Issue #171: All I want for Christmas is to not get scammed

plus DJ Khaled’s new toilets + cats with jobs
͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 
Money
November 30, 2022 • Issue #171
Dollar Scholar
Hi y’all —

I’m going to be honest with you: I’m kinda frazzled right now.

I have a HUGE project launching Monday — don’t worry, you’ll get an email about it — and it has a million moving parts that still need to come together. I have family in town the day it publishes, and as soon as they leave I’ll be hopping on a plane myself for a work trip. After that, I'll spend the better part of a month bouncing from New York to Philadelphia to Florida (and then back to NYC) for the holidays.

My anxiety level is higher than high, and to top it off, I’ve bought, like, no Christmas gifts. I’m planning on purchasing presents online, but even that feels fraught. It's going to be a mad dash to find a gift for everyone on my list with the little downtime I have. What if I get scammed because my guard’s down?

Deep breaths, Julia.

How can I do my holiday shopping safely?

It’s a legit concern. In a recent poll from Iris Powered by Generali, an identity and cyber protection platform, 71% of respondents admitted they were worried holiday shopping would put their privacy at risk.

“Consumers view protecting their personal and financial data as a top priority this holiday season, and with good reason,” CEO Paige Schaffer said in a news release.

I’m already seeing reports of phishing attempts, like this one in which hackers impersonated companies like Delta and Costco, advertised fake holiday specials and then stole their credit card details. Earlier this month, Amazon took down 20,000 phishing websites that sent fake order confirmation emails and texts demanding customers CALL IMMEDIATELY (and, when they did, stole their Social Security numbers).

In a cruel twist, the most wonderful time of the year is also one of the most fruitful for bad guys, says Grace Hoyt, who works on global account security partnerships at Google. It’s basic math: “More people online equals a bigger threat landscape for attackers,” she tells me via email.

Plus, attackers look to strike when I’m vulnerable or preoccupied… which, let's be honest, I obviously am.

“While you’re in the hustle and bustle of the season, you might be opening more new accounts with stores [or] more likely to open emails that offer the hottest deals,” she says. “That’s the perfect environment for an attacker to launch a phishing scam or encourage you to download a malicious app while you’re distracted.”

My Christmas shopping rule is for every 5 things I buy for myself someone in my family gets a little book of Lifesavers
 

To protect myself, I need a multi-pronged approach for 1) sites I visit, and 2) for communications I get.

If I’m navigating to a retailer’s website, Hoyt says I should look for clues that indicate whether it’s safe or malicious. Google has some of these built in, like its on-page “trusted store” badge — which means the merchant provides solid customer service — and the little lock icon in the Chrome URL bar — which means my connection is secure.

The Better Business Bureau, or BBB, recommends I scrutinize the URL for typos to make sure I’m on the actual site for a store. It can’t hurt to run a mini background check, either, by searching the website name plus the words “scam” or “reviews” and seeing what sorts of results come up.

Once I’m on the webpage, I’ll want to look closely for bad grammar, shoddy design and a lack of contact information. And I shouldn’t get caught up in flashy ads for low low prices: If a deal seems too good to be true, it’s… probably too good to be true.

“These are red flags that could save you from falling victim to a scam,” Hoyt says.

When checking out, the BBB urges people to “use secure and traceable transactions and payment methods.” The bureau has done actual research that shows customers who pay with credit cards or PayPal are less likely to be scammed out of their money than those who opted for Zelle or prepaid debit cards.

(Using a credit card also means I’ll have built-in protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act, which limits my liability for unauthorized charges and allows me to dispute transactions where I feel I didn’t get the goods or services I paid for.)

Off-site, I’ve got to be careful with inbound messages, as well.

Amazon discourages interacting with any phone numbers I don’t recognize and avoiding suspicious links, even if they’re in emails claiming there’s something wrong with one of my orders. Just because it got through my spam filter doesn't mean it's real.

THE BOTTOM LINE
(but please don't tell me you scrolled past all of my hard work)
It’s brutal out here. To protect my data while shopping online, I should do my due diligence when visiting websites, check for red flags, pay with a credit card and avoid falling prey to random texts/emails.

“Cybercriminals are aware of how much we rely on the internet during the holidays and leverage that time to try and catch consumers when they’re most vulnerable,” Hoyt says. “During the holiday season, be on the lookout.”

Rapping
VIA GIPHY

 

RECEIPT OF THE WEEK
check out this wild celebrity purchase
DJ Khaled
 
VIA INSTAGRAM
Rapper Drake gave fellow musician DJ Khaled quite the birthday gift last week: not one, not two, but FOUR high-tech toilets that retail for $12,000 apiece. Per Complex, the toilet bowls have UV-light cleaning tools, deodorizers, bidets and heated seats, and Khaled is absolutely hyped about them. “Real talk: This might be the best gift ever,” he said on Instagram. Guess he’s got toilets on his mind; he can never get enough.

 

INTERNET GOLD
five things I'm loving online right now
1 I loved this Wall Street Journal story about the hot new trend of… people digging holes for fun. Some do it in groups, some do it online, some do it to find inspiration, and some fill them in when they’re done. “It’s good in that it’s something physical but not competitive. It’s a random thing that anyone can do,” said one excavation enthusiast. 
2 Two great Twitter threads of book dedications, including “To Charles Manson (not that one)” and “To Maris, in hopes that having a book dedicated to her will make her enemies jealous.” Incredible.
3 Another Twitter recommendation before Elon Musk burns it all down: Cats With Jobs, an account that showcases the extremely professional, very gainfully employed felines of the world. Here we have a valet driver, personal trainer, waste management worker and grocer.
4 Speaking of working pets, did you know that dogs are considered legit wedding witnesses in 23 states and Washington, D.C.? And they can even sign the wedding certificate with their pawprints? If Chelsea Peretti and Jordan Peele can do it, so can you.
5 Pete Davidson has a new girlfriend because of course he does, and Kim Kardashian is vaguebooking about it because of course she is. (Side note: Is there an Instagram-specific term for vaguebooking? Am I old now?)
 

 

401(K)9 CONTRIBUTION
send me cute pictures of your pets, please
Tulu
 
VIA Connie Stapleton
Meet Tula the Schnauzer, who in this photo was dressed up for Halloween but is now in the thick of her howliday shopping.

 

Repeat after me: You Need to Calm Down.

See you next week.Julia
 
P.S. Reminder to send me your BEST money tips for our year-end edition of Dollar Scholar! Reach me at julia@money.com and I can make you FAMOUS… after I take a chill pill.
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