The holiday shopping season is here. Experts estimate that consumers will spend about $83 billion. Everyone wants to shop safely and avoid both identity theft and fraud. The California Attorney General's office issued several safe-shopping tips for consumers that are applicable everywhere and not only in California. Some of the items were already covered in this blog, so I added links.
- Shop at secure websites. Look for https in the website address, or for the yellow lock icon
- Don't shop online at public WiFi hotspots, such as coffee shops. This can put at risk your payment information (e.g., bank account, credit/debit card numbers, etc.). If you must use a public WiFi hotspot, use encryption software on your mobile device.
- Do not send personal and payment information in e-mail messages. Legitimate companies won't ask you to do this, since it is an insecure way of transmitting information. Learn to spot package delivery scams.
- Use reputable websites when booking travel or lodging for trips. However, scammers also insert listings on vacation websites. If the price is too good to be true, it usually is. Learn to spot vacation payment scams.
- If you receive text messages on your phone claiming you have won a prize or gift card, do not click on the link in the message. It probably is a scam and may install a virus on your phone. E-mail scams are common. Learn to spot phishing e-mails. Be wary of e-mails from persons claiming to be a shipping company. These e-mail message often contain attached files that contain computer viruses. Do not open attached files from strangers.
- Consider using a two-step process to protect your email account and sensitive personal information. For example, after inputting your password, you will then receive a text on your phone, that provides a one-time-use code to sign into your e-mail account. Your e-mail provider has instructions about how to set this up.
- Thieves use handheld scanners and counterfeit credit cards to use gift cards that they do not actually have. Only buy gift cards that are kept behind the store’s customer service counter or activated upon checkout. Before buying the card ask for it to be scanned to show that it is fully valued.
- Learn to spot and avoid prepaid gift card app fraud.
- Package theft is happening more frequently. If you do not have a secure area for delivery companies to leave packages, consider requiring a signature for packages, or have your packages held for pickup at a nearby shipping center.
- Review your bank and credit card statements frequently for fraudulent transactions. Contact your bank or card issuers immediately if you see unusual or suspicious transactions.
- If you receive a phone call from somebody claiming to be your bank or credit card company, who asks you to verify your account information, don't. Instead, ask them for their phone number so you can call them back. Then, call the phone number listed on the back of your credit card.
- Learn to spot and avoid prepaid card phone scams.
- Parents and grandparents should be wary of phone calls, e-mails, and social networking posts by scam artists pretending to be a child, friend, or relative stuck in an emergency abroad and needing cash immediately. Scammers try to get the victim to wire cash or disclose sensitive personal and financial information. Don't do this. Before taking any action, verify the health or status of the child, friend, or relative abroad.
- Use these ten tips for safe vacation travel.