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Security & privacy

5 texts you must ignore this holiday season

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Scammers draw from a bottomless bag of tricks to get you to hand over your money. They dramatically ramp up their actions when there’s a global event or an upcoming holiday. Not even Veterans Day is safe. Tap or click here for a story that proves criminals have no shame.

The holiday season is another hot ticket. With people buying so much during these months, money and retail scams are ramping up.

You must be extra vigilant against criminals around this time. You certainly don’t want to deal with the additional stress of losing your money or personal information. Read on for five scams to watch out for and what you can do to protect yourself against them.

1. Short or single-word texts

Text messages are often jam-packed with information, so receiving a message with one word or just a short phrase might be strange. Unless you know the number the message is coming from, continue with caution.

Scammers regularly send single-word texts saying “Hi” or “How are you?” hoping to initiate a conversation. Once they’ve gained your trust, it often leads to a request for money or personal details.

Never give out any information to someone you don’t trust or haven’t met in person. These schemes can turn into romance scams, and they have no interest in making a meaningful connection.   

2. Missed delivery notification

Countless dollars change hands as people shop for gifts and holiday supplies. While some prefer to pick things up from a store, others enjoy the comfort of home deliveries through retailers such as Amazon and Walmart.

But it’s not always practical to be home at the exact moment the delivery van rolls by. If you’re out, the company might send you a text or email saying the delivery couldn’t be made. Unfortunately, criminals are using the same tactics to trick you. 

They often send fake missed delivery notifications with a phone number to call or a link to click to reschedule it. But beware! The links can lead to malicious websites that steal personal information or ask for banking details.

Don’t call the number either, as the operator could try to convince you to install remote software that lets them take control of your device. 

3. You won a prize!

It’s exciting when you get a message about a contest you entered. But if you get a notification about a sweepstakes you don’t remember signing up for, be careful. The text might even claim that you qualify for a holiday discount.

The message often contains a link you must click to claim your prize or activate the deal. Make no mistake. It’s not legitimate. The links will take you to malicious pages where you need to verify your details, but it just captures your information. It might even infect your device with malware.

According to the FTC, while real companies might communicate with you by email, legitimate companies won’t email or text a link to update your payment information or verify your details. It’s most likely a phishing attack. Here are ways to avoid falling victim to phishing:

  • Never give out personal information if you don’t trust the person or can’t verify their identity. Criminals only need your name, email address and telephone number to rip you off.
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) on every account that offers it for better security. Tap or click here for details on 2FA.
  • Don’t click on links and attachments that you receive in unsolicited emails.
  • Always have a trusted antivirus program updated and running on all your devices. We recommend our sponsor, TotalAV. Get an annual plan with TotalAV for only $19 at ProtectWithKim.com. That’s over 85% off the regular price!

4. This is (not) your bank

Your bank makes for a perfect target, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports. This is especially true during the holiday season.

You might 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 the scammer will know they have reached a real person.

Next, the crook calls you with a number that shows up as your bank on caller ID. They’ll claim to represent the bank and that they can help stop the fraudulent charges.

They claim that all you need to do is send money to yourself using a payment app. The 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’ll 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!

Here are ways to avoid falling victim to bank fraud scams:

  • Understand your bank’s policies. Know that your bank will never ask you to send money to yourself. If someone tries to convince you otherwise, it’s a scam.
  • Watch out for fake caller IDs. Scammers can spoof caller ID names and numbers to make you think you are receiving a call from a reputable source. If you weren’t expecting to be contacted by your bank, it’s best to avoid answering. Instead, call the number on the back of your debit or credit card to confirm an issue.
  • Never share one-time passcodes. Scammers can use one-time passcodes from your bank or any other company to access your accounts and change information. Don’t share them with anyone, no exceptions.
  • Contact your bank if you suspect a scam. If you receive an unsolicited call, text, or email that you suspect is a scam, contact your bank immediately through official channels and let them know.
  • Don’t reply to suspicious texts. Ignore any instructions to reply yes or no if you receive an unsolicited, suspicious text message. If you reply to a scammer, they could save your number as active and target you with future scams.

5. Not very neighborly

Packages do sometimes go to the wrong address. You may get a text from someone claiming to be a neighbor saying they received your package. They’ll ask you to verify your address and personal information to ensure the package is yours.

Stop and think. If a neighbor gets your package, couldn’t they walk over and drop it off? Why do they need to ask who you are when they have your name and address on the label?

Before giving information, ask for details about the package. Are you even expecting one?

This may be someone phishing for information. If the neighbor has your number, wouldn’t it be someone you know? Don’t give any personal information before finding out who’s really messaging.

Keep reading

Tech how-to: 5 easy ways to convert audio files to text

Amazon scam: Don’t fall for this fake text! It’ll cost you

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