When you hear Black Friday, what comes to mind? Shopping deals. Online sales. Holiday specials. When a cyber-criminal hears Black Friday, they picture easy targets, fast cash and holiday treats in the form of credit card numbers, passwords and stolen identities.
Don’t let a hacker sneak a scam into your shopping cart. Watch out for these common holiday scams and learn how to shop safe.
Scam: Fake gift cards
Gift cards are an easy gift option, but watch out buying them at discounted prices from third-party vendors. The scam involves a very legitimate-looking fake website offering discounted gift cards. Enter your credit card information and let the shopping spree begin for the cyber-criminal.
Shop Safe: Only buy gifts cards directly from retail stores.
Scam: Ads promoting online specials
Around the holidays, we get an influx of emails, gift card offers, party invites and holiday shopping deals. Cyber-criminals try and slip in their scams hoping to catch you off guard during the hustle and bustle of the season. Don’t be blinded by the sparkle and confetti of too-good-to-be-true deals. Click on the link and you may be directed to a phony website featuring non-existent products at bargain prices. Complete a purchase and you’ve just gifted a cyber-criminal a new identity – yours!
Shop safe: Don’t click on links in messages. Go to the retail store’s official website and look for special offers.
Scam: Electronic order confirmations, delivery notifications and account alerts.
You recently shopped at Amazon. A few hours later, you receive an email or text notifying you there was a complication with your order, or you may get an order confirmation for your $890 purchase, when you actually only spent $89. Click on the link and follow the steps to seemingly resolve the issue and you’ve just given a cyber-criminal your Amazon username and password and access to your credit card details and personal information.
Shop safe: Don’t let your emotions cause you to act in haste. Take a deep breath, then go to your personal account through the company’s official website and check your order details. Report scams to the company and to your bank so they can help monitor your accounts for possible fraud.
Scam: Public Wi-Fi hacking
You’re shopping on Black Friday and the store promises to honor lower deals offered elsewhere. You go log on to the free Wi-Fi network, and while you’re looking for a better deal, a cyber-criminal is hacking into your phone to steal passwords, banking information and sensitive information.
Shop safe: Don’t shop over Wi-Fi. These networks are unsecured, plus you may unknowingly log onto a scammer’s network. Instead, use a virtual private network (VPN) whenever you are on Wi-Fi. VPN encrypts your data.
Scam: Online Store Lookalikes
It’s easy to build a fake website that offers deeply-discounted apparel or gift items. Add an online gallery, shopping cart and a variety of ways to pay and it is easy pickings for scammers. Once you submit your payment on these sites, it likely cannot be reversed; and, your bank cannot stop the payment.
Shop safe: Don’t buy in to deeply discounted deals. Read the terms carefully. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is a scam. When visiting websites, look for red flags, such as poor spelling, low-quality images, fake-sounding reviews or testimonials. Check their contact information, return policies, terms and conditions and other expected information.
These are only five common holiday scams. There are numerous others, such as charity scams, porch pirates, phony shopping apps and more. The key takeaway is to not get caught up in the frenzy of the season. Slow down.
- Never make assumptions.
- Treat every email, text, and website with skepticism.
If you are a victim of fraud, alert your bank and credit card company immediately. They will take steps to help you avoid further loss. Happy safe shopping this holiday.