Unfortunately for consumers, the season to be jolly is also the season to be wary. Scammers, thieves, hackers and fraudsters are out in droves trying to make a buck by taking advantage of the chaos of Christmas shopping as well as abusing the goodwill, generosity and desire of shoppers to get a decent deal.
Mind your belongings in stores.
When you are out shopping at the mall or elsewhere during the holidays, the frenetic pace combined with loud music and stressed-out, bustling crowds can provide a near-ideal opportunity for a thief to snatch your purse, wallet or payment card, especially if you are bogged down with bags and packages. They can also simply jot down your account number by peeking over your shoulder when you are checking out at the register. This is why you should always make certain that you keep close track of your wallet, credit and debit cards when you are out shopping and make sure you get them back after each transaction as well as cover the keypad when typing in any PIN numbers at an ATM or store to obstruct the view for prying eyes.
Be savvy about online scams.
If you dig up an offer that seems too good to be true, such as rock-bottom pricing on electronic items, put up your guard, because at the very least there may be hidden costs involved. Before going ahead and making any purchases over the internet check to see if the website address is secure, especially on the checkout page. Secure web addresses start with an https:// and additionally there might be an image of a tiny lock in the lower right hand corner of the screen. Search the site for a Better Business Bureau seal and click on it to ensure its validity. If you are unsure, phone up the BBB to enquire whether or not the company has a physical address and working telephone number. Be sure to pay for all online purchases with a credit card as opposed to a debit card, as a credit card gives you the right to dispute the charges should anything go wrong with your order.
Online classified or auction sites provide a means for tracking down hard-to find gifts or popular ones that have already sold out at the store. Exercise caution when making purchases via such sites by researching sellers to determine their reliability and never wire money as the method of payment. If possible, seek out a local seller and arrange to conduct the sale in person, as long as you arrange to meet in a public place to make the transaction.
Don’t take phishing bait.
Hackers are able to get their hands on a lot of personal information by sending out phishing emails that install a virus on your computer. Keep a wary eye out for any messages from FedEx or UPS containing links to package tracking information, as they can potentially be hacker-generated. Likewise, don’t click upon any links or open up any attachments until you are certain they are not malicious. Small errors such as typos, grammatical mistakes or email addresses that don’t correspond to the company’s name are typically red flags of a phishing email. Update all firewalls and antivirus software on your home computer regularly.
Don’ be duped into giving to fake charities.
It’s the season of giving, which means more people are inspired to donate money to charities and nonprofit agencies during this time of year. However, be aware that sometimes bogus charities are created by thieves to capitalize on the goodwill of unsuspecting consumers. Don’t give money on the spot. Instead, go home first and research the charity on the Better Business Bureau website to make sure it is legit.