It is arguably the most wonderful time of the year! The weather is cool, family and friend gatherings are approaching, delicious meals are being planned, pumpkin spice lattes are in full swing, and the BEST candle scents are filling the air giving us a warm and fuzzy feeling.
I'm not sure life gets any better than this. However, with all of the wonderfulness happening around us there is a dark side to the holiday season.
It's called Fraud Season aka Scamming Season.
It's the time of year we not only have to take precautions physically, by avoiding shopping late at night, leaving gifts in the car, not letting packages accumulate on our porch, etc. It's the time we have to get smart about protecting ourselves financially against Cyber criminals.
Here are 8 ways you can protect yourself financially during Fraud Season:
Put a Freeze or Fraud Alert on your Personal Credit
Avoid using Debit cards, use Credit cards instead
Avoid applying for New lines of Credit
Avoid opening unrecognized Emails, Texts, and DMs
Avoid clicking on social media product ads you don't recognize
Avoid sending Cashapps to users outside of your network
Avoid conducting (financial) business via DM
Do not give your personal information over the phone
Put a Freeze or Fraud Alert on your Personal Credit- These are free services offered by all three major credit bureaus. They allow you complete control of what happens with your credit for a specific amount of time. Cyber criminals look for vulnerable individuals during this time and often steal their identity. Visit Experian, Transunion, and Equifax to learn more about the service.
Avoid using Debit cards, use Credit cards instead- There are many benefits to using credit cards vs debit cards. During fraud season it's important to minimize your personal exposure at all times. Using your debit card may allow a cyber criminal access to your account and routing number. If your banking info is stolen, you will have to close the account, cancel all automatic payments and deposits, and more. Having your account information stolen causes a huge disruption to your life. Whereas, if your credit card number gets stolen, you will likely have to get new cards issued, however credit card companies have a more robust fraud department.
Avoid applying for New lines of Credit- The more activity happening on your credit during fraud season, the easier it is for a cyber criminal to mask their transactions with yours. By minimizing your activity you are making it easier to spot discrepancies quickly. You also want to avoid accidentally exposing your personal information while applying for store cards. People may hear you recite your information, record you inputting your information into a key pad etc. I know this may seem far fetched but criminals go to great lengths to steal identities.
Avoid opening unrecognized Emails, Texts, and DMs - this is a HUGE point of vulnerability for most people. If you don't recognize the email address, phone number, or social media profile, don't open the message. This is a quick way for scammers to gain access to you accounts and not only terrorize you but also anyone who is listed in your contacts.
Avoid clicking on social media product ads you don't recognize - Ahh yes, all the super cute targeted ads popping up on our social media feed daily. I've purchased from them. Some were AMAZING, other items never showed up and the page selling the product disappeared within days. Scammers set up these traps all the time, and most often during the holiday. When you click the ad, even though you may not buy anything, your information will become a part of their retargeting campaign and other ads they own will begin popping up and you'll have no idea the same entity owns all of the ads you're seeing. It's a quick way for scammers to get your money and possibly any personal information you've shared with the social media platform.
Avoid sending Cashapps to users outside of your network- Honestly, we don't have time to go through alllllllllll the scams currently associated with Cashapp. For now, just be sure to only send money to user you know personally.
Avoid conducting (financial) business via DM- Some businesses housed on social media conduct big business within their direct messages (DM). While I don't see anything wrong with it, right now may not be the best time to conduct financial transactions via DM. Ask the business owner to direct you to their website or other reputable source for the checkout process. This will help you avoid being scammed by a hacker and give you peace of mind.
Do not give your personal information over the phone- This has to be one of the oldests scams in the book, yet annually criminals are making millions of dollars doing it. DO NOT offer your personal information, verify your personal information, or correct any personal information a business may have of yours over the phone. If you believe the company is credible simply ask them to send you a notice to whatever address they have on file. DO NOT verify the address they have. DO NOT conduct any payments over the phone for companies who call and solicit you. If they are calling from a company who you owe a debt to, simply disconnect the call, retrieve the company's contact information online and call them back to make the payment. There are people in prison making 6 figure salaries running this scam every single day. Don't be a victim.
I hope the 8 tips help you protect yourself during fraud season. Pass this article along to anyone who needs the info, especially our elderly community.
ps. if someone calls asking for remote access to your computer for any reason, say NO. If a notice comes in the mail saying you owe money for ANYTHING verify the info before paying (including traffic citations and business registrations). DO NOT click on any links from sources you don't recognize.
Ok, I'm done for real this time!
-Star , SHEbuildingHER