Holiday Fraud Prevention: Common Scams & Security Tips

12/13/2023 2:39:08 PM

The holiday shopping season is fun for those who love gift giving. It’s also a field day for fraudsters trying to exploit the busyness of the season and shoppers’ desire to save money with special deals.

Our fraud prevention team has some tips on common types of fraud this time of year and tips to keep you—and your money—safe.
Discounts & Special Offers via Email

Holiday shoppers often see an influx of emails with discounts. While many of these discounts and special offers might be legitimate, email scammers take advantage of this surge and send out their own fake offers, hoping it might get lost in the mix. 

Platforms like Facebook Marketplace are particularly rich sources of potential victims looking for deals, and scammers know it.

These scams have evolved over time and can mimic a legitimate discount or special offer. Be wary when opening an email from someone you don’t know or a site you have not visited. Online click on offers from verified online retailers.
Fake Search Engine Ads & Websites

Search engines help us quickly find retailers and products online, and the search engine’s primary income source is from paid ads.  Companies can buy ad space that places their ad at the top of many searches.

Criminals also pay for ad placement, but their ads may be posing as a legitimate company enticing you to navigate to a website under their control.  Many search ads are sold through self-service systems where advertisers don’t necessarily need to be authorized or have their links checked by humans. This makes it very hard for the search engines to stop these malicious ads.
These fake websites are designed to capture your login credentials, download malicious software, or result in a fraudster contacting you posing as a support representative to steal your sensitive personal information or payment card information.

To avoid falling for a search engine ad scam, do not click on the ads that are located at the top of the search results page.  Scroll down until you see the actual company’s website.  If you visit a site often, bookmark the page.
Keep an Eye On your Credit

As cyber-safe as you think you might be, identify thieves are crafty when finding ways to get shoppers’ information. Pay close attention to your credit report to ensure that nothing out of the ordinary is taking place.

Online shopping opens up a world of new products and makes crossing items of your shopping list convenient. Just remember to be careful when making transactions so you don’t make your data a special gift to cybercriminals. Trust your instincts.
Check Fraud

Check fraud can happen any time of year but tends to ramp up during the holiday season. Thieves commit mail theft, hoping to get a check they can alter. If you’re mailing a check to loved ones, be sure to regularly monitor your account activity so you can quickly report fraud.
Suspicious Calls

Never give your password to another person.  If you receive a call from someone who asks for your password and claims they are from customer support, help desk, or fraud team, it is an attacker attempting to gain access to your account.  Companies including First Financial do not have your password nor do they have a need for your password.

Suspicious Text Messages

Text message scams—known as smishing attacks—are increasing. If you receive a text message from a number claiming to be your bank or other business urging you to click on a link and share your information, do not click on it.  First Financial will never send you a text message asking for your login credentials.

Learn more about the warning signs of this particular type of fraud here.
Online Shopping Account Security

Be cautious when saving usernames, passwords, or credit card information in your browser, and periodically clear your offline content, cookies, and history. Always utilize strong passwords and consider setting up multi-factor authentication (MFA). This is as simple as receiving a text or code that you need to type in while signing on to a system. Oftentimes within the account preferences of your device, you can set up an authentication application.

Additionally, when online shopping, consider checking out as a guest user rather than creating an account, and use your private browsing feature or secure browser. For instance, Google Chrome’s incognito mode won’t save any of your browsing history, cookies, site data, or information you enter on forms.

Shop Local!

First Financial encourages you to support your local retailers by buying local.  It is safer and strengthens your community. 

Check out our 4 Reasons to Shop Local article here.

Your Fraud Prevention Team

When in doubt about whether or not something might be fraudulent, contact us anytime to talk to someone with our fraud prevention team. We care about keeping our customers safe, sound, and secure.