When in doubt, call your bank (or whatever organisation/business contacted you) back directly on the number listed on their official website.
- Check with your phone company about options to protect you from spoofing and robocalls.
Holiday Scams #4: Package Theft
‘Tis the season to order lots of packages. Unfortunately, some opportunists steal packages before they reach their intended recipients. According to CNBC, “Thousands of packages are stolen from doorsteps, particularly during the holiday season.”
How can you avoid having your holiday packages stolen?
- Send your package to a locker for pickup. Companies like Amazon offer lockers where packages can be sent to and kept safe.
- If you know you will miss your package’s delivery, ask a trusted friend or neighbour to pick it up for you.
- Send your package to a post office for safe pickup.
- If possible, request signature confirmation upon delivery of your package.
Stay safe and avoid scams this holiday season
These scams are not limited to the holiday season, however, the holiday season provides increased opportunities for theses scams. Stay safe by being privacy-aware and keeping these scams in mind when you receive a strange email, get a call from an unknown number, are urged to donate to an unfamilar charity, or send packages to loved ones.