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How to avoid common holiday scams

Holiday season is fraud season. Use these tips to avoid common scams.

Woman receiving a package delivery
Chances are you or someone you know has encountered a scam at one point or another. What you might not realize is that the holiday season is a prime opportunity for scammers to cash in at your expense. Take a few minutes to review the most common types of scams that pop up at this time of year, and review our tips on protecting your money so you can focus on what really matters this holiday season.

Money transfer scams

There are scams of all sorts but many are designed to do one of two things: either steal your money or personal information. Scams that are after your money occur throughout the year but are especially common during the holiday season. Scammers know people are looking for deals on gifts, expecting mail, or looking for extra cash to spend on loved ones. Here are a few scams that you should be aware of:

Money collection scams: A fake IRS or utility employee will contact you asking you to pay the money you owe, even when you don’t owe them any.

Online auction scams: On auction websites, scammers will try to sell you a fake gift card or a gift card with a low balance.

Gift card tampering: A scammer opens a gift card to get the number, then repackages it or replaces the sticker. They use this information to use the card’s funds once activated.

Fake prize scams: After winning a giveaway contest, you’ll be asked to pay for processing or shipping with a gift card or even cash.

Romance scams: A scammer will contact you pretending to be romantically interested. They then ask you to buy them items, gift cards or wire money to help them through a ‘hard’ time.

Fake gift card activation sites: Scammers will create a convincing website for you to activate your new gift card, only to take your gift card and personal information.

Package delivery scams

Package deliveries are frequent during the holiday season and are gaining popularity each year, so it makes sense that scammers would take advantage of deliveries to trick unsuspecting people. There are two types of package delivery scams that you should be aware of:

Phishing scams
You’ll receive a notification that you’ve missed the delivery of your package, and then you’ll be asked to complete a form on a fake shipping website, fake survey website, or fake login page designed to steal your information. Avoid this scam by being wary of texts and emails from delivery orders. Avoid clicking on links in messages or emails, as they could take you to a fake website. Instead, check the sender’s info and reach out to the company you’ve been ordering from using the contact information on their secure website. And never open anything from an unknown or suspicious source.

Brushing scams
Sometimes you might find a package was delivered when you didn’t even order it. In this case, a scammer sent you the package so they can submit a “verified purchase” review on the selling website. This scam indicates two things: First, your personal information was likely stolen. Second, if you submit a “verified purchase” review, you’ll be adding to the thousands of fake reviews that other people rely on when making purchases. If you’re a victim of this type of scam, promptly contact the company it was delivered from and the company that allegedly sold it to you.

Credit card fraud

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s 2021 report, credit card scams cost Americans more than $173 million. Credit card fraud is a year-round scam, but always seems to spike around the holidays. To avoid it, set up alert notifications so you can know immediately if your card was used to make a purchase by someone else. If you’ve lost your card or temporarily misplaced it, like many other financial institutions, First Tech allows you to easily “lock” your card so it can’t be used. 

If you are a victim of credit card fraud, take action fast. The faster you notify your bank of the fraudulent transaction, the more likely you will get your credit back and resolve the issue.

Phishing emails

Phishing emails are another medium for common scams. They’re emails designed to look like they came from a person or business you’re already familiar with to steal your personal information. During the holiday season, some common phishing emails include holiday event/charity invites, fake payroll notifications, fake deliveries, emails from unknown or mistyped URLs, and emails for winning giveaways you never participated in. As soon as you’re made aware of an email like any of these, delete it and block the sender. Do not open it, and do not click on any links. Scam phone calls and text messages should be handled the same way.

Cybersecurity in online shopping

Many people do their gift shopping online these days, but only a few people are aware of how easy it is to be scammed into entering card information on a dangerous website. If you do your shopping online this year, be sure to shop on secure and well-known websites. Research a website before placing an order, read the site’s privacy and security policies, be mindful of cookies, and never give out your social security number.

Additionally, setting up a digital wallet can help avoid potential scammers. This is because digital wallets tokenize your information. Your debit or credit card number will not be compromised even if a retailer is hacked. Secure payments are also available through apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay, meaning that your payment information is encrypted, preventing others from being able to see it.

If you’ve been scammed, be sure to report the scam to any business or organization that was part of the transaction. Contact your bank or credit union if applicable. Also report it to the government via their fraud reporting website. For more information visit our Security Center.