The 12 Holiday Scams of Christmas
Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the official beginning to the holiday season. But, the start of the holiday season also marks the beginning of the holiday scam season. So, before you begin your shopping, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) wants you to be on the lookout for what they call “the 12 Scams of Christmas.”
1. Look-Alike Websites. You will likely notice your inbox flooded with emails about sales, exclusive deals and gift ideas. Be careful – some may be legitimate, but others may contain links to fake look-alike websites.
When opening an email, always make sure to check the following:
- The sender’s address
- Look for spelling or grammatical errors, hover over links before clicking on them to see where they lead, and don’t enter any personal information into a website that displays “http://” instead of “https://” at the beginning of its URL. (The “s” in “https://” means the website is secure.)
2. Social Media Gift Exchange. Purchasing one gift and receiving 25 may sound like a great deal, but this is often a seasonal scam that is a pyramid scheme. Don’t do it!
3. Grandparent Scams. This scam consists of messages you receive claiming your grandchild or family member has been arrested, is in the hospital, has been in an accident, or is in trouble that requires you to send money. If you’re worried, directly call the family member in question to find out if the message is true.
4. Temporary Holiday Jobs. Scammers often pose as a business to collect personal information from people seeking holiday employment.
Always apply for a job you want in person or on the retailer’s official website, and don’t rush into giving your personal information to someone over the phone or online before an in-person interview. Also, any job that requires you to purchase software or equipment up front should raise a red flag.
5. Free Gift Cards. Free gift card offers sound too good to be true, and they often are. If you get one of them in your email or in a pop-up ad, it’s most likely a phishing attempt from a scammer trying to get a hold of your sensitive information.
6. E-Cards. Electronic holiday cards that are being sent by scammers can be easily mistaken for friendly ones. But if you look closely, there are a few ways you can tell the difference. E-cards sent by scammers usually:
- Don’t have an easily visible sender’s name
- Require you to enter personal information to view the card
- Include a file attachment that ends in “.exe,” which means the file is an execute command that could download a virus onto your computer
7. Fake Shipping Notifications. If you’re shopping for gifts online, you can expect to receive delivery notifications via email throughout the holidays. But be careful: Scammers can disguise their phishing scams as shipping notifications too, using a legitimate business name and logo to trick you into providing your personal information. You should not have to pay money or provide sensitive information in order to receive information about an item you have ordered.
8. Fake Charities. Be on the lookout for names that sound like legitimate charities, and always verify your charity of choice on Give.org before donating. You should also always review a charity’s website for more details on how your donation will be used.
9. Letters from Santa. While legitimate businesses that offer personalized letters from Santa do exist, there are also scammers out there who impersonate these businesses in order to dupe parents into giving away their sensitive information.
Think twice before responding to an unsolicited email that offers letters from Santa for a special price, and always check the BBB website to verify the company you’ve chosen is legitimate.
10. Unusual Forms of Payment. When you’re making a purchase, be cautious if someone asks you to pay for your item with an unusual form of payment—especially if it can’t be traced or returned to you—including prepaid debit/gift cards, wire transfers or third parties.
11. Travel Scams. A good deal may be tempting, but these same “bargain” deals may be scams in disguise. If you’re looking to book a trip, always be cautious with travel offers you receive via email, especially if you don’t know the sender/company.
12. Puppy Scams. Who wouldn’t like to find a puppy under the tree on Christmas morning? Unfortunately, scammers can also prey on those hoping to add a furry member to the family. They lure you in by posting a phony ad with a photo of an irresistibly cute puppy for a can’t-refuse price, in hopes that you’ll give up your money and personal credentials.
There are a few steps you can take to avoid falling victim to a puppy scam. First, do an online search of the puppy’s photo. If it pops up on multiple websites, the ad is most likely a scam. Also, make sure to do your research and know the true price range of the kind of dog you’re looking for. And remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Want more information on fraud? Visit our Fraud Protection page where you can learn how to keep your identity and your money safe!