Safeguarding Your Finances: Protecting Yourself from Holiday Season Scams and Frauds

As the holiday season approaches, it’s important to be aware of the increased risk of frauds and scams that banks often witness during this time. Unfortunately, cybercriminals take advantage of the festive spirit and heightened online shopping activity to target unsuspecting individuals. F&M Bank offers an array of security features and tips to help you protect your identity and accounts.  In this blog post, we will explore the common scams and frauds that occur during the holiday season and provide you with practical tips to protect your personal and financial information.

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  1. Be Wary of Phishing Attempts

Phishing emails and text messages are a common method used by fraudsters to trick people into revealing sensitive information. Be cautious of unexpected emails or messages asking for personal details, login credentials, or credit card information. Remember, reputable organizations will never ask for such information via email or text.

  1. Shop on Secure Websites:

Before making any online purchase, ensure that the website is secure. Look for the padlock symbol in the address bar and the “s” – When paying online, check the URL to ensure it begins with “https://”. The “s” at the end indicates a secure connection. Additionally, check that the name of the web page does not contain spelling errors or strange characters.  Avoid making transactions on unsecured or suspicious websites, as they may be designed to steal your information.

  1. Use Strong and Unique Passwords:

Protect your accounts by using strong, unique passwords for each online platform you use. Avoid using easily guessable passwords or reusing them across multiple websites. Consider using a password manager to securely store and generate complex passwords.

  1. Stay Updated on Security Measures:

Familiarize yourself with the security features provided by your bank and payment providers. Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. Regularly review your account statements and transaction history for any suspicious activity.

  1. Avoid Public Wi-Fi for Financial Transactions:

Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, making it easier for hackers to intercept your data. Refrain from conducting any financial transactions or accessing sensitive information while connected to public networks. Instead, use a trusted and secure network, such as your home Wi-Fi or a personal hotspot.

  1. Be Cautious of Gift Card Scams:

During the holiday season, gift cards are a popular choice for presents. However, be cautious when purchasing or receiving gift cards from unofficial sources. Scammers may tamper with the cards, steal their codes, or sell counterfeit cards. Always buy gift cards from reputable retailers.

  1. Monitor Your Accounts:

Regularly monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any unauthorized transactions. Be sure to install F&M Mobile on your mobile device to monitor your accounts and receive alerts while on the go!

  • Set up transaction alerts to receive notifications whenever a transaction is made. Report any suspicious activity to your financial institution immediately. Purchase alerts are customizable, can be received via email or text, and can be used to confirm legitimate purchases or notify you of suspicious activity. F&M Bank allows you to set transaction and balance alerts within F&M Mobile and Online Banking to stay on top of unexpected transactions on your account.

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The Visa Payment Fraud Disruption also recommends that all consumers consider these safeguards while shopping this holiday season:

  • Do not click on hyperlinks found in emails or text messages from unknown or suspicious sources.
  • Maintain device and software security by keeping software patched and up-to-date.
  • Ensure Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is implemented on all sensitive log in environments.
    • F&M Mobile offers facial and fingerprint recognition on iOS and Android devices.  Enabling this feature on your device further protects your account from being accessed by an untrusted source if your device is misplaced or stolen.
    • With F&M Bank’s Online Banking can detect when you are signing into your account from a new device or browser.  Attempts to access your account from a new or unfamiliar device prompts our system to verify your identity with multifactor authentication and security questions you established at account opening. All information within our Online Banking uses the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol for transferring data. SSL is a cryptosystem that creates a secure environment for the information being transferred between your browser and F&M Bank.
  • Use cybersecurity best practices, including enabling anti-phishing protection on your web browser, adding multi-factor authentication to account log ins, using unique, strong passwords for different accounts, not clicking on unsolicited links, and remain vigilant of the URLs you are visiting.
  • Contact your bank directly by using the phone number or website listed on the back of your card, rather than following guidance from an email, phone call, or text message you received.
  • Never provide a one-time-passcode to a caller, or via email or SMS text message, and do not install Remote Access software unless instructed by a trusted system support provider.
  • Check shipping details on accounts. Be aware of details in the 2nd or 3rd lines of the shipping addresses that might be used to reroute packages.
  • Review bills, bank statements, and credit reports to identify anomalies that could indicate fraud, identity theft, or if someone else has access to your account. Be sure to install F&M Mobile on your mobile device to monitor your accounts and receive alerts while on the go!
  • Update system and application software – Install the latest software on your computer, tablet, or phone.
  • Use tokens when possible. A token can be viewed as a “secret code” that contains no customer or sensitive data, which can be used to transmit a payment. Use of a token for a purchase, or tokenization, is the digital equivalent of using a card’s chip for in-person purchase. The value of the token changes with each transaction, making them more resistant to use by fraudsters.
  • Take advantage of identity and credit monitoring services. These services may be provided by your bank/credit union, credit card provider, employer, or insurance company.
  • Watch for scam indicators in the method of payment being requested: scammers often ask for payment in the form of wire transfers or other money transfers, reloadable or prepaid gift cards, cryptocurrency, or sending cash, since these formats are more difficult to trace.
  • If you suspect a scam, stop and talk to someone you trust about the situation and seek guidance from the organization’s official website before acting on the suspected scammer’s request. Call your local F&M Bank location when you suspect fraud. You can also lock your debit card, and reorder a new one at any time with F&M Mobile and Online Banking.
  • Use caution when posting on social media. Be aware that sharing sensitive personal information can provide criminals with clues to answer your security questions or craft believable, targeted scam messages.

Consumers aren’t the only targets during the holiday season.  Businesses also see an increase in fraud attempts and F&M Bank provides a robust digital suite to help our local businesses safeguard their funds.  Learn more about our business banking recourses here.

While the holiday season is a time of joy and giving, it’s crucial to remain vigilant against frauds and scams. By following these tips, you can protect yourself from falling victim to cybercriminals and safeguard your personal and financial information. Remember, staying informed and adopting safe online practices will make your holiday shopping experience more secure and enjoyable.