CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Supply chain problems, shipping delays and chip shortages. These are just some issues impacting not only the gifts available this holiday season but also how much those gifts will cost.
They're issues that could also potentially cloud your judgment when it comes to scams.
Desperation can make you take risks you might not normally take, all in an effort to get that impossible-to-find gift.
Be warned, not only do scammers know this, they're banking on it.
“Scammers know what people are thinking about and what's likely to get people to click on things or how they can separate you from your money,” said cyber security expert Alex Hamerstone.
He outlined the top 3 online scams to be aware of this holiday season.
The shipping text message scam
Here’s how it works: you receive a text about shipping with a link to track the package only the text isn't legit and neither is the link.
“If you're a scammer and you send 100,000 people a message saying their UPS delivery is delayed, a lot of people will actually have a UPS delivery and that will feel like a real text," said Hamerstone
But don’t be fooled. The text is a trick to get you to click on the link. Once you click on the link, you’ve given the scam artist access to your phone and the ability to steal your personal information.
“If you're getting a message that's unexpected, do not click it," said Hamerstone.
Phony social media "stores"
You've probably come across at least one such "store" on social media without even knowing it.
“There are multiple ways you can get scammed. Some are actual fake stores that don't ever have any products and they'll take your money and never send you anything. Other times you're getting fake products, that's pretty common as well,” Hamerstone said.
To avoid them Hamerstone said, “You really want to make sure you're buying through reputable resources.
”With reputable payment options and that's one way to tell the real from the fake," Hamerstone said. “Anybody that's asking you to use a payment method Like Zelle, Venmo or PayPal -- what they'll often times do is they'll try to get you to use the 'friends and family' features on those because a lot of these payment platforms will allow you to send a friend or relative a payment without any fees, but businesses get charged a fee. The challenge with that is if you buy something using the friends and family feature, you have no consumer protections at that point.”
Social media gift exchanges
It’s basically the modern-day version of the chain letters of your youth but with serious implications.
“This is really one of the older scams there is really just re-purposed for social media," Hamerstone noted.
To participate, you’re asked to provide your name, address, and information about your friends -- all major red flags.
“What they'll do is try to get you to sign up for these gift exchanges, have you send gifts to people with the promise of getting hundreds back through some kind of multiplier effect, and you end up getting nothing. So, they receive your items and you get nothing back,” Hamerstone said.
Bottom line: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to the Defenders team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.