Seasonal Scams: Protecting Yourself During the Holidays

December 15, 2023

As the holiday season brings joy and opportunities to reconnect with loved ones, it also marks a period of heightened spending and, consequently, an upswing in seasonal scams.

Scammers exploit this festive time by manipulating people into giving away money or releasing sensitive information. In this article, we'll look into three common seasonal scams: Charity Scams, Missed Delivery Notification Phishing/Smishing Scams, and Online Shopping Scams. After reviewing them, you will find insight on how to avoid these schemes.

Understanding the Risk

Charity Scams

Verify Charities Before Donating: Scammers commonly create fake charities, GoFundMe campaigns, and other charitable activities to take advantage of generosity. Before making a donation, take the time to research the charity and ensure it is legitimate. Check the charity's registration status using tools like Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Check-A-Charity or call 1-800-HELP-FLA.

Missed Delivery Notification Phishing/Smishing Scam

Track Deliveries Officially: Scammers often exploit the anticipation of holiday packages by sending fake delivery notification text messages. Avoid clicking on links in these texts. Instead, track your deliveries directly through the official website of the delivery company. Legitimate companies like FedEx and UPS will not ask for sensitive information via text messages.

Recognize Warning Signs: Be wary of fake delivery notifications asking for personal or financial information. If the message prompts you to enter sensitive details, it's likely a scam. Always verify the legitimacy of such messages through official channels before taking any action.

Online Shopping Scams

Research Before Purchasing: Scammers create fake online stores offering enticing deals on popular items. Before making a purchase, search for reviews of the website or seller. A lack of reviews or negative feedback may indicate a scam.

Minimizing the Risk: Avoiding the Holiday Scams

Verify Website Security: Check for security markers like a padlock near the URL for a valid security certificate; be vigilant for warning signs such as poor spelling, strange formatting, and a lack of contact information indicating a potential fake site.

Purchase Gift Cards from Trusted Vendors: Only purchase gift cards from reputable vendors and steer clear of auction sites. When buying in-store, confirm that card details are obscured and the card remains undamaged.

Strengthen Online Security: Bolster your online security by using robust, unique passwords for each account and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible, heightening overall protection.

Beware of Phone Scams: Never trust unsolicited calls, and if uncertain, hang up and call the company back using its official phone number.

Watch for Red Flags in Donation Requests: Be wary if charities use hard-sell tactics or employ vague language; authentic charities provide clear information on how donations will be used and refrain from resorting to threats.

Quick Wins

Via City National Bank of Florida's online banking platform, you can activate key and easy-to-use electronic tools to manage your finances and stay aware of your account's activity- at home, in the office or on the go.

Card Controls: Help protect your cards with controls and alerts in real time using the card controls feature.

Account Alerts: Always know your balance. Send account or bill pay alerts straight to your email, or via text or as an SMS push.

Smartwatch App1: Get the ultimate convenience of keeping tabs on your money- right on your wrist.

Text Banking1: Need to check your last five transactions? Get the details via text message. Our text banking service allows you to request and retrieve a variety of accounr information without having to sign in. Send balance alerts, transfer alerts, and more directly to your phone by setting up text alerts.

Learn more about additional electronic tools here.

Reporting Fraud

Staying one step ahead from seasonal scams is critical to navigating the holiday season with peace of mind. By adopting a proactive approach and implementing the recommended precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to deceptive schemes. Taking the time to verify charities, scrutinize online transactions, and fortify digital security not only protects personal finances but also contributes to a safer and more enjoyable holiday experience.

If you know, or even think, you’ve been a victim of identity fraud, take immediate action and follow these five steps.

1. Report the fraudulent activity. If the activity is related to our financial institution, please contact us directly. If it is related to another financial institution, your credit card company, or any other organization contact them directly.

2. Contact one of the three consumer reporting companies and have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. This will help stop fraudsters from opening any additional accounts in your name.  Contact only one of the following (the others are required to contact the other two):

3. Close any accounts that you know - or even think – might have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Report the transgression to a security spokesperson at the relevant company. Ask them about any additional steps – they’ll probably ask you to send relevant copies of the fraudulent activity.

You can also use the FTC Theft Affadavit ID Theft Affidavit (PDF, 56KB) as formal certification of your dispute.

4. File your complaint with the FTC. Use the online complaint form; or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261; or write Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580.

5. Sharing your identity theft complaint with the FTC will help law enforcement officials track down identity thieves and stop them. Call or visit the local police or police in the community where the identity theft took place and file a report. Have a copy of your FTC ID Theft complaint form available to give them. Obtain a copy of the police report and the police report number.

For more on protecting yourself agains fraud, check out additional resources here.

Please note: The content in this article comes from individual opinions and experiences. The content should not be taken as advice coming from City National Bank of Florida. City National Bank of Florida does not offer tax, legal or accounting advice.

1 Message and data rates may apply. You must be enrolled in Online Banking. iPad and iPhone are trademarks of Apple, Inc. registered in the U.S. and other countries. Android is a trademark of Google, Inc. Samsung Pay is a trademark of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. Use only in accordance with law. Other company and product names mentioned may be trademarks of their respective owners. Samsung Pay is available on select Samsung devices.

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