Online Holiday Shopping Traps Part Two: Phony Deals and Offers

USAA.com

When buying online, you are likely to come across at least one online scam, if not more. They come in all forms, pop-up windows, offers directly to your email inbox and in search results. To protect yourself, keep informed of shopping traps and scams. Here are three to be aware of:

1. Phony Black Friday or Other Ads

If you're planning to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, you want to see the big sales in advance. Cybercrooks know that. So they create sites that try to capture traffic from searches for sales fliers. What they really want is your personal information. Similar to the $1,000 gift card scam, the goal of these crooks is to get your personal information, or have you click a link that secretly loads your computer with malware that captures and transmits your information to them.

To help protect yourself:

  • Be vigilant. Don't click on random links, and don't download attachments from people you don't know.
  • Update your software. Be sure your malware and virus protection software is up-to-date and turned on.
  • Go to the source. If you're looking for Black Friday ads, look for legitimate sales information at sites such as BlackFriday.com or DealNews.com.

2. Holiday Vacation Deals You Don't Want

If the idea of spending the holidays on a cruise or lying on a warm beach appeals to you, would you be tempted by an offer to go for free? Or to get your hotel for free? "Anytime you see the word 'free,' alarm bells should go off," says Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate. "Free cruise. Free all-inclusive vacation. Free flights. All of those things are signs that you are probably looking at a scam. The word 'free' is the lure."

In these sorts of deals, at some point you're going to be asked to a pay "taxes" or a fee that supposedly is the one thing that isn't free. "Once you buy in, they'll promise you the world, and they'll ask you to wire money," Elliott says. "It's in-season this time of year."

To help protect yourself:

  • Play it safe. Use only trusted travel sites and rental agencies when booking.
  • Be wary of super low prices. Don't fall for gimmicks that make what ought to be a pricey vacation look like something you can get for a fee or a couple of hundred dollars. When those tantalizing promises are dangled, Elliott says, "don't walk away — run."

3. Promises of 'Free' Stuff

Promotions to "Like" a company's Facebook page in exchange for a $1,000 gift card or getting texts with similar ploys have become routine in recent years. Why? Because people fall for them. Identity thieves count on consumers entering their personal and financial information to get the freebie.

To help protect yourself:

  • Stop and think before acting. A company is not going to give away a $1,000 gift card in exchange for a "Like," and it's not going to randomly text you with a similar deal. If you see one of these come-ons, delete it or just move on. "If you just stopped for a second, you'd realize that it's just too good to be true," Elliott says.

For more information on identifying online shopping traps, including phishing scams, how scammers are exploiting new forms of payment such as prepaid cards, and more, visit www.consumerfed.org/fraud.

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Guest Blogger | September 30, 2014

    The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) offers the same types of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401(k) plans. Sign up or get more info at tsp.gov

Saver Stories View all »

Money on the Side

Written by Super User | November 26, 2010

Camp Arifjan, Kuwait -- A colonel in the 1st Theater Sustainment Command has money on his mind.

Army Col. George Fields, the Chief of Intelligence, or G2, has been teaching a free "Managing Your Money" class here in his spare time. More than 400 students have attended his six week-long class to learn more about increasing their own finances.

"All I did was sit down and listen to a guy one day who showed me what he was doing" said the colonel as he explained how he became interested in what he calls, "becoming financially free."

Read more...

A Disciplined Approach to Saving

Written by Super User | November 26, 2010

I just recently retired after 30 years of service with the Marine Corps. I truly enjoyed my time serving the Corps and I flourished in the disciplined environment. I also took a disciplined approach to saving. Here are some of the tactics I used-they are very low to moderate risk.

Read more...

Meet Wacinque BeMende

Written by Super User | November 26, 2010

Meet Wacinque BeMende. He’s so passionate about encouraging savings and promoting financial literacy, he’s established his own Kid’s Savings Program. Wacinque donated $15,000 to the Community Action of Laramie County in Cheyenne Wyoming to begin the Wacinque “ Rhino” Fund Endowment to help kids open savings accounts.

Read more...