Here’s How to Stay Cyber Safe for Black Friday and Cyber Monday —
To avoid getting scammed this holiday season where fraudsters are looking to steal your money, identity and holiday cheer, never trust and always verify. Never pay by pre-paid card, give out your credit card or banking details, or wire money to someone you don’t know. Think before you click on links and make sure to check your accounts for any suspicious activity.
Here are some scams and cybercrime schemes to watch out for, and some timely consumer tips:
Gift Card Fraud
There is a fake $50 dollar Amazon gift card scam going around. You will see a pop-up ad or phishing email where you will be directed to a clone site and asked to provide personal information and credit card data. This site is only designed to steal your personal and financial data.
Gift card fraud always spikes during the holiday season. Fraudsters will copy the codes off the back of gift cards before they’re purchased and then wait for them to be activated to drain the funds.
Tip: Amazon doesn’t send e-mails that ask for your Social Security number, bank account information, PIN, or your Amazon.com password.
• If you see this email, delete.
• Try to purchase gift cards from behind store counters, and check pre-loaded cards to ensure they’re still loaded.
• Look at the back of the card to ensure the area with the protective scratch-off has not been tampered with.
• Don’t buy gift cards from third parties.
Fake Shopping Apps
Watch out for clone apps that may look like they are from your favorite retailer, but are really infected with malware and designed to steal your personal and financial data.
Tip: Avoid third-party apps, read reviews, and download apps from the official app store.
Phishing Emails and E-Card Scams
Beware of special online promotions. You think you are getting the discount of a lifetime or an exclusive offer, but this is a phishing attack. When you click on the link, you have just downloaded malware.
Tip: Don’t click on links or attachments via email or social media.
Holiday Travel Scams
Everyone makes plans to travel during the holidays to visit family and friends. Travelers need to beware of fake booking sites.
Tip: Don’t book through a third party, use an official site to book your travel. Make sure the site has https with the padlock and a legitimate customer service number.
• Avoid using public WiFi in hotels and be on high alert for hotel scams like a late night call from the “front desk” to verify your reservation or the pizza flyer scam, where you call the number on the flyer and give out your credit card information only to realize you just gave this to a fraudster who took a big slice out of your wallet.
Bogus Holiday Hiring Scams
During the busy holiday shopping season, people are looking for temporary or seasonal work and scammers prey on this. Beware of work-at-home and mystery-shopper ads. These are usually scams.
Tip: The key to landing a real seasonal job is to start early, research the company by going to their website, or checking with the BBB — and never give out your social security number to unsolicited callers.
Consumers like to get into the spirit of the season and donate to their favorite charity. Consumers need to be on high alert for fake charities that may call or send letters dialing for dollars.
Tip: Research the charity before donating by going to sites like charitynavigator.org, Guidestar.org or the Better Business Bureau. If you want to contribute, go to the official website or call the organization directly.
About the Author: Adam K. Levin is a consumer advocate with more than 30 years of experience, and is a nationally recognized expert on cybersecurity, privacy, identity theft, fraud, and personal finance. A former Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Mr. Levin is Chairman and founder of CyberScout and co-founder of Credit.com. Adam Levin is the author of book Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves. For more information, please visit https://adamlevin.com.