PA DoBS and State Police Publish Tips to Avoid Holiday Financial Scams

As the holiday shopping season begins, the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS) and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) are sharing tips to help spot scams and protect their money and personal information. 

“An increasing number of consumers are expected to shop online this holiday season because of the pandemic,” said Secretary of Banking and Securities Richard Vague. “Scam artists will look to take advantage of this fact and use every tactic available to try and obtain your sensitive financial information for nefarious purposes.” 

The PSP works closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate fraud and scams. Scam and fraud activity also tend to increase during times of tragedy or emergency, making it dually important for consumers to be vigilant this year.  

Three common scams to look out for this year include: 

  • Phishing E-mail Scams. Phishing emails are a common tactic used by scammers to get sensitive information. Sophisticated techniques include replicating merchant email templates with harmful links designed to obtain usernames and passwords, and potentially sensitive financial information. 
  • Skimming and E-skimming Device Scams. Skimming devices capture the information from the black magnetic strip on debit or credit cards at the point of sale device or ATM machine. Last year, criminals infected a merchant’s website with a digital version of the same technology. 
  • Gift Card Fraud. Scammers use a computer program or “bot” to test millions of random combinations of numbers and pins at retailer websites. Once they find a combination that works, they use all the funds available to make purchases, or sell the information on the dark web. When the real owner of the card tries to use it to make the legitimate purchase, they find there are no funds available on the card. 

Six strategies that can help Pennsylvanians protect themselves include: 

  1. Monitor your accounts.  
  2. Never follow links in unsolicited emails. 
  3. Type the website directly into your browser.  
  4. Be wary of any transaction involving checks.  
  5. When in doubt, hang up.  
  6. Be skeptical.  

Know the “red flags” of scams and fraud and who to contact if you believe you are a victim. Stop and ask yourself a few simple questions to help detect and prevent this from happening to you: 

  • Has someone contacted you unexpectedly? If you weren’t expecting a phone call or didn’t initiate the contact, it should be a red flag. 
  • Have they promised you something? If they’re offering you something that seems too good to be true, it’s a red flag. 
  • Have they asked you to do something? Are they asking you for money or account information? If you didn’t initiate the conversation, do not provide it. 

The PSP reminds Pennsylvanians who have fallen victim to a scam to contact their financial institution and local police department. Additionally, victims can make a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry also issued a warning of new national unemployment benefits scams. To read about these scams and how to avoid them, click here.  

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