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 | April 17, 2014

    Check out these "6 Tips to Help Reduce Credit Card Debt" at http://t.co/kPuiEOOyGA

Saver Stories View all »

How Smart Financial Decisions Can Create Opportunities 

Written by | November 22, 2019

Written by Stephen Ross, America Saves Program Coordinator | November 22, 2019

Of the many stories Military Saves shares, most describe how someone was in dire straits financially and worked their way out of it with the help of Military Saves. This time we want to highlight a different kind of story. This is a story about how responsible financial decisions can build on one another to create opportunities you thought only the super-rich enjoy.

Read more...

Setting a Goal Leads to Success

Written by Super User | May 24, 2019

Growing up, Marisa’s dad had always talked about saving first, but she said she didn’t really internalize it until much later. “I was drifting along with no plan, carrying a little bit of revolving debt, saving some money here and there, but without a real plan for it.”

Read more...

When You Start Small, Saving is Easy

Written by Lila Quintiliani | August 12, 2019

When Attiyya first got married, she and her Marine husband had just graduated from college and were focused on paying off student loan debt. They had both attended private schools and had sizeable loans. Then three months after the wedding, the couple found out they were pregnant with their first child.

The first year of their marriage, says Attiyya, was a balancing act between paying down debt and saving for the future.

Read more...