The holiday season is a time to spend with family and friends — not fraudsters. Make sure you don't become the victim of a seasonal scam.
It's an unfortunate reality that there are unscrupulous people out there that would take advantage of others for financial gain — especially at a time of year that is supposed to be characterised by goodwill to all mankind.
With Christmas around the corner and a spate of parcels being delivered around the country, scammers have taken to imitating postal workers to con people out of their hard-earned cash.
"These scams are common in the festive season and are sadly on the rise. This year, over $100,000 has been lost to parcel delivery scams with more than 400 complaints to the ACCC," said Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
How can I protect myself from fraud in the festive season?
1) Do your Christmas shopping on a secure connection only.
Never shop at an online store that does not display https in front of its web address, indicating a secure, encrypted connection. Also, beware of stores that ask you to pay by money order, bank transfer or other unconventional means.
2) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Unfortunately, deals that are exceptionally enticing can turn out to be no good at all. If you are suspicious about a website that is offering a price or delivery time that is too good to believe, check around the site for hints that it may be a fake. Look for weird email or URL addresses, poor grammar and other tell-tale signs of dubious activity.
3) Don't download it.
There are very few things the average consumer would need to download that are not available from reputable vendors. If a website prompts you to download a file in order to proceed, double check that the service is legitimate. Downloading malware could give a scammer a sneak peak at your savings account, or they could use your computer as a bot in an attack on another system.
Oftentimes malware will be delivered in unexpected emails. If you're prompted by an unknown sender to download something — especially an executable (.exe) or zip file — do not click on it! Mark the sender as unsafe and delete the email.
4) Do not give out credit card information.
Scams like the postal trick mentioned previously can be executed by email, phone call or even post. If somebody calls you up asking for your credit card details to complete a payment or process an order, hang up the phone. These scammers will often pose as representatives of legitimate companies. If you feel that it may have been a legitimate request, you can check this by calling the company up on their publicly listed phone numbers, as can be found through an internet search or a phone book. Do not use a phone number provided to you to verify the origin of the caller.
5) Do not be embarrassed.
If you've unwittingly given out your details to a potential scammer or if you notice irregular activity on your credit card statement, do not be too embarrassed or proud to rectify the situation.
If you manage to catch a scammer early on, you can protect yourself and your bank account by reporting the suspicious activity to your financial institution immediately. Not reporting the possible threat could allow the fraudster free reign with your finances or identity.
Having your financial details revealed to a scammer is not only a security risk, but is an invasive abuse of your privacy. When it comes to your finances and online security this festive season, make sure you are vigilant about possible Grinches out there who would seek to steal away your holiday cheer.