The holiday season is a prime time for scammers as people become preoccupied with gift-buying, families, and festivities. It seems that when it comes to all the busyness of the holidays, people often tend to fall into scams or fraud.
The proliferation of online shopping makes it easy for fraudsters to target people by using fake advertisements for deals, phony websites – some even disguised as Christmas cards!
How Online Scams Work?
While most online sellers are legitimate, unfortunately, fraudsters know how to take advantage of this.
Here are some of the scams they use:
- Criminals know how to use the latest technology to set up fake shopping sites that look like genuine online stores. They are clever enough to make special designs and layouts and possibly even use stolen logos. The fake sites confuse people, and they give their credit card information there, without knowing who sits on the other side. If you pay this way, you won’t see your money.
- Scammers may pose as genuine sellers on online classified websites that promote goods and services. They post fake ads, such as rental holiday properties, pets, used cars, boats, caravans for family holidays, and even horses, which may appeal to animal lovers.
- They advertise their items, similar to those genuinely on the site, at much lower prices.
- If you post an ad on a classified site for something you are selling, don’t be amazed to see scammers replaying as buyers. These are known as overpayment scams. Please don’t send the goods, and do not make any refund, as the check will be absolutely fake and bounce higher than a rubber ball when you try to deposit it.
How to Protect Yourself?
- If you land on an unfamiliar website offering sweet deals on brand name products, be very wary, especially if asked for personal details, and they want a money transfer upfront for the goods. Google the site and look for reviews on the Better Business Bureau site. It could be a scam to steal your credentials and your money, even if it looks good.
- Suppliers who claim to have bought in a large shipment of brand name goods at a special price are probably trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Check the brand website to see the prices. And if the price you have been offered is freakishly low compared, it is more than like a scam. Only the gullible will fall for this.
- Do not click on any offers for gifts. Why would people you do not know want to give you money or gifts?
- If you agree to buy something from an unfamiliar retailer, before you agree to take delivery through an unknown shipper, the scammers who set up fake websites also set up fake shipping company sites. They are clever enough even to set up fake tracking numbers. A good idea to check both sites is to go to whois.com and check if they are registered.
- The best way to protect yourself is to ignore sweet deals and rather purchase from well-known, long-established companies, even if you pay much more than some of the fantastic scam offers coming through. Paying for scams means that you’ll lose your money and won’t get your goods.
Why Do People fall for Scams?
- Holiday scams are often personalized to make unique-looking offers.
- Scam victims are led by the nose to focus on a large reward, compared to the small amount of money they have to send to get the massive windfall.
- At certain times of the year, like the big holidays, scam victims have reported being less able to resist emotions associated with scam offers. They say that they seem to have been unduly open to persuasion and not very discriminating about who they allow to persuade them into dubious deals.
- Fraudsters also appeal to a victim’s trust in authority. They make an authentic-looking offer like from the official company.
When feeling a bit emotional, the way to protect yourself is not to respond to anything online until you have reset your emotions and are once more on an even keel, with sound judgment.
Some General Warnings
When making online payments, use a secure payment service such as Paypal, or look for a URL starting with HTTPS and a closed padlock symbol.
- Do not use virtual currencies such as Bitcoin.
- Don’t buy any medical products that often make false promises about cure-all products, magical treatments, or bargain-priced medicines. Your health will not improve. It may only get worse when you do not receive any of the miracle goods you have paid for.
- Stay permanently away from any over-sweet deals. They will only turn sour when you have lost your hard-earned money paid for non-existent goods.
Digital advances have given the world a way to access any information needed to make online life easier, promote business, connect with people thousands of miles away. Of course, computers can control satellites, fly spacecraft, and planes. The list is endless.
But for the man in the street, it has created a cyber monster, called Identity theft, which can attack you at any turn.
Some companies can help you avoid falling victim to attacks. But at the end of the day, it will be your own vigilance and awareness that will see you through.