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Golden Rules for Holiday Shopping!

Joseph M. Jennings, Jr., CFA, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, PNC Wealth Management | 12/1/2017, 6 a.m.
If you bought the gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” it would cost a record $34,558.65, ...
It would cost a whopping $34,558.65 for all the gifts in the holiday classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas” this holiday season,” according to the 34th annual PNC Christmas Price Index. Photo Credit: Metro Graphics

• Promptly use your gift cards. They are basically like cash sitting in your spare drawer – or your email inbox.

• With e-gift cards, confirm there is a legitimate sender and confirmation code you can use on the company’s website.

• Gift cards on unattended display racks carry more risk. Buy gift cards off of a company website or at the customer service counter where they are under surveillance.

• Look for gift cards in protective packing that have the number hidden, but make sure the seal isn’t broken.

• Watch the cashier activate your gift card and confirm the value after it is activated. And always get a gift receipt.

• Do not buy gift cards from an auction website or online marketplace, unless it is a verified exchange website.

2. Copycat Websites & Mobile Apps

Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but not when it comes to websites or apps. Fraudsters like to be copycats and engage in cybersquatting, where they profit by imitating someone else’s trademark. They take well-known brands, create a website with a few extra words in the URL, market goods using words such as “hot-selling” or “discount” and voila – they are in business. You hand over your credit card number, but the fraudsters have no actual merchandise to sell. To guard against these copycat websites, search online yourself for the real company’s website. Double check information such as a company’s street address or phone number when you enter their website. As an added precaution, use Whois.net, which allows you to check domain names and registration of websites. Use caution when downloading mobile apps[1]. Always download and install apps from well-known stores, such as Apple® Store, Google Play Store, Amazon Store and Windows® Store. Some applications can house malware capable of stealing your data as you use your phone or charge money to your app-linked accounts without your knowledge.

3. Fake Shipping Notifications

Did you get an email saying a shipper is trying to deliver a package or a package is undeliverable, but you don’t remember providing your email address? It could be a scam. Attachments or links in these emails could be a phishing attack and pollute your device with malware in an attempt to steal passwords, personal information or worst case – your identity. PNC offers tips to help you learn how to identify a phishing attempt. Always visit the shipping services’ valid website to call and verify. Fraudsters may also place a “missed delivery” postcard on your door that could contain false numbers. Some lead to a fraudulent company overseas, which is one expensive call to make.

4. Phony E-Greeting Cards

If you receive an e-card in your inbox and can’t make out the sender’s name, chances are it’s not a secret admirer, but a fraudster. Always delete an e-card from someone that you don’t know. Legitimate companies also will never make you share personal information to open a card.

5. Help Wanted: Seasonal Job Solicitations

You or your teenager may be looking to earn some extra cash to spend over the holidays, and seasonal jobs are a popular option. During your job search, go to the company’s main website to apply or apply in person. Never pay or share personal information to get a job lead.

6. Travel Scams

See a travel deal around the holidays that seems too good to be true? Chances are it is. Fraudsters reel you in with fake travel websites and vacation rentals, and stop responding once you enter your credit card number. Guard against these scams by dealing with a reputable travel agency or directly with a property owner.