The holiday season is a wonderful time to give and receive gifts. But beware! You need to check your list twice to make sure you haven’t fallen victim to a holiday scam.
It’s the time of year when Americans open their wallets to bring joy to family and friends. Americans are expected to spend an average of $781 on holiday gifts, up $77 from 2013, according to a Gallup spending forecast released in October.
This massive spending spree is good news for American retailers, but it also brings holiday cheer to cybercriminals. As Americans do more of their gift shopping online, they expose themselves to more risk.
When it comes to phishing scams and malware campaigns, the Internet is an equal-opportunity hazard: Cybercriminals target everyone. The criminal who tries to empty your bank account or steal your identity may not even live in the U.S.
Seasonal cybercrime can lead to identity theft and financial loss. Here are some do’s and don’ts to protect your identity and money.
- Click on an email link even though the email appears to come from your bank, credit card company or a business you deal with frequently. The email may look innocuous, but clicking on the link may enable a program to spread malicious software onto your computer.
- Provide personal information on forms attached to emails. You would never hand out your Social Security number or valuable information about your bank accounts to a stranger on the street. Unsolicited emails are basically the same thing.
- Follow links from emails, even though the sender may look OK. A legitimate-looking email that asks you to confirm shipping information for items you supposedly ordered might hijack you to a fraudulent website. Instead, key in the retailer’s web address to make sure you’re accessing the correct site.
- Check your list twice. Go through your credit card and bank statements regularly, especially around the holidays. Look out for suspicious credit card charges or unexplained withdrawals. Immediately contact your financial institution or credit card issuer if you suspect something is wrong.
- Use your credit card when shop online. Credit cards offer better protection against loss than debit cards.
- Contact your local law enforcement agency if you suspect you have been scammed or that your identity has been stolen. You may also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.