Fraud scams and schemes are hardly limited to the holidays, but they tend to spike during this high-spending and stressful time of the year. We have some tips and information on common fraud practices you may encounter and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Remember the Basics
It is always good to remember the basics: to continue to be skeptical about calls, texts, and emails. Always check the email address or phone numbers from communication you may receive. If you don’t recognize the numbers or email address, it’s likely the communication is an attempt to obtain your debit or credit card information, bank account information, or other personally identifying information.
Common Fraud Methods Used Over The Holiday Season
Skimming is perpetrated by using electronic devices to surreptitiously scan and store credit and debit card numbers and PINs. ATMs and some unattended terminals, such as gas stations, are targets for this practice. This information can then be sold to fraudsters or used to commit theft directly. Fraudsters can use the numbers to make online purchases or to create fake cards for in-store transactions.
When conducting an ATM transaction, especially at an ATM you may not use often, make sure to check the slot for your card. Often, the slots have been tampered with, so it may look crooked or off balance. If something doesn't look right, find another ATM and contact the ATM owner.
Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
SMiShing (SMS phishing) is the act of attempting to acquire personal information such as passwords and details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity through SMS text messages on cell phones. SMiShing messages may come from telephone numbers that are in a strange or unexpected format with links directing to fake websites.
A typical SMiShing occurrence can begin with a consumer receiving a text message inquiring about a suspicious transaction on an account. In reality, the fraudster is looking to obtain other information from cardholders such as debit/credit card numbers, the three digit code on the back, expiration dates, PINs and other web login credentials.
Vishing is the telephone equivalent of phishing. It is the act of using the telephone to scam you into surrendering private information that will be used for fraudulent purchases or identity theft.
Common Holiday Scams
Seasonal Travel Scams
Beware of deals for airline tickets, cruises, vacation packages, etc. that seem to good to be true. In reality they probably are. Always make sure you know who you are booking your travel with.
Holiday Charity Scams
A legitimate charity will welcome donations whenever you choose to make it. Fraudsters will often try to pressure you to make the donation right away. Don’t make any donation with a gift card or wire transfer. Most donations can be made with cash, check or debit or credit cards.
Awareness is the Best Defense
Although the holidays are a very busy time and we often get distracted with all of the things we need to do to make the holidays great, its important to be aware of the scams and schemes that can be used to commit identity theft and fraud.
When in doubt, contact your financial institution or the company that is trying to reach out to you for information. They will be able to verify the validity of a request. If you think you may have been a victim or fraud, reach out to your financial institution right away.