Every year, holiday shoppers fall victim to con artists looking to make a quick buck. Today, cyber scammers have more ways to divert your trust and your dollars than ever before. While online shopping is a wonderfully convenient way to check off a wishlist, it’s filled with virtual pitfalls, phony websites, pretend packages, and bogus gift cards.
Steer clear of cyber-trouble this year with these seven scams to watch out for during the holidays:
1. Marketplace mishaps
In addition to eBay, online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace have been growing in popularity. Whether you are listing an item for a long-distance sale or scheduling a local meetup, take every precaution possible. Meet only in a public place. Pay only after you have the item in hand and have guaranteed it is authentic. For long-distance buys, only use trusted marketplaces that have protection programs and a strong history of positive seller ratings.
2. Low-price bait
When the price on a hard-to-find item is so low that you can’t believe your eyes, you probably shouldn’t. Sketchy online sellers will sometimes list an out-of-stock item to lure you in, then pressure you to buy a higher priced item after you’ve found out it’s unavailable. Don’t fall for it.
3. Gift card phishing
Scammers send you an email that looks like it's from someone you know. It has a link to a gift card from a legit store. But, when you click the link, you get phished and your computer or phone gets hacked. Only open gift card links from people you personally know and have given you the heads up to expect a code. Better yet, tell your friends and family you prefer physical gift cards over virtual ones. Be extra cautious of social media offers to purchase your undesired gift cards in exchange for cash.
4. Fake charities
With the rise of crowdfunded payment sites like GoFundMe, it’s easier than ever for fraudsters to get people to donate fake causes during the holidays. Check out charities on sites like CharityNavigator.org and CharityWatch.org before participating. Never share financial information with a charity unless you know they are taking measures to securely protect your personal data.
5. Delivery scams
If you get a notice for an unsuccessful delivery that redirects you to a website or to a phone number then asks you to share personal financial data, be cautious. Scammers have been known to create fake, but very convincing delivery notices in an attempt to harvest your credit card information. Authentic postal service notices won’t ask you for this kind of information.
6. Bootleg items
Did you know buying counterfeit goods is illegal? If you end up with an item you didn’t expect, you might not be able to return it. Avoid getting duped by impossibly good deals by only buying from trusted sellers and manufacturers. Research an online store’s return policy before purchasing.
7. Quick cash transactions
Credit cards have greater purchase contesting power than debit cards and gift cards. That means, if you get scammed, you may not lose as much or may not even have to pay anything at all. If you plan on making a lot of purchases every holiday season, consider a credit card with as low a limit as you can. It’ll lower your risk of loss, while helping you stay within budget.
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