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People make more online purchases than usual during the holiday season, giving scammers increased opportunities to steal their money and information. Here are some of the sneakiest holiday scams that we’ve heard about and how to avoid them:
1.) Phony Gift Cards
If you want to buy gift cards for friends or family, the safest way to do it is to purchase them in-store. Scammers will sell them online from legitimate-looking websites or third-party sites at “discounts” or with special promotions. After you buy them, they’ll cancel the card and keep your money.
2.) Fake Public WiFi
While doing your holiday traveling, you may use free public WiFi connections to browse the web. But scammers can set up a fake WiFi connection that closely resembles a free public connection. To avoid having important information stolen, never make sensitive transactions when you’re using public WiFi.
3.) Name-a-Star Offer
If you’re looking for an interesting gift idea, you may have come across offers to pay to “name a star” after a friend or someone in your family. You could then present the recipient of your gift with a framed certificate claiming that a real, live star out there in the cosmos has been named after them. Pretty cool, right? Not really. You pay a company to do the “naming” but that company is the only entity that recognizes the name. Actual astrologers have no need to recognize the names of stars because they identify heavenly bodies by their coordinates. So, basically you’re paying for a piece of paper that makes a false claim.
4.) Sweepstakes Scam
You may receive a text message on your smart phone from a big-name retailer like Walmart or Target informing you that you have won a $1000 gift card or another fabulous prize. There’s only one problem – you never entered any sweepstakes. Keep in mind that these too-good-to-be-true offers are probably just that. Do not reply to this kind of text message. If you receive an offer like this via email, do not click on any links as they can infect your computer with malware.
5.) Fake Charities
It’s pretty horrible that there are people out there who would prey on unsuspecting individuals in the name of generosity, but it’s actually quite prevalent during the holiday season. If you’re thinking about donating to a charity this season, take the time to seek out the organization’s official website yourself to make a donation, keeping in mind that when you enter your information, the page should start with “https” (the “s” is for “secure”). Never reply to an email or text message asking you to click a link to donate, even if it looks like it’s from a legitimate organization.
Keep your holiday season cheerful and bright and scam-free this year with some of these tips. Be vigilant, use your head and have a great holiday!