In 2018, there were over 65,000 victims reported in the United States totally $184 million in losses. These days, scammers are very clever with their tricks. Holiday crooks can spoil your celebrations when they steal your personal information. Seasonal deals are what we long for, but if they seem too good to be true, they probably are.
The six top holiday scams
- Charity Scams: If a website wants donations in cash or gift cards, don’t do it! Charity scams pop up around the holidays. Scammers can trick you into paying them by thanking you for a donation you never made. They also may look legitimate by their name, but always research them first and find out where they money is going or who it is helping.
- Delivery scams: Scammers send out phishing emails this time of year disguised as UPS, FedEx, or the United States Postal Service (USPS). These scammers use fake links leading to pages asking for personal information or that will infect your computer with viruses (malware).
- Travel scams: Going home for the holidays may not be at the top of your list this year because of the pandemic, but if you are planning to travel, watch out for booking and travel deals that seem too good to be true.
- Holiday job scams: Red flags to look out for are employers that ask for a payment upfront for job supplies, an application or training fees. Do not fall for job offers that do not require an interview or pay big money for small, simple tasks.
- Holiday pop-up shop scams: Pop-up shops that only seem to be around during the holidays are the ones to avoid. These shops most likely do not have a return or refund policy.
- Fake social media ad scams: Watch out for ads on Instagram or Facebook claiming to support charities, offer free trials, engage in poor customer service or sell counterfeit merchandise. Also, always read reviews!
What you can do
- Always request a tracking number for items purchased online so you can make sure they have been shipped and follow the delivery process;
- Avoid sellers who post an auction or advertisements in the United States but state they are out of the country for an emergency;
- Avoid sellers who post an auction or advertisement under one name but ask the payment to be sent to someone else; and
- Consider cancelling your purchase if a seller requests funds be wired directly to them.
Prevention tips for staying safe online
Here are some prevention tips for your protection against holiday shopping related identity theft.
- Always keep your Social Security Number private or hidden;
- Protect all your devices with security/virus protection software; and
- Always use strong passwords.
Another factor in staying safe and unreachable from potential scammers is to manage your privacy and location settings on your phone apps and social media. Always check and change your privacy settings on social media such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Adjusting these settings can hide your location and any stored bank information on your phone, laptop or iPad.
If you or a loved one are a victim of fraud and need assistance, you can apply for free legal services by calling 1-800-733-8394 or by visiting our website at www.lonestarlegal.org. For more resources, visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.
Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.
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