Watch out for holiday season scams

The holiday season, which traditionally begins Thanksgiving Day, is filled with family gatherings, goodwill and gift exchanges. Unfortunately, cybercriminals capitalize on this festive time to deliver seasonal scams. Learn about some of these common scams and ways to protect yourself:

Gift card scams

Many holiday scams involve buying and selling fake gift cards or tricking you into paying someone with a gift card. If you receive an urgent call or email asking for payment via gift card, assume it is a scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), real businesses and government agencies will never request gift cards as payment. If you purchase gift cards in a store, carefully examine the PIN to ensure it hasn’t been altered, and get a receipt so that you can verify the purchase in case the card is lost or stolen.

Charity scams

Hackers often take advantage of people’s goodwill by creating fake charities, such as GoFundMe campaigns. Before donating money or sharing any information, do your research — double-check that the URL and charity details are legitimate.

Seasonal job scams

Don’t fall for fake seasonal job ads that sound too good to be true. Warning signs that a job is probably a scam include high pay for little work, an offer on the spot without an interview, and requests for money or personal information.

Online Shopping

As more folks opt for the convenience of online shopping, it’s important to consider these best practices to stay safe this season.

  • Use secure Wi-Fi
    Shopping online while using public Wi-Fi at places like restaurants, hotels and airports is risky. If you need to make purchases on the go, connect to a virtual private network or use your phone as a hotspot for secure shopping.
  • Think before you click
    If you receive a sales offer via email or text that seems unbelievable, it could be a phishing scam. Keep an eye out for the classic signs of phishing, like typos and grammar mistakes, suspicious links and unusual email addresses. To verify an offer, go directly to the company’s website rather than clicking a link.
  • Consider payment options
    Because most credit card companies offer more consumer protections, credit cards are a safer form of payment than debit cards. Fraudulent debit card charges can also take 30-60 days to be reversed, during which time your account may be frozen. Consider using a virtual credit card number or third-party payment service such as Amazon Pay, PayPal, Google Pay or Apple Pay to avoid entering your credit card information directly.

If you do encounter a holiday scam, file a complaint with the FTC online or call 877.382.4357 and report it to the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office. 

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