How to Avoid Online Scams During the Holidays

A woman holding her credit card as she does some holiday shopping online using her laptop.

Posted November 1, 2021

The holiday season often marks an increase in fraud attempts and scams. Fraudsters often try to take advantage of the increase in consumers’ online presence during the holidays, inventing new ways to trick you into handing over valuable personal information. Fortunately, there are simple things that you can do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft or a holiday scam.

Before you start your online holiday shopping, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some tips to consider when you shop online:

•  Be wary of fraudulent shipping notifications: One method that scammers use to try to gain your personal information is by sending fraudulent shipping notifications. These notifications are often sent via email or text, and may appear to come from FedEx, UPS, or the US Postal Service. The notifications tell you that an item you’ve purchased is ready to ship, but that your shipping preferences need to be updated. Clicking on the link or attachment provided can result in a virus or malware on your device that can steal your identity. If in doubt, don’t click on any links. Confirm with the shipping company using a website or phone number you know is real – do not use the information that the email or text provides. Most importantly, don’t share your personal information with anyone.

•  Research the seller: Shop with reputable companies that you’re familiar with. Check consumer reviews about their reputation and customer service, and make sure to thoroughly research shipping, refund or return policies in case you need to return or exchange an item. Make sure the company offers contact information or customer service options in case of any issues.

•  Look for secure checkout: Before you put in your payment information, double check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” means that the site is secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter your information.

•  Use caution when purchasing gift cards: Gift cards are a popular item, but make sure you only purchase them from sources you know and trust. Think twice about buying gift cards from online auction sites, to avoid purchasing fake or stolen cards. If you purchase a physical gift card, carefully inspect the card and report the card to the store if anything looks scratched off or damaged.

Hawaii State FCU also suggests that you carefully monitor your account and credit card statements and report any suspicious activity or transactions immediately. If you find yourself a victim of any type of fraud or scam, contact your financial institution, notify your local police, and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission, to help them in their fight against fraudulent practices. For more tips on avoiding scams and additional resources, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.

About HSFCU Marketing

Hawaii State FCU firmly believes that financial education empowers people to make smarter decisions throughout their lives, resulting in a better financial future. We do this by providing useful financial tools such as educational blogs, online courses and free webinars on a variety of topics including planning for retirement, debt management and buying a home. For more information on these and other resources, including free financial calculators and budget-friendly recipes, visit www.HawaiiStateFCU.com and click on “Financial Health.”

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