I dodged a scam this week from a company that called to renew my subscription to McAfee, my antivirus software. They directed me to a website and told me I had to pay $420 for a two-year subscription. This felt a little hinky, but then, I’ve had a computer virus and it’s frightening how quickly it infects your entire hard drive and destroys files.
I hedged a bit, suggesting that I only wanted a one-year subscription
Apparently this wasn’t an option. Now I was getting really suspicious. I asked this guy to call me back in an hour, and I quickly contacted my computer guy. Subject line: “Is this for real or a scam?” He responded within 15 minutes. “SCAM. These guys don’t make calls.” He just saved me $420 and likely more. Once these guys find an easy mark, they’re eager to make another score.
This incident alerted me to potential holiday scams
Holiday scams target online shoppers. Stats show that a whopping 60% of us are buying our gifts online this year. ZeroFOX warns that scammers’ most successful efforts snare shoppers by impersonating major brands with phony websites and social media campaigns. Those most at risk—sites and campaigns related to fashion, tech and sporting goods—all the stuff we want!
These phony sites and fake posts entice you to spend money for products you’ll never receive. Many are designed to harvest credit-card numbers and other personal data to commit identity theft or sell on the dark web. Scammers may distribute malware-loaded links or attachments via supposed coupon offers or “order confirmation” emails asking you to verify an order you never placed. Gift-card frauds also shift into high gear during the holidays.
Be alert; watch for signs of a potential fraud when there are:
Ridiculously deep discounts on hot items–especially if they’re on unfamiliar websites.
Spelling errors or shoddy grammar on a shopping website or in an email.
Branding errors. If a phony website is masquerading as a well-known brand, there’s a good chance that the branding is poorly executed.
Shopping or travel sites that don’t list a phone number or street address and offer only an email address. These are often offshore and have no contact information or accountability.
Sites that don’t have privacy policies.
A few tips for secure online shopping this season:
Mouse over links in emails and social media ads. This will display the destination URL, and you can click through only if you’re certain it’s a legitimate site.
Be an informed consumer. Doing some quick online research could save you some heartache. Google unfamiliar sites. Search for their names along with keyword terms like “scam,” “complaints” or “reviews”.
Before purchasing, make sure return and refund policies are clear.
Don’t buy anything from a site unless the URL begins with “https://” or there’s a padlock or unbroken key icon in the address bar or at the bottom of the browser window. These indicate a secure connection.
Don’t buy anything online while using a public wifi network, as it may not be secure.
Don’t make a purchase or donation if a website or caller seeks payment by wire transfer, gift card or prepaid card.
Forget about really great deals and free gifts
Finally, if an unsolicited email asks you to click on a link or download an app to receive or be eligible for a really great deal or to arrange delivery for a free gift, ignore it. This is the one where you’ll know as soon as you click that it’s too late. You could be infecting your computer with a virus as well as setting yourself up for fraud.
The holidays: A very good time to talk to your family about creating a Living Trust
Many of our clients have told us that the holidays are the perfect time to talk to reluctant parents about creating a Living Trust. For many families, it sets the stage for a discussion about appointing a Power of Attorney and an Agent for their Advance Healthcare Directive. A Trust is really about families, and it’s one of the most thoughtful thing you can do for those you love.