During the holiday season, we can only expect digital fraud attempts and online scam rates to shoot up. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in more and more people shopping online rather than going to brick-and-mortar stores. More number of online consumers means more attempts of fraud. And more fraud attacks will naturally result in more people succumbing to these online scams during the holiday season.
Why is modern fraud so effective?
With banks and financial institutions ramping up their security measures and including Artificial Intelligence in their fraud monitoring systems, you would expect digital fraud to be stopped right in its tracks. But how do online scams still succeed, especially in the holiday season?
Look at it this way. Anti-fraud measures are a reaction to stopping fraud. But for fraudsters, scams are a means of livelihood. This means they are more determined every day to scam you out of your money. Modern fraud is determined, relentless, and always thinking of new ways to defraud consumers. This is why it is so effective.
So, what can you do to keep yourself safe especially this holiday season? The best way is to identify fraud a mile away. Here are a few things to look out for as suggested by some of the best in the anti-fraud industry.
Messages that ask you to act right away
This is one of the biggest online scams to watch out for in the holiday season. Almost every email or text message or pop-up you get asking you to act urgently is likely to be a scam. The minute you click on the link provided on the messaging, it will take you to a website that captures your personal and financial information.
Another type of financial scam is where you get an email or a pop-up telling you that your bank account or credit/debit card, or social media account has been blocked or will be blocked for security reasons. You will also be told that if you want to unblock your bank account, card, or social media account, or prevent it from happening, you will have to take the help of a technician or call their “customer service” number. And this help will come at a pretty high cost.
In reality, this payment will be for a fake service that does nothing for you. In fact, there will not be anything wrong with your bank or social media accounts or your card in the first place. Do not fall for such tricks.
A good way to identify this type of scam is to look at the URL of the sender. The message will usually be from someone claiming to be from a major company such as Costco, Amazon, PayPal, etc. Always check the URL of the sender. Google it and see what turns up. In most cases, it will be a fake URL.
You are told to use gift cards to pay
If you get a message asking you to pay using a gift card, run away right away. It is definitely a scam. More and more people today are getting duped of their money through gift cards. As per a comment from the FBI, about 25% of online scams today are due to gift card-related payments. this has mainly to do with the fact that payments made using gift cards simply cannot be traced.
Just keep in mind that no genuine agency will ever ask you to pay for their services using a gift card. So, if you get a call saying that your relative or child in another country is in jail and needs you to pay the bail amount, especially through a gift card, do not fall for it. Once the scammer has your gift card details, they have complete control over the money in it. There is no way you can trace their actions after that.
You’ve won a prize, sweepstakes or a giveaway
Under normal circumstances, if you get an email saying that you’ve won a lottery you never entered or some sweepstakes, you’ll be wary of it. But given that the Holiday season is coming up, you just might be tempted to check it out and see if you’ve really won something.
Of course, there are plenty of genuine freebies and promotions going on at the moment. Then how do you distinguish a real promotion from a fake one?
The best way is to Google it and check. If the email you got is a real one, there will be information about it online. People will be talking about it and it will turn up on Google searches. Brands and stores will often have promotions during the holidays.
What to look out for
No matter which brand you get an email from, always make sure you search for the details online. Here are a few things you can look out for:
- A real promotion will always address you by name and never by a generic greeting such as “Dear user”, etc. Brands personalize greetings to connect better with their customers. A generic greeting might be a scam.
- A legitimate company will never ask you for account details such as your password or other security information. If you do get asked for such information, do not oblige, it’s a scammer.
- A genuine promotion will never ask you for your financial information either. Make sure you don’t share anything related to your debit or credit card or bank account.
- Also, make sure you don’t share any other information such as shipping details, or agree to install something on your computer, etc. These are never entertained or initiated by legitimate companies.
Stay safe this Holiday season. Shop smart, make use of the offers and discounts available, and keep an eye out for scammers.