How to Shop Safe and Secure this Holiday Season

Have you seen the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and ads that started before Halloween was even over? Businesses want you to spend your money shopping with them. And that means cyber criminals are just a few steps behind and ready to snag your cash instead.
 
To help you keep your money safe and receive the gifts you want this holiday season, I'm sharing…
 
5 TIPS TO SPOT A HOLIDAY SCAM
 
1.  Beware of the gift that was SUPER CRAPPY or NEVER WAS
Keep your eyes peeled for the many clickbait ads promoting sought-after products or the impossible-to-score gift. Unfortunately, some of these ads are from fraudsters, posing as merchants who want to steal your passwords or give you the gift of malware. Some merchants will disappear without a trace, while others will send you an inexpensive, ineffective product for the same reason (AKA the crappy gift). Don't be a victim of the gift that never was. Don't click on the link in the email, avoid the online ad clickbait, shop with retailers you know, and read reviews.
 
2.  AVOID POP-UPS AND ADS
Did you know the information and links in pop-ups and ads aren't verified nor checked for malicious content? This makes pop-ups and ads the perfect hunting grounds for scammers to steal your information and money. If you see a fantastic deal or coupon in an ad or pop-up, DON'T CLICK. Better yet, don't see them at all - install a pop-up blocker. Most anti-virus programs come with one, or you can select an extension for your browser.
 
 3.  Watch for BOGUS and UNSECURE WEBSITES
Not all websites are created equal. Reputable websites will display HTTPS and a padlock in the address bar. Depending on your browser, it might take an extra click in the address bar to see it. If it's not secure… RUN… don't enter any payment information. Also, watch out for websites that are just a typo away from the real thing. Always check the spelling twice after typing in an address or before clicking on a link to ensure you end up where you want and not on a scammer's site.


 
 4.  Beware of the HOLIDAY PHISH
That holiday phishing email often contains coupons or special online shopping offers. Other popular holiday phishing lures include bogus gift card offers, giveaways, contests, and too-good-to-be-true deals. These scams will try to create a sense of urgency by using the phrase 'act now' or displaying super short time limits on the deals.
  
5.  There's no such thing as a free lunch or A FREE GIFT CARD
As the holiday season approaches, there will be a surge in offers to give you free gift cards to enjoy the holiday season. Rest assured… Costco, Walmart, Macy's, and other popular retailers are not giving away coupons for a mega percentage off, nor are they giving you a $250 off coupon to help you enjoy the holidays. Watch out for ads that appear to be from a popular retailer offering a HUGE discount. All the scammer wants you to do to claim the "coupon" is answer a few quick questions. The coupon or gift card is fake, and it was only a ruse to steal your info!

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