With the holidays drawing near, many are engaging in online shopping to get in a festive mood. Some of those shoppers don’t realize, however, that this season can add greater fraud and phishing risks – whether they’re from the additional purchases or just from letting defenses go down as the spirit of giving takes over.
Jack Kelley, assistant vice president and manager of fraud at Tinker Federal Credit Union, has some timely advice.
“We used to see scams ramp up around the holidays, but now with advanced technology, we see scams year-round,” he says. “Fraudsters never take a break. One scam that might occur during the holidays is individuals going door-to door asking for money for either gifts for their children or medicine for their ill family members.”
Kelley goes on to explain the holidays can be lonely for some people and, unfortunately, fraudsters will take advantage of this through romance scams.
“If someone you meet online starts asking for money or wants to send you money, be very cautious, no matter how serious you think your relationship is,” he says.
Another occasion for caution: If you receive an email you weren’t expecting that includes suspicious links or attachments, do not click the links or open anything. Immediately delete the email.
“If you are unsure whether the email is legitimate, check the sender’s address against previous emails from the same organization,” says Kelley. “If the address has a misspelling or includes various numbers, then it is likely a phishing scam.”
Along with classic scams, Kelley warns that a new tactic has been developing as of late: smishing.
“Smishing scams, similar to phishing scams but by using text messages, are on the rise,” he says. “Fraudsters will send a text, usually stating it is urgent, and ask the user to provide their online banking username and password. TFCU or any reputable financial institution will never ask for your online banking username or password either by email or by text message. The best thing to do is to delete the text message immediately and do not click on any links that may be included in the message.”
Staying Safe Online
Kelley adds there are ways to protect your identity and credit card information online – all year-round.
“Make sure you are being proactive and know who you are sharing your information with,” he says. “If you are online shopping, make sure the website URL matches the SSL certificate by looking for the lock icon next to the URL you are visiting. Most modern browsers will highlight the URL as green if it has been verified. Visit websites directly and avoid any third-party links that redirect you, as they could be sending you to a spoofed site.”
Kelley reiterates that everyone should keep their personal information private.
“No one should be asking for your banking username and password, so be sure to keep that information confidential. If you receive an email, text message or phone call that you think may be fraud, contact the institution or organization directly. We always suggest erring on the side of caution as you can never be too safe.”