With the holiday season approaching, the focus shifts to gift-giving and holiday shopping. However, the festive cheer also attracts scammers looking to exploit unsuspecting buyers and sellers. According to the FBI, the 2022 holiday season saw nearly 12,000 victims reporting losses exceeding $73 million due to online scams. In this blog, Sunset Finance provides some insights on how to avoid online shopping scams and cyber threats.
Common Holiday Shopping Scams and Fraud Schemes
The National Retail Federation projects record-breaking holiday spending of around $960 billion, making it an enticing time for scammers. Here are some of the most common online scams and fraud schemes to be aware of:
Scam: Deceptive emails advertising sought-after items from unverified sources. Fake emails that look like they are coming from a well-known retailer.
Solution: Verify the sender's legitimacy; avoid clicking on links or providing personal information.
Untrusted Websites and Social Media Ads:
Scam: Unrealistic discounts and bargains on untrusted websites or social media posts/ads.
Solution: Shop from reputable websites and verify deals with trusted retailers.
Fake Online Surveys:
Scam: Online surveys designed to steal personal information.
Solution: Avoid participating in unsolicited surveys; protect personal details in online forms.
Holiday Pet Adoption Scams:
Scam: Fraudulent pet adoption sales online to get your bank information or a lump sum of money.
Solution: Confirm the pet’s existence through in-person visits or video chats; use reputable breeders or Humane Societies.
Unprotected Payment Applications:
Scam: Sellers requesting payment through unprotected online methods.
Solution: Use secure payment platforms; avoid sellers or websites with suspicious payment requests.
Scam: Unexpected subscriptions leading to unauthorized charges.
Solution: Read and understand subscription terms; monitor financial statements for unusual activities.
Social Media Ad Scams:
Scam: Fraudulent advertisements on social media platforms.
Solution: Avoid purchasing directly from ads; verify the company on its official website or trusted retailers.
Package Shipping Theft:
Scam: Fake package tracking codes being used by fraudulent sellers to make buyers think they have made a successful purchase and their package is in transit to delay fraudulent charge reports.
Solution: Always check the retail site’s legitimacy and shipping policies. Opt for shipping insurance, and verify any purchase tracking codes directly with the trusted retailer quickly after purchasing.
Scam: Fake online charities seeking donations.
Solution: Stick to well-known charities or charities in your local community; research the charity online and avoid immediate demands for payment.
Vacation Rental Scams:
Scam: Fraudulent vacation rentals and discounted travel offers are advertised online.
Solution: Book your travel through reputable travel sites, and consider travel insurance.
General Tips for Safe Online Transactions:
Here are some helpful tips from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center on how to keep yourself and your finances safe when making online purchases during the holiday season and throughout the year.
- Verify websites with "https://" and a locked padlock icon.
- Look beyond flashy websites; check credentials through reviews and the Better Business Bureau.
- Be cautious of wire transfers, virtual currency, gift cards, or cash as payment methods.
- Use a dedicated credit card for online purchases; check statements regularly and avoid saving payment information.
- Limit public Wi-Fi usage and keep anti-virus/malware software updated.
- Avoid clicking on unsolicited email links and providing personal or financial information.
If you fall victim to a scam, there's no need for shame, but quick action is crucial:
- Contact the retailer or bank immediately.
- Utilize credit cards with zero fraud liability.
- Consider signing up for a credit monitoring service.
- Report scams to regulatory authorities, such as the FBI, FTC, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
A Secure and Joyous Holiday Season
As you gear up for holiday shopping, remember that awareness is your greatest defense against scams. Sunset Finance is here to help when unexpected things happen.
If an online shopping scam has already impacted you, you’re not alone. It can take time to rebound, but if you have a professional on your side, you can weather the storm much more quickly.
To ensure you’re able to keep up with your bills and other financial commitments after a scam, consider starting with a small installment loan from a trusted company like Sunset Finance.
A small installment loan can keep you from defaulting on your financial obligations and help you maintain a spotless credit record, even after being hit by cybercriminals.
You’ll also want to contact all of your financial institutions to alert them about what happened. This way, they can provide you with insights into steps and safeguards you can take to avoid any similar situation occurring in the future.
We encourage you to stay vigilant, adopt protective measures, and report any suspicious activity. Safe shopping, and may your holidays be joyous and scam-free!
Free Personal Finance Resources
If you would like more resources on personal finances and budgeting, check out these resources:
- For more great information on all things credit-related, head to our 'Basics of Credit' reference page.
- Read about How To Adjust Your Budget For Rising Prices
- Download our Free Simple Monthly Budgeting Worksheet
- Check out our online resource center for more budgeting basics and more
- Learning to manage a budget becomes a relatively simple task with a bit of practice.
- Take a look at The Basics of Budgeting to get started.