Experts warn against holiday scams as Black Friday, Cyber Monday loom

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The biggest shopping weekend is just around the corner. In 2017, roughly 174 million Americans went shopping during the weekend sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

But while shoppers rush to stores or search online for the best sales this year, experts are once again warning about the potential for holiday scams and dangers.

Tim Maniscalo with the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana says the holiday shopping season is a popular time for criminals to try and steal shoppers’ personal information. Maniscalo points to phishing emails and fake websites as generally preferred methods for criminals.

“What we always tell people is if you see something on an email, don’t click on that link, go back out and go directly to the website, and that way you’re going to know you’re actually in the website that you want to be in and that deal is still going to be there,” Maniscalo said.

Maniscalo added that thieves also try to target people through the use of fake charities; taking advantage of the fact that roughly a third of all personal charitable giving is done during the holiday season. As with emails and fake websites, Maniscalo says it’s important to verify a charity is credible before opening your wallet.

“Check out websites, check out the charity,” said Maniscalo. “It’s always good to go to places like give.org, you can check out charities that way.”

But if where you spend your money is important, so is how you spend your money.

Cornelius George with digital security firm Rook Security says when shopping consumers should consider using a third party for payment such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Pay Pal. George says since those apps generate one-time use “tokens” or numbers to connect to your banking information, they are generally safer.

“It’s only generated for one transaction, you use it, it’s no longer available for anything. If someone gets access to it, great for them, nothing happens to you,” George said.

In-store, George says there’s always a risk a hack of the vendor can expose your financial information. However, in those cases he adds that most of that risk when it comes to loss of funds is assumed by vendors. He does however recommend shoppers keep a close eye on their bank accounts this time of year. If suspicious charges show up, George says it’s crucial to contact your bank immediately as to give yourself the best chance of recouping your money.

“And that’s the whole point to protect yourself from someone having access to your funds,” he said.

For those who have fraud protection alerts sent to their mobile devices, George also recommends not clicking on any links in the alert, as thieves can often send fake alerts with the hope of getting access to your financial information.

“If you do get fraud protection on your phone, call your bank directly. The big ticket here is never follow through on the device that you got information from a third party,” he said.