'Tis The Time To Be Fishing!
The Great Toy Hunt
One of the more prevalent scams this holiday season is the unexpected offer of a hard-to-find toy. If there is a great offer with a link, be skeptical—especially if it is poorly worded or the email of the sender does not look “real.” If you are truly interested, go to the actual vendor website to see if the offer is genuine. Often a quick pass of your mouse over the link will show you if it will even redirect you to a real vendor destination.
There are many less-known legitimate websites that are good business stewards. At this time of the year, you may find yourself in unfamiliar territory when searching for that hard to find item. When all the mainstream sites are sold out, many smaller vendors have what you want.
For example, a toy store in Fargo has the gift your child wants but you are shy about giving them your credit card number. Call the store, talk to the owner, and let them know you saw them on the internet. This face-to-face contact will many times give you a better feel and help out small businesses in the process. It will also tell you if the offer is legitimate.
I have had the personal experience of unintentionally introducing a merchant to their online evil twin when calling to ask how long it would take to get an item to me. The merchant was puzzled at first, but then very grateful when we walked through the fake website together over the phone. He was able to prosecute the issue with local authorities.
The Yearly Family Picture or Vacation Post
A picture or post is worth a thousand words—and can also be worth thousands of dollars in losses, even when posted on Facebook. This is a great time of the year to review your security settings on Facebook. Make sure your settings are as restrictive as they can be, keep your friends close and make sure all public settings are shut off. Thieves love vacation photos posted in real time during the holidays when your house may be full of gifts.
If you really need to share your adventures, message them personally to friends and put them on Facebook when you get home. Family portraits are great, but again it is not who is in the picture but what is in the picture. Don’t take your family photo with the extensive Lladro Collection in the background or a Christmas tree bursting with wrapped gifts in plain view. Many cases of theft have been closed by matching stolen items with what is in a Facebook photo.
Ignore, avoid and delete all those “twenty questions about me” Facebook chain posts. They are a treasure trove of information that can give a hacker or thief more than enough information to begin an extensive search for your personal information that could result in financial loss, or even worse, personal safety.
Let your children know, too—it may seem like innocent fun to them but the data they contain can be useful to “unkind” people.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but being on the internet is no less dangerous then being in a place in the outside world where your behavior can make you an easy target.