5 scams to look out for this holiday season

Between the snow and cold you can find insane deals on anything you can imagine. Unfortunately, this is the perfect time for scammers to finesse you out of your hard earned cash. With online shopping scams targeting a record number of holiday shoppers this year here’s a guide for staying safe and avoiding these top 5 holiday scams.

1. Social Media Scams

Social media is a wonderful place for sharing holiday memories and your epic decorations for Christmas. However, be extremely wary before buying products from ads on social media such as Facebook and Instagram. Anyone is able to post ads on these platforms, making them an amazing tool for scammers to take you to their websites and sell you defective products, if they deliver their products at all. Knock-off smart watches, lightbulbs that are dead on arrival - there are countless videos of disappointed customers who purchased a product through social media. Take into account the website the ad directs you to.

2. Prepaid Payment Scam

If a seller EVER asks you to pay with prepaid gift cards, wire transfers, CashApp, Venmo, or other third party payment services that lack buyer protection, run the other way. It is guaranteed that no reputable seller will accept these forms of payment (who trades a new PS5 for five Target gift cards?) and as soon as you send the “payment”, you can expect to be ignored, blocked, and sadly out of luck. Of course, this doesn’t apply to friends, family, or people you trust. 

3. High Value Items Scam

When buying items that are in high demand, be especially wary of large discounts or “alternative” payment methods (remember the prepaid payment scam). While it’s not technically impossible for you to receive an incredible deal from an unsuspecting seller, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Take a hard look at a seller’s reputation, the website that you’re shopping on, and the reviews left by other shoppers before you settle on a purchase. 

4. Free Item Scams

If you’ve been on the internet, you’ve probably seen this scam pretty often. A random site claiming you’ve won a free iPhone, gift card, or TV on your first visit to the site is a scam, full-stop. These sites ask for personal information (including address and phone number), then want you to complete offers that require multiple purchases. By the time you’re finished with the offers, you’ll definitely have paid for the “free” product - and there’s been reports that even after completing all the offers, the item never ships. This is one of the longest running scams on the web, right next to the foreign princes offering to transfer a million dollars to you via email.

5. Phishing Scams

Speaking of foreign princes, phishing scams have increased in 2020. Phishing is a form of social engineering designed to take your personal information, whether it be through downloading malware, tricking you into sending personal information, or posing as an official to get you to reveal account info. A popular phishing scam today is the Amazon refund, where the victim receives a call from a fraudulent Amazon employee that offers them a refund with additional cash, for exchange of their account information. Thanks to the various ways that phishing scams can be performed, there’s no perfect solution to avoid them. However, you can protect yourself by installing antivirus software, only responding to emails from sources you trust, and checking website URLs to ensure that you’re engaging with trusted sources (bonus tip: if you’re on Google Chrome, check for a lock icon next to a URL - it tells you if your connection is secure). On your phone, be aware of text message scams - don’t click on links from numbers you don’t recognize, and if you’re ever unsure if a website or phone call is legitimate, go to the official site or company number to verify. 

Hopefully with these tips, the holiday season will go smoothly for you, and you’ll be able to shop safely and securely. If you need a bit of extra cash to purchase the *perfect* gift, BoroCash is your best friend for borrowing money

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