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4 holiday scams to avoid

May 13, 2024 | 3 min read

In this article

  • Holiday scam alert: Know which ones to look for.
  • Package delivery scams, gift card scams and more.
  • Stay secure (and merry!) with a few tips.

‘Tis the season for joy, generosity and – unfortunately – holiday scams. It’s important to be wary of financial scams year-round, but there are certain kinds you’ll especially want to look out for during the holidays. The more you know, the better you can protect your hard-earned money and enjoy your time with family and friends!

Package delivery scams

Many people are frequently awaiting packages during the holidays, and scammers use that to their advantage. They’ll often reach out and urge you to act so you can receive your “package” without issue. It could be a text, email or phone call asking you to do things like:

•    Update your payment preferences.
•    Provide delivery instructions.
•    Track your package’s location.
•    Pay a shipping fee.

Tip: When in doubt, don’t click links or give out your personal information. If you have packages on the way, go straight to the seller or delivery service for help or status updates.

Find a “We missed you” note on your door?

That could be another common package scam where there’s a phone number for you to call to “reschedule your delivery.” Once you do, the scammer will ask you for personal information they can use to commit fraud. Again, ignore the number on the note – even if it looks legitimate – and go straight to the delivery service to learn more if you’re waiting on a package.

Gift card scams

These are increasingly common and surprisingly easy to pull off. A scammer will:

1.    Text or email you posing as someone you know (often a leader at the company you work for).
2.    Urge you to buy gift cards worth hundreds of dollars, claiming they’ll reimburse you later.
3.    Ask for the redemption codes on each gift card.

This scam might sound easy to spot, but it could be trickier than you think. For example, the fraudster might even monitor your LinkedIn profile and pose as your CEO when you start a new job. Assuming you’re eager to please and you don’t have your CEO’s real phone number, they’ll pressure you to act quickly. You may not think much of it, especially considering it’s the holiday season when companies often buy gift cards for their employees.

Tip: If a fraudster poses as a workplace leader to try to pull this scam, you may not be the only one they target. Be sure to report it to the company so they can notify your fellow employees.

Social media scams

There are countless promotions and savings opportunities on social media during the holidays, making it the perfect environment for fraudsters to add an online shopping scam to the mix. They might even pose as retailers or influencers you know and trust. Be careful if you see a page promoting an incentive for you to engage with them or give them information, like:

•    A gift card or voucher in exchange for your participation in a survey.
•    A contest entry when you follow a page or share a post.
•    A sale you can only get using a link they’re providing.

As always, avoid clicking on suspicious links and giving personal information to questionable sources. There are plenty of legitimate holiday deals out there, so just keep scrolling!

Charity robocall and text scams

Like all the holiday scams we cover here, fraudulent robocalls and text messages target people year-round. But fake charities are among the most common ones during the holiday season. If you receive a call, text or email asking you for a donation, just remember: It’s OK to pause for a good cause. If you take a few extra minutes to research the organization, it could pay off – literally.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

•    Are they rushing you? That’s a red flag. A real charity would appreciate your generosity whether it’s today or next week. 
•    Have you verified their information? Did you find their name online? Does the contact information match? 
•    How are they requesting payment? A true charity would never ask you for a wire transfer or to share gift card redemption codes. A debit/credit card or check is more standard.
•    Are they asking for a lot of personal information? If something seems off, it probably is. You can always give out your information later once you know you’re dealing with a legitimate organization.
•    Have you answered all the above with confidence? It still can’t hurt to go directly to the charity you’d like to donate to – online, by phone or in person. It’s the only way to be sure you aren’t getting scammed.

Stay safe this holiday season

When in doubt, back out. You shouldn’t feel pressured this holiday season (or any season!) to make quick decisions about donations or purchases. 

Want to stay in the know about financial and information security? Take a deeper dive into package scams, learn about common government impersonation scams and more in our Learning Center.

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