Think you’re safe from online scammers? Think again. Last year, identity theft affected more than 13 million U.S. consumers. According to the Insurance Information Institute, identity thieves have stolen a whopping $112 billion from U.S. consumers in the past six years.
These days, online criminals are more likely to target you that criminals on the street. Online hackers and scammers want credit card information and scammer activity will spike during the holiday season.
Here are a few easy steps to identify and avoid online scams as you scramble for last-minute deals.
Top 3 Identity Theft Scams
Gift-card Scams: A too-good-to-be-true gift-card offer is tough to pass up, especially with tons of people to buy for and shopping on a budget. An email offer that asks you to enter your banking information to claim it is a sure sign it’s fake. Trusted brands and retailers don’t ask for that kind of information.
Coupon Scams: Following in the too-good-to-be-true vein, many online scammers use emails and website pop-ups claiming deals to top gifts and tech gadgets at a discounted price. Clicking on the links to these coupons will typically take you to a site asking for personal information. Thieves take the information entered to make purchases in your name, and steal your identity. Other ways to spot a fake coupon:
- No expiration date
- It doesn’t take you directly to the retailers’ site
- The offer is too good- like over 50% off good
Bad Links: Online scammers who try to steal your information often do so via a method known as phishing. They use emails that mimic legit retailers, or with information that looks like it’s from your bank in the attempt to get you to enter personal information. These links can also often install malware onto your computer. Not sure you can spot a fake? This site gives you a few examples.
Ways to spot a fake:
Look for poor grammar and spelling: Oftentimes you can spot a fake email or coupon just by the amount of misspellings and over-the-top guarantees. Plus, if a link takes you to a site with tons of pop-ups, that’s another dead giveaway it’s not a legit offer.
Look for safe payment systems: Apple Pay, Android Pay and Amazon Payments are all great examples of ways to safely pay online. Plus, if you are banking online, or doing anything involving a payment on the web, be sure the site has the lock icon in the link followed by http://. This indicates it is secure and that your data is private.
Look for secure Wi-Fi networks: Never purchase something over public Wi-Fi. It doesn’t have the same kind of security measures in place that a home connection would, which means it’s much easier for hackers to access your phone or computer and steal personal information.
Buying online can be quick and painless as long as you are taking steps to keep your information safe. Installing Anti-Virus software and Anti-Phishing software on your home computer is another great way to fight hackers and scammers.
Plus, you can fight back. If you believe you have been a victim on identity theft, immediately report it here.