Scammers are out in force during the holidays. Here’s how to protect yourself
Put scammers on hold.
Spam phone calls are on the rise: Nearly 85% of people have received a call they believed to be a scam, up from 73% in the same 2016 study, according to a recent survey by data and phone solutions company First Orion. And phone scammers — who already make more than 2.4 billion calls a month — are “getting trickier for upcoming holidays,” with scams designed to trick you into picking up the phone more often, concludes First Orion.
Phone scammers aren’t the only people trying to steal your money in the coming weeks. Online credit card fraud also rises during the holidays — from Thanksgiving to the end of last year fraud attempts on digital retail sales jumped 31%, ACI Worldwide found — especially on major shopping days like Cyber Monday. And certain types of email scams are also common this season.
To avoid getting taken for a ride, here are 10 things you can do to protect yourself from scammers this holiday season.
Don’t pick up your phone at this time of day. The main time that scammers are targeting you is on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:00-6:00 pm, First Orion found. You are least likely to get a scam call on Sunday.
Watch out for these popular phone scams. In general, one of the fastest-growing phone scams is called “neighbor spoofing,” which involves calling you from a number similar to your own (typically it has your area code and the first three digits of your phone number) so you think it’s a neighbor giving you a ring. During the holidays, these scammers may seem to be soliciting money for charity — the First Orion survey noted that 40% of people are more willing to donate around the holidays — but in reality are scamming you out of money. Cruise and vacation and IRS scams are always popular, including during the holidays.
Some simple ways to avoid phone scams include not picking up (follow this advice even if the number seems familiar), not giving out any personal info over the phone, using robocall blocking apps, and more, writes Moneyish reporter Nicole Lyn Pesce.
Understand the subtle way scammers create fake websites. Fraudsters often set up websites that look legit but may be fronts to sell you stolen goods and steal your credit card information. Forter CEO Michael Reitblat told Moneyish that the signs a site isn’t legit are often subtle, like in this fictional example: If a retailer’s name was Hill and its legit site was Hill.com, the fraudulent site might add and “s” to the end of that. Unsure if a site is legit? Here’s a browser extension that can give you an overview of a site, as well as reviews and traffic.
Beware who you give your credit card info to. Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst, told Moneyish that one of the biggest ways you can prevent someone stealing your card number is to beware who you give it to. That means that if you get an email or call asking for your card information for something, even if it seems legit, call the company directly (look up their number on their website, don’t use the one provided in the email) to ask if they sent the email or made the call.
Be on the lookout for these email scams. Popular email scams during the holidays often involve what look like emails about an order you made (confirming it, saying there was an issue or a problem with delivery), but are often phishing scams; you can read more about these and how to avoid them here. This helpful guide shows you other ways to avoid email scams.
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