Financial Safety During the Holidays: Tips to Avoid Being Scammed this Season

It’s that time again: Holiday shopping season! Whether you’re shopping online or in person, every year thousands of people become victims of holiday scams. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and your festive mood. Three-quarters of U.S. consumers have experienced or been targeted by at least one form of fraud that can be tied to the holidays, including requests from charities, online shopping scams and fraudulent communications about shipping.

Here are some tips to avoid being scammed this holiday:  

  1. Research businesses carefully: When shopping it is always best to buy from businesses that you know and trust. If you or your family are unfamiliar with a business, be sure to read online reviews and research the company on sites like the Better Business Bureau and if you are still unsure, call the number listed to confirm that the business is legitimate. 
  2. Only purchase goods and services through secure sites: Before paying for goods found online make sure you are paying through secure sites that protect the information you are sending because it is encrypted. These sites have a lock icon in the status bar and their URL begins with “https” which protects your personal information. 
  3. Pay with a credit card: When checking out online, use a credit card over bank transfers or payments on apps like Venmo if you can. Credit cards offer greater protections to dispute charges when goods or services are not delivered as promised. Beware of giving out your bank details as these transactions cannot be disputed as easily or at all. 
  4. Deliver packages to a secure location: When you order packages, have them delivered to a secure location, like your workplace or to a friend who will be home to accept the package. When awaiting a package, monitor the shipping process. Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
  5.  Don’t shop online using a public wi-fi network: Avoid using a public wi-fi network when shopping online this season. Shopping using a public wi-fi exposes your personal information to scammers and identity thieves. Only use secure wi-fi networks that you know and trust.
  6. Beware when donating to charity. The Holiday season is a season of giving. Before donating to a charity, make sure you do your research through online independent sources like IRS Select Check, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Although some charities are exempt by District statute and regulation from the requirement that they hold a charitable solicitation license, you can search and verify if a particular charity holds a charitable solicitation license.
  7. Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media. Phishing scams are common during the holiday season. These scams try to get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number in exchange for a deal or promotion. In some cases, you may even unknowingly download malware to your device. Avoid clicking on links in these emails and navigate to the business through an online search engine to see if the deal exists.
  8. Report scams to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG): If you believe you have been the victim of a scammer, contact OAG by calling 202-442-9828, emailing, or submitting a complaint online. When you see scams and fraud, it helps make everyone safer if you let our office know.