Be Aware of Phishing Scams This Holiday Season

Posted on Monday, November 27, 2023 in Security and Fraud Prevention

While online shopping is convenient, it is also filled with fraudsters looking to steal your private personal and financial information. As you begin your holiday shopping this season, be on high alert as you search for the best deals.

Scammers advertise too-good-to-be-true prices that trick consumers into giving their information to fraudsters. This often leads to unrepairable damage when the consumers’ private information is compromised.

Instead, give yourself the gift of hyper-vigilance this holiday season to keep your information secure. Here are some scams to watch out for as you check each gift off your list.

Fake Websites and Apps

Scammers often create fake websites almost identical to those of legitimate retailers. These websites trick consumers into sharing their payment information, leaving it in the hands of criminals.

In more recent schemes, fraudsters use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to ensure their criminal links appear at the top of your search engine. The links contain malicious PDF files that look like an ordinary website, but when links on the website are clicked, malware can be downloaded onto your device to steal your information.

As you are holiday shopping, take the following precautionary measures to protect your sensitive information.

  • Research unfamiliar websites and brands before clicking on links or inputting your payment information.
  • Do not impulsively click on links. Thoroughly inspect links to verify their legitimacy before entering the webpage.
  • Be wary of apps and websites that ask for unusual permissions, such as access to your phone’s contacts, text messages, or stored passwords. Carefully read all permission requests before granting them.

Email and Text Message Links

Be Aware of Holiday Phishing Scams

The holiday season is the time of year to come together with family and friends, but be wary if your loved ones send you unsolicited links via text message, email, Facebook Messenger, or other communication platforms. Even if the message is from a friend or family member, it could still be fraudulent.

Scammers can hack into accounts and pose as a friend or relative trying to send you a link. If clicked, the link may download malware onto your device or give criminals access to your private information. Rather than click the link, contact the sender in person or via phone call to verify the authenticity of the message.

Fraudsters may also ask you to buy gift cards in exchange for a product or service. Never accept these messages or interact with these criminals. “Businesses” that accept gift cards as payment are always fraudulent.

If you’ve been a victim of a gift card scam, acting fast may help you recover your money. Visit this article from the Federal Trade Commission to learn more about potentially restoring your funds.

Unsecure Payments

Prior to making an online payment, ensure the website you’re using has “https” at the beginning of the URL with a padlock symbol. This means that the website has protected network connection. Websites that have “http” with no “s” are more prone to cyberattacks.

Package Delivery Confirmation Scams

Package delivery confirmation scams are especially popular during the holiday season when consumers order many packages, sometimes confusing the arrival dates of packages.

In this scam, fraudsters call or email claiming to be from the U.S. Postal Service or another major mail carrier. They say they have a package waiting to be delivered to you and ask for your personal information to verify your identity. The fraudster promises to give you more information about the package’s delivery in exchange, but they instead use that information to steal your identity and funds.

If you’re faced with this scam, remember that the U.S. Postal Service will never call if there is a problem with your delivery, and they will never ask for your personal information over the phone. Immediately end the communication and block the scammer’s email or phone number.

Faux Charity Scams

Cyber criminals abuse the season of giving by taking advantage of kind-hearted consumers looking to donate to charities. Fraudsters steal consumers funds, and sometimes their private information, leaving consumers with the nightmare of identity theft just before Christmas.

If you’re planning to open your heart and donate to charitable organizations this holiday season, research organizations and websites before sending donations. Only send online donations through verified, secure websites.

Additionally, never trust organizations that offer free gift cards in exchange for a payment. These scams are especially rampant during the holiday season.

Stay Informed

Don’t let the threat of fraud dim your holiday spirit. Stay aware and shop carefully. If you think your United Bank & Trust account may have been compromised with fraudulent activity, report it immediately by contacting us at (641) 753-5900.

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