Avoiding Shopping Scams: Protect Yourself This Holiday Season

The holidays are a joyous time of year, but they can also be a time when scammers are on the prowl. With shoppers spending billions of dollars during the holiday season, it's no wonder that scammers see this as an opportunity to take advantage of people. But there are things you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a holiday shopping scam. Here are some tips to help you avoid being scammed this holiday season.

Be aware of the most common shopping scams

There are a few things you can do to avoid becoming a victim of a holiday scam. First, be aware of the most common scams. They may offer fake deals on popular items via text, social media posts, email or create phony websites that look like legitimate retailers. The best way to avoid these scams is to know how to spot them. Look for common red flags like misspellings or poor grammar, illegitimate email domains that don’t match the email name, offers that seem too good to be true, a sense of urgency, and requests for personal information. Hackers are getting more advanced every year, so being aware and on your toes is always important.

Never give out personal information to strangers

The holidays are the time for scammers to start shopping… with your information. This may seem self-explanatory like telling kids not to talk to strangers, however, it happens too often. Best practice is to never click on links in emails from unfamiliar senders, even if they claim to be from a trusted retailer or shipping company. These emails are often phishing scams designed to steal your personal information. Speaking of phishing scams, be wary of emails with a sense of urgency to enter your personal information immediately. They often claim your account has been compromised, and your information will fix it. It’s best to investigate this yourself and call your bank or the company the email claims it came from.

Research websites before you make a purchase

As the holiday shopping season ramps up, so do the opportunities for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. When it comes to online shopping, it’s important to be aware of the signs of phony websites. There are millions of different online retailers, so it’s important to do your research before purchasing on a new site. Ensure they have contact information, return policies, and security features in place to protect your personal and financial information. Look for online reviews from other customers to get an idea of their experience with the company. If an online store seems new or untrustworthy, it’s best to err on the side of caution and find another site that you can trust.

Be thoughtful about how you pay

Lastly, it’s always good practice to think about how you’re going to pay for these gifts. Here are a couple rules of thumb: Never wire money directly to the seller. Avoid pre-paid gift cards – this is a scam where they will say you need to pay with pre-paid gift cards, requiring you to give the gift card number and pin – the scammer will steal the money and you’ll never receive your item. Your best option is to pay with a credit card whenever possible. It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on your online statements to track the payments to ensure they’re all from you. That way you can contact the credit card company directly if you suspect suspicious activity.

Holiday scams are happening all around you, but you don’t have to be a victim. Following these helpful tips will ensure you have a safe and joyous holiday season.