For most of us, this time of year is for giving and goodwill. Be aware, though, that while you are out searching for the perfect gifts there are some Bad Santas out shopping for their next victims.
Scammers work year-round, but the holidays present a prime opportunity to unleash schemes on the busy and distracted. Staying alert and being aware of common tricks and scams will help keep your personal and financial information safe.
In general, pause and consider by using the STOP Method:
- Is this communication Suspicious?
- Is it Telling me to click?
- Is it Offering me something that sounds too good to be true?
- Is it Pushing me to act now?
Best practice is to avoid provided links or phone numbers by independently searching for and visiting a website.
1. Package delivery scams
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) many delivery scams start with a text message or an email about a package being delivered to your address. These messages will include a “tracking link” or a call-back number urging you to update information on a missed delivery or complete payment on an order.
If you click on the link or call the number, you will be exposed to fraudsters seeking to steal your personal or financial information, cajole you into sending money, or issue a ransom by installing malware onto your device.
Do not click the link or use provided contact information. Go to the carrier’s website or use the retailer’s tracking tools to verify delivery information.
2. Phishing emails or texts from companies you regularly patronize
Phishing is defined as a form of fraud in which criminals use emails, text messages, or other forms of communication that are designed to masquerade as companies or organizations you know and trust.
During the holidays, scammers will send emails or text messages claiming to be from companies like Amazon, Apple, or stores you frequent often offering special discounts or stating that your account has been hacked.
Remember if an offer is too good to be true, it probably is.
Scrutinize offer details and always do an independent search to reach a retailer’s website.
3. Fake charities
‘Tis the season of giving, and crooks are ready to take advantage of your generosity this time of year. Charity scams can take place online or even by phone. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you do your research before making a donation and be mindful of how you pay.
Keep these fraudster tricks in mind:
- Making you feel pressured to make a donation right now
- Making vague and sentimental claims, but giving no specifics about how your donation will be used
- Guaranteeing sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation.
Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance are two organizations to help you research charities. Before donating to a GoFundMe or similar campaign, investigate the organizer.
4. Look-alike websites
Be wary of emails you don’t expect and especially any provided links.
Link titles may be logical sounding and yet have fake URLs that may lead you to a look-alike website of one of your favorite stores.
Hover over links before clicking and be on the look out for incorrect logos or miss-spelled words.
5. Grandparent scams
This particularly devious holiday scam mainly targets senior citizens, but anyone who finds themselves alone during the holidays are susceptible to falling for this trick.
The scam exploits the love and concern people have for family members and hypes up the sense of urgency.
Criminals will typically call, text, or email posing as a grandchild (or other family member) in trouble and will ask for money either through a wire transfer or in the form of a gift card. Scammers will also have done enough research on your family to make requests sound legit.
Watch for calls from unknown numbers coming in late at night when you are more likely to be caught off guard. That’s a good time to let it go to voicemail.
If you answer, don’t panic and let worry override caution. Call another family member to confirm the emergency.
Remember: AMG will never ask for your personal information
AMG and other financial institutions will NEVER ask for your account number, social security number, name, address, or password in an email, voicemail, or text message.
Generally, a financial institution will only ask you to call them if there is a potential issue with your account.
A summary of red flags
- Be suspicious of any unsolicited email, text, or phone call from individuals asking for personal data.
- Be leery of any form of communication that asks for “immediate attention” or sets an atmosphere of urgency.
- Watch for grammatical errors, typos, or unprofessional language in the body of an email.
- Before you click on a link, even from a trusted provider, hover over it to confirm that it is correct.
- Ideally it should be a secure link, starting with https://
- Look out for slight misspellings in URLs, e.g., www.amgnationel.com instead of www.amgnational.com
- Watch out for URLs that end with .co instead of .com, e.g., www.amgnational.co instead of www.amgnational.com
- When in doubt, do not click on a link provided in an email or text. Do a separate search for the organization’s website or set a bookmark for a link that you know is correct.
- Be cautious about opening any attachments or downloading any files from emails you receive, regardless of who sent them.
- Keep track of online orders and their shipping status to make it easier to spot a fake delivery message.
- Don’t rely on official-looking logos or professional sounding language as proof of authenticity.
Ways to protect your accounts
- Make sure that you create a unique, strong password for each site you visit, especially for banking and financial sites.
- If you have trouble remembering passwords, consider a passphrase using special characters or a password manager. Do not rely on sticky notes on your desk or unprotected documents on your computer.
- Set up multi-factor authentication, which requires another form of ID to log in.
- Regularly update your computer software to make sure that it has the latest security patches and updates, especially web browsers.
- Review credit card and bank account statements regularly.
- Take advantage of AMG’s credit and debit card SecurLOCK features, which enable cardholders to manage access to their accounts, including:
- Activate and deactivate their cards;
- Enable or disable transaction types, e.g., only allowing in-store purchases vs. online purchases;
- Set alerts when transactions are made; and
- Set monetary thresholds for any transaction.
- If you receive a voicemail from an individual claiming to be from your bank, verify the call-back number or use the phone number on the back of a credit/debit card to return the call. It’s best not to hit the redial button or call a number given.
Steps to take if compromised
- Contact your AMG advisor, or other financial institution, at once.
- Report the crime to your local police.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to request a fraud alert on your account and to freeze your credit report. Dispute any fraudulent activity on your credit report.
- If you have unauthorized charges on any accounts, contact the fraud department of those companies, such as credit card issuers, cable or phone companies, and other lenders.
- For more information on identity theft visit the FTC Identity Theft
Again, at this time of year an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Stay alert and be suspicious of anyone telling you to take action, offering you something that is too-good-to-be-true, or pushing you with emotional tactics. Pause, consider, and keep your financial information safe.
One of the advantages of banking with AMG is the holistic way in which we know you, from your personal checking and savings accounts through to your investments and wealth transfer trusts.
We help you secure accounts, integrate your wealth across accounts so that it can work harder for you, and simplify the number of relationships you need to manage.