Dollar Scholar Asks: How Do I Avoid Holiday Shopping Scams? | Jobs Reply


This is an excerpt from Dollar Scholar, the Money magazine where editor Julia Glum teaches you the MUST-KNOW modern money lessons. Don’t miss the next issue! Subscribe at money.com/subscribe and join our community of 160,000+ scholars.


Admit it : I’ve bought, said I don’t have any Christmas presents, and it’s stressing me out. I plan to buy gifts online, but even that feels full. It’s going to be a sad dash to get a gift for everyone on my list in the little time I have. What if I get cheated because my guard is down?

Take a deep breath, Julia.

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How can I buy my holiday safely?

A legitimate concern. In a recent survey from Iris Powered by Generali, an identity and internet security platform, 71% of respondents admitted they are concerned holiday shopping will put their privacy at risk.

“Consumers consider protecting their personal and financial data a top priority this holiday season, and for good reason,” CEO Paige Schaffer said in a news release.

I’m already seeing reports of phishing attempts, like this one where criminals pretended to be companies like Delta and Costco, advertised fake holiday specials and stole their credit card information. Amazon has taken down 20,000 phishing websites that sent fake order confirmation emails and texts asking customers to CALL URGENTLY (and, when they did, steal their Social Security numbers).

In a cruel way, the best time of the year is one of the best fruits for the bad guys, says Grace Hoyt, who works in global account security cooperation at Google. Basic math: “More people online equals a bigger threat environment for attackers,” he tells me via email.

Also, attackers look to strike when I’m vulnerable or busy… which, let’s be honest, I apparently am.

“While you are busy this season, you may be opening new store accounts [or] there are many opportunities to open emails that offer hot deals,” he said. “That’s the perfect place for an attacker to launch a scam or encourage you to download a malicious app while you’re distracted.”

To protect myself, I need a multi-pronged approach to 1) the sites I visit, and 2) the communications I receive.

When I’m navigating a vendor’s website, Hoyt says I should look for clues that indicate whether it’s safe or dangerous. Google has some of these built in, like the “trusted store” badge on the page – which means the seller provides strong customer service – and the little lock icon in the Chrome URL bar – which means my connection is secure.

The Better Business Bureau, or BBB, recommends that I check the URL for typos to make sure I’m on the store’s original site. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little background check, perhaps, by searching the name of the website and the words “scam” or “reviews” and see what kind of results come up.

Once I’m on a web page, I’ll want to look out for bad grammar, sloppy design or a lack of communication skills. And I shouldn’t get caught up in flashy ads for low prices: If a deal seems too good to be true,…it probably is too good to be true.

“These are red flags that can save you from becoming a victim of a scam,” Hoyt said.

When checking out, the BBB urges people to “use secure and traceable transaction and payment methods.” The bureau has conducted actual research showing that customers who pay with credit cards or PayPal are less likely to be defrauded than those who choose Zelle or prepaid debit cards.

(Using a credit card also means I’ll have built-in protection under the Fair Billing Act, which limits my liability for unauthorized charges and allows me to dispute transactions when I feel I didn’t receive the goods or services I paid for. .)

Besides the site, I have to be careful with incoming messages, too.

Amazon discourages dealing with any phone numbers I don’t recognize and avoids suspicious links, even if it’s in an email saying something is wrong with one of my orders. Just because it got through my spam filter doesn’t mean it’s real.

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An important point

It’s brutal out here. To protect my data while shopping online, I should exercise my discretion when visiting websites, check for red flags, pay by credit card and avoid being a victim of unsolicited texts/emails.

“Cybercriminals know how much we rely on the Internet during the holiday season and are using that time to try to prey on consumers when they are most vulnerable,” Hoyt said. “During the holidays, be careful.”