Security · November 12, 2020

Protect Yourself From Holiday Scams

Online shopping is convenient during the holiday season, but it's also an opportunity for fraudsters and cybercriminals to scam shoppers. 

Learn to protect yourself from identity theft while shopping online during the busiest digital retail season of the year.


Common holiday scams targeted at online shoppers

By quickly spotting an online holiday shopping scam, you could reduce the chances of someone stealing your sensitive financial information and accessing your accounts. Some of the most common holiday scams to watch for include:

  • Fake online shopping sites enticing you to enter credit or debit card details that cybercriminals can then access
  • Falsified online order confirmations from reputable sites designed to trick victims into providing credit card or banking information
  • Phony shipping order confirmations with links that download viruses to your device
  • Coupons linked to a fake login page designed to steal your username, password and credit or debit card details
  • Emails imitating sales ads from your favorite shopping places with links to fake shopping sites

Strategies to prevent online identity theft

Being proactive before you start your online holiday shopping can help protect your wallet from identity theft and other malicious online behavior. Here are five great ways to take action now.

1 Shop directly from the source

Rather than clicking the links in an email, go directly to the official site to do your holiday shopping. This will protect you from any falsified emails or ads that lead to fake login pages or phony shopping sites. Always be careful about what you choose to click, and don't click on anything you didn't solicit yourself.

2 Set up security alerts

Contact your credit card company or bank to request alerts by email or text for each transaction on your credit or debit card. You can also turn on notifications for these security alerts in your credit card or bank app's settings. By keeping track, you'll quickly find out about any suspicious transactions.

3 Create unique passwords

If you use the same password for multiple online accounts, you could leave all your finances vulnerable to cybercriminals. Choose a unique password of at least 13 characters for each account, or use a secure online password generator to create a random password. A password manager can help you store and generate passwords securely.

4 Never use public Wi-Fi

Avoid using free Wi-Fi in public places like restaurants, airports and hotels. Scammers and cybercriminals often target these unsecured Wi-Fi connections to steal login IDs, passwords and other personal information. 

5 Keep your device up to date

Finally, one key way to avoid holiday scams and protect yourself from identity theft online year-round is to keep your device's operating system, software and applications up to date. Then, check to ensure the update didn't change any settings you may have had in place. For example, ensure your apps only use the necessary permissions, disable automatic connections to public Wi-Fi, and turn off Bluetooth when it's not in use.

What to do if you suspect your card was compromised

If you suspect your credit or debit card was compromised during your online holiday shopping, contact your card issuer or bank immediately. Report the incident by calling the phone number on the back of the card. Your card issuer will confirm your recent transactions, then likely cancel your card and set up a new one.

Next, change your passwords for all online financial accounts. You should also notify the credit bureaus and even the police if your card issuer suggests doing so. Review your past, current and future financial statements carefully for any suspicious activity.

You'll feel more confident shopping online this holiday season when you know how to spot identity theft and cybercriminal card activity. Shop wisely, and you'll have plenty of time left over to enjoy worry-free with family and friends.

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This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.