Online fraud is at its biggest during the holiday season.
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How To Avoid Holiday Scams: Not Everyone Is On The Nice List

Tis the season to be…scammed? Unfortunately, this is indeed the case for a significant number of people during the holiday season. So read on to learn how to avoid holiday scams and ignore the Grinches this holiday season.

Avoiding holiday scams can be a whole lot easier if you know what red flags to look out for.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

How To Avoid Holiday Scams This Season

Scams come in many forms that feed off of a user’s generous nature and drain their accounts. Even advertisements for money for the needy that never reaches them. Scams are ubiquitous, especially during the peak of the holiday season. A person doesn’t need to be paranoid but rather informed when things appear too good to be true. Here, we present some of the more infamous scams for you, and hopefully, with this newfound knowledge, you’ll become a skeptic when future cheats, tricks, or rip-offs come your way.

Major Online Deception And Scams

The internet has been revolutionary on many fronts, shopping included. As such, many scams have sprung from the plethora of people using their laptops, desktops, and tablets for shopping rather than hitting the malls. One of the most used scams online is the fake website. This involves the “bad guys” creating websites that are reached when users type in a popular shopping site incorrectly, leading them into a trap. The nearly identical site will offer look-alike pages so shoppers will put items into their fake cart and then purchase items that will never arrive.

Credit card info can also be gathered and stolen through these sites. To combat this possibility, double-check the URL and make sure it is authentic. Furthermore, excessive typos or odd contact info on the site can act as red flags to avoid this site at all costs. Other online shopping deceptions come in e-mails, e-cards, or direct social media messages. Messages from scammers are sent to your inbox and are very tempting to open up. However, if you do, they may direct you to copycat websites (see above), and you know how well that would turn out.

Taking Advantage Of The Elderly

Statistically speaking, elderly people have a high risk of being scammed during the holiday season. Sneaky scammers will often pose as grandchildren of the intended victim and say they need money for one very important reason or another. As the kind grandparents most are, they give the money, and the scammer wins. Universally, many elderly people are scammed throughout the year, but during the holidays, the “bad guys” ramp up their efforts. Frank discussion with your parents or grandparents about such scams is the best way to combat this threat. Knowledge is power, they say, and if the elderly members of your family know, you wouldn’t be asking for cash. At least through the internet, then they won’t fall for any schemes directed at them.

When it comes to scams during the holidays, nothing is off limits, not even charities.
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Charities That Don’t Exist

When the holidays come around, many people’s generosity increases towards those less fortunate, and they turn to charities to donate money. This is a lovely gesture, and that’s exactly what the scammers prey upon. Like fake shopping sites mentioned above, scammers set up duplicate charity sites online for unsuspecting good Samaritans to use and eventually lose the money intended for legit charity organizations.

Additionally, with social media as huge as it is, many scam artists set up fake campaigns to tug at the heartstrings of others and siphon their funds from their bank accounts to their own greedy pockets. To battle this, verify a website before sending money through. Again, like shopping sites, check spellings, URL info, and contact information. Go one step further and call the charity’s main contact numbers (search online for the number. Do not use the contact number on the possible fake site.) Once verified, you’ll feel confident that your good deed will reach needy recipients.

Travel Scams And Fraud Alerts

Holiday times usually equal the most traveled times during the year. As such, many people (especially in a rough economy) try to find the best deals possible for air travel and hotel accommodations. Scammers understand this and set up detailed campaigns to funnel your travel money into their pockets. They set up values through social media sites, your phone’s messenger system, and email links that are almost too good to be true (and they are, of course), but many people still click on them and, thus, become money-drained victims.

The urge to save money during the holidays drives people to pursue these fantastic deals, and, unfortunately, they only wind up staying home and with a lot less money in the bank. Keep in mind that too-good-to-be-true deals are just that and must be looked at with suspicion. Again, (yes, I’m repeating, but it’s vital for you to absorb this) slow down, examine the sites and links, and if you have any doubt, swipe to close or hit delete.

Earning Extra Cash May Haunt You

Many people need extra cash for the holidays, so they hit the job boards for a seasonal gig. Unfortunately, you must know how to avoid holiday scams even when looking for gainful employment. While many businesses genuinely seek extra help during the holiday season, fake job listings are intermixed with authentic offerings, and that’s where the trouble begins. Fraudulent job postings ask you for money upfront for training or your personal information to be entered to be selected for your chosen job.

The former will pass money into the hands of the fake poster. At the same time, the latter will give cybercriminals crucial personal information about themselves that they may exploit later. Either way, they win, and you lose. Instead, stay on reliable job sites, and be cautious of social media postings where many of these crimes occur. Go one step further with the job posted that is local. Go in person to the place of business and inquire about the job. You may be hired right then and there, on-site!

Elderly people unfortunately;ey account for the majority of scams during the holiday season.
(Photo by iStock Photo)

Tips To Stay Safe

Aside from the tips above to be safe from scammers, you can go further by following a few more tried and true guidelines. First, always pay by credit card, not a debit card. Credit card companies will cover most or all of the lost funds if you are scammed. However, using debit cards is more challenging to get your money back. Second, ensure the computer you use for online purchases or any money activities is well protected with the latest security features against malware and viruses.

Most of the battle is won if a scammer can’t get through your computer’s security. Third, strengthen your passwords on your computer, tablets, and phones. One, two, three, four is not a secure password (sorry to the thousands of people that use it.) Combining random digits, symbols, letters, and a more extended number of characters make the best passwords. Finally, it has to be repeated. Remember, if something is too good to be true, it probably is!

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