The holidays are a time for a lot of gift giving—and scammers know that. Most of them work year-round, preparing to bank on the increase of online payments and web usage during the holiday shopping season and Boxing Day.
Being scammed can often mean losing money that can’t be recovered—and more seriously, having your identity stolen. It’s a devastating and time-consuming misfortune to experience.
This guide will help you protect yourself by knowing what common scams during the holidays look like, and how to verify legitimate businesses.
Overall Online Security Measures.
Taking the time to rethink your overall online security before the holidays could minimize the possibility that your accounts will be compromised.
Here are three basic steps you can take:
- Use a unique password for all your accounts. If that seems like too much effort, at least create unique and hard-to-guess passwords for your financial accounts. A password manager could make this easier to set up.
Read our guide: Creating the perfect password.
- Turn on 2FA. Two-factor authentication (2FA) should no longer be just an option. Consider making it mandatory to protect online accounts from hackers. Gone are the days when having a strong password was enough.
Read our article: Adding a mandatory layer of security to your accounts.
Package Delivery Scams
During the pandemic, millions of Canadians have turned to online shopping. Most of us are used to tracking our packages via email or through text messages—new habits which scammers are using to their advantage.
Beware of delivery notification scam emails and texts. They look like they’re from a legitimate mail or package courier, and include a fake tracking link. The link will lead you to a website to enter personal information, or it will install malware, a software designed to gain unauthorized access, on your phone or computer. The malware will then start stealing your information.
These scams may also request money in return to deliver a package, such as a customs fee or tax.
Staying Safe During Holiday Shopping.
You should online shop with reputable and trustworthy retailers that provide an actual street address and phone number. If you cannot find return/exchange and privacy policies, contact information, an address or customer service details, avoid shopping on that platform, and never underestimate the power of looking for online reviews of said platforms on other websites such as Reddit.
Always be aware of the we address in your browser as well. Scammers love creating lookalike pages from trusted retailers that can fool someone who is not paying attention. As a rule of thumb, if a deal appears too good to be true, it often is.
Finally, always use your credit card: Be wary of businesses and individuals that request payment by wire transfer, prepaid debit or gift cards, cash only or through third parties.
Identifying Fake Charities.
Cyber criminals love taking advantage of people’s generosity during the holidays. Look out for emails and phone calls for charitable causes. Never make donations through the phone; Instead, research said charity and find the website with a legitimate phone number or online donation option when you’re ready to donate.
During charity phone calls, scammers will rush people into making a donation, or trick them by thanking them for a donation they never paid for and then asking for payment. They will also use vague and sentimental claims while asking for a donation, but won’t detail how they’ll use your money.
Always research any charity before you donate, and never give money by gift card, or wire transfer.
Speaking of Gift Cards…
This year, many people will be turning to gift cards rather than purchasing items as gifts—and scammers are taking note.
“Scammers love gift cards because they are untraceable, and there’s no way to recover the money once a scammer has the card details,” says Jenny Grounds, CMO of Cybercrime Support Network.
Common gift card scams include scammers telling people to pay a fee with a gift card to avoid being in trouble with the government or pretending to be a family member or friend who needs the funds for a specific store.
Gift cards are the most prevalent payment method for scams, with about one in four people who report fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) saying they paid with a gift card.
The FTC says there’s one key rule to keep in mind: Whenever someone demands to be paid with a gift card, it’s a scam.