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Protect Yourself From Scams and Identity Theft This 2023 Holiday Season

Here at ICU Investigations, we not only help our clients fight fraudulent claims every day, but we want our clients to protect themselves from fraud and scams this 2023 Holiday Season (and beyond). Consumers should be extra vigilant this time of year, especially with an increase in online shopping. According to Experian and the most recent Business Bureau Institute Online Scams Report, online shopping scams remain the riskiest type of scam according to 2022 data. We want you to avoid being a victim during the season of giving, so we are bringing you these tips on behalf of Experian:

1. Put Basic Protections Into Place

“Use a unique password for all your accounts. If that seems like too much effort, at least create unique and hard-to-guess passwords for your financial accounts. A password manager—even a free one—makes this easy to set up.

Turn on multifactor authentication. Wherever possible (and again, with priority to financial accounts), turn on multifactor authentication (MFA). This security feature requires you to take an extra step to verify your identity before you can log in, and it could help keep your information safe if your account's password is compromised.”

2. Be Careful Shopping Online, Especially With Online Marketplaces

“Practice extra caution or simply avoid shopping on sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, NextDoor and other online marketplaces. If you're buying directly from a person and paying in cash, you won't have the same purchase protections you'd get when buying from a reputable retailer or when using a credit card.

If you're asked to pay using gift cards, cryptocurrency or a wire transfer, that's a red flag that the entire transaction could be a scam. Instead, it may be better to pay with a peer-to-peer payment app that has purchase protections, such as PayPal or Venmo.”

3. Don't Be Tempted by Deals That Look Too Good to Be True

“One huge online shopping scam red flag is highly in-demand products at surprisingly low prices. Scammers create websites with realistic listings of scarce in-demand products, such as gaming consoles. Once you check out, you may find that you get an order confirmation and then never receive anything at all.”

4. Ignore Get-Rich-From-Home Job Ads

“You may see ads about ways to ‘make $1,500 a week working from home.’ Seems fairly easy, and the extra money could certainly help during the holidays. Except, you may be inadvertently participating in a criminal enterprise.

You could be asked to act as a money mule or reshipping mule by moving money from one account to another or accepting an item that's shipped to you and then reshipping it somewhere else. In either case, you may be caught in the middle of a fraud scheme. Even if you aren't knowingly committing a crime, you could wind up facing criminal charges.”

5. Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi

“It can be tempting to cross a few items off your list while you're out and about, but public Wi-Fi networks might not be secure. A VPN might keep some of your information secure, but it's still best to avoid logging in to your accounts or making a purchase when you're using a public network.”

6. Check for Skimming Devices

“If you're shopping in stores, check for card-skimming devices that may be attached to an ATM or card reader. Card skimming is very prevalent and is estimated to cost financial institutions and consumers over $1 billion each year, according to the FBI.

In this type of fraud, a scammer attaches a device called a skimmer to a card reader. Skimmers can be so small that they're hard to detect, and your transaction goes through like normal. Unbeknownst to you, the device copies your card's information so it can be used or sold later.

Even cards with an EMV chip can be ‘skimmed.’ Paying with cash or using a contactless payment option, such as a tap-to-pay card or digital wallet on your phone, are more secure options.”

7. Verify Request for Donations

“Scammers may take advantage of people's generous nature during the holidays. They'll often send emails or make phone calls posing as representatives for charitable causes and use spoofing technology to make it look like the email or call is coming from a real charity. Instead of being used to help people, however, the money will go straight to the fraudster's pocket.

Don't let scammers ruin your giving spirit, but check out an organization's website to find a legitimate phone number or online donation option when you're ready to make a donation. If you're unsure about a charitable organization, you can also look it up on sites like Charity Navigator and CharityWatch."

8. Sign Up for an Identity Protection Service

“If you're worried about someone using your personal information without your consent, an identity protection service like Experian IdentityWorksSM could offer a helping hand. There are several plans to choose from, and each includes U.S.-based fraud resolution specialists, dark web surveillance and identity theft insurance.”

ICU wishes you a safe and healthy Holiday Season!

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