The holiday season is a time for celebration, giving, and spending time with loved ones. However, it’s also a time when scammers are particularly active, looking to take advantage of the increased generosity and spending. Here are some of the most common holiday scams and how to help avoid them.
Common Holiday Scams
Online Shopping Scams
In the age of one-click convenience, online shopping during the holidays is practically second nature. But it also presents an opportunity for scammers to exploit. Be wary of these common online shopping scams:
- Fake websites and online stores: Scammers often create fake websites that mimic legitimate retailers, hoping to trick unsuspecting shoppers into entering their personal and payment information. To help ensure your payment information stays secure, always shop on familiar websites and check for the padlock symbol to the left of the URL to indicate the website is secure. Look for typos in the URL, poor website design, and a lack of contact information as red flags.
- Phishing emails and links: Phishing emails and links are designed to trick you into revealing personal information or clicking on malicious links that can install malware on your device. These emails may appear to be from legitimate retailers, offering enticing deals or requesting account verification. Never open attachments or click on links in emails from a sender you don’t recognize. Common phishing red flags to look for include typos or low-resolution images.
- Counterfeit products: Counterfeit products are often sold online at significantly lower prices than genuine items. While these products may look authentic, they are often ploys designed to trick you into revealing your payment information. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious when purchasing high-ticket items or luxury goods online, and stick to reputable retailers with a proven track record.
As the holiday spirit of giving inspires people to give to charitable donations, scammers seek to exploit this generosity by creating fake charities or imitating a reputable charity. Be aware of these common charity scams:
- Fake charities and donation requests: Scammers may create fake charities or use the names of legitimate organizations to solicit donations. They may approach you in person, through email, or by phone. Before donating, research the charity to help ensure it is legitimate.
- High-pressure tactics: Scammers may use high-pressure tactics to guilt or scare you into donating. They may claim that your donation is urgently needed or that you will receive special benefits for contributing. Don’t let anyone pressure you into donating on the spot; take your time to thoroughly research the charity before deciding to donate.
To verify the legitimacy of a charity, you can research its website and look for outside assessments from third-party charity reviewers and government websites. A real charitable organization generally has reviews, good rapport with other organizations, and a public track record of providing genuine help.
The allure of holiday travel often makes it a target for scammers. Be wary of these common travel scams:
- Fraudulent travel deals: Scammers may advertise unrealistically low prices for travel packages or accommodations. Again, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. These deals often involve fake websites or hidden fees. Before booking a travel deal, thoroughly research the provider and check customer reviews.
- Fake vacation rentals: Scammers may create fake listings for vacation rentals, luring unsuspecting travelers with enticing descriptions and photos. These listings may lead to fake websites or requests for upfront payments that never materialize. When booking a vacation rental, stick to reputable booking platforms and never wire money directly to the property owner.
To make safe travel bookings, always use secure payment methods, such as credit cards with fraud protection. Be cautious of sharing personal information online, and ensure that websites are legitimate before entering sensitive data. Additionally, read reviews from previous guests to assess the quality and safety of accommodations.
Gift Card Scams
As gift cards have become a popular and convenient gift-giving option, scammers have devised various methods to exploit their use. Be vigilant against these common gift card scams:
- Tampered gift cards: Scammers may tamper with gift cards at retail stores, altering their barcodes or magnetic strips to steal the remaining balance. Before purchasing a gift card, inspect it carefully for any signs of tampering, such as scratches or adhesive residue.
- Scammers posing as retailers: Scammers may contact you through email or phone, claiming to be representatives from legitimate retailers. They may offer gift cards as prizes or incentives for completing surveys or providing personal information. Never share personal information or banking details with unsolicited callers or emails.
Always buy gift cards directly from authorized retailers or their official websites to ensure safe gift card purchases. Avoid purchasing gift cards from online auctions or marketplaces. Additionally, keep your gift card receipts and store gift cards securely.
Package Theft and Scams
With the surge in online shopping, package theft and scams have become a prevalent concern, particularly during the holiday season. Watch out for these common package theft and scam tactics:
- Fake Delivery Notifications: Scammers may create fake delivery notifications to trick victims into revealing personal information or falling for fraudulent schemes. This is a form of phishing scam. Be wary of unsolicited messages asking for your personal information, and check for typos and other red flags.
- Porch piracy: Porch pirates are individuals who steal packages left unattended at doorsteps or porches. To combat porch piracy, consider requesting signature confirmation for deliveries, installing security cameras, or not leaving packages outside your door for too long.
Many retailers offer secure delivery options, such as in-store pickup or lockers, which help reduce the risk of porch piracy. Consider utilizing these options, especially for valuable or time-sensitive packages.
Most shipping companies provide tracking tools that allow you to monitor the status of your deliveries. If a package appears to be delayed or lost, contact the shipping company immediately.
Red Flags of Holiday Scams
As you navigate the holiday shopping season, it’s crucial to be aware of the red flags that often accompany holiday scams. Here’s a recap of the red flags we’ve discussed that can help you identify potential scams and protect your personal information and finances.
Unsolicited communications: Scammers often initiate contact through unsolicited emails, phone calls, or text messages. They may pose as representatives of legitimate organizations in an effort to trick you into revealing your private information. Always be wary of unsolicited communications, especially those requesting personal information or financial details.
Too-good-to-be-true offers: Unrealistically attractive deals are rarely authentic, if ever. Scammers often exploit the desire for bargains by offering unrealistic discounts or prizes. Before accepting any offer, carefully research the company or product and check for reviews from other customers.
Pressure tactics and urgency: Scammers may try to pressure you into making a quick decision by creating a sense of urgency. They may claim that a deal is limited-time or that your personal information is required to verify your identity. Don’t feel pressured to act immediately. Take your time to review the offer and research the company before making a decision.
Poor website security: Scammers often create fake websites that mimic legitimate ones. Look for signs of poor website security, such as a lack of HTTPS encryption, a suspicious website URL, or grammatical errors in the website content. Only enter personal information on verifiably legitimate websites that you trust.
How to Help Avoid Holiday Scams
As the holiday season approaches, so does the increased risk of falling victim to scams. Here are seven essential guidelines to help protect yourself from the deceptive tactics of scammers:
- Utilize IdentityIQ identity theft protection services: IdentityIQ provides comprehensive identity theft protection services to cover you and your family that can help safeguard your personal information from scammers. IdentityIQ members reap the benefits of credit monitoring with real-time alerts, dark web and internet monitoring, VPN and antivirus software, identity theft insurance of up to $1 million underwritten by AIG, stolen identity restoration support, and more.
- Stay informed and aware: Keep yourself updated on the latest holiday scams and trends by reading reputable blogs, news sources, and consumer protection websites. Familiarize yourself with common red flags to recognize potential scams.
- Verify the legitimacy of websites and charities: Before making any online purchases or donations, thoroughly verify the legitimacy of the website or charity. Check for HTTPS encryption, read customer reviews, and consult trusted sources like the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- Employ secure payment methods: When making online purchases or payments, always use secure payment methods, such as credit cards with fraud protection or reputable payment processors. Avoid using wire transfers or prepaid cards, as these methods offer limited protection in case of fraud.
- Exercise caution with personal information: Never share personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account details, or passwords, with unsolicited callers or in response to suspicious emails or websites. Legitimate organizations will not ask for this information through unsolicited channels.
- Enable two-factor authentication: Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for all your online accounts, including email, social media, and financial accounts. 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second verification factor, such as a code sent to your phone or email, in addition to your password.
- Keep software and antivirus up to date: Ensure your operating system, web browsers, and antivirus software are always up-to-date to help protect yourself from the latest malware and cyber threats. Regularly scan your computer for viruses and malware to identify and remove any potential threats.
As the holiday season approaches, it’s essential to be vigilant and safeguard yourself against the increased risk of falling victim to scams during the holidays. By following the proper guidelines, you can significantly reduce your chances of falling prey to these deceptive tactics and help protect your personal information and finances.
To further strengthen your protection against holiday scams, consider utilizing IdentityIQ comprehensive identity theft protection services. IdentityIQ offers around-the-clock protection through its around-the-clock monitoring of your credit reports and social security, with real-time alerts and a suite of other protection benefits. With IdentityIQ, you can enjoy peace of mind, knowing your identity is fortified throughout the holiday season and beyond.