Protect Yourself From Online Scammers This Festive Season

Jacques du Rand 2022-12-17

Christmas is around the corner and with that, sadly, also comes an onslaught of online scammers and people trying to trick you out of your money.

One always thinks that you would never be fooled by such things, but scammers have become so clever, and take advantage of the festive season knowing that more people are doing online shopping. They have gotten so advanced that they even replicate order confirmation emails from the most popular stores so people are far more easily tricked.

Don’t fall for scams this festive season. Stay in the know by using these simple tricks to discern between real orders and scam attempts.

Stay Safe By Knowing The Most Common Scams:

Order Confirmation Scams.These are unexpected calls/texts/emails that often refer to an unauthorized purchase and ask you to act urgently to confirm or cancel the purchase. These scammers try to convince you to provide payment or bank account information, install software to your computer/device, or purchase gift cards.

Remember, if you received correspondence regarding an order you weren't expecting, you can usually verify orders by logging into your account on most shopping platforms. Only legitimate purchases will appear in your order history.

Tech Support Scams. Scammers create fake websites claiming to provide tech support for your electronic devices and purchases. They email you, or advertise online through social media sites like Facebook. Unsuspecting people who land on these websites are lured to contact the scammer and fall prey to their schemes.

Fake Product Scams. Scammers in this instance also create fake websites with all kinds of products under the sun. Usually these sites have a single product they offer. For example some of the most popular products are often herbal products to help with hair growth and fat loss, but are not limited to beauty related products. Tech products such as cellphones and laptops are also amongst these.  They usually advertise online through social media sites like Facebook. Unsuspecting people who land on these websites are lured to buy the product as the websites look quite legit. They pay over the money, but never receive the product. Contacting “customer support” on those sites are usually met with weeks of replies saying the product is taking a while longer to ship, but it never arrives. They hope you will trust them long enough to wait out the standard “no contest” time on credit cards (varies by bank) and then walk away with your money.

These days it is SO very difficult to discern the real from the fake.

Here are some important tips so that you can identify scams:

  • Be wary of false urgency. Scammers may try to create a sense of urgency to persuade you to do what they're asking. Be wary any time someone tries to convince you that you must act now.
  • Never pay over the phone. No legitimate merchant will ever ask you to provide payment information, including gift cards (or “verification cards”, as some scammers call them) for products or services over the phone.
  • Check Reviews. When a product looks great, but you’ve never heard of the website before, do some Google review searches on the company. If none exist, think twice. Or if there are a handful all in the last month, think twice and rather walk away from the “deal”.

Identifying Whether an Email, Phone Call, Text Message, or Webpage is from who you think it is

  • Don't open any attachments or click any links from suspicious emails or text messages. If you've already opened an attachment or clicked a suspicious link, do a malware scan on your system.
  • Suspicious or fraudulent emails, text messages, or webpages claiming to be a popular shopping site may contain:
    • Links to websites that look like the brand you know, but aren't. Check the domain name very carefully to make sure it is correct. Don’t just trust the logo on the page.
    • Never trust links to an IP address (a string of numbers), such as http://123.456.789.123/ If the link takes you to a site that is not a legitimate domain, then it is likely phishing.
    • An order confirmation for an item you didn't purchase or an attachment to an order confirmation.
      • Note: Go to Your Orders to see if there is an order that matches the details in the correspondence. If it doesn't match an order in Your Account of that website, or a deduction on your bank statement, the message is fake.
    • Requests to update payment information that are not linked to an order you placed or a service you subscribed to. (such as Netflix, Dropbox, a VPN)
    • Attachments or prompts to install software on your device.
    • Typos or grammatical errors.
    • Forged email addresses to make it look like the email is coming from a brand website. No big shopping brand will have a gmail, hotmail, or yahoo address.
  • Phone Calls. While some stores may make calls to customers, they will never ask you to disclose or verify sensitive personal information, your bank card details or offer you a refund you do not expect.

The easiest way to stay safe from online scams this festive season is to always refer to the old adage: If in doubt, leave out! In other words, if you have any doubts about any purchase or email, don’t respond or react.