Mark Mandell, Esq.
As families hurriedly finish up their holiday shopping, shoppers should beware of holiday hoaxes and scams – both online and at brick-and-mortar stores.
Shoppers who are not of the “digital native” generation are especially susceptible to online scams as they search for holiday gifts. Internet fraud is now the sixth most prevalent scam against seniors, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and results in millions of dollars lost each year.
I would like to provide some helpful hints for protecting yourself against such fraud, beyond avoiding the “Nigerian Prince” emails.
Perhaps the most important point to note is that, when checking out a purchase online, ensure that the web address begins with “https” – the “s” stands for “secure,” which means it is safer to provide your credit card information. Conversely, “http” – without the “s” – is less secure for making online purchases.
Many reputable retailers will even open a window to a separate secure check-out page.
If you are purchasing items from an online marketplace like Craiglist or eBay, the best practice is to only deal with sellers who provide a phone number. Do not rely solely on email, which could open you up to viruses or fraudulent requests for money.
Other common-sense steps you can take include:
- Do not open emails from senders you do not recognize. If you receive such emails delete them immediately; if you open them on accident, delete them without clicking on any links.
- Be mindful of email lists and/or reward programs that you have signed-up for. If you receive a “holiday greeting card” email from a sender whose list you have not signed up for, then delete those emails.
- Do your homework on charities that solicit donations. Charitable donation drives are often at their peak during the holidays and present a unique opportunity for scammers to prey on people’s disposition toward giving during the holidays.
- Watch out for phony websites. When searching for gifts online, read the website description before clicking on it. Scammers can buy websites with similar sounding names to reputable retailers to try and trick shoppers. (e.g. macys.com is the reputable site for Macy’s. But, macysstore.com could be a scammer website.)
Outside the online world, shoppers should also be mindful of the security of their financial information and data. In the heat of holiday shopping, it is tempting to constantly use your debit card. However, as many reports have shown recently, your information could get hacked.
Using a credit card, which is not linked to your bank account, is a better alternative. It is much easier to simply cancel a hacked credit card than to try and recover additional lost funds from your checking or savings account that is linked to your debit card. Keep in mind, too, that paying in cash, when possible, is the best method of keeping your financial information safe – and to tame your buying habits amid all the deals.
Here’s to wishing everyone a safe and happy fraud-free holiday season!
If you feel that you have been a victim of fraud or you have questions, you can contact Attorney Mark Mandell. Or, have you been convicted of retail or return fraud? Arrested for drunk driving after a holiday party? Give Mark Mandell a call and you will get an attorney who knows how to aggressively protect your rights. Call today at (248) 380-0000.