’Tis the Season for Scams

While the holidays bring merriment, fraudsters may take the opportunity to use seasonal scam tactics to target vulnerable groups. Holiday shopping online has many benefits such as avoiding crowds and being able to browse from the comfort of home, but there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind.

The growing market for online shopping allows scammers more opportunity to disguise their tactics. Learn what tricks to look for so you can inform older adults how they can protect themselves and their holiday spirit.

Fraudsters are known to create websites that impersonate the sites of well-known retailers that are known for their holiday deals. These phony websites usually claim to offer greatly discounted goods, and advertise exceptionally low prices on the hottest gifts of the season. These sites are set up to gather the personal data and financial information of unsuspecting shoppers. Scammers use these bargain prices to lure individuals into providing credit card information, personal information that can be used for identity theft, or they will even ask for payment via money transfer for merchandise that will never arrive.

'Holiday shoppers should never use a money transfer to pay for an online order.'

Shoppers also may learn about holiday sales and deals through emails or social media advertisements. Cybercriminals use these tactics to encourage shoppers to click on bogus links that download viruses or malware onto the user’s device. These phishing attempts can provide criminals valuable information such as login credentials, credit card information and even bank account details.

While you are spreading holiday cheer, be sure to also share these safety tips with anyone you know who plans to shop online this season.

  • There is never a legitimate reason for an older adult to send money to a person they have not met in person.
  • Holiday shoppers should never use a money transfer to pay for an online order. Legitimate businesses can accept credit cards or other forms of electronic payment. Credit cards offer more protection than debit cards in the case of fraudulent use.
  • If a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. “Unbelievable” prices can often indicate a scam. Be on the lookout for emails advertising holiday shopping specials that come from unfamiliar companies or individuals. Be sure to avoid clicking on any links found within these types of emails.
  • Be skeptical of any website or individual seller who asks for a great deal of personal information. To sell an item, all they really need is the buyer’s name, delivery address, credit card number and associated payment address. Sellers should never ask for Social Security or bank account numbers.
  • If a company does appear to be a legitimate small business or retailer, always do an internet search for their reviews before purchasing. It is likely that someone else will have written about their experience if the retailer is fraudulent. A quick online search could ultimately save money and a headache in the long run.

Keep the holidays free of scams and stress with a little extra attentiveness about online actions. Simply knowing about the different types of scams people could fall for to is a great step toward keeping yourself and others safe.

For more information on common scams and fraud awareness, be sure to visit Western Union’s Fraud Awareness Center. Be vigilant about the way you communicate to ensure the holidays remain jolly.

April Payne is a senior analyst, social media, at Western Union in Denver, Colo. On Oct. 28 at 10 a.m. PT and 1 p.m. ET, Aaron Archer, Western Union's Leader, Fraud Risk Management, will be speaking at an ASA LIVE to discuss such scams.