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How to Protect Your Finances From Holiday Shopping Scams

How to Protect Your Finances From Holiday Shopping Scams Blog Image
Social Media Internet Scams Fraud Blog
By: Bryan Watkinson and Veronica Perez
AVP of Risk Operations and Manager Loss Prevention

November 15, 2023

The holiday season is filled with family time, happiness, and gift-giving. However, with an influx in gift-buying comes an increase in the potential for shopping scams. Scammers double down this time of year to target excited shoppers looking for gifts for their friends and family online. It is important to stay vigilant and aware when you are doing your holiday shopping this year. With the safety and wellbeing of our members at the heart of what we do, we wanted to share some tips on how to ensure that you shop securely this holiday season and avoid falling victim to fraud.

Deals too good to be true? They probably are

Holiday deals can be enticing, especially when you are looking to save money and make it through the holidays on a budget. It is important for your financial health to cut costs where you can, but be wary of deals that seem too good to be true during the holiday season. Scammers are known to set up fake websites offering high-end products at a fraction of the price. You should also be cautious when purchasing from social media sites or online marketplaces for similar reasons. To avoid these scams, you should pay attention to the legitimacy of the website URL and ensure that it is a secure link, the website is spelled correctly, and any payment forms are insured or trustworthy providers. Legitimate businesses will always give an option to pay with a debit or credit card.

Keep an eye out for phishing emails and texts

With the increasing shift to online shopping in recent years, there has been a surge in phishing scams. In-person shopping can help you avoid these altogether, but if you aren’t able to make it to the stores this holiday season, it is important to be aware of what a phishing scam might look like. Scammers send emails and text messages that look very similar to those from legitimate companies, luring you to click on links or attachments. Follow these rules to protect yourself:

  • Do not click on unfamiliar links - always hover your mouse over the link first to see where it directs you and check the URL accuracy. Sometimes scammers will use a link address similar to that of a popular store, but one letter off. Visit the company's actual website to confirm before clicking on a link.
  • Verify any communications you receive - this is particularly important when you receive communications claiming they are from your bank, credit card company or credit union, regarding a transaction you didn’t make. Instead of responding, call your banking institution directly from the phone number on the website to verify that it was them.

Protect your personal information and use secure networks

With access to artificial intelligence (AI), scammers have become very convincing. They might pose as bank representatives or someone you are familiar with to convince you to confirm personal information over the phone. Keep in mind that your actual banking institution will never ask you to give full personal information such as your PIN number, passwords, social security number or card numbers. Another thing you can do to protect your personal information is to monitor your bank accounts closely during the holidays, particularly around the times when you online shop.

A common mistake people make when online shopping is using public Wi-Fi networks. These networks are unsecured and a goldmine for cybercriminals. Ensure you are only shopping through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and regularly update your technology so you can have access to the latest security patches and guardrails.

The holiday season should be a time of celebration and joy. You should be able to feel safe and relaxed as you shop for gifts for your loved ones. Paying close attention to these key areas and staying informed can help you stay confident when you shop and enjoy the festivities without the added stress. If you have any questions or concerns about your accounts, don’t be afraid to touch base with your local Affinity branch.

This information is for informational purposes only, is intended to provide general guidance, and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person's circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments regarding the matters related to your condition.