Top 10 Scams to Watch for This Holiday Season

During the festive season, the flurry of online gift shopping, securing holiday travel plans, searching for temporary, seasonal jobs, or attempting to give back through charitable donations creates a perfect storm for scammers. These activities are prime opportunities for them to execute targeted scams.

Falling prey to such scams is the last thing anyone would want, especially when it’s meant to be a time of joy and celebration. Scammers pose a real threat, as they might not only swipe your hard-earned money but could also empty your bank account or, worse, hijack your identity.

So, as we gear up for this year’s festivities, what kinds of holiday scams should we keep an eye out for? Let’s dive in and explore.

Top 10 Holiday Scams of 2023

No one wants to be the victim of a holiday scam, especially in 2023, with inflation surging and the cost of living at an all-time high. This is why it’s extremely important to know what scams you should be on the lookout for and what to do when you spot one. 

Here are the top 10 holiday scams to be aware of:

#1. Airline Scams

Beware of unusually cheap airline ticket offers and unexpected communications about flight changes or cancellations. Scammers often tout huge discounts to lure travelers. Always book directly with airlines or through trusted third-party sellers to ensure safety. If you receive any unexpected messages regarding your travel, it’s wise to contact the airline directly to confirm their legitimacy.

#2. Deceptive Social Media Ads

Social media platforms are rife with ads linking to fake products or stores. These ads may seem tempting, but always verify the legitimacy of the offers. Don’t assume a site or store is reliable just because it appears in an ad on social media. Investigate the ad and the linked site for signs of a scam.

#3. Discounts from Bogus Stores

Online stores set up by scammers often lure customers with unrealistically high discounts. Key warning signs include poor spelling and grammar, bad-quality images, and a lack of essential company information. Always opt for shopping from well-known and reputable online retailers to avoid these scams.

#4. Fake Charities

Scammers exploit the spirit of giving by creating counterfeit charities and fundraising campaigns during the holidays. Before contributing, verify the charity’s authenticity using reliable resources like the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance or Charity Navigator. Be wary of high-pressure tactics and ensure clarity on how your donations will be used.

#5. Family Emergency Scams

These scams target primarily senior citizens, with fraudsters posing as relatives in need of urgent financial help. Always verify such emergency claims by directly contacting the family member in question. Creating a family ‘passcode’ for emergencies can also be an effective way to confirm the identity of the caller.

#6. Gift Card Scams

Gift cards are a popular target for scammers due to their ease of use and difficulty in tracing. When purchasing gift cards, do so only from reputable retailers and ensure they have not been tampered with. Remember, gift cards should only be used as gifts, not for other transactions.

#7. Improbable Deals

Deeply discounted items on platforms like Facebook Marketplace can often be scams. Be skeptical of such deals, especially if the seller insists on using irreversible payment methods like Zelle or Cash App. Always conduct due diligence by researching the seller and the product before purchasing.

#8. Job Offer Scams

Job scams typically involve offers that are too good to be true, such as high pay for minimal work or requests for personal information early in the hiring process. Exercise caution and thoroughly research the company and the job offer to ensure their legitimacy before proceeding.

#9. Missed Delivery Scams

Scammers send fake delivery notifications to trick recipients into revealing personal information. Always verify any dubious delivery messages by visiting the delivery company’s official website, and avoid clicking links in unsolicited texts or emails.

#10. Phishing Emails from Popular Stores

Phishing emails, often disguised as messages from trusted companies like Amazon or Apple, are prevalent during the holiday season. These emails aim to steal personal information or money through suspicious links or offers. Be cautious of unsolicited messages and verify their authenticity by contacting the company directly.

Avoiding Holiday Scams

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention can you save you a gallon of tears. Now that you have a good idea of the scams to be on the lookout for this holiday season, it would be wise to approach online shopping carefully from now on… any time of year. 

Here are a few tips to get you started:

✓ Identify Trusty Websites

Look for a padlock near the URL indicating a secure connection, but don’t just take these symbols at face value. Be on the lookout for giveaways of a fake site, such as typos, unusual layouts, shoddy design, or missing contact details.

✓ Research Your Stores

If you’re not familiar with a vendor, don’t just take a leap of faith. Check out what others say about them on the BBB’s Scam Tracker or Reddit, and watch for any scam warnings.

✓ Be Wary of Emails and Texts

Avoid opening attachments or clicking on links from people you don’t know, and never share personal details over email.

✓ Don’t Share So Easily

If you land on a site you don’t recognize, hold off on entering any personal details. To reach a business, it’s safer to manually enter their website into your browser.

✓ Secure Your Accounts

Use different passwords for each account and turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) when you can to make it tougher for anyone trying to sneak into your accounts.

✓ Listen for Phone Scams

These tricky calls, known as “vishing,” can be quite convincing. If you’re unsure, just hang up and call the company back on their official number.

✓ Watch Your Bank Statements

It’s easy to miss something amiss among all the transactions, so regularly check for anything that looks off.

✓ Shop Online With Credit Cards

They’re generally safer than debit cards, giving you a better chance of getting your money back if you run into a scam.

✓ Be Careful With Gift Cards

Avoid auction sites and stick to buying directly from well-known vendors. If you’re getting them in a store, make sure the cards haven’t been tampered with before you buy.

Lastly, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t let a good deal cloud your judgment. Stay skeptical and stay safe this holiday season!