Seven Ways to Prevent Digital Fraud This Holiday Season

Average number of suspected digital fraud attempts rose 12% in the U.S. during the Cyber Five days vs the rest of the year. Here's how to prevent fraud this holiday season.

A woman sitting on her sofa smiles as she looks at her credit card and holds a tablet.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Did you do any online shopping from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday? If so, you may have been a target for digital fraud. According to TransUnion, the average number of suspected digital shopping fraud attempts during the Cyber Five days was up 12% in the U.S. compared to the rest of the year (the Cyber Five days include the days between Thanksgiving, November 23, and Cyber Monday, November 27). 

The study from TransUnion, which analyzed billions of transactions across 40,000 websites and apps, also found that 3.6% of all global e-commerce transactions during the Cyber Five days were suspected to be fraudulent. In the U.S. alone, 2.4% of e-commerce transactions during that period were suspected to be fraudulent.

Steve Yin, global head of fraud at TransUnion said in the report: “Just as the holiday season drives consumers online to begin shopping for gifts for their loved ones, so does it become a destination for fraudsters seeking to take advantage of this time for their financial gain. Online retailers must ensure that consumers shopping their sites for the best deals are at the same time protected from fraud in the most seamless and friction-right way possible.”

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Preventing digital fraud

There are steps you can take to help prevent digital fraud. Karl Kaluza, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Member Access Processing (MAP), shares with Kiplinger several tips to help prevent fraud while shopping this holiday season.

  1. Check for tampered gift cards: Be careful where you buy gift cards; don’t shop on unfamiliar websites. And if you do buy a gift card, make sure that it hasn’t been tampered with. “Scammers are taking down gift card information and passcodes, waiting until a gift card is activated and using the gift card balance money before you are able to use it,” says Kaluza. 
  2. Verify the seller: Again, be careful where you shop. Always make sure to verify the website you’re shopping on. Kaluza says you can verify the site’s security by checking for “a lock icon to the left of the URL at the top of the window.”
  3. Safeguard your passwords: Create strong passwords and opt for Two-Step Verification when possible. 
  4. Don't trust every call, text, or email you receive: “Scammers are sending convincing emails or texts about package shipping information, or bank password reset links,” says Kaluza. “Do not open those links or reply. The same can be said for phone calls about your bank information. End the call and call the direct number to your bank to verify its validity.” 

According to IdentityForce, online shopping scams rank as the second most reported type of fraud in the U.S. Other common shopping scams include phishing and smishing attempts, promises of hard-to-find items and fake pleas for charity. Here are several tips shared by IdentityForce on how to prevent digital fraud while shopping for the holidays. 

  1. Use safe payment methods: Debating whether to use a credit card vs debit card while shopping online? Typically, using a credit card offers more protections for your money, as well as providing purchase protections and extended warranties on transactions made with the card. Plus, if there’s fraudulent spending on your credit card, your hard-earned cash will still be safe in your checking or savings account.
  2. Take caution buying through ads and offers: Read the fine print and confirm that any advertised offers are legitimate before making any purchases. Checking reviews can also help you identify if the offer is a scam. 
  3. Download a security app: If you do most of your shopping on your smartphone or tablet, download a security app to improve safety. 

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Erin Bendig
Personal Finance Writer

Erin pairs personal experience with research and is passionate about sharing personal finance advice with others. Previously, she was a freelancer focusing on the credit card side of finance, but has branched out since then to cover other aspects of personal finance. Erin is well-versed in traditional media with reporting, interviewing and research, as well as using graphic design and video and audio storytelling to share with her readers.