Whether you choose to mask up and wait in line at a brick-and-mortar store or shop online from the comfort of your home, it’s important to beware of seasonal scams.
Scammers take advantage of increased consumer activity during the holidays. Every transaction is an opportunity for a fraudster to steal your money or identity.
Don’t let buying gifts online result in personal information ending up in the wrong hands.
While consumers embrace the seasonal spirit of giving, it’s important not to give away sensitive, personal information to scammers.
Online shopping is always popular and may see an even bigger surge this holiday season due to COVID-19, but it can also bring risks.
When shopping online make sure you are shopping from a retailer’s legitimate website. Look for “https://” in web addresses, as the “s” denotes a secure connection.
This is especially important if consumers find social media sites offering vouchers or gift cards. Clicking the link in a phony ad may redirect shoppers to an unsecured site that is unaffiliated with the actual retailer.
Everyone has at least one person who is hard to buy for. Gift cards may seem like the perfect holiday solution, but use caution.
Purchase gift cards from behind the customer service counter whenever possible.
Inspect the gift card and look for any signs of tampering, such as PIN numbers that have been scratched off. If the card is for a pre-loaded amount, ask for the card to be scanned at the register to verify its full value.
These are crucial tips. Thieves have been known to target gift card racks. They may use handheld scanners to read and steal the magnetic information off the card, after which they place the card back on the display and wait for it to be activated.
That is when the thief can create a counterfeit or make purchases without the card in hand.
Charitable donations also pick up during the holiday season.
Donating to a cause of one’s choosing is generous, but watch for fraudsters who run sham charities. They are more than willing to take advantage of your goodwill.
Remember, donors should never feel pressured to give immediately. Instead, search an organization by name, particularly if it is unfamiliar, and ask how much money will actually go to the intended cause.
Watch for fraudulent organizations that may use sympathetic-sounding names that are similar to names of legitimate charities.
Anyone who has questions about a charity’s legitimacy can review the Secretary of State’s website to see if the organization is registered to solicit donations in West Virginia.
This time of year can be a busy season with celebrations, charitable giving and purchasing gifts, but it’s important to stay vigilant and protect sensitive information no matter the rush.
Spending just one minute to take precautions can save consumers hours of potential headaches.
Give yourself the gift of security this holiday and enjoy the season without worry. Stay vigilant, spend wisely and have a very happy holiday.
Patrick Morrisey is the Attorney General of West Virginia.