Festive seasons are one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and it looks like it will only become busier this year. This is also a busy season for cybercriminals, and it’s not just credit cards that are being swiped… your information as well.

They understand that people are anxious to receive their gifts on time, so they may be less cautious when checking the validity of a website or social media ad.

In 2020, 1 in 5 Millennials had been a victim of online fraud while shopping for the holidays. During the holiday shopping season of 2020, 12% of online buyers were victims of fraud.

Being scammed can often mean losing money that can’t be recovered—and more seriously, having your identity stolen. It’s a terrible and time-consuming misfortune to go through.

However, you can help protect yourself by learning how to spot common holiday scams and how to check legitimate businesses.

Top 12 Holiday Scams to Watch Out for:

1. Misleading social media ads:

Ads on social media that claim to help a charity or give a free trial are the most popular frauds and the category with the most victims. You either never receive the things, are charged monthly for something they never agreed to, or receive a counterfeit item that is significantly different from the one advertised.

2. Free Gift Cards:

Scammers that offer “free” gift cards in return for personal information should be considered spam or junk.

3. Holiday Job Offers:

As the holidays are the busiest time of year for most retailers, businesses frequently hire seasonal staff. These jobs can be a good method to enhance your income, but fraudsters take advantage of the seasonal hiring season to defraud job seekers.

4. Fake holiday sales and promotions:

You might have stumbled on a deal. But it’s more likely that very low-priced jewellery item, piece of designer clothing or electronic gadget is counterfeit or a cheap knockoff.

5. Fake Charities:

Charity scams can take place online and over the phone. Scammers will push people into giving money, or they may deceive them into giving money by thanking them for a donation they never paid for and then taking money. They’ll also make vague and emotional claims while asking for money, but they won’t say how they’ll put it to good use. Always do your research before donating to a charity, and never send money through gift card, cryptocurrency, or wire transfer.

6. Puppy Scams:

One of the things that makes the holiday season beautiful is seeing a child’s eyes light up when they are given a brand-new puppy or kitten. Unfortunately, some people will turn their joy into tears. Pet scams are on the rise over the Holiday season. Individuals take advantage of those looking to bring a new pet home for the holidays by posting ads for pets that do not exist; they then take advantage of a person’s desire to offer a pet for their loved ones over the holidays.

7. Postal Delivery:

Be aware of postal service notifications alerting you that a parcel has been delivered to your home or office. The notifications can come in the form of a text or email and they will appear to be from FedEx, UPS, or US Mail. Don’t give out your personal information if someone asks for it.

8. Free Vacation:

Keep an eye for calls or emails stating you’ve won a “free trip!” In most cases, the scenario described will sound too good to be true and once you reach your destination, you’ll find the accommodations to be less than luxurious. Scammers will frequently ask for credit card details in order to cover service expenses. Never send your credit card information to a company you’ve never heard of.

9. Bogus virtual event charges:

Scammers have followed several holiday events, such as craft fairs, and started selling fake tickets. They’re looking for credit card information, so find out if the event has a price from the organiser.

10. Lottery Scams: 

You find out you’ve won a large sum of money or a great reward in a holiday competition, lottery, or sweepstakes that you didn’t enter. You will be asked to pay a fee for insurance, government taxes, or courier fees in order to claim the reward. You may receive a check for a part of your winnings that looks legitimate, but it is fake and will bounce. It’s a typical holiday scam.

11. Sweetheart Scam:

A romance or friendship begins online, but when it’s time to meet, the romancer has a problem and they need assistance that almost always involves sending money or gift cards to them. Typically, the love interest is overseas. This could be a holiday scam or occur at any time of year.

12. Panic Scam:

A caller tries to put fear in you by catching you off guard in a variety of methods. For example a law enforcement agency claims that your child or loved one is in danger, or a medical professional alleges that a loved one has been injured. These fraudsters want to catch you off guard, especially when the stress of the holidays has you thinking about other things.

How to avoid these scams:

  • Monitor your account. Use online and mobile banking to keep an eye on your transactions
  • Shop safely, before making an online purchase, make sure the website uses secure technology.
  • Research charities before you donate
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects.
  • Beware of online deals that seem too good to be true.
  • An item for sale on a marketplace like eBay doesn’t include photos of the item in its current condition. Having one isn’t a guarantee, but a lack of one is suspicious.
  • Don’t shop while connected to a public WiFi network.
  • Search for the name of unfamiliar sites alongside “scam,” “complaints” or “fraud” and see if anything raises a red flag.

While you should check your debit and credit card online accounts or statements for irregularities on a daily basis, it’s vital to do so over the holidays. Any concerns should be reported right once. Also, remember that paying with credit or debit cards rather than cash is safer because cards provide you with consumer protections against fraud and other issues.

Don’t let a scam ruin your holiday.