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Protect Your Money from Scams During the Holiday Season

During the holiday season, we tend to make a lot more purchases online for travel and gifts, so it’s especially important to be vigilant about protecting your money. Here are some of the most common scams to watch for:

Fake Websites and Apps. Scammers often create fake websites that are so similar to the sites of popular retailers that it easily tricks consumers into providing payment information. The scammers take your information and your money, but you never receive the products. Scammers have also developed fake apps that when downloaded, malware will steal personal information from your device or lock it, holding it for ransom until you pay the scammers. Also, poor grammar or misspelled words in an apps’ description or on a website is a red flag that it is not legitimate.

Email Links. Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails or emails from unfamiliar sources. The links may lead to an illegitimate website attempting to get you to enter your credit card or other personal information. Some links may download malware to your computer when you click on them that can steal your banking information, including login identification, passwords, and credit or debit card numbers. These emails typically look very similar to ones sent by well-known retailers, banks, and other entities.

Making Payments on Unsecure Sites. Before paying for a purchase online, make sure the website you’re on has “https” at the beginning of its URL with a lock symbol. This means the site has a protected network connection. Websites with “http” at the beginning of the URL with no “s” are more vulnerable to attacks by scammers who steal credit card information by monitoring network traffic. Also, be aware of pop-up windows that appear while you are on a website asking for your credit card information to receive coupons or to win free items. Legitimate companies do not ask for your personal information for those purposes.

Using Public Wi-Fi to Shop or Access Sensitive Information. Many restaurants, hotels, libraries, and other places offer free public Wi-Fi, which is convenient when you’re on the go. However, these networks may not be secure (since they either do not require a password or provide the same generic password to all customers for access) and may expose your personal and banking information to scammers looking to steal names, social security numbers, and bank account numbers. Avoid using public Wi-Fi to make purchases online, log in to your financial accounts, or access other sites that have sensitive information about you.

Package Delivery Confirmation Scams. This scam is especially popular during the holidays when people receive gifts through the mail that they may not be expecting. The scammers call or email claiming to be from the U.S. Postal Service or a major shipping company and state that you have a package waiting for delivery. To ensure the package is meant for you, you are asked to provide personal information, which the scammers steal to use to open credit accounts in your name. In response to this scam, the U.S. Postal Service explained it does not call or email people and ask for personal information if there is a problem with a delivery.