Christmas is just around the corner, and if you are anything like me, you’ve already begun working on your shopping list. Many people have been doing their shopping online for a while, but with COVID-19 around, the expectation is that the number will increase exponentially during the holidays. And while we should all be grateful for the blessing to purchase items without leaving the comfort of our living rooms, we need to be aware that hackers are lurking around every corner to find ways to enhance their pocket books with our money. The best way to avoid becoming a victim, is to educate ourselves on their possible schemes. Here are just two of some of the most well-known scenarios you might face this holiday season…
- The Secret Sister gift exchange on Facebook….I’ve seen this for the past several years. Either it’s a bottle of wine, a book, or any gift that is around $10-$15. You send that item to the person at the top of the list, add your name to the bottom and send it out to 36 of your closest friends. Basically, this is just a pyramid scheme at the very least. More often than not, someone on the list is able to get your information and use it to their advantage. Are you confident you know ALL the people that ALL the people on that list are going to include? Another thing to consider is that according to the US Postal Inspection Service’s gambling and pyramid scheme laws, “gift chains like this are illegal and participants could be subject to penalties for mail fraud.” So, you might think twice before jumping on that bandwagon.
- Emails or text messages that try to trick you into entering personal information or details on a fraudulent website… Many times, these sites look legitimate, and it is getting increasingly more difficult to tell what is genuine and what is fake. You have to really know what to look for in order to be able to spot a “phishing expedition.” Far too often, we just click on whatever link is provided without first considering that it could be fraudulent. Jigsaw, a subsidiary of Google, created an online quiz to help educate users on phishing emails. I took the quiz myself, and honestly, didn’t do very well. I plan on taking it several more times until I feel more confident in my abilities to spot the differences. The link to the quiz will be posted at the bottom of this article. I encourage you to try it out and see how savvy you are at spotting fraudulent emails.
The bottom line is this. We shouldn’t live in fear of doing business online. It’s a convenience that most of us enjoy. What we should do is educate ourselves so that we keep our information safe and don’t allow the hackers of the world to steal the joy of the holidays from us. Happy online shopping!