2022 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For
As we quickly approach the holidays, there are many tactics scammers use to fool unsuspecting online shoppers and holiday enthusiasts. Many of us get excited about the “too good to be true” deals we find during Black Friday or how great we feel donating to charity – but while we’re completing our holiday checklists from the comfort of our homes, scammers are hard at work.
Each year, consumers become more aware of the variety of scams that appear near the holidays and scammers get more and more creative coming up with new ways to catch us off guard. A study completed by Norton in August of this year concluded that 34% of adults are more willing to take risks shopping online during the holidays compared to other times of the year and 36% of adults reported falling victim to a scam during the holidays. As inflation rises and cutting back on spending becomes a necessity, this year may see a record high of risk-taking shoppers, and in turn, holiday scams. Here are a few things to be aware of while shopping this year to ensure you don’t become a victim.
- Non-delivery scam
While scanning for good deals, you might come across the perfect gift at what looks like a normal website (commonly found on social media platforms, like Instagram and Facebook ads). After you purchase the gift, you never receive any information about tracking and eventually you determine what you purchased isn’t being delivered. Heading back to the website, you realize, you’ve been scammed by a fake website selling fake merchandise. To avoid these scenarios, especially around the holidays, make sure to triple check the URL on each site you visit. Many fake sites pop up around the holidays, and Black Friday, with too-good-to-be-true deals. A legitimate website should have:
- No spelling mistakes in the URL
- HTTPS instead of HTTP to ensure secure checkout and SSL encryption
- A physical address and customer service telephone
- Legitimate reviews from previous buyers
If you fall victim to this scam, contact your credit card company to have the charges reversed immediately and get a new credit card.
- Fake delivery scam
A little different from the non-delivery scam, cybercriminals send fake tracking notifications posed as legitimate delivery services with tracking numbers via email or text message to trick consumers to giving up their personal information. You may have received one of these before and wondered “have I ordered anything lately?”. Scammers are taking their chances that the consumer HAS purchased something recently and will in turn, click the link. During the holidays, their chances of contacting a consumer who has recently purchased something online greatly increases. Often times, these links will ask you to provide personal information and your credit card information. Do NOT open any tracking links via email or text unless you’re sure they are legitimate. Legitimate links will not ask you for your personal information or credit card information. If you have made the mistake of giving up your credit card number, be sure to contact your bank to have your card replaced.
- Fake Charity Scam
Many of us feel especially generous during the holidays and donating to charity is something many people do to give back. However, not everybody has good intentions during the holidays and scammers try to take advantage of those kind, generous people. These scammers use social media, email, and text messages to post an ad for a fake charity or ask for donations. These messages may be in the form of a “thank you” notice for a donation you don’t remember giving, pressure to donate to a cause, or a request for cash, gift card or wire transfer. Some of these fake charities will have convincing websites where you can register to donate. Other times, charities will claim to give money to the cause they are promoting but only donate very little of your money to the actual cause or program. To protect yourself from these scammers, make sure to do your research. You should:
- ensure the non-profit or charity is registered as a legitimate organization
- read reviews for other donators’ experience or complaints
- check credit card statements to ensure you weren’t charged for more than you donated
- never give out your personal information (such as identity or financial) that can allow attackers to steal money
- Be sure that any email links or text message links are legitimate before clicking
- Gift card scam
While shopping, you may come across a site that asks you to pay with a gift card – this is a red flag. Gift cards make it easier for scammers to steal money from you as your credit cards will have a cap limit to fraudulent purchases. Treat your gift cards as cash and use them only with the retailer they were purchased for. Otherwise, always try to use your credit card to make online purchases. If you are scammed out of your gift card, contact the retailer that issued the card – they may be able to issue you a refund or replace the card.
- Fake order scam (phishing scam)
During the holidays, scammers take advantage of consumers heavily purchasing online and send blast emails with an “issue” for a fake order. With it being the holidays, the consumer may have ordered something recently and would be tempted to click the link to fix the “issue.” The link will likely ask for personal or financial information – never give this out via email or by clicking a link. If you haven’t ordered anything lately, don’t recognize the item or the company, the link in the email is misspelled, or if the email just seems suspicious, its more than likely a phishing scam. If you’re concerned about an order that you made, call the company directly to ensure there are no issues with your order. What should you do if you fall victim to a phishing scam?
- If you provided your username and password information, change them right away
- If you provided any financial information, contact your bank to cancel your card
- If you clicked any links or downloaded anything, run a malware and security scan immediately on your computer
- Fake website scam
During the holidays, many fake websites pop-up that look just like websites you’re used to shopping on. These scam sites are designed to trick the consumer into thinking they are a legitimate brand with amazing deals. Often times, these website URLs are misspelled, have a random number in them, or a different URL altogether. When shopping, be sure to carefully check the URL for misspelling and ensure the URL has HTTPS for a secure connection, as opposed to HTTP. Try to avoid clicking a “deal” advertisement link from social media – these could lead to a spoof website. If you accidentally give out financial information on one of these sites, be sure to cancel the purchase immediately through your bank and get a new card.
Remember to always stay safe and secure (both you and the organization you represent!) when browsing online. Remember to always shop with trusted sources, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you have any questions on best practices, we’d love to help. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.