The holiday season is in full swing. Though this year is unusual, many of us will still take part in our favorite traditions, even if they look a little different. Gatherings will be held via video chat, holiday dinner will be eaten with immediate family members, and a majority of shopping will be done online. Despite the many differences, the season is still a busy one - especially for criminals.
Criminals often take advantage of consumers during the season of giving and this year will be no different. The National Insurance Crime Bureau is warning consumers to be aware of these holiday fraud trends:
With the pandemic reaching record setting numbers, retailers have been focusing their marketing efforts on the web. When scouring the internet for the best deals, it’s easy to be tricked. Criminals can create fake websites or social media campaigns that look legitimate. Making purchases on these sites, or simply clicking a link, can lead to identity theft. Before entering any personal information, check to see if the website is secured. If there are any spelling or grammatical errors, it most likely isn’t the actual brand site. It’s important to remain alert when shopping online 365 days a year, not just during the holiday season. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Shipping & Delivery
Similar to the online shopping scam, criminals can send emails that look like they are coming from an official mail carrier or retail company. These emails may mention that something is wrong with an order and it can’t be delivered until information is updated. This is how scammers trick consumers into providing credit card and personal information. It’s good practice to directly visit the retail site you ordered from, rather than clicking on any link in the email. However, this scam isn’t just digital. Seemingly official mail can be found in mailboxes, claiming that a delivery was attempted. In order to receive the package, the consumer will have to provide personal information, such as a social security number or a credit card. If there seems to be a problem with delivery, contact the retailer directly.
With the surge in online shopping comes an influx of packages being delivered. That could mean there will be an increase of package thefts as well. Usually during the holidays, homes are vacant while people celebrate with family and friends. Thieves are all too eager to take advantage. Though travel may be limited this year, there is still a high chance for theft. When expecting shipments this holiday season, take extra precautions. Try to schedule deliveries for when someone is home or request that packages be left at a side or back door. If a delivery is scheduled when the home will be vacant, leave lights on and make it look like the home is occupied.
It's called the season of giving for a reason. Around this time of year, many donations will be made to charities. Unfortunately, there are many fraudulent charities that scam people out of their money. Scammers will solicit donors via cold calls, emails, and crowdfunding websites. This may sometimes include sharing a bogus story about what the charity is raising money for. Sadly, the money collected may never be shared with a good cause. To avoid this, be sure to only donate to known and trusted charities.
Many legitimate companies will offers incentives, such as gift cards, for consumer feedback. However, this is another tactic that criminals will use to steal identities. An email, designed to look like it came from a legitimate company, may find it’s way into inboxes this holiday season. The survey will ask for personal information and offer gift cards in return. The incentives are enticing, but it’s important to verify the identity of the sender prior to filling anything out. Some emails may ask the recipient to purchase gift cards on behalf of the sender. These emails will look like they’re coming from an authority figure or person of power. Don’t be fooled by these scare tactics.