KEY POINTS

  • Consumers eager to purchase last-minute holiday gifts may be more susceptible to fraud.
  • Plus, other scams tied to AI and gift cards may be more prevalent this year.

Holiday shopping this year is expected to reach record spending levels, according to the National Retail Federation.

But as consumers open their wallets, they may also be making themselves vulnerable to potential fraud, particularly when shopping at the last minute.

“Procrastination is, quite frankly, one of the keys to success for crooks,” said Paul Fabara, chief risk officer at Visa.

“They assume that you’re going to fall for that last-minute offer that guarantees delivery of the product within 24 hours, or even the same day, at a discounted price,” Fabara said.

The first disappointment may be not receiving what you ordered. But that may be just the first part of a “double whammy,” according to Fabara.

The second part, “Now they use your card to do a whole bunch of transactions that have nothing to do with you as consumer,” Fabara said.

If you’ve been scammed, the first step is to contact your financial institution to let them know your account has been compromised, he said. A reputable organization should be able to monitor the transactions on your account for suspicious activity and let you know the next steps to take.

AI fraud risks pose a growing threat

This season, new risks tied to artificial intelligence should have consumers on high alert, Fabara said. That technology can easily impersonate your likeness. So if you use voice passwords for your accounts, that may be compromised.

To limit that risk, consumers should use multifactor authentication, Fabara said, a process that requires extra steps in addition to a password, such as a verifying a code sent by email or text, answering a secret question or scanning your fingerprint.

Consumers should also be on alert for other ways they may be compromised.

Visa has identified five categories of fraud to watch for this season. Those are:

  • Digital skimming, where credit or payment card information is stolen from online stores.
  • Phishing and social engineering, where artificial intelligence makes it difficult for consumers to spot fakes or uses tactics like false websites or malicious advertising.
  • ATM or point-of-sale skimming schemes that steal personal identification numbers or other data.
  • One-time-passcode bypass schemes that send false prompts to try to access consumers’ accounts.
  • Physical theft at stores, malls and parking lots.

Gift card payment scams up 50%

The Better Business Bureau is also calling attention to gift card payment scams, where fraudsters seek those cards as payment, which have risen by 50% in the past year.

Unsuspecting consumers are prone to getting duped when it comes to the hot toy or item of the season, noted Melanie McGovern, spokeswoman for the International Association of Better Business Bureaus.

If a social media ad pops up showing the item available for an inexpensive price when it’s sold out everywhere else, be wary, she said.

Also be sure to check that the website and business are legit. Do a general internet search on a company to see what other consumers are saying about it, McGovern said. Also be aware that companies may be able to filter reviews on their own website.

The Better Business Bureau may also list a profile of a company and any complaints it may have against it.

Consumers should also double-check return policies before they buy, to ensure they can get a refund if they’re not happy with the product, McGovern said.

Other tips Visa is emphasizing this holiday season include making sure web addresses start with “https://” to make sure you have a secure connection; avoiding public Wi-Fi for shopping; and generally staying vigilant of deals that may be too good to be true.