How To Avoid The Top 3 Social Media/Email Gift Scams


(Photo by Neil Godwin/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Future Publishing via Getty Images

There’s isn’t a week that goes by without getting an email or text telling me I won something valuable. I’m not that lucky, and neither are most people.

According to Lookout Security, “spoofed (fake) social media profiles and fraud messages can all lead to phishing attacks – and these types of scams are growing increasingly difficult to discern with the naked eye. Always exercise caution if you are contacted by an individual when you can’t validate their identity with 100% confidence.”

Phishing is where an online thief poses as someone else — or a company — to steal your personal financial information. You may become a victim just by posting on social media: “26% of people have public Facebook accounts, and they frequently contain information that makes it easy for attackers to guess your passwords, like your birthday, the names of your family members and your hometown.”

The top scams are “winning” a prize or a free gift; false advertising often involving cryptocurrencies and fake charities or banks.

How do you avoid these swindles? Lookout recommends:

  • Exercise caution when sharing information digitally. Often scams will use urgency to trick people into giving away information quickly. If you see a post online, go directly to the source to validate whether it is legitimate.
  • Consider using advanced security – with malware and “Safe Browsing” protection – that will scan all links you click on in social media and online, then block threats before they do harm.
  • Exercise Savvy Shopping — If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace check their feedback rating. Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
  • Watch for “Red Flags” When Paying Online — Avoid paying for items with prepaid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
  • Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.
  • Avoid Shipping Pitfalls — Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process. Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.

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