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November 1, 2020

Expert Tips: How to Scam-Proof Your Holiday Shopping

By Andrew Warren, Hillsborough State Attorney

The holidays are coming up, which means juggling everyday life with that growing to-do list of shopping for gifts, sending cards and connecting with the people you love. It’s wonderful to celebrate, but it’s a lot to manage.

As a father of two young girls, I know balancing everything this time of year can be tough. And as a prosecutor, I want to help make your gift shopping as safe as possible. Here are three different ways to scam-proof your holiday shopping.

  1. Avoid Copycat Websites

As State Attorney and as a former federal prosecutor, I’ve seen all types of internet scams. One of the most common is “phishing.” This usually involves fake emails that convince victims to send their personal information. These scams have increased almost 65% since 2019. Many phishing scammers may attempt to steal your personal or credit card information using tactics like copycat websites that are oh-so-close replicas of a company’s real website. These schemes often lure in victims with false “reward points” for seasonal discounts, or websites nearly identical to services you use—luring you in with a false sense of security. Avoid scams like this by carefully checking any email addresses or websites you’re directed to use, since the crooks work so hard to make their fake emails and websites look like the real thing.

  1. Consider How You Pay

These days, there are more ways to pay than ever before—which also means more ways to get scammed than ever before. While most credit cards have fraud protection built-in by law, the same can’t always be said for online institutions such as PayPal, Venmo and Cash app, all popular companies for online transactions. Internet anti-fraud software by Norton or Kaspersky often includes a protected browser to ensure your personal details remain personal. Also, now more than ever, check bank statements regularly for any odd or irregular purchases.

  1. Internet Auction Fraud

The legal jargon term for internet auction fraud is “a misrepresentation of a product on sale.” This means when what you buy doesn’t match up with what was displayed online. These scams are often paired with “non-delivery” fraud—when you pay for something but never receive it. You can stop auction fraud by checking whether the seller (an independent person or an online store) has a large number of good reviews and comments from past customers. Get in contact with them if they’re an independent seller or find their location of business and check with the Better Business Bureau. To help you get your money back if there’s a problem, do use credit cards or secure online services like PayPal, and don’t use wire transfers or share your bank account and routing numbers.

There are scammers out there who don’t give one jingle about holiday cheer. They want your money and they’ve spent all year making a list of targets… and checking it twice. Remember to use these tips and keep those crooks away so you can enjoy the holidays.


 

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