As the holiday season approaches, scammers prepare to exploit the festive cheer, hoping to take advantage of increased online activity and generous spirits. There are various scams to be wary of, from traditional methods to more technologically savvy techniques. Being informed about these tricks and understanding how to protect yourself is vital in safeguarding yourself from common holiday scams.
Nine Common Holiday Scams
- Phishing and Spoofing Scams: Scammers utilize emails or texts impersonating reputable companies or even friends and family, aiming to deceive individuals into revealing personal information, such as passwords and account numbers, or making fraudulent purchases.
- Fake Charities and Donation Scams: Opportunistic scammers set up bogus charities. They mimic legitimate organizations to steal donations intended for those in need. Ensure donations go to credible, registered charities by verifying their legitimacy through trusted sources.
- Package Delivery Scams: During the holiday rush, scammers may send phony delivery notifications or pose as delivery companies, attempting to obtain personal information or payment for undelivered packages. They often trick you with a forceful sense of urgency.
- Travel Scams: Fraudulent travel deals or offers for airline tickets or vacation rentals that seem unbelievably cheap might lead to financial losses or identity theft. Fraudsters often use a time of inflated holiday travel to lure you into this scam.
- Gift Card Scams: Scammers tamper with gift cards on store display, noting down activation codes. They later use the funds, rendering purchased cards worthless.
- Hacked Account Scams: A fake text or email claims your account has been hacked and demands payment to prevent the release of compromising information. Scammers may pose as tech support to extort money from unwary victims.
- Shady Holiday Apps: Fraudulent or counterfeit apps often surface during the holiday season, posing as legitimate shopping or entertainment platforms. These apps can steal personal information or financial details.
- Fake Online Stores: Pop-up ads and other ads offering unbelievable holiday deals are designed to lure shoppers to fake online stores. Once a phony site hooks you, any personal and financial information you enter goes straight to a scammer.
- Social Media Scams: Social media scams incorporate fake ads on various social channels that lure victims to fake online shops mentioned above. This often includes offers that seem too good to be true on hard-to-find holiday goods.
Protecting Yourself from Holiday Scams
To defend against these deceptive schemes, consider the following precautions:
- Verify Sources Asking for Donations: Be cautious of unsolicited messages and verify the sender’s legitimacy before responding. Check the authenticity of charities or donation requests by researching through reliable resources.
- Track Deliveries Securely: Use official package tracking links from verified sources rather than clicking on links from unsolicited texts or email. Cross-check delivery details on the retailer’s official website.
- Stay Vigilant with Travel Deals: Research the travel agency or rental property thoroughly before making any payments. Beware of deals that appear too good to be true or heavily discounted flights.
- Inspect Gift Cards: Examine gift cards for signs of tampering before purchasing. Obtain cards directly from store personnel and avoid those easily accessed by the public.
- Be on the Watch for Hacking Scams: If you receive a suspicious message claiming your account has been hacked, contact the alleged service provider directly through their verified customer service channels to confirm the legitimacy of the claim. Avoid making any payments or divulging sensitive information without verification.
- Practice Caution Downloading Apps: Download apps only from reputable app stores and check reviews and permissions before installing any holiday-themed apps. Be cautious about the data these apps request access to.
- Be Cautious on Social Media: Don’t click on ads for offers that seem too good to be true. This is a sure red flag of a scam. If you want to show, go directly to a site from a trusted link rather than a social media ad.
- Update Your Software: This can help to protect you from hackers and scammers.
Steps to Take if You’re a Victim of a Scam
If you suspect falling victim to any of these scams, take immediate action:
- Report to Authorities: Inform local law enforcement or relevant consumer protection agencies to report the incident and seek guidance. Read these five tips for reporting a scam on USA.GOV.
- Contact Financial Institutions: Immediately notify your credit union or credit card company to report unauthorized transactions and take necessary steps to secure your accounts.
- Monitor and Safeguard Your Information: Keep a close eye on your credit reports and financial statements, and change passwords for compromised accounts. Enable two-factor authentication where possible.
- Seek Support and Spread Awareness: Consider sharing your experience with online forums and other platforms to help others avoid similar scams. It’s essential to have emotional support and share your story to prevent others from becoming victims.
Be on the Watch for Common Holiday Scams
In the age of technological advancements and online interactions, being vigilant and well-informed is crucial in preventing holiday scams. Stay aware, be cautious, and trust your instincts. Being proactive and informed can protect you and your loved ones during this festive season, ensuring a joyful and secure holiday experience.
Learn more about brushing scams in our blog “Beware of ‘Brushing’: The Newest Mail Scam.”