It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Santa, Shoppers and Scammers

january 06, 2021 | identity theft
It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Santa, Shoppers and Scammers

Ah, the holidays. While many of us are thinking about buying the perfect presents to place under the tree, decorating cookies and finding ways to make this season special despite the current pandemic, others have different plans. As unfortunate as it is, cozying up to your bank accounts is the first priority on fraudsters' to-do lists this season, and they will be ruthless in their efforts to do so.

December is Identity Theft Awareness Month, perhaps not fortuitously as the holiday season is one the busiest times of the year for cyber scammers. As more of us gather on the internet to find what we need while staying away from large shopping crowds this year, real-life Grinches are ready to make themselves at home within your online data.

And while protecting your data is probably the last thing on your mind right now, It’s imperative we all keep in mind the ways cybercriminals operate during the holidays so we can stay one step ahead of them this season.

Top 5 Common Holiday Scams

Package theft

Presents are great, especially when they’re free. A pile of packages on your front door looks like buried treasure to thieves. Make sure you know when your packages are coming and don’t neglect them if you are traveling.

Tips to add security to your home this season: 

  • Knowing when your packages are dropped off before others is key to protecting against  package theft. Front door security cameras have blown up in recent years and can help when used properly.

  • Always schedule your deliveries with the shipping company to meet your schedule.

  • Add special delivery instructions to keep packages out of the vulnerable open.

  • If you have dealt with stolen packages before at your current home and worry about another theft, ship it to a safer location, for example: your office or a family member’s house.

Email phishing

While phishing emails happen throughout the year, they’re a particularly popular this time of year because identity thieves know people are hungry to buy things. Phishing involves using a fake link to lure innocents and steal their personal information. Remember that just because something looks legitimate, doesn’t mean it is.

How to recognize phishing fraudsters:

Do you even have an account with the company that is sending you an update? Does the email say a package was delivered that you never ordered? Think before clicking.

Phishers need a reason for you to click on their link, so they will usually use scare tactics, “There’s a problem with your Amazon account, please click the link to check it out”; or temptation, “We at Amazon want to thank you for being a great customer with this gift card. Click the link to receive it.”

Check out the email address and know that real companies will always send you account info and updates from a legitimate email with their company name. For example:  [email protected] is “phishy” because if you are receiving a message that something is wrong with your account, you would expect it to be from a recognizable domain name like [email protected]

Username and password hacking

Remember that when you create accounts with your favorite online stores, these retailers house your credit card and other personal information, which are critical to protect. Did you know the number one reason for data breaches is due to username and password hacking? With that said, what better way to celebrate the season than to get serious about your password security?  

How to protect against getting hacked:

  • Time to get cozy by the fire and update those dusty usernames and passwords! We always encourage you to update your passwords often, and make them long, strong and unique.

  • Add a two-factor authentication (2FA) for an additional layer of password protection. Many companies may already offer the option to add this to your accounts, but if not, download a 2FA app like Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator or Authy.

  • Always use secure online checkout!

Charity scams

Sad, but true: scammers take advantage of the charitable. In light of the holiday season, people tend to give more of their hard-earned money to those who need it, which is wonderful, but we encourage you to double check where your money is going before doling out your credit card number. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of people’s generosity, and it’s your job to make sure they are who they say they are.

How to identify fake charities:

  • Have you ever heard of the organization before? If you haven’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are a scam, but you should always ask questions and familiarize yourself with them before donating.

  • Do they have a website where you can learn more? If someone is calling you about the charity, ask if there’s a way to donate online so you have time to browse the website and learn.

  • Don’t succumb to pressure to donate immediately, before you have time to browse the website and research the company. No one should make you feel guilty for not contributing on the spot.

Bogus online coupons

Be wary of anyone offering freebies, particularly during the holidays. It’s unlikely that someone is going to give you a free car or smartphone.   

What to ask yourself before clicking:

  • What’s the offering? If it seems too good to be true, then it likely is.

  • What must you give in exchange for the coupon? Information? If so, it’s likely that they either use it to market to you later or sell it to another entity.

  • If it’s a seemingly reasonable coupon, check and see if there’s an expiration date. Usually, legitimate companies include an expiration date on coupons.

  • Is the company legitimate? Browse their website and check the email address if you are receiving the coupon via email.

  • Is their name on the Coupon Information Center (CIC) registry? The CIC has a blacklist of sham coupons.

While you may be protecting yourself from the pandemic by shopping online, keep in mind that other dangers lurk solely on the web. Don’t let the cyber Grinches steal your holiday spirit – protect and educate yourself!

IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage and conditions, please see an identity theft plan.  All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.

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