Are you among the 70% of Americans planning to do most of their holiday shopping online? Are you taking advantage of reopened stores and lifted restrictions to shop in person? No matter how or where you’re planning to shop this holiday season, your Liberty Bay experts are dedicated to keeping you safe.
Follow these tips to protect your finances from scams during the holidays and all year long.
Do your research
Did you know:
- Over half of all Americans plan to shop only the sales this year
- 59% of Americans would prefer a donation to charity in their name instead of a gift.
But scammers often take advantage of people searching for bargains and getting into a generous spirit, especially during the holidays.
To protect yourself from holiday scams, do your research! If you’re bargain hunting online:
- Decide if you can trust a new company or unfamiliar brand. Look for contact information, credible reviews, and website security credentials.
- Read reviews with caution. See if someone you know has bought from the seller and compare reviews between websites.
- Redeem offers through trusted sources, such as cashback deals from your credit card company or referral offers from friends.
- Check the terms of the deal and the seller, including delivery dates, shipping fees, refund policies, tracking options, and more.
- Pay by credit card and keep receipts to request refunds and protect yourself from fraud.
- Use the Better Business Bureau’s scam tracker to identify or report scams.
If you’re giving to charities:
- Before you donate to a charity, make sure the name is an exact match and not a scammer’s lookalike.
- Give to local charities or organizations you are familiar with personally.
- Use the Global Giving Checklist to ensure every dollar you donate has the most impact possible on causes and communities that matter to you.
- Understand who you’re donating to and how your money gets used. Check resources such as the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Veterans Association accreditation index, and Charity Watch.
At times like these, every dollar counts. Doing your research will help you protect your financial health from scams.
Notice small details
It can be easy to lose the details and click before thinking during the holiday rush. However, this is a surefire way to click a bad link or share your personal information accidentally.
For example, scammers know that you’re likely expecting many packages during the holidays. They may send fake email and text shipping updates pretending to be well-known shipping companies.
Similarly, scammers may create fake emails with amazing deals to tempt you to click links. With any scams, if you click links or enter information, you may download malware or share private details by mistake.
Take some time to read carefully and notice small details, such as deals that are too good to be true, spelling errors in email domains or content, and more. Taking these precautions may cost you a small amount of time now but save you a huge amount of headache and money later.
Be careful with gift cards
Gift card frauds are a common type of scam that preys on the convenience of gift cards to trick you into sending them money. The AARP reports that a quarter of scam reports come from people who lost money by paying with a gift card, losing $840 per person on average.
If you are thinking about buying a gift card during the holidays, keep the following in mind:
- Scammers may lurk on resale or auction websites and ask you to pay with a gift card by sending them the card number and PIN. If you’re going to risk buying from this type of website, pay with a credit card and remember to check seller reviews!
- Genuine businesses and government agencies will never ask you to pay them using gift cards. Friends and loved ones are also unlikely to suddenly contact you in distress, asking for money through gift cards. This kind of request is a huge red flag for fraud.
- Scammers can use replacement scratch-off stickers to corrupt gift cards displayed in stores. If you’re buying a gift card in-store, ask for one at or behind the register, where a store associate is more likely to have kept an eye on it.
- Watch out for fake giveaways. If you must “claim” a gift card prize by clicking a link, answering survey questions, or providing personal information, there’s a strong chance a scammer is targeting you.
Exercise caution with gift cards to avoid losing money, downloading malware, or having your private information misused or sold.
Protect your personal information
While protecting your personal information is an essential part of all these tips, it deserves a shoutout of its own. Protecting your personal information can take many forms:
- Only input personal or credit card information on a secure network in a private place, not over public Wi-Fi.
- Do not share your credit or debit card with anyone, even trusted friends or family members. This includes inputting your card information on a device that isn’t yours or allowing others to use devices with your information saved.
- Ensure websites use secure technology, including secure checkout methods, URLs that begin with “https,” and the locked padlock signal next to the web address.
The modern world offers many conveniences, but those conveniences also come with potential liabilities. Take every precaution possible to protect your personal information, especially during the busy holiday shopping season.
Avoid shopping with cash
Credit, debit, and gift cards have become more common than cash. But if you plan to do any shopping with cash, try to avoid carrying too much at once.
Credit cards have robust, federally mandated consumer protections, so you will have some peace of mind if your credit card is stolen or if there’s any fraudulent activity on your account. However, if your cash gets stolen, you’re unlikely to recover that money.
We recommend using card payments whenever possible. Take the bare minimum if you go shopping in person to avoid getting pickpocketed or mugged. If you do have your wallet or bag stolen, having fewer possessions with you can minimize your losses.
Track your packages
Know when your packages are arriving so you can avoid package thieves. You could set up alerts through mail carriers or put up a sign asking delivery drivers to hand you packages directly.
If you can’t be home during delivery, consider having your packages and mail delivered to a neighbor’s address, sent to your workplace, or held at the post office so you can pick them up yourself. This way, you won’t have to worry about theft when you’re not around.
Track your spending
Setting a holiday spending limit or checking your account activity during the holidays can help you catch suspicious activity right away – or keep your spending in check if you’re on a budget!
The power of technology is on your side. Use it to check your account balances, notify your financial institution, set spending limits and alerts, and more. Keeping a close eye on your finances is crucial during the holidays, but it’s an essential part of your financial health all year long.
Were these tips helpful? Are you looking for more ways to keep your sanity and financial health during the holidays? Your LBCU experts have you covered. Check out this list of other resources:
- Read more articles from our Beacon Brief
- Educate yourself through our FA$Ttrack program
- Track your spending with our Money Manager
- Open a credit card with an excellent rewards program
- Get overdraft protection on your accounts
- Minimize risks through CardValet for your debit card
Get in touch with us anytime to learn more.