How to Avoid the Most Popular Holiday Online Scams

Every holiday season, online shopping scams increase, and this holiday season is no different. Losses from online credit-card fraud will reach $8 billion in 2021, up from $6 billion in 2019. With those in the United States expected to do two-thirds of their holiday shopping online this year, along with supply chain and logistical issues, fraudsters are capitalizing.

Here are some of the most popular holiday scams to watch out for:

  • Charity scam: Fraudsters target you using social media feeds, asking you to donate to nonexistent charity organizations.
  • Travel phishing: Fraudsters may send you an email stating that a booking has been canceled, sending you to a spoofed (fake) site where you’re asked to enter your credit card information to set up a new reservation.
  • Discount scam: Fraudsters, after placing cookies on your browser(s), serve up ads offering coupons, re-directing you to spoofed (fake) sites, and then requesting credit card information to purchase the fraudulent item(s).
  • Shipping scam: Scammers may send you an email/text alerting you that your package delivery has been delayed and offers to have it expedited for a fee if you click on a malicious link.

Tips to help defend against credit card fraud during the holiday shopping:

  • Use credit cards -- not debit cards -- when shopping online, as credit cards have federally mandated protections.
    • Consider using digital wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay) or “virtual” credit cards. (Virtual credit cards are temporary card numbers issued by your credit card company to mask your real credit card information; check your credit card company for more information on this.)
    • Never buy from online sellers accepting payment only by gift cards, money transfer or cryptocurrency.
  • Vet unfamiliar websites before shopping by searching online for the merchant’s name and the word “complaint” or “scam.” Sometimes a deal that is too good to be true is indeed not true!
  • Never buy anything from a site that doesn't have SSL encryption (the address should begin with https://).
  • Never provide credit card information over social media.
  • Do not conduct financial transactions when using public Wi-Fi (i.e., credit card payments, accessing bank information, etc.)

As a reminder, in accordance with University policy, credit card information is not permitted to be transmitted via NEOMED email; such information must be communicated via phone or traditional mail.

We hope these tips help you during this holiday season and wish you a pleasant holiday.

-- Submitted by Jonathan Wagner, information technology security, training and compliance manager

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