Ho, ho, holiday season scams

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — even for hackers who use a medley of ways to lure you into their schemes.

Here are a few of the leading holiday scams and red flags to look out for this holiday season:

  • Gift card scams
    Many holiday scams revolve around buying and selling fake gift cards or tricking you into paying someone with a gift card. If you receive an urgent call asking you to pay them with a gift card, then it is most likely a scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission, gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. If you do buy gift cards in a store, carefully examine the PIN to ensure it hasn’t been altered in any way. Get a receipt so that you can verify the purchase in case the card is lost or stolen.
  • Charity scams
    Hackers are really good at creating fake charities, such as GoFundMe campaigns, in an attempt to lure you into their scam. Until you’ve lost money or sent them your personal information, you may not be able to tell that the charity was a fraud. To avoid these “lookalike” charities, be sure to do your research and check the URL and charity name before donating or sending any information to the charity.
  • Seasonal job scams
    During the holiday season, scammers will post fake seasonal job ads that offer high pay for little work. If a job offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be on the lookout for warning signs that an employer needs your personal information right away or you to cash a check and send the extra money back to the company.

Shopping Online
Are you planning to shop online this holiday season? By implementing a few good cyber steps, you can still continue to enjoy the convenience of online shopping safely.

  • Use secure Wi-Fi
    While using public Wi-Fi to shop online for gifts is convenient, it is not cyber safe. Don’t make purchases via public Wi-Fi in such places as restaurants, hotels and airports; instead, use a virtual private network or your phone as a hotspot for secure shopping.
  • Think before you click
    If you receive a sales offer via email or text that seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Do not be so quick to click on the link because scammers are good at setting up fake company websites. Also, phishing emails and fake websites often contain multiple typos and grammar mistakes. To verify the offer, you should go directly to the company’s website to determine whether it is legitimate or not.
  • Consider payment options
    Using a credit card is much safer than using a debit card because there are more consumer protections for credit cards if something goes wrong. If you use a debit card, then the scammers have immediate access to your account, which makes it much harder to report unless you’re keeping watch on your account daily. Consider using virtual credit card numbers or a third-party payment service such as Amazon Pay, PayPal, Google Pay or Apple Pay to pay for purchases without directly entering your credit card information into a website.

For more holiday scams, check out Aura.com’s 2022 Holiday Scams: How To Stay Safe While Shopping, Traveling, and Giving.

If you do encounter a holiday scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online or call 877-382-4357 and report it to North Carolina’s Attorney General Office

If you have questions regarding phishing attempts, contact the NC State Help Desk via the NC State IT Service Portal or call 919.515.HELP (4357).