Skip to Content
© Fizkes | Dreamstime.com
Security & privacy

The worst identity theft scam you’ve never heard of

The holiday season is one of the busiest times for fraudsters and online scammers. Most people are rushing to buy Christmas presents, and criminals will use an online shopping scam to steal your personal and banking information.

A recent example happened during one of the biggest shopping events this year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday week. Thieves started sending out scam texts claiming to be from delivery services about packages that you ordered. Tap or click here to see what to avoid.

If you have ever been legitimately alerted to fraudulent activity on your bank account, you will know the fear and panic that it can induce. Naturally, you would want to correct the problem as soon as possible. And it is this panic that scammers are using to their advantage.

Holiday financial scams to watch for

The Better Business Bureau is warning about several financial account schemes making the rounds. There are many versions of the scam, but the end goal is the same: criminals want to get your personal information, access to your bank account, and in some cases, your Social Security number.

RELATED: Use a PC? This scary new malware can hijack your browser

Making contact through an email or phone call, potential victims will be informed that a suspicious purchase was made, either through their bank account or on their Amazon account. The bogus email will contain a link where you would be instructed to supply your personal details to reverse the charges.

Warning! Don’t click the link. It’s a scam.

The thief will try to convince you to download an unverified app to your phone. The app, of course, is malware and will send your personal information to the scammer.

Some criminals are even so brazen as to tell victims to buy several pre-paid credit or gift cards and supply them with the numbers — so that the purchases can be reversed. Obviously, it has nothing to do with your account. They want the codes to hundreds of dollars worth of Google, Apple or Amazon gift cards.

RELATED: 7 ways to delete yourself from the internet

Steps to stay safe and keep your data private

Don’t panic

The biggest weapon in your arsenal to combat scammers is to remain calm. The criminals want you to be as panicked and confused as possible. This gives them leverage, as they count on you to make an irrational decision in a tense situation.

Verify the scam claims

The scammer will claim to be from an official company, or the email will look legitimate. Don’t take what is being said to you at face value. You will be far better off to verify their claims on your own by calling your bank, search online for similar scams or to go through your recent purchases on your own.

Never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails

Scam emails could contain a link to a fake website or have an attachment that hides malware. Never click on a link that’s from an unknown email — and never download or open an attachment.

At first glance, the link could seem genuine, but there will be small tell-tale signs of a scam. Hover your mouse cursor over the link (don’t click on it), and you’ll see the link preview. Fake websites will look real but could have a hyphen in the wrong place, a small spelling difference or a different domain suffix.

RELATED: Social media messages from “friends” promise free money – it’s a scam

Never give out personal information

No bank or financial institution will ever ask for your banking or personal details over the phone or in an email. There could be extremely rare cases when this is possible, but you should contact your bank directly and not through a link found in an email.

Never give out personal information or banking details to someone that you don’t fully trust. Not only will the criminals have access to your account, but they can use your personal information to commit identity fraud. This could take years and tons of money to clean up.

Armed with the knowledge we highlighted, there is one more thing to remember: never let yourself be intimidated. Scammers are hoping to catch you off guard, and if they sense resistance, they could become aggressive or intimidating. Just keep your cool, don’t panic and verify the claims for yourself.

The fraudsters don’t have your information (yet), so just delete that email or hang up the phone.

Stop robocalls for good with Kim’s new eBook

Robocalls interrupt us constantly and scam Americans out of millions of dollars every year. Learn Kim's best tricks for stopping annoying robocalls in this handy guide.

Get the eBook