Beware of Holiday Scams

CUSTER COUNTY–It’s the Holiday Season. While many of us are trying to spread good cheer and kindness to others, scammers have a few other things in mind. This time of year is the busiest month for on-line shopping, and we would like to help stop the bad guys from getting rich off your money. Here are a few tips to help keep you safe this Holiday Season:

“The market has really swung to online shopping instead of walking around and going into places. People kind of take it for granted–they just think they can trust it as much as a retail store and you can’t really trust what’s out there,” Stringham said.

Keep a close eye on your credit card and bank accounts. Watch for any unexpected and strange charges that might appear. If you think you there are any fraudulent charges on your account, stay calm and call your bank or credit card company. Shred your current card and have them send you a new one.

Don’t blindly trust emails from retailers. Never click on links and open attachments directly in emails from sources you can’t verify. Offers should always be in plain sight in an email. Clicking on links may take you to a fake site that looks like the real one. Go directly to the site in your browser instead.

Be diligent while browsing. Watch for ads and popups that sound too good to be true. Most of these will take you to malicious sites instead of the “best deal ever.” Even “legitimate” free offers tend to sign you up for subscription services that you will be charged for in the weeks and months to come.

Be especially suspicious of gift card scams. They can be a perfect holiday gift, but gift card scams are skyrocketing. Only buy gift cards from trusted sources. On a side note, remember when your taxes are due, the IRS does not actually want you to settle your payments in gift cards.

Never shop over public Wi-Fi. You cannot know if these connections are secure and who is listening. Only shop using a secure, trusted networks. If you have no other way to shop, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your traffic.

Do not reuse passwords. Each online account you have should use a different hard-to-break password. Use a password manager to help create them and keep them straight. Reusing passwords is one of the quickest ways to be hacked.

Beware of e-skimmers. Legitimate shopping websites may be infected with e-skimmers, which is a way for criminals to pull your personal information from the payment screen of a website. You can mitigate the risk by using well-known, reputable, online merchants. And always make sure the site has https on the payment screen.

Be safe using your debit card online. Load your debit card as the default in mobile wallets, like PayPal or Google Pay to keep from entering your debit card information on multiple sites.

“The biggest piece of advice is don’t click a link and don’t open anything from anyone you don’t personally know and you don’t expect it coming. That’s the easiest way to stay safe and don’t trust anything for free,” Stringham said.

Contact your bank for advice on how to protect your personal information this Holiday Season.

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