During the holiday shopping season, shoppers cheer, “We’re going to SAVE big bucks!” But what they may not realize is bad guys are cheering, “We’re going to MAKE big bucks.” Yup, that darn Grinch is always lurking especially during festive times. How can you make sure your shopping experience is merry and bright? Don’t get ripped off by these common scams, risks and red flags:
Gift Card Scams:
This is a huge problem consumer watchdogs are hearing a lot about lately! Michael Gier from Protect Yourself TV warns: Only buy gift cards from the stores themselves, do not ever buy from an individual selling them because they're usually stolen empty gift cards that were never activated at the register.
If you’re purchasing at the store, buy gift cards that people don't have access to. Do not buy from the grab-and-go racks at stores. Thieves can scan the cards on the racks and get the codes on the back of the cards. Then when you pay and get the card activated, they now have a way to use it and spend the money on it.
Email Shopping Schemes:
An email from your favorite store just popped up in your inbox that says 75% off today only. Should you click on it? Joe Reynolds, product manager for Identity Fraud at Travelers Insurance, says NO! “Delete, without replying to, any suspicious email requests. Hackers and spammers often impersonate retailers to lure personal financial information. If there is any reason to doubt the authenticity of an email message from a company you do business with, don’t click on links or buttons in the message. Instead, type the Internet address of the company into your browser, log on as you usually do, and examine your account information. You can also always call a company to ask if an email is legitimate.”
Joe reminds you to also log off completely when you’re finished with online transactions. “Closing or minimizing your browser or typing a new Web address may not be enough to prevent others from accessing your online information. Instead, click “log off” to terminate your online session. In addition, don’t allow your browser to “remember” your username and password information.”
Related: The World of Online Contests
You’ve been looking for that camel colored scarf for your sister for a month. When it pops up on a shopping search engine for a good price, you’re overjoyed. But before you whip out your credit card and start typing away, Joyce Hsu from Reseller Ratings says make sure you haven’t been lured to an unsecured website. “When you are ready to buy, never buy from a store that does not use SSL on the credit card page. SSL is a protocol that was created to transmit private information on the Internet by encrypting data on the public side as well as a secret key only known by the recipient. Sites that have a SSL connection generally start with “https” instead of “http”, and your web browser often displays a “lock” symbol. This will help ensure that your information is not being transmitted over the Internet.”
And of course, common sense precaution: Never give out info that’s just not necessary for you to order that scarf or any gift! The online store should not need your Social Security number, birth date or gender. If one asks you for that---that’s a red flag bigger than Santa’s red suit!
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