Holiday Scams Circulating Online – How to Protect Yourself

Tis the season for holiday scams circulating online and cyber criminals look for ways to get your money into their pockets. The methods they use vary, from shipping scams, to gift card theft, and often emails. They are getting increasingly aggressive and creative. Some scams are new while others are just a different version of previous holiday scams.

 Holiday Scams Circulating Online This Year

Online scams take all kinds of variations each year. Shipping scams involve a promise of a fake item in return for the victim sending a shipping fee to receive it. Nothing ever comes.

Another type is the non-delivery scam, using pop-ups, and banner ads embedded with links taking you to fake websites or links controlled by scammers. These are non existent products.

Always type the link into your browser directly. Typing it will help insure you don’t compromise your identity by picking up malware from the direct link.

Holiday Scams Circulating Online – Gift Card Tampering

Holiday scams Circulating Online picture of a gift card

Gift card scams are becoming popular. Gifts cards left on display are manipulated by thieves to send the money to them. They record the numbers.

Once the card becomes activated by purchase, they can drain the amount on the card.

This will only work with cards that allow you to use the numbers only for online purchases.

When the crook sees the card is active, he uses the numbers to make a purchase online.

Be alert! Once a crook has removed the card to get the number, the pin number is visible.Do not purchase any card with a pin coating that has been tampered with. Sometimes re-sellers will  charge you more than the gift card is actually worth.

Crooks have carefully opened bar coded packaging and removed good gift cards and replaced them with used ones. Then, the good card that they have, gets loaded upon purchase.

Always buy cards that must be in your possession to be used. Purchase cards that are kept under lock and key and not on display. Always check your cards carefully for any tampering and refuse it if you see any, and demand a new one.

Other Holiday Scams Circulating Online – Fake Receipts

Holiday shopping has us all busier that ever, and remembering each store or whether we clicked something online is harder to do. We need help to figure it all out, so I wrote How to tell it’s a scam. It give some insight on scams and how they work.

Things we normally don’t even think about!

Thieves know this, and getting you to think you owe something you don’t, is easier this time of year. Don’t click on links you are not sure of, or answer questions about purchases.

Call the store or merchant directly to ask questions.

Be Sure The Website is Secure – Look For Https

Holiday Scams Circulating Online-puzzle of words

Fake websites always appear around this time of year. They are cleverly constructed to appear as the bigger well known legitimate shopping sites. Look for the term –not secure or http: instead of https: . Leave sites without a secure https label.

Usually the fake sites offer deals that are just too good to pass up, and unfortunately you lose your money.

They offer hard to get items that they know people will be willing to buy without seeing the actual product.

The will also run ads for products they don’t have.

Some fake websites will be set up just to get your financial information. Don’t fall for coupon offers, free gifts or others that ask you to fill out a form.

Be sure it is a legitimate site.You could open up malware and infect your computer with malicious software. Or even worse, a computer destroying virus.

Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Don’t fall for it!!

Do Not Open Email Attachments

Holiday Scams Circulating Online Email graffic

Emails can contain different offers. They can offer products that are not real, or special offers the are too good to pass up. They will usually want quick action, demanding urgency for payment.

Quickly expiring deals with timers, or only if you buy right now.

If the email contains an attachment, do not open it. It may contain malware or a virus.

Open your Anti-Virus software and scan the attachment first.

Emails Asking for Money

Others with schemes requesting money using sudden deaths or job transfers where the person needs the money sent quickly. They may take one payment, then later ask for more due to a price increase, or extra shipping.

One scam involved a victim receiving an email stating $14,000 was owed to them by the government. For a processing fee they need to send $400 in iTune gift cards.

Scammers like iTune gift cards because they can be redeemed by anyone anywhere. Once iTune cards are redeemed, then iTunes no longer follows them.There is no paper trail.

The problem is the scammers will just keep asking you for more and more. They prey on your emotions. Since you already have $400 invested, you will likely send more. If it is a scam, it won’t end till you stop sending money.

Fake Smart Phone Apps

Smart Phone apps can be fake and used to capture your phone data. Be sure you get your apps from a reputable store. Free offers and games are often covering up the real dangers. Most of the time apps are taking your data for use or resale.

My article “How Mobile Apps Make Money” explains how this happens. Purchasing an app from an alternate app site, can compromise your phone with stolen content or worse.

Work at Home Scams

Work at home scams pop up as well. People need more money around the holidays, making these scams work well. Beware of things such as “from the comfort of your home” or “no experience necessary”.

Always investigate companies that require payment up front, and be careful about giving out your personal information. That may be the only thing they are after is your information, or money.

Things you should do

  • Check bank and credit card statement immediately after purchases for correct amounts.
  • Deal with reputable store and websites. Look for https- secure sites.
  • Do not respond to email links.
  • Never fill out email forms,or surveys that require personal information.
  • Scan all attachments with anti-viral software before opening.
  • Verify all requests for personal information.
  • Always be suspicious of people from foreign countries.

Report all fraud to FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

It is impossible to stop every scam from happening, but the more information you have, the better your chances for avoiding trouble.


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