As the holiday season approaches, our focus on joy, festivities, and giving should also come with an increased awareness of potential financial risks. Unfortunately, this time of celebration can also be a prime hunting ground for fraudsters and scammers looking to exploit unsuspecting individuals.
In this blog, we'll delve into the risks associated with holiday fraud and the tactics scammers use on social media to gather sensitive information, especially targeting vulnerable individuals.
Online Shopping Vigilance
The surge in online shopping during the holidays brings with it an increased risk of falling victim to fraudulent schemes. Scammers create fake websites, enticing shoppers with unbelievably low prices or exclusive deals. As a customer, it's crucial to stick to reputable online retailers, verify website security, and remain skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true.
A good practice is to always use a credit card rather than a debit card for online purchases due to the stronger consumer protections in the event of any fraud.
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Phishing Emails and Texts
Phishing attempts tend to spike during the holiday season, with scammers exploiting the festive atmosphere to trick individuals into revealing personal information. Be cautious of emails or texts claiming to be from banks, retailers, or delivery services. Always double-check the legitimacy of such communications by contacting the sender directly through official channels.
Targeting Vulnerable Populations on Social Media
Scammers often target vulnerable populations through social media, seeking to exploit personal information for financial gain. Vulnerable individuals, such as the elderly or those facing financial hardships, may be more susceptible to scams. Scammers create fake profiles, impersonate friends or family members, and use emotional tactics to manipulate individuals into revealing sensitive information.
Look out for cloned profiles. These are profiles that scammers create using the names and information of a real individual. They collect data on who they are friends with so they can then send new friend requests to those individuals, claiming the identity of an existing friend as a way to collect sensitive information from social media users.
Common attempts at gathering information from social media scammers can be:
- Receiving a friend request from someone you’re already friends with on social media.
- Receiving a message from a friend claiming someone you know may be injured in a car accident, housefire, etc. These scams usually have an attached link. Clicking that link will give fraudsters a window into your most sensitive information, giving them the opportunity to do some serious damage to your financials.
- Sending messages to ask for your phone number, saying they’ve lost all of their contacts.
- Sending messages from a cloned profile claiming they’ve fallen on hard times and need financial assistance.
Social Media Privacy and Security
Protecting yourself on social media is crucial, especially during the holiday season. Be cautious about the information you share, review privacy settings regularly, and limit the visibility of personal details. If travelling, do not announce your plans ahead of time, since that lets far too many people know that your house will be vacant, making it a prime target for theft.
Avoid accepting friend requests or engaging with messages from unfamiliar profiles, as these may be attempts to gather information for fraudulent activities.
Setting your social media privacy settings to private can assist in protecting you from some scammers, but keep in mind, nothing on the internet is completely private.
Recognizing and Avoiding Scams
Educating yourself and your loved ones about common scams is a powerful defense. Be wary of unsolicited messages, requests for personal or financial information, and offers that seem too good to be true. Encourage open communication within your community to share information about potential scams, fostering a collective defense against fraudulent activities.
As we celebrate the holidays, let's not forget to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the risks of financial fraud. By staying informed, practicing vigilance in online activities, and fostering a community of awareness, we can make the holiday season joyful and secure for everyone.
If you ever suspect fraudulent activity, reach out to your bank immediately and report the issue. Together, let's ensure a safe and happy holiday season for all.Learn about the benefits of community banking and how it relates to fraud.