With the year-end holidays ahead, online thieves are eager to take advantage of people’s tendency to let down their guards, according to Lee Ann Sholansky, TD’s Senior Manager of Fraud Risk Management, and Chris Blackmore, TD's Fraud Risk Manager for Customer Education. Below they offer valuable tips on ways to secure your credit cards and finances during the holiday season:
Successful scams rely on distraction
Fraud can happen more often during the holidays because we’re all doing more, buying more and traveling more. “Your most important protection is simply to stay alert,” Lee Ann said. “That can be hard with so much going on, but thinking before you purchase to ensure you're not engaging with a scam is good practice and a great precaution.”
Email and social media are frequent gateways to credit card fraud. “If you want to buy something advertised via either channel, don’t click the link there,” she said. “Instead, buy it on the company’s website or a legitimate e-commerce site.”
Lee Ann points out that online thieves go to great lengths to make their fake websites look real, but all they do is take your money — and credit card or debit card number. “You may think you’re buying the season’s hottest toy for a young one on your list, but it won’t arrive, and the scammers now have your credit card number,” she said. “Social media sites don’t police their advertisers, so if a price is too good to be true, odds are that it is.”
Frauds only need a few victims
Chris cautions everyone to suspect any seemingly urgent emails or text messages that demand immediate action or risk bad consequences. “Avoid clicking on links or attachments in these messages,” he said. “Most fraud and phishing scams prey on feelings of scarcity or fear of missing out.”
He also suggests that anyone using social media should check their privacy settings to limit who can see their posts and information. “If a contact sends a private message requesting money, call them first,” he said. “Their account may have been compromised and sending money before making sure the request is legitimate could result in losing what you sent.”
The same is true for telephone calls expressing an urgent need, often posing as holiday charities. “Bad actors sometimes have access to thousands of phone numbers and use identical scripts on potential victims," Chris said. “Even if just a few people offer their credit card numbers for small ‘donations,’ the scammers can clear a lot of money. Plus, they can use the numbers for other purposes, including selling them to other scammers.”
Beware of fake package delivery notifications
Thieves increasingly use fake package delivery alerts by email or text. These typically appear to come from a major courier or e-commerce vendor advising of a delay or an address problem.
“These scams are most effective during the holiday season when people are more distracted and share e-commerce accounts across family members,” Lee Ann said. “They may think they’ve forgotten an order, or a family member made one they don’t know about, so they click on the link, which can download malware or, worse, keystroke recorders to then capture passwords to financial accounts.”
Keeping an eye on credit card purchases
Both Lee Ann and Chris agree that you should always monitor your monthly credit and debit card statements, especially during periods of frequent usage like the holiday season. "Always check your monthly card statements for small unknown charges, which thieves can use to gauge your vigilance before racking up even bigger charges,” Chris said.
It’s also wise to store your credit card company’s toll-free fraud number in your phone’s contacts. “If a card gets lost or stolen, you can report it faster versus having to look it up,” Lee Ann said.
For more on personal finance topics
For additional information on fraud and scams, visit TD Bank's Security Center.
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