Avoiding Fraud During the Holidays – Top Tips to Stay Safe

In a perfect world, we’d all enjoy the holidays free of drama and fraud, and financial predators would take a long overdue vacation. We don’t live in a perfect world, and digital scammers are more likely to target honest people during the holidays.

According to reports, hackers ramp up their efforts to steal credit card information, bank account numbers and breach digital accounts by as much as 400 percent during the holidays. Online Grinch’s don’t just want to steal holidays. They want every shred of your valuable digital assets they can lay their keyboards on. That being said, avoiding fraud and the need for improving identity theft protection has never been greater than during the holiday season. We hope the following information and tips help you navigate the holidays without incident.

1: How to Detect Phishing Schemes During the Holidays

Hackers send out thousands of fraudulent “phishing” emails during the holidays. As the name suggests, they are fishing for information from recipients. A common phishing email may ask for pieces of personal identity information, such as a password. It might ask you to download a malicious file or click on a link and take some type of action. The endgame is often to gain access to financial accounts and steal your money. Phishing emails can often be detected by errors in spelling, grammar, or address you as “sir” or “madam.” They come from anonymous sources and should not be trusted. If you find a suspicious email in your inbox, delete it.

2: Passwords Key To Identity Theft Protection

According to a 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 81 percent of data breaches are related to compromised passwords. What makes that number so high are the statistics surrounding repeat password usage. For instance, upwards of 65 percent of people reuse passwords on multiple online accounts. The average internet user repeats a password 14 times. If a hacker figures out your password, they have the keys to your financial life. Identity theft protection begins with strong passwords and not repeating them. The time to ramp up password protection is today, before digital thieves figure out your e-commerce, banking, and credit card login profiles.

3: Multi-Factor Authentication Helps Protect Online Accounts

Many of the online platforms that involve finances offer multi-factor authentication. This entails a separate security code or action by legitimate users before an account can be accessed. These cybersecurity measures loosely work in the following ways.

You go to log in to your online account. Many of us have the information saved on a device, and we just click to enter. If a digital thief gets that far, they’d be able to siphon off money or leverage your credit. Multi-factor authentication adds a layer of protection.

Before proceeding, a security code may be sent to a secondary device. Those digits will need to be entered before access is granted. Another example people choose is having an alert email or text message sent. Legitimate users would need to acknowledge the notification to open the account. What these simple cybersecurity measures do is add a required action that remains out of a hacker’s reach. Check into these and other protections on the platforms you access and harden your defenses for the holidays.

4: Conduct Due Diligence On New Charities Before Making Donations

Avoiding fraud often requires conducting due diligence, and that includes seemingly legitimate charities. Scam artists typically use human kindness against good people. They understand that charitable people want to give generously, particularly during the holidays. There are two ways to avoid fraudsters. Give to charities and organizations you have successfully worked with in the past. Or conduct thorough due diligence regarding any organization you have not.

It may seem unthinkable that scammers would present themselves as helping those in need to trick good people. But the rise in scams during the early months of the pandemic escalated to 18 million phishing emails containing malware per day. Just as those schemes tried to prey on fear and anxiety, holiday scams try to take advantage of your desire to do good.

5: Focus On Local Donations

There are wonderful national and international organizations that do good works and deserve support. By that same token, there are many right in our community that desperately need help as well.

Local food banks and shelters need items that more fortunate people have in plenty. As we enter the holiday season, it’s a good time to go through the cupboards and closets for non-perishable food items, blankets, and personal hygiene necessities. These charitable donations can be delivered curbside for increased health and safety. In terms of avoiding fraud and identity theft protection, donating material items to local charities doesn’t put you at risk.

Related: Make a Monthly Budget that Works for Your Family

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