Fraudsters are aware that the festive period involves a surge in online gift shopping, holiday travel bookings, seasonal job searches, and charitable donations—all potential avenues for them to exploit in launching scams.
According to certain calculations, “around 75% of US citizens fell prey to some form of holiday scam last year?”
The least desirable scenario for you during the holidays is falling victim to a scam, putting a damper on your festive spirit.
The question is how to safeguard yourself as we head into the New Year. Let’s discuss some of the most common holiday scams and the ways to avoid them.
7 Common Holiday Scams of 2023
Letters from Santa
According to CyberGhost’s post, Santa himself may not be exempt from scams, as fake charitable websites promise personalized letters for your child but vanish with your payment and personal details. The required information includes your full name, address, credit card details, and even your child’s name and age.
While extreme cases involve potential crimes like burglary or kidnapping if the data is sold on the Dark Web, the more common risks are phishing emails and credit card scams.
Exercise caution and refrain from sharing card details on untrustworthy websites.
Donation-related Holiday Scams
The holidays create an opportune moment for scammers to exploit emotions, often using tactics like shaking collection boxes or appearing at our doors in seasonal attire, uniforms, or fake badges. They might involve children to seem more legitimate. To avoid falling victim, refrain from donating if you can’t verify their authenticity on the spot.
For safer giving, donate directly to known charities like the Salvation Army. Be cautious of phone solicitations and door-to-door sellers displaying charity catalogs—they might vanish after taking your money. Stay vigilant and prioritize secure giving.
Beware of the grandparent scam, where a fraudster poses as a family member, typically a grandchild, to manipulate older individuals into revealing personal details or sending money. These scammers may use emails, texts, or calls, posing as distressed family members or fake law enforcement agents threatening arrest unless a fine is paid.
Protect yourself by refusing to share information or funds, hanging up on suspicious calls, and verifying the caller’s identity by directly contacting family or alleged law enforcement. Delete messages and block contacts to thwart further scam attempts.
Holiday Tour and Internet Airfare Scams
Beware of holiday season airline scams targeting bargain seekers. Scammers employ various tactics, such as fake flight booking sites, deceptive cancellation emails, and sudden price hikes.
Red flags include deeply discounted tickets from dubious sellers or requests for additional payment due to alleged cancellations. Safeguard yourself by purchasing tickets directly from airlines or reputable third-party sellers with reliable customer service. Verify any trip-related messages by contacting the airline directly to ensure their legitimacy.
Stolen Package Scams
Package theft is a widespread issue, with 79 million Americans experiencing it in the past year, especially spiking during the holidays. Beyond being an inconvenience, stolen packages could indicate identity theft. To mitigate the risk:
• Temporarily halt deliveries.
• Use secure parcel lockers.
• Schedule deliveries for when you’re home.
• Opt for delivery to a trustworthy neighbor.
• Demand a signature from delivery drivers.
• Employ security cameras.
If a package is stolen, promptly inform the merchant and delivery service. Filing reports with your credit card company, bank, and potentially the police may be necessary for replacements or refunds.
Hacking Over Public Wi-Fi
Avoid shopping over public WiFi during the holidays, as it’s susceptible to hacking. Places like hotels and airports often host unsecured networks, making it easy for scammers to execute man-in-the-middle attacks, compromising your credit card details, passwords, and personal data.
Signs of a risky Wi-Fi network include no password requirement and deceptive names like “Free-Wifi” or a slight misspelling of trusted names like “Strabucks free wi-fi.” Stay secure by using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your data on public Wi-Fi.
Holiday Scams at the Cash Register
While completing your transaction, be cautious about the possibility of receiving incorrect change, whether deliberate or accidental. The fast-paced environment at the transaction point during this season makes both scenarios plausible.
Prioritize having an approximate total cost in mind before arriving at the transaction point. If you lack the exact amount, be prepared with the specific denomination of the bill you intend to use and the anticipated change. Ensure you thoroughly examine your change and receipt before concluding your transaction at the register.
The festive season is a period of joy and gathering with cherished ones. Ensure scammers don’t ruin your holiday by tricking you or stealing your identity. Familiarize yourself with indicators of common holiday scams to safeguard yourself and your loved ones during this season.