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Scams to Watch Out for During the Holiday Season

Gift shopping, charity donations, travel bookings, and fun activities characterize holidays. Scammers know this and are always out to target unsuspecting people with scams through these activities.

Posted: 20th November 2023 by Finance Monthly
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The schemes to defraud people take various forms during holiday seasons, from gift cards to fake charities. 

After a 2022 study, Norton found that 36% of Americans had been victims of holiday shopping scams, with a loss of about $387 on average. Many of the victims admitted that they wanted to cut costs on expensive gifts during the holiday season. Instead, they were scammed.

Staying vigilant against the scams we will examine in this article is the best way to guarantee a scam-free holiday season.

9 Scams to Watch Out for

Let’s explore 9 scams people are most likely to fall for during the holidays:

#1 - Fake package deliveries

In package delivery scams, a delivery text message is sent to your phone number with a link attached. The link will lead to a fake website, where you will be required to give your details, including your credit card information. Sometimes, you may be required to pay upfront to complete the delivery process.

Links like this could also lead to a malware download that will give the scammers access to your vital data, including bank account details.

You must be more careful if you track your packages through text messages. Don’t respond to any message about a delay in package delivery or any unexpected delivery without contacting the courier directly. 

#2 - Fraudulent gift cards

Gift cards are easy targets for fraudsters because they are difficult to trace. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that about 48,800 consumers lost over $228 million to gift card scams in 2022.

This scam is very common during holidays, with retailers promising budget-friendly packages. Although gift card companies and the FTC are coming up with ways to trace gift card scams, you should take steps to avoid falling for them. Be sure to buy your cards only from reputable sources.

#3 - Online shopping scams

Be wary of any deal that looks too good to be true. Black Friday and One-Day promo offers are often targets of scammers seeking to prey on people looking for discounts.

Any unrealistic discounts on items from popular brands are worth double-checking, especially if it is not advertised on the brand’s website. Only shop on websites that start with the “https” and have the lock symbol. Also, watch out for look-alike addresses.

You could compromise your identity or lose money by paying for items without giving much thought.

#4 - Phony stories

Social media is awash with sob stories that appeal for financial assistance. With the holidays approaching, these stories will increase, and many GoFundMe accounts will be set up to scam people.

In your generosity, always verify sob stories or only help people you know personally. If someone says that they urgently need money and asks you to donate as fast as possible, know that it’s an emotional manipulation that scammers frequently implement.

#5 - Fake lotteries

Fraudsters may offer you a mouth-watering prize for doing simple online tasks; when you open the link, you may download malware into your device. They could also contact you, claiming you have won a lottery. However, they will ask you to send them a tax or prize fee before claiming your prize. 

Don’t click on any links or pay taxes to claim any prize money.

#6 - Hacked public Wi-Fi

One of the most dangerous things to do during the holidays (and always) is to use public Wi-Fi for shopping and online transactions. When you go to a coffee shop or library, avoid using their free Wi-Fi to exchange sensitive information, as hackers can intercept the network and use your data.

Using your home or mobile network or getting a VPN to encrypt your data is safer as it will keep your online shopping activities and data private. 

#7 - Grandparent scams

The holiday season is also characterized by family members visiting each other. It has, therefore, become the target of fraudsters. To perpetuate this scam, they impersonate relatives and claim to be distressed, such as being in police custody or losing their passports while travelling. Seniors are often the targets of this kind of scam.

If you receive such a call, hang up immediately and call the supposed relative directly to confirm the information. You can also call other family members to find out if they got such a call or message.

#8 - Fake charities

Giving is an essential part of the season. Unfortunately, fraudsters can capitalize on your generosity to defraud you through fake GoFundMe campaigns and charities.

Don’t fall for hard-sell tactics or bow to the pressure of donating immediately to charities you’ve never heard about. Visit Charity Navigator to verify the organization’s authenticity before donating.

#9 - Seasonal job offer scams

Admittedly, job scams are on the rise, but more so during the holidays. With more people looking for extra cash to meet the season's demands, fraudulent job offers claim to pay more for seasonal work. The aim is to either steal your personal and credit card information or get you to send money.

Avoid this scam by researching the company on review sites like Yelp and Glassdoor. Don’t fall for their quick hiring process or online interviews. Also, don’t share your sensitive information with them or visit their office address alone.

Steps to Take in Case You Get Scammed

Fraudsters are coming up with clever tactics to defraud people. Therefore, you should not beat yourself up if you fall victim. Rather, take the following steps to reduce the damage:

● Report the case to your bank for it to block your accounts, stop any transactions, and possibly reverse any fraudulent damage.

● File a report with the Federal Trade Commission.

● If you get scammed by phone, reverse search the number on Nuwber to see who it is registered under.

● Change all your passwords and scan your system with a reliable antivirus to eliminate malware.

● Protect your account with credit monitoring and a password manager.

● Inform your family and friends so they don’t fall victim.

Final Thoughts

As you enjoy the season of love and giving, don’t let your guard down. This way, you can avoid becoming prey in the hands of people looking to defraud others. 

Be careful about who you talk to and what information you share.

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