Use this list to identify and beat Christmas shopping and donating scam risks: Internet Scambusters #1,093
Christmas and other holiday festivities are right on the horizon. And they're also right in the sights of crooks and fraudsters.
To cut the risks of falling victim, we've produced an easy-to-follow guide to the most common seasonal scams, plus a list of 20 tips that could keep you safe from them.
Please share it to help others stay safe too!
Let's get started…
How To Beat Holiday and Christmas Scammers
Black Friday may be the nation's busiest online shopping day but when it comes to scams, Christmas tops the league for consumer fraud. There are so many opportunities for the crooks to chase.
So, we've compiled a list across a whole range of holiday scam topics and tips for you to stay on the alert. Please share it with friends and family - you could save them a fortune.
You can be sure the holiday scammers are out there right now, setting up schemes that put a miserable spin on the festive season and relieve consumers of their hard-earned cash.
The average holiday scam victim loses $387 a pop, according to figures from the FBI. The most common targets and sources include:
- Online shopping. Fraudsters use malicious ads, fake websites, phishing emails, phony auctions, and too-good-to-be-true pricing to trick their victims. Holiday shopping scams jumped by 22% last year and will likely rise again in 2023.
- Travel and vacations. So many people are on the move between now and Christmas, it's a golden opportunity for crooks. Typical scams include fake vacation rental listings, bogus booking sites that steal your information for identity theft, and supposed heavily discounted flights and car rentals.
- Charity donors. Christmas is a time for giving and many of us do our best to help others less fortunate than ourselves. But steer clear of fraudsters making appeals for non-existent charities via robocalls, social media campaigns, and fake crowdfunding pleas. Even worse, crooks may pretend to be from genuine charities while pocketing your donation.
- Pop-up shops. Empty stores are rented short-term for holiday-related gift shopping, but sometimes crooks are behind the counters with defective products, counterfeit items, high-pressure sales tactics, and unsafe food items. Then they shut up shop abruptly and disappear.
- Gift cards. We recently explained how scammers tamper with gift cards in stores. Sometimes, they may replace real cards in store racks with fake ones, with barcodes linked to them. Gift cards are also a favorite "currency" to pay for transactions and debts because they're untraceable.
- Social media. Watch out for promotions and free seasonal gift offers on sites like Facebook and X (formerly Twitter). They're often aimed at either hijacking your account or stealing information about you. Hijacked accounts can be used to appear as requests for money from friends. Sometimes, the crooks use names and photos of celebrities to seem genuine.
- Door to door schemes. Full of the holiday spirit, you answer a knock on your front door to find someone selling Christmas wreaths or seasonal gifts. They may be genuine - perhaps from a local school - but they could also be scammers. Typically, they use high pressure tactics or a sob story to lure you into buying overpriced or defective products.
- Porch piracy and package theft. Home security site SafeWise says thieves who steal delivered packages cost us around $6 billion a year, with 3 out of every 4 people falling victim, sometimes more than once. The deliverer's responsibility stops when they place a parcel on your step and usually photograph it. These days they often don't bother to ring the bell.
Beat the Christmas Scammers
Your awareness of the scams we've listed should put you on guard. Remember them and share them, to question all of your Christmas and holiday activities. Meantime, here are 20 more things you can do to stay safe from the fraudsters:
- Is that price fantastic or what? Probably "what." Stop, think, and check before buying something that's priced too good to be true.
- Use only secure, trusted, and traceable methods of payment. Period. Ideally pay by credit card for the protection issuers provide.
- Almost half of shoppers admitted in a survey last year that they don't look for identity proof. If you don't know people, check them out before you trust them. Ask for IDs and other proof.
- If you do know them, still check the authenticity of what they tell you or request from you. Even family and friends may have been tricked.
- Improve your doorstep security with a camera and arrangements for someone to collect packages if you're not going to be around.
- Consider insuring expensive items sent by mail or delivery services.
- Lookalike websites are the Number 1 source of online shopping scams. Carefully check the website address you're visiting. Is it slightly different from what you expected? Does it include "https" to indicate a secure site?
- Ignore those messages asking for your address and other personal details so a package can be delivered. Contact the real delivery service if you're unsure.
- Make your donations directly to charities and perhaps proven collectors - for example bell ringers at supermarkets. Charitable fraud cost over $30 million last holiday season.
- Don't buy from online auction or classified sites until you've checked the record of the seller. Be especially wary about buying a Christmas puppy.
- Check all communications for poor spelling and grammar and never click on links or attachments that go with them.
- If you're traveling, book directly with airlines and hotels, or with known, reputable agencies.
- Don't post about your holiday activities and purchases on social media sites.
- If you buy from a pop-up shop, verify the identity of the operator and the return arrangements for defective goods. Check purchases carefully before leaving.
- Buy gift cards directly from the issuer or store. If you buy in-store, check the card carefully for signs of tampering. Register the card with the issuer if you can.
- Use strong passwords and top-rated security software, which should put a stop to using fraudulent websites.
- Check all your bank and card statements and credit record regularly, ideally online every day.
- Keep all transaction receipts. Scan them onto your computer if you're apt to lose things.
- If you discover or suspect you've been scammed, report it to law enforcement, the US Federal Trade Commission and, if appropriate, the retailer.
- Finally, if you're looking for a temporary seasonal job, do your own research and never pay upfront for training, clothes, supplies or, indeed, anything else.
We wish we didn't have to present these warnings but there's little hope that this year's Christmas scams toll won't hit another record number of victims. Make sure you're not one of them.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.