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JBSA News
NEWS | Dec. 4, 2023

Preventative law tips: Holiday scams

316th Wing Legal Office

With Americans expected to spend an average of $1,000 this holiday season, scammers are hard at work targeting holiday shoppers with the latest identity theft and hacking scams. Follow these tips to stay safe this season!

1. Upgrade your digital security:
Use strong passwords, multifactor verification, and a secure password manager. Most people use the same password across several online accounts. While this is convenient, it exposes you to identity theft and hacking. Whenever possible, shop and checkout online as a “guest” so that websites do not store your personal and financial information. When you must create an account, follow best practices for password creation by ensuring your password is unique, at least 10 characters long, and includes a combination of upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers, and only store your passwords in a secure password manager.

2. Only make purchases from known retailers:
Reputable retailers take website security seriously. To maintain a high degree of consumer trust, their websites are typically free of typos, odd design quirks, dark patterns, and other flaws that would detract from the shopping experience. When exploring lesser-known websites, look for typos or other design and layout issues and read customer feedback on third-party review sites to determine the website's legitimacy. You can also use the Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker website to look up the questionable website to find out if it is a known scam at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker.

3. Use your credit card, not your debit card, and NEVER money transfers:
If you fall victim to a Holiday scam using a debit card, what you are responsible for all depends on how quickly you report the unauthorized charges. Consumer protection works differently for credit cards, and consumers may only be liable for up to $50 for fraudulent activity on their credit cards. So, if you have paid with a credit card, you will likely be more protected if you are the victim of a Holiday scam. If you made a payment with a money transfer (like Venmo, CashApp, or Zelle), it is very difficult to recover your money.

How do you report Holiday scams?

The faster you report the scam, the better. If you are a victim of a scam, immediately report the incident to the following entities:

  • Your bank or credit card company: Cancel any bank payments and request a chargeback with your credit card lender.
  • The retailer: Inform the online store of the scam so they can investigate the issue and prevent others from becoming victims of fraud.
  • The platform: If the scam involves an advertisement or message on social media, alert the company. They can take the advertisement down and investigate the scammer's account.
  • The police: Provide any evidence of the theft to local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/assistant). Formal documentation from the police or the FTC could help your financial institution combat scams.