A traffic sign that reads 'Holiday Scams Ahead'. The background is different colored lights that are blurred.

A sign that says “Holiday Scams Ahead”

Key Takeaways

Some of the most common ways scammers target you during the holidays:

  • Social media ads that look like online stores
  • Package theft off your porch
  • Fake delivery notification texts & emails
  • Fraudulent charities that steal your hard-earned money
  • Gift card scams

Social Media Ads

One of the most common holiday scams happens on your favorite social media platforms while you’re doing your online holiday shopping. According to a recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report, Americans lost $2.7 billion to social media scams over the last couple of years.

Many of the reported fraud complaints involved consumers purchasing a product or service through an ad on Facebook or Instagram and never received the item they bought.

To avoid getting scammed on socials, consider finding the company online and confirm it’s offering the item at the same price as advertised. You can also look at products on another trusted site, such as one of the big retailers like Target, or opt to pick the item up in person.

Package Theft

With the abundance of packages, orders and cards coming to your home during the holiday season, porch piracy and package theft are a real problem. Scammers and thieves will steal it right off your stoop, looking for gifts cards, cash or an item they can resell.

Worse though, if they’re stealing your mail they now have your contact information, address, and possibly even some of your credit card details. All these are pieces of data about you, and are personally identifiable information, which means the risk of identity theft.

To help prevent package theft, install a security camera where your packages are delivered. If security cameras are cost prohibitive, have packages delivered to an Amazon locker or your office, or even a friend or family member’s home.

Fake Delivery Notifications

Another very common holiday scam, are fake package delivery notifications. You know those text messages you get with a package tracking number? Some of those fake delivery notifications are extremely sophisticated.

The link inside the text message tells you to click it to see where your package is on a map, and instead it sends you to a fake website designed to steal your personal information, asking for Social Security Number or credit card details to find your package.

If you do receive a text message or email with tracking details, go directly to the website, rather than clicking on the link. You can verify your package delivery with your tracking number or order number for most major shipping companies.

Charity Scams

People tend to give more to charities during the holiday season, because they are feeling generous or they’re looking for a good tax deduction before the end of the year. Scammers prey on people’s good will this time of year and set up fake charity websites and payment pages. Some call by phone to request donations or to thank you for a non-existent donation.

The best thing to do is stick to well-known charities or groups to whom you have previously donated. You can research the charity online through Charity Navigator or try the IRS tax-exempt organization search. Don’t give money for unsolicited charity phone calls or anyone who demands immediate payment, and claims to represent a charity organization. Legitimate charities will take your contributions at any time.

Gift Card Scams

Gift cards are great for scammers because they’re easy to buy and nearly impossible to trace or refund. Many holiday scams involve buying and selling fraudulent gift cards or tricking you into giving or sending gift card numbers.

It might seem obvious to some of you not to pay for goods, services, fees, fines or taxes with gift cards but cybercriminals are incredibly good at impersonating your bank, government agencies and demanding payment via gift card.

If you do buy gift cards in a store, double-check the packages are not tampered with by running your finger over the back to see if the sticker was scratched off or replaced. Be sure to get a receipt for the gift card so you can verify your purchase if the card is lost or stolen.

Purchase gift cards from reputable retailers. If you’re going to buy gift cards online, ensure the site you are using is secure and purchase them directly from the retailer or company, rather than a third-party site.

What to Do if a Scam Happens to You

Scams get smarter every year, leveraging better technology and making it harder for you as a consumer to spot them. If you do get scammed, don’t be ashamed, it can happen to anyone. Be sure to report the scam if it happens to you via the FTC’s website and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Additionally, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service to be on the safe side, especially if you suspect the scammer got sensitive identifiable information.

Contact your bank and retailer regarding the scam, especially if you made a purchase and the package was delivered but you’re not the one who received it. Most retailers and e-commerce sites will work to track down the package and resend or offer a credit and refund for your purchase.

If the retailer doesn’t want to refund, you can work with your financial institution that issued your card you used for the purchase. Often you can dispute the payment, especially if you’re using a credit card, and stop other transactions that the scammer might purchase through your card.

Let’s keep you safe this holiday season, if you need help now you can book a consultation with us here. https://lockdownyourlife.as.me/strategy

The guidance included in this article do not constitute legal advice and is for educational purposes only.