It’s a busy time of year for everyone. You may be planning a meal to entertain your loved ones or travel, and you may not be thinking about buying gifts before the New Year.
Scammers know how easy it is to get hold of you this time of year, so we’re here to warn you about the 4 most common ways you can fall victim over the holidays.
4 common holiday scams to watch out for
1. Package delivery fraud
With the holiday season in full swing, the end-of-the-year sales have begun, and you’ve probably already started your holiday shopping and are waiting for packages to arrive via various delivery services like FedEx, UPS, or USPS. So, if you receive a text that mentions package delivery, you can easily fall for a scam.
I was waiting for a package recently and got this text out of the blue:
Although the text said that the sender was not in my contact list and it might be junk, I almost clicked on the link because it reminded me that I might have made a mistake in my delivery address. I looked. But when I looked a little closer, there were a few red flags in this text message that made me think it was a scam.
Red Flag 1: This link doesn’t take you to usps.com – it’s a fake link that scammers hope you won’t notice. Note that it is uspsst.top, not usps.com. This is a common scam, which I have written about in other articles, where the scammer uses a domain that looks close to the real website. Next, the text says “pls,” which is something you might not see on USPS correspondence. Scammers often make mistakes in their correspondence or use bad grammar, so always double check.
Red Flag 2: Scammers send emails, texts, and even the occasional phone call with a package delivery problem. It could be something like this text I got, where they have a link at the end where they may ask for information or you may be required to pay a “delivery fee” to receive your package.
Use protection: Make sure you always have good antivirus protection running on your devices to avoid any disaster when you click on a malicious link. You can find my reviews of the best antivirus protection at CyberGuy.com.
How to avoid package delivery fraud
If you’re expecting a package and wonder if you’ve actually received it, the best way to check is to go to the original shipping confirmation you received. You have received an email about your package and if you go to that email to get your order number, you will be able to check the status of your order directly on any website.
2. Charity scams
Unfortunately, charity scams are nothing new, but they are quite common these days holiday season because scammers hope you feel more generous this time of year.
Sometimes scammers can create fake names of organizations to lure you give money or they may contact you by phone/email/text pretending to be working for a legitimate charity. Social media has also become a popular place for charities to market themselves in the hope of attracting more attention, so scammers can try to pose for fake donations.
These schemes will try to appeal to your emotions this season, so double-check where you put your money to avoid falling for a scam.
How to avoid donation scams
Never give your money to anyone who approaches you or on behalf of any organization without doing your own independent research. Either do some googling or check with your family members if this is true or not, you should donate to the official website or official address. You can always mention this to anyone who asks you to donate somewhere – don’t feel pressured to donate right then and there.
Also, always double check the organization name. Sometimes (especially online) scammers slightly change the name of a certain organization to trick you.
3. Social media gift exchange scams
The Better Business Bureau is warning about gift exchange scams and a new twist in recent holiday seasons. This is an online version of the popular Secret Santa gift exchange. However, the BBB states that these social media-based gift exchanges are actually pyramid schemes and you will be disappointed if you participate.
In the last few years, there have been variations of the gift exchange where someone asks you to pick a random person and send them a gift in return. Another asks you to exchange a bottle of wine with someone else, and while that sounds fun and light, you have no idea who’s on the receiving end.
How to avoid social media gift sharing scams
It might feel nice to send a stranger a holiday gift because you’ve received a few yourself, but you’ll never receive many (if any) gifts. Don’t participate in a gift exchange with someone you don’t know, otherwise you can’t guarantee that you’re gifting someone who isn’t a scammer.
4. Gift card scams
Gift card scams are another popular method that has grown in popularity lately, but it’s especially important to be aware of the possibilities since you may be buying gift cards for friends or family around the holidays.
Fraudsters often steal gift cards and use the information before they pretend to be. There are a number of ways you can be scammed with gift cards, so it’s a much safer alternative if you send your card online (to make sure you’re buying from a legitimate, official website).
How to Avoid Gift Card Scams
If you’re getting a gift card for someone and you’re buying it in person, make sure the package hasn’t been tampered with. Double check that nothing on the packaging looks suspicious, as scammers will try to make it look like they sealed the package, but they’ve already used the gift card, so you’re buying a plastic item that’s totally worthless.