icon of two gears to show concept of expanded lessons Expanded Lesson 4 min read

Five Holiday Scams to Avoid

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn Copied link to Clipboard!

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of year, especially as people shop, gather, exchange gifts and travel. Scammers and criminals see it as an opportunity to steal your personal information or try to trick you into sending money. Read this article to learn more about common holiday scams and how to avoid them.

Boxes on front porch in the snow

What are common scams during the holiday season?

Package Delivery Scams

Package delivery scams are becoming more frequent, especially during the holidays when people are buying, sending and receiving gifts in the mail. Be wary of phishing emails that have links asking for “delivery payments” or other personal information that the scammer may steal and use. The link itself may also contain harmful malware that can infect your device.

Scammers may also send links via text (smishing) or email with fake delivery tracker links. Never click on a link from an unknown sender and take time to evaluate if the message is coming from a legitimate company.

If you receive a suspicious text or email, reach out to the company through other trusted forms of communication that can be found on their website, but don’t click on links in the text or email. Find the company’s website through a browser search or by directly typing their URL if you know it.

Charity Scams

During the holidays, many people feel like giving back and being philanthropic. Scammers take advantage of this to ask people to “donate” through fraudulent links or websites and ask for payment and other personal information. They may even use logos from real charities to make their message seem more legitimate.

If you decide to donate this holiday season, be sure that you’re donating to a legitimate charity and that you’re not donating through a spoofing website. You can use websites like CharityWatch.org, CharityNavigator.org or the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search tool to help confirm an organization’s charitable status.

Fake Gift/Retail Site Scams

As people rush to buy gifts online, they may fall victim to this next scam. Scammers set up fake websites that list discounts, deals and holiday promotions to lure in unsuspecting shoppers. Often times these deals look too good to be true (because they are). Make sure that the website you’re purchasing from is secure by looking for the padlock symbol and the “https” in the URL bar.

Scammers may also send emails that blend in with other promotional emails you receive during this time of year. Always check the sender’s email address and make sure the domain is a reputable website or company. Be wary of promotions that require you to click a link to claim an offer, especially if they have things to pressure you like a countdown timer.

Gift Card Scams

In this type of scam, you may receive an email or message from a scammer posing as someone you know or someone at your company (CEO, manager, etc.) in what’s known as social engineering. In this message, they may ask you to purchase a gift card for them using your own funds with a promise to reimburse you. If the message is from someone at your company (supposedly) they may ask you to use official company funds to purchase the gift card.

The scammer is looking for you to send them the gift card number and PIN so they can use the funds and steal the money with no intent to actually pay it back.

If you receive this type of message, try to contact the person via other means to confirm that it’s actually them and to verify the purchase request. Be cautious of emotional appeals or the promise to pay you back later.

Seasonal Work Scams

During the holiday months, many people look for seasonal work to earn some extra cash. Scammers may post fake job advertisements in an attempt to steal your information or conduct check fraud.

The scammers may send you a check as “prepayment” for the job or to help pay for work-from-home expenses. After cashing the check, they may ask you to either send money back or make your purchases through a specific vendor. Once you make those purchases, the check they sent you will bounce, leaving you with a negative balance.

To help you avoid this scam, look out for job postings that sound like they pay too much for the amount of work. Also, always be careful when people ask you to send money through instant forms of payment like cashier’s checks or wire transfers.

How can you avoid being scammed during the holidays?

Look for warning signs

Look for signs of different types of scams, especially spoofing, phishing and smishing attempts. These scams can usually be spotted by looking for:

  • Spelling and grammar errors.
  • Incorrect logos or branding.
  • Websites that don’t have valid contact information listed.
  • Emails or text coming from unknown sources.
  • Emails from companies that come from generic email providers (you may be contacted from a supposed representative of a company, but they are sending the email from a Gmail or Outlook address).

Practice good cyber-hygiene

Cyberhygiene is a set of practices that help maintain the security of your information, devices, network and data. Having good cyberhygiene is important throughout the year to help protect yourself from scammers and criminals.

Some best practices include:

  • Create strong passwords and change them regularly.
  • Don’t reuse passwords, especially for important financial accounts.
  • Don’t click on links from unknown sources.
  • Install anti-virus software and firewalls on your devices.
  • Update software regularly for the most recent security updates.
  • Use multi-factor authentication.

Be careful how you pay

With scammers always devising new ways to trick people into sending them money, it’s important to use forms of payment that offer more protection. Never directly wire money to sellers and be careful when cashing or sending cashier’s checks.

Paying with a credit card or another type of secure payment can help you verify purchases and dispute fraudulent charges. Work with financial institutions to see what other forms of fraud protection are available. If you think you’ve been scammed or are a victim of fraud, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

Don’t fall for these holiday scams and use these tips to help protect yourself this holiday season.