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5 popular holiday scams to watch out for this season

Don’t let scammers ruin your holidays. Get informed about these 5 popular holiday scams to protect your wallet.

5 min read

During the holiday season, many of us are busy buying presents for our loved ones and donating to good causes. Unfortunately, this increase in spending attracts opportunistic scammers and a host of different holiday scams. As a result, millions of shoppers fall for holiday scams each year—but, if you know what to look out for, you can protect yourself against fraudsters. Here are the tell-tale signs of some of the most popular holiday scams so you can safeguard yourself and your wallet.

As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, scammers work overtime to cash in on the surplus of extra spending. These fraudsters use a variety of different techniques, often involving social engineering, to ensnare their victims. So, before you start shopping, here are the top holiday scams you need to know about. 

Holiday phishing scams

Often pretending to be from trusted sources such as Amazon, Apple, or even your government, scammers send millions of phishing emails and text messages each year. Taking advantage of the holiday season, these messages will often claim that you’ve missed a delivery, are eligible for a holiday discount, or that your account has been hacked. Phishing messages almost always include a link that will either take you to a fake website where you’re asked to enter personal information or infect your device with malware.

How to avoid falling for a phishing scam: 

  • Ignore all emails or texts from senders that you don’t recognize. 
  • If a company messages you, log in to your account or contact their customer support to check that the message is real. 
  • Never click on a link in a message that seems suspicious. 
  • Never give out your details or information unless you’re sure the website you’re using is legitimate. 

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 Charity scams

During the holiday season, many people increase their donations to charitable causes. Unfortunately, fraudsters exploit this goodwill by posing as charities and scamming well-meaning people out of their money. Scammers often work by posing as a charitable organization that is raising funds for recent environmental disasters or humanitarian crises. Next, they ask for donations via email, a fake website, or across social media. This money never makes it to the charitable cause and instead goes straight into the pocket of the scammer.

How to avoid falling for a charity scam:

  • Do your research—before donating to a charity, make sure it’s legitimate by researching it online.
  • Only donate money through trusted platforms, and never transfer money directly to an account or enter your bank details on a website that looks suspicious.
  • If in doubt, don’t donate. Instead, find a different, trusted charity to give money to.

Fake shops

Fake shops pop up everywhere during the holiday season. These are lookalike online stores that offer highly-valued items at bargain prices. They scam their victims by getting them to pay for goods using obscure payment methods such as wire transfers or gift cards before disappearing with the money. Often, fake shops look incredibly convincing—but there are a few key red flags to look out for. 

How to avoid falling for a fake shop scam:

  • If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fake shops claim to sell a range of different items, all of which will seem heavily discounted.
  • Look carefully at the quality of the images and the page design. Also, be on the lookout for spelling or grammatical mistakes and suspicious-sounding reviews.
  • Frequently, fake shops don’t include any contact information, details about refunds or returns, or an “About Us” page.
  • Most fake shops rely on unsafe payment methods such as wire transfers, gift card purchases, or suspicious third-party apps.

Social media scams

Social media scams use fake ads posted on social channels such as TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram that direct their victims to a fake shop. During the holiday season, many of these ads offer seasonal discounts on in-demand goods at too-good-to-be-true prices. 

How to avoid falling for a social media scam:

  • Check out the account that posted the ad. If it has a very low number of followers and looks like it was created recently, it’s likely to be a scam.
  • Check the site for red flags if an ad has a link to an online shop. These can be things such as low-quality graphics, a lack of contact details, or spelling mistakes.
  • Watch out for strange payment methods. If the standard payment options are by direct transfer or using gift cards, avoid the site at all costs. If you feel uncomfortable or something feels a little off, trust your intuition and don’t purchase any items.

Holiday travel scams

Since many people want to travel during the holiday period, scammers have turned the increase in travel spending to their benefit. They do this by creating fake flight-booking websites and fake travel cancellation emails, which then direct you to a fake website. Unsuspecting victims pay for fake flights using an unsafe payment method and accidentally send their money straight into the scammer’s wallet. 

How to avoid falling for a holiday travel scam:

  • Be wary of websites or ads with heavily discounted flight prices.
  • If you’re directed to a flight purchasing website, look out for warning signs that the website could be fake. These include spelling mistakes, strange website structure, a lack of contact details, or low-quality graphics. When in doubt, only purchase flight tickets through a trusted airline.
  • If you receive an email telling you your flight has been canceled, double-check with the airline directly to make sure the message is legitimate.

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