December 15, 2023
At OceanFirst Bank, your security is our priority. Did you know that New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania were in the top 15 states for internet-based crimes in 2022, according to the FBI? Scammers love the holidays for more than just hot chocolate and cheer – they want to get your holiday money and like the Grinch, steal your presents.
Here are some holiday scams landing on the naughty list this year:
Fake Online Stores
When you’re looking for the perfect gift at the right price, fake stores and lookalike stores are looking for you, your money, and your information. These websites look legitimate, and often offer merchandise at deep discounts. Some of these “shops” are just looking to steal your money for the purchase, by taking payment and never sending your order. They may also steal your credit card and other information to commit more fraud and identity theft.
How can you tell if a site is fake?
- Bargain-basement prices: If prices are more than 55% lower than what you have seen elsewhere, there is a very good chance that it is a scam site, according to internet security firm Norton.
- Website addresses with extra words or characters or unusual domains, like .bargain or .app, instead of .com or .net.
Protect yourself by using trusted sites rather than shopping with a search engine. Double check website and app names – small typos here are a scam giveaway, but easy to miss. Carefully read delivery, exchange, refund, and privacy policies – if they are vague, hard to find, or not there at all, take your business elsewhere.
Package Delivery Scams
Delivery notification scams continue to grow, and always surge around the holiday season. This can be perpetrated via call, email, or text. How do they pull this one off?
- Text or email messages designed to look like they are from a legitimate mail or package carrier, with fake tracking links, which may ask you to enter personal information or even install malware on your system.
- Voicemail messages providing a callback number so you can receive your delivery; these numbers may have high connection fees and expensive per-minute rates.
- Requesting payment in order to get your package delivered.
How do you make sure these scammers get coal instead of your money? If you receive a message about an unexpected delivery or a delay in delivery, slow down. Check the link before clicking for any misspellings. When in doubt, call or go to the legitimate website for the service so you can get accurate information.
Gift Card Scams
Scammers love gift cards because they are untraceable, and the money cannot be recovered once the scammers have the card details. Gift cards are currently the most prevalent payment method for scams, according to the FTC. Common gift card scams include:
- Telling people to pay a fee with a gift card to avoid being in trouble with the law or creditors, or to have their computer “debugged.”
- Pretending to be a family member or saying a family member is in trouble.
- Sending fake emails pretending to be a colleague or supervisor asking an employee to purchase gift cards for other employees and supply the numbers.
The big rule to keep in mind? If someone demands to be paid with a gift card, it’s a scam.
As charitable giving increases around the holidays, so do charity scams. Charity scams can take place online and over the phone. Common charity scams include:
- Rushing or pushing people into making a donation.
- Tricking givers by thanking them for a donation they never paid for and demanding payment.
- Using vague or sentimental claims to promote a fake charity.
How can you protect your donation dollars? Always research any charity before you donate, and never donate by gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer.
Stay Safe While Holiday Shopping
If you are opting to shop in person this year, remember these tips to stay safe:
- Always park in well-lit areas and pay attention to your surroundings when returning to and loading your vehicle.
- Don’t leave your vehicle with purchased gifts in plain view. Lock them in your trunk or cover them.
- Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.
- Only bring the debit or credit cards you plan to use.
- Check your bank statements regularly during the season to spot suspicious activity.
At OceanFirst, we want to help keep you and your money safe. If you think you may have been scammed by one of these popular holiday scams, please call our Customer Care Center at 888-623-2698. We will be there to help you.
Wishing you a safe and scam-free holiday season!