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Safety & security

5 holiday scams to know about so you don’t get fooled

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Have you started your holiday shopping yet? If not, you better get to it. We rounded up some of the web’s most unique and versatile goodies. Tap or click here for a list of great Christmas gift ideas.

The holidays are a time of cheer and togetherness. A time to gather your friends and family to exchange gifts and laughs. And a time for scammers to pounce.

Yes, it’s an unfortunate truth that the holiday season is prime time for hackers. With everyone rushing to give gifts, people make careless mistakes and crooks are fully aware of this. Here are five scams to watch out for during the festivities.

1. You get a text about your order

The scam:

The Better Business Bureau is warning about a delivery scam involving a text message claiming that a delivery courier needs you to “update delivery preferences” on a package by clicking a link. Other messages contain a tracking link or a note there’s a problem with the delivery.

The links are all scams. They lead to a form that asks for personal information or takes you to a site that downloads malware onto your device.

How to avoid it:

  • If you’re not expecting any deliveries, delete the message. Do not respond to it, as the scammers will know that your phone number is active, the address is correct and they have your attention.
  • The text message may contain a link where you supposedly reschedule the delivery. The message and the link are fake and will send you to a fraudulent website. You’ll likely be asked for sensitive information like payment details.
  • Never give out personal information to somebody that you don’t know. If a call or message comes from a real delivery company, they should already have your details and the tracking number.

2. You missed a delivery?

The scam:

Another scam involves fake missed delivery messages. Crooks place a note on your door that says there’s a problem with a delivery. There’ll be a phone number to call to reschedule your delivery.

Again, it’s a trick to get your information. Don’t be so quick to call that number!

How to avoid it:

  • You may get a legitimate missed delivery notice on your door. If you do, carefully inspect it to make sure it’s authentic.
  • Check the tracking number online to see if there was an attempted delivery.
  • If you need to contact a delivery company, look up its official phone number on its website and don’t use the one left on a note on your door.

RELATED: Shopping for holiday decorations? Don’t fall for this online shopping scam

3. Your package disappeared

The scam:

This is not so much a scam as a problem you might have to deal with: package theft.

It doesn’t take much skill to be a porch pirate. These thieves steal packages while you’re at work or out on the town. They even follow postal trucks to grab the boxes after they’re delivered.

How to avoid it:

  • Request a signature. It’s worth the extra cost! If you take this step, packages won’t be left on your doorstep unless someone signs for them.
  • Don’t leave packages on your doorstep. If you know you won’t be home, have the packages delivered to your workplace or neighbor’s home. You can also take advantage of lockers offered by Amazon and other companies. Go here to find an Amazon locker near you.

4. You bought a gift weeks ago, but it still hasn’t arrived

The scam:

With all the holiday specials, watch out for fake ads and messages. Scammers list popular products made by brands we all know. They set rock-bottom prices and create fake glowing reviews.

They’ll also list hundreds of other items to add legitimacy, which won’t be so heavily discounted. This is another tactic to throw you off.

According to the FBI, one major scam is that the seller never ships your order.

How to avoid it:

  • Check the seller’s name. Is it a string of letters forming a nonsensical name? Don’t buy from them.
  • Check the seller’s page for feedback. If reviews go back more than a year, it’s probably safe to buy. If the only reviews are very recent, stay away.
  • Check the reviews themselves for poor spelling and grammar, over-the-top praise or descriptions that don’t match the listing.
  • If many reviews for a product were submitted within a short window of time, they might be part of a seller’s campaign to improve their numbers with false ratings.
  • Never wire money directly to a seller. Use your credit card so you can dispute the charges or stop payment if something goes wrong.

RELATED: Watch out for these Amazon scams during your holiday shopping

5. Scammers go phishing

The scam:

With people buying so much during these months, money and retail scams are ramping up. And holiday season or not, scammers love impersonating well-known brands and companies to earn your trust. Your bank makes for a perfect target, the BBB reports.

You receive a text message from your bank that reads something like: “Bank Fraud Alert – Did you approve a transaction for $1,000? Reply YES or NO.” Reply to the text and you’ll let the scammer know they reached a real person with an active number.

Now the crook will call you with a number that shows up as your bank on caller ID. They’ll say they represent the bank and can help you stop the fraudulent charges.

All you need to do is send money to yourself using a payment app. The helpful caller will even offer to help connect you to the payment app of your choice. They’ll ask you to verify the connection by giving them the authentication code you got from your bank. And here’s what happens next:

  • When you give them your code, they can set up an account with your contact information and tie it to their bank account.
  • When you send money to yourself, you’re actually sending money to the scammer’s account.
  • Good luck disputing the charges — many payment apps make you assume the risk. Plus, you approved the transaction!

How to avoid it:

  • Your bank will never ask you to send money to yourself.
  • An unexpected call or text from your bank is always reason enough to get your guard up. Don’t answer the call or text. Contact the bank directly using the phone number on the back of your credit or debit card to confirm if anything is wrong.
  • Never give out personal information if you don’t know the sender of a text or email or can’t verify their identity.
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for better security whenever available, but never share your one-time passcodes with anyone under any circumstances. Tap or click here for details on 2FA.
  • Don’t reply to suspicious texts. Replying to unsolicited text messages lets the sender know they have found an active phone number. Ignore and delete any texts from unknown senders.

You may also like: 5 subtle clues that email is really a clever phishing scam

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