Although Black Friday and Cyber Monday are behind us, most Americans still have a large portion of their holiday shopping to complete. In a year of turmoil and pandemic scammers have gotten very sly in their manipulative ways to steal gifts, money, and personal identity, especially in the new digital world we live in where online shopping for the holidays is expected to increase by 30%. Emails, text messages, and now curbside pickup are all ways to be scammed out of your holiday goods.
Scammers have frequently used email to trick shoppers into getting “unbelievable deals” and hack their personal information or steal their debit and credit card numbers on a false page that looks like the real retail webpage. They send a link that when the unsuspecting shopper opens it looks and feels like the real website, however, the link is not the same and scammers watch as shoppers enter personal information that isn’t protected. They build websites of major retailers that seem and look real. They watch in the background, unbeknownst to the shopper, as they enter personal information and copy or write it all down. They are then able to use that information to spend money from a debit and credit card.
Additionally, text messages containing links to “track you package,” “see why your package is delayed,” or more online “deals” are being sent to holiday shoppers. Again, they send over a bogus link via SMS in hopes that they will follow the instructions and provide personal information. They will then use the information provided to reroute packages or change the delivery address. Amazon and USPS are the most prevalent companies they deviously replicate and scam consumers.
Newly added to the arsenal of scamming and hacking list of tools is curbside pickup. In the new world of mask wearing, social distancing, and a desire to not exchange items hand to hand, customers are opting for curbside pickup and retailers are happy to deliver your goods to your vehicle in a designated parking spot. With covid-19 precautions still in place, most retailers are doing the bare minimum to interact with customers and are haphazardly verifying identification of shoppers. The new way of scheming/scamming is to show up with rudimentary information and collect the goods/gifts before the real shopper shows up to collect what they’ve already paid for. 
Holiday shopping is always a risk regardless of the year, but shoppers are especially vulnerable in the covid-19 pandemic era. Here are a few helpful tips to keep you safe while you socially distance and shop from the comfort of your home:
- If a deal seems to good to be true, it probably is. Never trust a link via email or SMS text message. There is no safer way than to open a fresh browser and type the retailer name and website directly.
- Scroll over emails and links to verify the link. If it is a long or suspicious looking email or link delete it and go directly to the secure website. Larger retailers are more likely to be used in a scamming scheme (Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, etc.)
- Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards are more likely to identify fraud and aren’t linked directly to your bank account. It is easier to address any issues in the aftermath with credit card companies than your bank if you are scammed or hacked.
- Don’t store personal or payment information on websites you don’t frequent regularly. The less places your information is stored, the less risk to be scammed or hacked. Generally, larger retailers have better security and more secure transactions than smaller retailers.