You’re not the only one who’s preparing for the holiday season. Scammers and online crooks are anxious to set old and new swindling tricks. It’s that time of year when people are more giving and bighearted and maybe more relaxed, so they forget to pay attention to details. This translates into a scammer’s ideal setting to send phishing emails, release online charity or gift card scams, among others.
Check the most popular winter holiday scams and learn to avoid them!
Most Popular Holiday Online Scams
There are a lot of frauds, scams, and tricks you need to watch out for on a regular day. Things get more complicated during the Christmas holidays when fraudsters and scammers take the effort and maybe even do extra work during this time of year.
Here are some of the most common winter holidays scams:
Gift Card Scams
Online fraudsters craft a fake online store that perfectly replicates the genuine one; most common impersonated brands include popular ones like eBay and Amazon. Let’s say you’d contact a seller who markets a product you’re interested in, and you get a reply that says ‘only accept gift cards’, sometimes because they encounter a problem with your credit card. If you accept to offer a gift card, you’ve just given a fraudster an anonymous, untraceable gift card with usually weak fraud protection.
Fake Purchase Requests
Like most people, you’re interested in purchasing holiday gift cards for a loved one or a business partner. Still, you should be wary of fake requests for purchasing gifts on behalf of a person you know. That’s right! Gift card scammers have upped their game, and you might be the target of a spoofed email, phone call or SMS text telling you to buy gift cards for someone for either personal or business reasons. Some of these scams will also request transfer payments.
Make sure you double-check and ask that person to confirm their request for the gift card.
Social Media Shopping Scams
As the holiday season starts, social media abounds in fake ads and sites selling items that don’t even exist; some shopping offers take the form of holiday deals or promotions. Some are so well-designed that they won’t trigger any red flags. Beware of clicking on ads and offers that sound too good to be true. Always double-check the legitimacy of websites before placing an online order and giving your financial information.
Travel Phishing Schemes
Many countries have imposed COVID-related restrictions and are still in lockdown, but there are still some destinations where you can travel. Travel phishing scams would unravel this way:
- you receive an email that tells you your booking was canceled
- the message of the email invites you to click on a link and fill in your credit card details for a new reservation
- some emails will also include links that redirect you to a bogus website that covers deals on flights, hotel rooms or apartments for rent, where you’d also have to pay for a deposit
Free Holiday Apps
You should always be wary of free apps, but stay on the cautionary side during the holidays in particular! You have more free time and may want to unwind with some fun and entertaining apps, including ones that place your head on dancing elf or reindeer. If you’re not into this kind of apps, your kids certainly are. Mind there are ones that promise them they can chat live with Santa or watch him ride his sleigh as he gets close to their home. Many of these apps can collect data and contain malware.
Simple Methods to Avoid Holiday FraudsAs with any online fraud, prevention is the key. Here are a few safe practices that will help you stay away from holiday scams:
- Regularly update your devices to make sure they include the latest patches.
- Don’t reply to emails or messages from unknown senders, and don’t click on any link or attachment from them.
- Carefully check emails or webpages and look for altered images, misspelt words, poor grammar, and a lack of contact information.
- Don’t send sensitive or personal information, including credit card details, via email, text, or social media websites.
- Keep in mind that if your bank calls to verify if your account or credit card has been compromised, the conversation will never start with a recorded message, and won’t ask you to install an app either.
Have you ever been a victim of holiday scams?
Let me know in the comments below.