‘Tis the season for scammers to target busy, distracted people who are shopping for last minute gifts and planning for the holidays. Here are five prevalent cons, scams and cyber tactics to be on the lookout for during the busy holiday season, along with recommended best practices for staying secure in the digital world.
- Courier Cons Around the holidays, beware of emails that appear to be from businesses like UPS, USPS, FedEx, or DHL claiming they are trying to deliver a package, a shipment has been delayed or your payment was declined. Fake links, known as phishing scams, are meant to entice you to click on them so “phishers” may gain access and infect your computer with a virus or download malware. Malware consists of programs that are designed to install automatically on your computer and infect all of its processes. This is how cyber thieves steal autocomplete passwords, record keystrokes and even gather personal information like credit cards or social security numbers to commit identity theft.
- Bogus e-Greeting Cards This time of year, con artists send emails that look like fun, harmless digital holiday greeting cards, but are actually attempts to load malware and viruses on your computer. If the email is not personalized to you, the sender email address seems off or you hover your cursor over a hyperlink and it doesn’t match the website it claims to be from, do not open it. Delete it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Fake Account Suspension Scammers know we are in a hurry to make last minute shopping purchases as the holidays approach. Be wary of calls, emails and text messages suggesting your account has been temporarily suspended that ask you to call a phone number to restore your access. Once a fraudster has you on the phone, they will attempt to solicit personal information or account details to “verify” your account. Always call the company's published customer service number directly if you are concerned about the security of your account. Reputable retailers and financial institutions all have secure measures in place to identify you as the legitimate account holder and will never ask you for a PIN or account number.
- Public Wi-Fi Stalkers Use caution if you are traveling for the holidays. When using public wi-fi at airports or in hotels, a thief with computer hacking skills can view what you are browsing and steal your personal information. If you don’t have access to a VPN (virtual private network) to add a layer of protection to all your browsing and online activity, be sure to use your wi-fi hotspot or your mobile phone’s network connection to shop online in public places.
- Unsecure Websites If you prefer to shop online to avoid the hectic mall during the holidays, be sure you only order from reputable websites. Take a close look at how the website address appears. If it doesn’t have https:// at the beginning of the website store page’s URL address, it may not be secure, (the extra ‘s’ stands for “secure”). If you aren’t sure about the website’s security, but are still willing to take the risk, it’s always better to use a credit card or Paypal account when shopping. These offer the best liability protection against potential fraud, are easier to track and will typically refund your money if your items don’t arrive.
It’s not always easy to spot scams like these, especially when we are in the midst of the busy holiday season. Avoid clicking on links in emails, instead make it your routine to type website addresses directly into your browser. If you spot email addresses that don't seem to match up, or the emails have typos and grammatical errors, these are common red flags of a phishing scam. Your first and best line of defense should always be to keep your computer software up-to-date. Internet browser updates provide built-in protection and tools to customize your security and protect your personal information. Don’t ignore the warnings to update your browser, or you may unintentionally leave your computer and personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Identity theft is a serious crime that has become all too common. Campus Federal will never contact you via text message, email, or phone to ask for account numbers or passwords. Our fraud detection system will use other forms of identity verification. If you suspect you have been a victim of identity theft, contact a Campus Federal representative.
Campus Federal has partnered with Merchants Information Solutions, Inc. to offer you identity theft monitoring, resources, and recovery services with Fraud Defender.