5 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For

The holidays are known to be the season of giving, but don’t let the joyous time of year lure you into a false sense of security. During the holidays, potential scammers have tactics that continuously change to catch unsuspecting shoppers off-guard.

There are many types of online shopping scams, so make sure to be vigilant about who you give your private information to by back-checking all sources of inquiry. It’s unfortunate that scammers take advantage of others in this busy season, but make sure you’re protecting yourself against holiday phishing and scams. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Gift card scams

Gift card scams are becoming increasingly common. Scammers will normally contact a target via phone or email claim that you owe payment or need to reimburse thousands of dollars through a gift card to be mailed out. 

Sometimes they will even impersonate your boss through email and ask you to purchase gift cards that’ll be mailed to supposed clients. Instead of someone legitimate collecting gift cards you sent, the scammer waits on the receiving end to pick them up. 

What to do if contacted:

  • Talk to someone you trust. A con artist wants to force you into making a bad decision in a hurry or might threaten you. Be sure to check with a trusted friend or consult with an expert. Also, don’t blindly trust an email, even if it’s allegedly from a trusted source, like your boss. If you get an email from someone you know asking you to mail gift cards somewhere, call that person to confirm they sent the email.  

  • Don’t believe your caller ID. If you have been contacted, hang up and verify the number by searching through a reverse call lookup. 

  • Research a suspected scam online. Do an online search as scammers often try to pretend to be someone you might trust. Try searches like “IRS scam call” to trace back the caller. Sign up for free online scam alerts to inform you of current fraudulent claims and make complaints online. Inform yourself and others by logging a complaint through the FTC.

What to avoid:

  • Don’t give away your personal information. This includes your name, banking information, and address.

  • Don’t buy and mail gift cards as payment. Legitimate companies will never request payment in the form of gift cards for alleged bills or fees. 

Gift card scams are some of the most common types of fraud you can encounter this holiday season. Be sure to properly vet anyone inquiring about your personal information, if they are not friends or family. Keep yourself informed of the latest tricks as scammer might try to pressure or threaten you.   

2. Rewards points theft

Other types of online phishing may include rewards points theft. You may have been saving up your precious travel or loyalty points only to discover a zero points balance on your online account. If you’ve been in this situation, you may be a victim of a scheme that’s designed to uncover your PIN or online passwords, and drain your points balance.

What to do if your rewards points are stolen:

  • Reach out to your rewards program. As soon as possible report back to your rewards program provider to see if it can reinstate your points. 

  • File a complaint through the National Consumers League. This organization has more than 200 officers working to resolve fraud cases, internationally.

  • Report the theft to local authorities. After contacting the issuer, you can choose to report the crime to local authorities. With enough information, a local online crimes unit may be able to help trace and convict fraudsters.  

What to avoid:

  • Suspicious out-of-state phone calls. In some cases, hackers may attempt to record your voice or keyboard typing strokes to decipher your passcode. Don’t answer out-of-state calls whose phone number you don’t recognize. 

  • Using the same password across accounts. Don’t use the same password or variant across all of your online accounts. Constantly change and use various passwords as hackers will attempt to use obtained passwords across all platforms.  

You’ve worked hard for your reward points, so be proactive. You can download a password manager to help you manage your various passwords and use two-point authentication for added security. Sign in to your rewards account and periodically check your rewards balance even if you are not redeeming points.  

3. Fake charitable giving

The holiday season is a season of giving, however, don’t be guilted into making monetary gifts to organizations or individuals that aren’t vetted. 

What to do if you are contacted by an unknown charity:

  • See if they’re registered. If you have been contacted by a charity that doesn’t sound familiar there are a couple of online resources that have emerged to properly vet organizations. Charity Watchdog analyzes the efficiency, accuracy, and governance of charitable organizations so that they can directly inform the public about abuses and unethical practices. Guidestar, is an educational resource about charitable giving with the goal of increasing transparency between organizations and donors. 

  • Call the official charity phone number. Instead of calling the phone number offered by the caller, find the charity’s phone number through an independent search to ensure you have the right phone number.

  • Ask for I.D. If you’re approached by a street collector, ask to see their identification, if they cannot provide it, then don’t pay. 

What to avoid:

  • Crowdfunding websites. Avoid giving to crowdfunding websites that you have no personal connection to. 

  • Don’t give out personal information. A legitimate, registered charity won’t ask for your Social Security Number or bank account information. 

  • Spam emails. Don’t click on any links within an unsolicited email — better yet, don’t even open an unsolicited email.

We all want to give back to our communities, so make informed choices and use the online tools available to you to find a reputable organization.  

4. Shipping scams

The surge of mail order deliveries in the holiday season presents another opportunity for scammers. You might receive a notice in the mail telling you that a package delivery was attempted with instructions to call a phone line to retrieve it.

When you call, they may ask for personal banking information, your Social Security Number, or other sensitive information in an attempt to defraud and set up accounts in your name. This could also come in the form of an emailed link. Of course, this is just a ruse to get your personal information.

What to do if you receive a notice about an unexpected delivery:

  • Contact your local postal service or courier. If you receive a mailed notice, inquire about the package through directly with the post office or the alleged delivery courier. 

  • Look for tracking information in the message. Check the notice for a tracking number or web address to see where the package was shipped from.

  • Go straight to the source. Visit the website directly, without clicking on the link itself, to properly check the source of the email.

What to avoid:

Remember, a delivery postal worker would never ask you directly for sensitive or personal banking information. If you think you’re a victim of a scam and have given your banking information to scammers, reach out to your financial institution ASAP and consider filing a report with law enforcement.

5. Holiday job scam

Tis’ the season for making extra cash. With an increase in customer traffic during the holiday season many businesses look to hire seasonal positions to meet greater demand. This isn’t just true for retailers and holiday workers but scammers as well. Many seasonal jobs might look too good to be true and the key is to be able to tell the good guys from the bad. 

What to do if you’re looking for seasonal work:

  • Don’t give cash upfront. Legitimate businesses will never ask you to pay upfront costs to submit an application.

  • Look for an interview process. If the company is claiming to give you a position without a formal interview that may be a red flag. 

  • Recognize if an offer is too good to be true. Companies offering you big pay for little work might snag your personal and banking information during the job interview, which would be hard to recover from. 

What to avoid:

  • Working without a contract. Never work before the company gives you a formal job offer and contract. Make sure you receive an offer letter with your rate of pay and an explanation of what the job entails.  

  • Avoid high pressure offers. If someone offers you a job or business proposition, and pressures you into making a hasty financial decision, it might be a sign to walk away. 

There are many illegitimate operations that are trying to take advantage of workers looking to make some extra cash. If it sounds too good to be true then most likely the job isn’t legitimate. The best way to avoid this situation is to always ask for a formal letter before accepting a job offer and to do your due diligence.

5 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For is written by The Financial Gym Team for

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button