It’s the holiday season and there’s nothing more festive than fraudsters and scam artists coming out of their holes to steal money from you. But we’ve got you covered. The more you know about these potential holiday scams, the better prepared you’ll be if you happen to be exposed to one.
Scammers are always looking to take advantage of the good-hearted nature of people during the holidays. Fraudulent solicitations, claiming to represent charitable organizations, deceive well-meaning individuals into donating money that never reaches the intended cause. These scams exploit people's desire to help others, diverting funds for personal gain.
Always check the URL and the name of the charity when scoping out a potential scammer. A common tactic is to use a variation of a trusted charity’s name and web address to trick you. You should also be careful of any hard-sell tactics. There should never be a threat from a charity. Vague language is another red flag. A charity should always be able to tell you how your donation is being used.
Gift Card Scams
Gift cards are very popular with disreputable people because they’re very hard to trace. At the center of these scams are the buying and selling of fake gift cards. Scammers will attempt to trick you into giving them your gift card numbers, often by impersonating a bank or other agency.
Make sure, when you purchase a gift card in a store, the packaging and card haven’t been tampered with such as the PIN being exposed. Be sure you’re purchasing from a reputable retailer, especially online. Check that URL. You should also never pay an ‘activation’ fee for a gift card. That’s a definite sign of an unethical retailer. And always get a receipt when purchasing a gift card. That may be your only verification if something goes wrong.
Fake Seasonal Jobs
Although it’s typically a year-round issue, job scams seem to increase around the holiday season as the need for seasonal help is high. The scam is designed around getting your personal information during the hiring process or having to send money to purchase supplies or training classes for your employment.
Obviously, a legitimate job will need your personal information like social security number, bank account information and more. But not right away. If the request for your information is at the beginning of the process, be forewarned. Your interview should never take place over a messenger app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Make sure to research the company you’re applying to for the job. Look for reviews on job hiring sites. If it sound too good to be true, it usually is.
Hot Ticket Items at Low Prices
The brand-new children’s toy, that sells out every year, very rarely finds its way onto platforms like eBay or Facebook Marketplace at very low prices. If anything, the items would be listed at an exorbitant mark-up if they were the real deal. Any hot-ticket items that are being sold at super-low prices, are a prime candidate for a scam.
Trust your gut. If the retailer or seller is giving you an emotional story about why they need to get rid of the item, don’t believe it. If they’re asking for cash…red flag. If they’re asking for payment through an app like Venmo or Zelle…red flag. Only purchase from retailers you have first vetted through the appropriate channels.
During the holiday shopping season, all of us are placing a multitude of online orders and it’s not uncommon to lose track of what’s being delivered and when. Scammers take this opportunity for confusion to send fake notifications (with links) to you about missing deliveries, hoping you click the link without thinking. The goal is to get you to their fake website where you’ll enter your personal information or credit card number.
The best defense is to go directly to your orders page on the websites where you’ve made transactions. All the information about tracking and payment are right there, behind your protected login and password. FedEx, UPS, and other delivery companies may send you notifications about packages being delivered, but they will never ask for your personal information.
There are countless ways scammers will attempt to get your money, so here are a few more to be on the lookout for.
- Fake Online Stores: Unbelievable products being offered at unbelievable prices, sometimes 50% less than the legitimate retailers. You have probably already seen their carousel ads on your Instagram feeds. Don’t hand over your banking information to these places because you’ll get nothing in return except a headache and your accounts drained.
- Texts and Emails from Known Companies: This is a classic phishing scam that was once limited to emails, but now pops up in your texts. Apple isn’t texting you out of the blue because you won a prize. Trust us, Amazon doesn’t need to text you deals to get you to buy their products. Beware of these phishing texts and emails. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s not right.
- Fake Family Members: A classic scam directed toward the older generation, hoping to take advantage of their emotions by pretending to be a relative in dire need of help, usually in the form of money or gift cards. Simply hang up and call the relative in question through your own contact number. If you don’t have it, contact someone who might. No one in trouble will ever need a gift card to bail them out.
- Holiday Travel Scams: Travel is always busy during these holiday times and scammers know this. Fake websites and marketplace sellers will attempt to attract you with low-priced airline tickets. You may get notifications about your flight being cancelled and you need to rebook right away. Counter this buy going directly to the airline or a reputable third-party seller (like Expedia, Trivago and more) for your tickets.
Make it a Happy Holiday
Remember. If something doesn’t seem right about a situation, odds are, it’s not right. Scammers are counting on your confusion and emotions during the holidays. When you’re not focused on keeping your personal information and account information protected, that’s the perfect time for scammers to strike.
Don’t give them that chance. And when you sip that after-dinner, after-holiday drink, it will not only be to toast all the love from your friends and family, but the fact that you didn’t let those scammers win.