Top Holiday Scams to Avoid

As we approach the holiday season, it's not just about festive joy; there's an increased risk of falling for tricky scams. Scammers, always finding new ways, take advantage of the excitement around online shopping and holiday activities. From fake deals and phishing attempts to social media gift exchanges and brand impersonations, there's a variety of holiday scams out there, and they're getting more sophisticated.

Man with a hoodie trying to pick a lock in a house.
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This guide aims to warn and inform, highlighting the top holiday scams to avoid that could spoil the festive spirit. It provides the knowledge needed to recognize and navigate these deceptive tactics, helping you protect yourself from falling victim to fraudulent schemes during this joyous season.

Top 7 Holiday Scams to Avoid

A “Complimentary” Christmas Hamper

Amid the holiday season, fake giveaways, like Christmas hampers, proliferate online through social media, emails, or texts. According to CyberGhost, while seemingly festive and free, these scams aim to extract personal information like your address and phone number for a nonexistent reward. Worse, scammers may request payment details under the guise of covering delivery fees. It serves as a major warning sign for possible unauthorized transactions, making it one of the top holiday scams.

How to Dodge a “complimentary” Christmas Gift Scam?

Protect yourself by analyzing giveaway offers, avoiding revealing personal information, and never providing payment details for supposedly free items.

Package Delivery Rip-off

With an estimated three billion packages shipped during the previous holiday season, package delivery scams are undoubtedly on the rise. You may receive convincing text or email messages urging you to click on links for various reasons, such as tracking a package or providing payment preferences.

Created with precision, these messages often replicate authentic shipping company logos, making it challenging to distinguish them from legitimate communications. Clicking on the links may lead to malware infections or prompts to divulge sensitive information. Some scammers even resort to aggressive phone calls, posing as delivery service representatives.

How to Dodge Package Delivery Rip-offs?

Visit the shipper's official website or call using a verified phone number, avoiding interactions with suspicious messages or calls.

Sham Charities Trick

Scammers exploit people's generosity during the holiday season through fake charities or impersonating those in need. Be cautious of organizations pressuring immediate donations, preferring cash, gift cards, or wire transfers, and avoiding transparency about fund usage. Research charities online, check for complaints or reviews, and verify state registration on the state charity regulator.

How to Dodge Fake Charity Tricks?

Recognizing red flags is crucial—resist on-the-spot donations, scrutinize payment requests, and beware of names resembling legitimate charities. Additionally, reject unsolicited gratitude for unmade pledges, inspect charity names, and be skeptical of vague pleas lacking details. Any promise of sweepstakes winnings for donations is illegal. Guarding against these tactics ensures your generosity supports legitimate causes during the season of giving.

Social Media Ad Fraud

A rising online shopping scam exploits social media ads, with Americans losing $2.7 billion to such schemes on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 44% of fraud complaints involved non-receipt of purchased products or services from social media ads.

How to Dodge Social Media Ad Fraud?

Avoid purchasing directly from social media ads; instead, verify the company's legitimacy through its real IP address or opt for reputable platforms like Amazon, Walmart, or Target, offering in-person pickup for added security.

Holiday Seasonal Job Offers Scam

Job scams escalate during the holidays as scammers exploit individuals seeking extra income with enticing but fake job listings. These fraudulent offers often promise substantial pay for minimal work, aiming to steal personal information or trick victims into sending money for fake supplies or training. Red flags include swift hiring processes, requests for immediate personal information, and schemes involving cashing checks and sending extra money back to the company.

How to Sidestep Holiday Job Offer Fraud?

Thoroughly research the company before sharing personal details, checking reviews on platforms like Glassdoor, and ensuring the legitimacy of both the person and the job offer.

Holiday Travel Fraud

These scams exploit the surge in travel spending, with scammers creating fake flight-booking sites and cancellation electronic mails to trick you into paying for non-existent flights. Red flags include heavily discounted prices, signs of a fake website like spelling errors or low-quality graphics, and skepticism toward flight cancellation emails—verifying directly with the airline is essential.

How to Evade Holiday Travel Fraud?

Only purchase tickets from trusted airlines, study websites for authenticity, and independently confirm any flight cancellation notifications.

Gift Card Fraud

In a gift card scam, also known as "card draining," scammers record information, including card and pin numbers, from unsold gift cards. When purchased, the scammer exploits the recorded details, rendering the buyer's gift card worthless. The scam has occurred numerous times across the country.

How to Avoid Gift Card Fraud?

To protect against card draining, ensure the gift card is sealed and untampered. Keep the receipt, and report any compromise directly to the gift card company for a freeze and refund.