Shopping online is becoming increasingly popular among seniors looking to avoid the mad dash of the holiday rush. But with viruses and malware out there – not to mention credit card scammers and identity thieves – it can be scary to navigate the web to find what you need.
Here are some tips for seniors to help you avoid scams when shopping for holiday gifts online:
1) Avoid suspicious, unfamiliar websites. If you encounter an unfamiliar website that looks unprofessional or suspicious, it probably is. Sites with poor design, multiple pop-up windows, numerous spelling errors, and inconsistent fonts should be avoided. Try and stick to well-known brand name websites that match the look, feel, and tone of the brands you love.
2) Don’t click email hyperlinks. Sometimes even links that appear to come from friends and family can be suspect, as it’s common for legitimate email accounts to get hacked by third parties who then send out links. Clicking these links could download malware or spyware to your computer. They may also direct you to a form or website that asks you to input personal information that can be used in identity fraud.
3) Don’t friend strangers. What’s true in real life is just as true online: be suspicious of strangers. Sometimes people will use social platforms like Facebook to try and glean personal information from status updates or ask for secure information using the site’s messaging service. If you have accepted invitations from strangers on accident, it’s easy to remove them. Go through your contacts on your social media sites and ensure they are all legitimate.
4) Avoid companies that ask for social security numbers. Never share your social security number online with any company. Very few legitimate businesses will ever request this information. If you encounter one that does, this should be a red flag that they may be trying to scam you.
5) Review financial statements regularly. Sometimes no matter how careful you are, fraudsters may still strike. Review all of your bank and credit card statements regularly and look for suspicious purchases made from companies you don’t recognize or in amounts that aren’t typical for your spending habits. Many credit card companies will reimburse you for fraudulent purchases made by others in your name. Check with your financial institutions to be sure you understand their policies.