While you count down the days until you can unwrap presents, criminals count the ways they can take your money. Thieves often act like innocent elves to trick you into giving them your bank account details and other personal information. But you can stop them when you know what to look for. Stay alert to these five scams to keep your holidays merry and bright.
1. Holiday charity scams
Fake charities aren’t new, but there are always more of them during the holiday season. Thieves hope to take advantage of your generous heart by using names that sound similar to legitimate nationally-recognized organizations. Some will even claim to work with genuine non-profit groups that feed the hungry or clothe the homeless.
Be wary of giving money to a charity that calls you on the phone, especially if the caller is giving you a high-pressure sales pitch or requiring your donation immediately. Also, watch out for social media advertising or emails that are not legitimate. Scammers can be pretty tricky here, and it can be difficult to tell legitimate from scam. If you want to support your favorite cause, visit their secure online donations page or call the phone number on their website.
2. Gift cards as payment scams
Everyone loves to receive gift cards. Even scammers have them at the top of their Christmas list. Be on the lookout for companies that only accept gift card payments. This is an easy way for criminals to take the money and never send you the product. Once the physical cards are mailed to a P.O. box or the card numbers are given to someone over the phone, there’s little you can do to recover the money. Gift cards are almost impossible to trace.
If anyone insists that you buy gift cards and use them to pay for personal or business transactions, walk away.
You may think that when a padlock symbol and “https” appear in the URL of a website’s checkout page, the information you enter is secure. But scammers have found a way to steal the payment details you enter on the shopping cart order page. It’s called e-skimming. This is a newer form of cybertheft. It occurs when hackers load software onto a website that allows them to steal your payment details as you enter them.
To protect yourself, try using mobile wallet payment systems, such as ApplePay®, Samsung Pay or Google Pay™. These provide better protection since they use one-time authentication tokens, instead of actual account numbers, to process transactions. Also, make sure you keep a close eye on your accounts using our mobile banking app.
4. Fake seasonal jobs
Many retailers hire temporary help during the busy holiday season. And scammers know that many people want these jobs so they can earn extra income to pay for gifts and other expenses.
These crooks will create websites that look like real job opportunities, but they require you to provide personal information that real employers don’t. Some of them will ask about your mortgage debt or household income before “revealing” details about the alleged job. They use the information you give them to create lists that they sell to other online thieves.
Be wary of any company that requires you to submit personal information that’s not typically requested on a job application. Apply for jobs at a retailer’s website, and type in the URL yourself. Don’t follow advertised links, as they could lead you to a fake website.
5. Social media scams
Legitimate companies are using social media advertising to promote huge savings and last-minute holiday deals for online shoppers. Scammers also use social media to promote fake discounts. Sometimes, clicking on a link sends you to an online survey that collects your personal information. Then you get sent to a website to redeem your offer. Weeks later, you find out that they processed your payment but had no intention of delivering any products. They’ve stolen your money!
Avoid this scam by doing some research before you buy from an online business based on a social media post or advertisement. Enter the company name plus the word “scam” or “complaint” into your search engine.
Regardless of the time of year, always check your credit card and bank account statements for charges you don’t recognize. Download the Bank of Missouri app and set up alerts for every time a purchase is made with your debit card. These steps can help you keep your money safe and your holidays filled with joy.
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