When the holidays are in full swing, fraudsters are not only looking to scam us out of a few bucks, but often our identities as well. Many scammers have shifted their efforts to online scams, so it’s important to be aware of some popular deceptive practices so you can avoid holiday scams and fraud.
Watch Out for Internet Fraud
- Look-alike websites: Check web addresses for anything out of the ordinary like extra letters or misspelled words. It is safer to use a credit card than a debit card when making online purchases. If your credit card is stolen or compromised, your credit card company will issue a credit to your account. If your debit card is compromised, your available cash is affected immediately and may take longer to recover.
- Phony charities: Scammers like to take advantage of consumers’ generosity during the holidays by creating fake charities or misusing the name of a well-known charity to get contributions sent to them. Avoid charity scams by researching on Wise Giving Alliance before making a donation.
- Unusual forms of payment: Be cautious of fake online shopping websites that require payments using prepaid debit cards, money orders, bitcoin, prepaid gift cards or wire transfers where you have little chance of recuperating your money. You many have more protection if you pay with credit cards, debit cards or PayPal.
- Free gift cards: Emails offering free gift cards are often just a scheme to get your personal information to steal your identity. Never give information that seems too personal or unnecessary for the transaction, such as your Social Security number.
- Fake shipping notifications: Con artists send bogus Amazon, FedEx and UPS emails containing fake shipping information with attachments or links to sites that will download malware on your computer to steal your identity and your passwords. Don’t be fooled by a holiday phishing scam.
Other Tips to Identify Fake Websites
- Avoid Internet scams by carefully reviewing website domain names, and be on the lookout for missing or additional letters or misspelled company names. Pay special attention to the last letters of URLs. Legitimate websites will usually end with .com, .org, .net or .gov.
- Look for “https” in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and for a padlock or key symbol. Never make credit card purchases or provide personal information on any website without an “https://” instead of “http://”.
- If you see extra words in the URL like “deals,” “sales” or “super discounts,” as well as extra characters, there’s a good chance the website is a scam.
How to Report Online Crimes
If you believe you are a victim of an Internet-related crime, file an online frauds complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3), the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau. Complaints against foreign companies can be filed with EConsumer.
Building awareness is the first step to protect yourself from holiday scams and frauds. Monitor your transactions and statements carefully by downloading the free Hawaii State FCU Mobile App and sign up for transaction alerts. Hawaii State FCU also has resources available to assist members with consumer checking accounts and their families resolve identity theft cases.