Online shopping has exploded during the pandemic, and as the holiday season approaches and in the United States bracing for the unknowns of the omicron variant, its popularity is expected to continue this year.
Experts warn that a slight increase in scams during the holidays could ensue.
“Fraud is really like a crime of expediency,” said Victoria Funes, associate state director for AARP Florida. “More traffic creates more victims available to people who phishing for your money. Every time you have a vacation, the tactic is changed to fit because it’s an easier way to hook people up.”
Seventy-five percent of adults say they have been the target of or experienced at least one form of fraud, according to a recent survey released by the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
But the holidays are not a time for fear, say experts – they are a time to learn best practices that can help you avoid the many scammers who show up online, appear in your text messages, or send letters. at your doorstep.
Scammers use many different tactics. But at the end of the day, their goal is the same: to extract personal information like a bank account ID, credit card number, or access to an individual’s computer.
Tip 1: If you haven’t initiated communication, beware.
“A good mindset is all about rejecting anything presented or solicited to you if you haven’t initiated it,” Funes said.
Do not give out personal information to anyone looking for you, whether over the phone or online. Remember: you can always check something yourself first.
Tip 2: Choose well-known and legitimate websites when shopping online.
Many scam websites will use similar web addresses to popular shopping sites like Macy’s or Home Depot, but there is usually a grammatical error or slight difference.
If you receive a pop-up or email promising you an offer on an online website, don’t click the link. Search the website yourself through a search browser and make sure it is a legitimate homepage for a business you know.
Tip 3: If an unknown number calls with an “urgent problem”, hang up.
Whether they’re warning you about a warranty that’s about to expire, claiming a bank account has been breached, or claiming to be a parent in crisis: hang up the phone.
Nothing is so urgent that you can’t call back from a phone number listed on a legitimate website or from a number you have saved for that parent.
“It’s been proven that the longer you stay on the phone, the more vulnerable you become to them getting something from you that they can use,” Funes said.
If a caller claims they’re “just doing their job” and discourages you from hanging up, that’s a red flag.
Tip 4: Don’t click on links in text messages.
Scammers often send text messages claiming that the security of an Amazon or bank account has been compromised and ask recipients to “Click here to verify your details.” Do not click on the link.
“Sometimes even clicking on it puts yourself at a higher security risk by allowing them to access information on your mobile device,” Funes said. “They bait you. They send them to a whole bunch of people, and they know someone’s going to bite.
Tip 5: Use credit cards for online payments when possible.
Credit cards and digital wallets are safer to use online than debit cards because they prevent someone from having direct access to the money in your account.