Three tips shoppers need to follow to avoid being scammed – how to protect bank account from being hacked
AS SHOPPERS load their carts with gifts, scammers are looking to load up on personal information that could compromise bank accounts and holiday spirits.
Sellers also have to worry about phony buyers ordering products and canceling payments once they've shipped.
The FBI reported the two most common holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment scams.
The first is when a shopper pays for an item and never gets it, and the second is when a company sends out an order just for the payment to never go through or be disputed.
While everyone is hunting for the best deals, it's easy to get wrapped up in the rush of finding a great bargain.
Sometimes those sites can be phony, set up specifically to steal customers' information.
Tom Stephens, president of the Northeast Florida Better Business Bureau (BBB), shared some of his tips to help keep shoppers, and their money, safe this holiday season.
Beware of phony ads
He told Jacksonville, Florida news outlet News4Jax that the most common scam reported to the BBB involves fake social media advertisements.
These ads claim to offer sold-out items and unbelievable deals on popular gifts.
“They don’t have any of the product. Once they take your credit card, they take your money, close the company down, close out the bank account, and they’re done,” Mr Stephens said.
Even if you do get something delivered from the site, it's often fake or low quality.
These scams are reported year-round, and shoppers should always exercise caution when they think something is too good to be true.
Check the URL
Make sure you're paying close attention to the websites you're buying from.
Almost every legitimate shopping site will show "HTTPS" in the URL along with a lock symbol, showing there is a secure connection.
The FBI also warns against clicking on any website links sent to you via email or text or on social media to avoid phishing scams.
Phishing scams and similar crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number.
In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware onto your device that can cause further damage.
Consider heading into stores
While shopping in stores isn't always convenient, it can be safer.
Paying with cash is considered the safest since credit card information could be leaked in a data breach.
“With a credit card, you have protection if the product goes bad. If the product is bad, you can dispute the charge. If you pay cash, you’re at the mercy of the merchant at that point and time. So, there are pros and cons of doing that,” said Mr Stephens.
A radio frequency identification (RFID) wallet is another way to protect credit card information.
It prevents thieves with handheld scanners from electronically stealing credit card information by scanning your wallet while it's in your back pocket.
More holiday scams to look out for
Unfortunately, clever crooks have come up with tons of ways to con people out of their cash.
Many people donate to charities during the holidays as it’s an easy way to give back and save on taxes. However, not every donation site has good intentions.
Charity scams can happen online or over the phone. The FTC says scammers will urge people to make a donation or trick them by thanking them for a donation that was never paid for and then asking for payment.
Usually, scammers won’t tell you how they will donate your money.
Never donate to any charity before doing prior research and never donate via gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer.
Gift exchanges are popular during the holidays among coworkers, families and friends. However, if you see it on your social media timeline, it’s likely a scam.
The BBB is warning people of the “Secret Sister” gift exchange that pops up on social media every year during this time.
The scam says that people can receive up to 36 gifts in exchange for sending one, usually a bottle of wine or a $10 online gift.
They’ll ask for your name, address and information about your friends to participate.
The BBB says this is an illegal pyramid scheme.
“…You give away your personal information, and you’re left with buying and shipping gifts or money to unknown individuals, in hopes that the favor is reciprocated by receiving the promised number of gifts in return,” said the BBB. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen.”
You won’t end up with any gifts and the schemers may use your personal information to put you on other scam lifts or even commit identity theft.
The BBB asks for people to report these social media posts if they come across them.
Walmart issued a warning about a scam targeting loyal shoppers.
And be aware of a new PayPal scam.