Security warning: Scammers are calling you with holiday tactics

Dec 10, 2023, 5:00 AM

woman looks at phone as if she's going to hang up...

Kim Komando offers tips this holiday season to avoid getting scammed. (Pexels Photo)

(Pexels Photo)

‘Tis the season for eggnog, twinkly lights and a whole lot of scams. Cybercriminals make a killing over the holiday season — just think about how often we pull out our credit cards.

The best way to stay safe is to know their tricks. I’ve got the inside scoop on phone scams tricking people out of money and info right now.

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Here’s how it works

YouMail just issued an important warning about a new wave of robocalls pretending to be from big names like Amazon, Apple, Visa and Chase Bank. They’re trying to freak you out about bogus purchases and get you to spill your personal info.

You get a call that sounds like it’s from Amazon. A robotic voice says something like, “Hello, this is an automated message from Amazon. Your card has been charged $2,253 for the purchase of an Apple MacBook Pro with Order ID #312106. If you did not place this order and would like to speak to one of our representatives, please press ‘1’ or please call back.”

If you fall for it, scammers try to hijack your credit card, Amazon or bank account to steal as much money as possible from you.

Amazon’s been battling this, shutting down 15,000 phone numbers! But the calls keep coming — and given how many of us use Amazon, odds are they’ll hit an actual customer.

Pro tip: If you want to talk to a real person at Amazon, don’t Google the number. Odds are, it’ll be a scam. Here’s the secret phone number to call Amazon’s customer service: 1-888-280-4331.

It’s not just Amazon

Scammers also pretend to be from subscription services like NortonLifeLock or McAfee, talking about pricey renewals. Here’s one example: “If you have not authorized this charge, you have 48 hours to cancel and get an instant refund of your annual subscription. Please press ‘1’ or call our Customer Care.”

They mix these calls with emails, leading to different callback numbers they change regularly. It’s like a game of scam whack-a-mole.

You’re welcome: Tech hacks to make your holidays less stressful.

They’re pretending to be your bank, too

Calls claiming to be from Visa or Chase Bank about suspicious charges on your cards are also part of the scam package. These calls are convincing because they use well-known brands to lure you in.

And if you’re using Live Voicemail on your iPhone, seeing these messages transcribed can really push the panic button.

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Your safety checklist

Knowing is half the battle. You’re already on your way. Here’s what to remember:

  • Let unknown calls go to voicemail: Don’t pick up if you don’t recognize the number.
  • Verify through official channels: If a call worries you, contact the company using a number from its official website. In the case of your bank, the number on your credit or debit card is a safe bet.
  • Search for the number: YouMail is a solid place to type in a number and see if others have reported spammy calls.
  • Keep your info close to the vest: No matter how urgent it seems, never give out your details over the phone. If Chase or Amazon is calling, they already know your account number.
  • Slow down: Scammers create a false sense of urgency. Take a breath and think before you act.

Stay sharp and don’t let these scammers ruin your day! Do me a favor and pass this along to someone in your life.

Keep your tech-know going

My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today.” It’s a solid 30 minutes of tech news, tips, and callers with tech questions like you from all over the country. Search for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, hit the link below for a recent episode.

PODCAST PICK: Funny Amazon reviews, Google Drive chaos & Christmas streaming tips

Plus, find out who’s the world’s most photographed person (Hint: it’s not Kim Kardashian). Backlash against Google Maps’ new look, how to spot “typosquatting” against your business, restaurants’ sneaky use of dating apps, and a quick iPhone trick.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Sound like a tech pro, even if you’re not! Award-winning popular host Kim Komando is your secret weapon. Listen on 425+ radio stations or get the podcast. And join over 400,000 people who get her free 5-minute daily email newsletter.

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Security warning: Scammers are calling you with holiday tactics