The holidays are a time for giving. But for fraudsters, they're also a
time for taking. These tips can help you protect yourself and your valuable information from malware and
scams that could otherwise fail to raise suspicion due to the hectic holiday season.
Since many of these scams are online, it's a good general policy to never give personal information like your Social Security number or banking details over email, beware of "deals" requiring immediate action, and don't agree to a wire transfer to claim any kind of deal.
When shopping online
- Always look for "https" in the URL. The "S" means the site is safer and more secure for sharing
important personal information.
- Don't make purchases using a public wi-fi connection.
- Avoid using a debit card for online purchases. Credit card charges can be disputed, but debit accounts may not be reimbursed if the card number falls into the wrong hands.
Holiday season email
- Don't open any emails from an unnamed recipient, such as holiday e-cards—they likely contain malware.
But you should also be cautious when opening holiday greetings from friends and family — their email
addresses could have been hacked. How do you know what's safe? Look for a confirmation code to open the
e-card at the issuing website.
- With "sale" emails, those unbelievable prices could very well be too good to be true. The email links
could direct you to a phishing site that steals your payment information. Search for and then visit the
online retailer to verify that the store and the advertised prices are legitimate.
- The final months of the year fill mailboxes with a deluge of donation appeals from charities. Before
writing a check, make sure you're supporting a legitimate cause. Research the soliciting organization
on a reputable directory, such as Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau.
- Beware of emails that claim a package delivery failed, or ones asking recipients to confirm an order or a shipment.
In the store
- Before purchasing gift cards, check the back to make sure the activation code area hasn't been compromised.
- Keep a close eye on your money and watch for mall pickpockets, credit card, skimmers and dishonest cashiers.
- Many Internet scammers target holiday travelers at Wi-Fi hotspots, with emails promising "free" trips
and more. Learn to recognize and protect yourself from these types of travel scams.
- Beware of winning trips in giveaways you never entered. It could well be an attempt to get your credit card number under the guise of securing a room, or to cover other fees, or a way to make you buy other pricey parts of the travel package.