Protect your information this season Published December 13, 2017 Every year has a new “it” toy that must get under the tree. These toys fly off the shelves, spawning an incredibly inflated second-hand market. This year, the “it” toys are Fingerlings and LOL Surprise dolls. Fingerlings are these little monkeys that hang on your finger and the LOL Surprise Dolls are a container that holds one of over 80 doll options and her accessories. Unfortunately, scammers are capitalizing on parents’ desire to make Christmas memorable for their children. Scammers set up fake Facebook pages, Instagram sites, and Twitter profiles offering “giveaways” to people who followed them and downloaded a “fan app.” There were no Fingerlings or LOL Surprise Dolls given away. Worse yet, the fan app was a piece of malware that stole personal information and transmitted it to scammers. A couple tips to keep your information safe when shopping this season. 1.) Never download anything you don’t need When people are tricked into installing something on their computer, they can unknowingly send personal information to a scammer. Before you click any downloadable link, ask yourself three questions: Do I know the company that produced this software? Do I trust the person who sent the link? Do I need this software for my daily life? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” close the browser immediately. If you doubt the safety of a piece of software, don’t download it. These rules apply for every device you use. Your phone has as much personal information on it as your PC does; safeguard both! 2.) Double-check when shopping online Many scammers have taken a more conventional route: They promise goods, take the payment, then don’t deliver the goods. While this scam is common year-round, the holiday-shopping insanity makes more people more vulnerable. More insidiously, scammers have been posting “black market” toys. Factory defects are sold at many times the retail prices, even on reputable websites like Amazon. To avoid this scam, check reviews for the account. If someone’s selling a new toy but they’ve never sold anything before, it’s more likely they’re running a scam. If you must shop second-hand, try to deal locally. Never send payment through unsecured means, like a cashier’s check or wire transfer. Meet your buyer in a public place and always inspect the goods before paying. 3.) Read the reviews before the hype Ask your children what they really want for Christmas; it may be something entirely different. Find something they’ll really treasure vs. a trendy toy. They, and your pocketbook, will thank you! Don’t forget that building great holiday memories doesn’t cost a dime. You just need to spend time together! Happy Holidays! Did you get your hands on the season’s hottest toy? How? Share your toy-hunting horror stories in the comments or on our Facebook Page!