Five things you need to know about holiday fraud

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Password reset emails are making the rounds, so beware

If you’re finished wrapping presents, it’s time to give yourself a gift: boning up on the naughty things that can happen to people online to make their holiday a royal disaster.

ConsumerAffairs has compiled a list of traps consumers can fall into if they’re not careful and ways to keep themselves – and their money and credit – safe.

Check out charities before you give. December is prime time for charities because they know that many people will be looking for last minute tax deductions. And what do charities do best? Tug at someone’s heart strings. “But scammers might do that too,” Terri Miller, a consumer education specialist with the FTC says. 

“So before you donate to a charity, check them out on Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or Candid. If you find anything that worries you about the organization, find another way to give to the cause.”

Don’t be so quick to click on tracking updates. With the flurry of deliveries still going on and consumers tracking their packages, Kevin Roundy, Senior Technical Director of Norton Labs told ConsumerAffairs that hackers will take advantage of the chaos by mimicking big retailers like Amazon and share links indicating there is something wrong with your order. 

The FBI says there are two ways to avoid this:

  • Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
  • Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address when you are selling. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.

Keep an eye out for fake websites. Check Point Research recently found close to 15,000 fake websites that cyberthieves had built to sell heavily-discounted designer handbags like Dior and Louis Vuitton. The only sensible way around this is not to buy from a store you’ve never heard of.

“Before making a purchase, it is important to authenticate the site we are using to make the purchase. So, instead of following a link sent through on email or text message, go directly to the retailer by searching for them on your selected browser and locating the promotion yourself.” Check Point fraud analysts said. 

Be wary of password reset emails. A new trick fraudsters are working over the holidays are password reset emails. Check Point suggests that if you get one of those emails, DO NOT click on any of the links, but rather visit the website directly and change your password there.

Check or freeze your credit report. During the holiday season, there’s usually a spike in credit fraud. Unfortunately, it’s done quietly and in the shadows and often goes undetected until it’s too late. 

There are two things consumers can do to keep credit fraudsters away. One is to watch their credit report like a hawk. The second one – and maybe a smarter one – is to freeze your credit report. All of the major credit bureaus will allow people to do that for free and it limits access to their credit reports. 

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