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Be Wary of Holiday Scams

woman in front of Christmas tree on her phone
The holidays are a joyous time, but scammers can take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers.

With supply chain issues and expected shipping delays, holiday shoppers are starting the shopping season early this year and purchasing increasingly more goods online. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the rise in demand and e-commerce shopping creates the perfect storm for scammers. BBB’s Scam Tracker reported holiday scams accounted for nearly 40% of all scams reported in 2020. Of scams on social media, over 20% resulted in monetary loss.

The season of giving is near. To maintain holiday cheer and prevent a holiday calamity of compromised personal information and drained accounts, PayneWest Insurance recommends these tips:

  • Keep an eye out for misleading social media ads (most prevalent holiday scam according to BBB). See a Facebook ad that looks compelling? Make sure each website is legitimate by looking up shopper reviews, being aware of fake reviews and looking up the business on BBB Scam Tracker.
  • Avoid social media gift exchanges (2nd most prevalent holiday scam). A new pyramid scheme this season is the suggested exchanging of wine bottles on social media. In these scams, participants unwittingly share personal information (and the personal information of their friends and family) as they are tricked into purchasing and shipping gifts to unknown people.
  • Check children’s holiday apps (3rd most prevalent holiday scam). Several holiday themed apps contain malware and steal personal information including apps where you can video chat with Santa, watch Santa feed his reindeer, track Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, light the menorah or share holiday wish lists. Before downloading, review the app’s privacy policy to check what information the app collects.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited calls, emails, texts and reports of personal accounts being compromised. Recently, there has been a surge of false notifications about potentially compromised bank accounts, PayPal, Netflix, Amazon, etc. requesting immediate action. Don’t answer a call from an unknown number and avoid providing personal information over the phone.
  • Don’t fall for free gift cards. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers can impersonate companies like Starbucks promising gift cards to loyal gift customers. Receive an email, pop-up ad or text message that looks fishy or announces a prize? Don’t open it. If you accidentally open the email, don’t click on any of the links.
  • Fend off fake charities. For nonprofits, the holidays are a big fundraising season. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of this. With increased giving online, donors need to look out for fraudulent 501(c)(3) organizations. Only give to familiar charities, and whenever possible donate to the nonprofit through their website with a credit card instead of a debit card.
  • Keep an eye out for fake shipping notifications. As the pandemic continues, more and more shoppers are ordering gifts online. Scammers use this surge in online shopping to send phishing emails or texts with links enclosed that may download malware or warrant unwanted access to personal information. They may also try to trick people to pay additional shipping fees.
  • Choose your pop-up holiday virtual events wisely. Some in-person holiday markets or craft fairs have moved online this year. Scammers are mimicking this, creating fake online craft fairs, for which they’re charging admission. Make sure the market or fair you are shopping is a legitimate online event hosted by local organizations.
  • Avoid purchasing luxury items or electronics through social sites. Scammers are
    “selling” high-demand items, like game consoles and jewelry, on social sites. Avoid purchasing on social sites of low-priced luxury goods, jewelry and electronics. Be sure to purchase them from trusted sites and companies.
  • Pick out your puppy in-person. One of the saddest holiday scams occurs when scammers sell nonexistent pets to families. To avoid falling victim to a pet scam, request to see the furry friend in person before purchasing.

Being vigilant for these yuletide schemes will keep your holidays fun and safe. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from PayneWest!

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