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Look Out for Seasonal Frauds

With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, we’re heading full speed into the holiday season and its proliferation of scams. Be cautious when sharing information online and take precautions to avoid holiday frauds.

Fake charities reach out this time of year to take advantage of goodwill (and the desire for year-end tax deductions). Confirm the legitimacy of any charity before donating. Don’t donate through a link or provide information to a caller. Instead, support charities through their official websites or by initiating a call.

Phishing aims to obtain personal information through an email appearing to come from a legitimate business.  The mail contains a message urging you to click on a link to provide information or conduct a transaction. Seasonal phishing attempts include messages asking for a child’s sensitive info to send a letter from “Santa” or appearing to come from a friend requesting that you buy holiday gift cards.

Be cautious with messages that seem trustworthy. A legitimate business will never request sensitive info by email. And never click on a link in a dubious email for any reason. You could end up downloading malware.

Holiday e-cards can also be scary. They can contain viruses and other malware. Before you open an e-card from a friend, check that your friend actually sent it.

Fraudulent retail websites abound during the holidays. Those offering sales too good to be true are likely scams. To place an order, type the site’s official address into your browser (don’t get to it through a link), then check the address carefully: typosquatters take advantage of typos to get us to land on their scam sites and transmit financial information. Consider paying by PayPal or a reputable credit card to take advantage of their protections if something goes wrong.

Don’t participate in promotions or contests as these can be ruses to capture personal info.

Gift cards are popular gifts. If you purchase one at a store, check that its activation code isn’t exposed; if it is a thief could have stolen the number with intention to use the card when it is bought and activated.  (It may be safer to buy a gift card online through a merchant’s website.) Check also for any fees the card may have, for example, for non-use, which can eat away at the value of the gift until it reaches $0, and that the card hasn’t expired.

Take steps when sending a gift to ensure the delivery service doesn’t leave it on a doorstep to be stolen. Alert the recipient that a gift is coming or ask them beforehand where they’d like it sent so that it arrives securely. Consider using a shipping method that requires the recipient’s signature.

A missed package delivery note could be fake even if it looks legit. So could a text or email requesting that you click on a link to get an update or for other reasons related to the delivery. Don’t follow up through contact info in the note; visit the company’s site to find contact information.

Have a happy and fraud-free holiday season!

The information contained in this column is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Original publication date: December 2, 2021

By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US, CIPP/E

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