Staying Alert for Fraud during the Holidays
If you’re like most people, your bank accounts get busier during the holidays. The season typically means more transactions whether they’re from online sales, in-store purchases, or both. Despite all the activity, it’s important to keep your guard up and stay alert for fraud.
Fraud attempts increased by 13% during the holidays last year, according to industry reports. Schemes include account takeovers, discount and coupon abuse, return abuse, payment fraud and scams. And it’s not just purchases that criminals try to take advantage of:
- Charitable donations: the holidays are a popular giving season, so e-mails, social media sites or text messages promoting phony charities tend to increase. A follow up phone call to a charity you choose can confirm that an appeal is genuine.
- Seasonal jobs: for people looking to make some extra cash with a part-time job, fake jobsites with online forms are used to capture an applicant’s personal information. Instead, individuals looking for jobs should apply in person or go directly to an employer’s website.
- Forms of payment: a retailer that requires payment in prepaid cards, gift cards, wire transfers, or through a third party is a sign of fraud, since these types of payments are typically not traceable.
- Mystery shopper: a letter invites the recipient to participate in a “mystery shopper” program during the holidays by depositing an enclosed “certified check.” The recipient is instructed to keep some of the money but return the balance via wire transfer. The check and program are fake and the recipient loses whatever funds are sent.
Consumers can take some standard precautions to minimize the possibility of fraud and account theft during the holidays. Here are a few tips to start with:
- Monitor accounts for unauthorized transactions with transaction alerts. Sign up for debit card alerts and/or credit card alerts.
- Pay attention to e-mails, links and websites. Think before you click! Check this article for more details about e-mail fraud.
- Ensure home computers, laptops and mobile devices are protected with antivirus, anti-spyware and a firewall.
- Log off and close websites after completing purchases or turn off computer, tablet or mobile device.
- Review you accounts daily and report any discrepancies immediately.