5 Holiday Scams to Avoid

November 17, 2022 | Modified: November 21, 2022

It’s supposed to be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” but that may not be the case if you are the victim of holiday scams. With shopping in full swing, it’s important to protect your identity and finances. Here’s a countdown of 5 holiday scams to avoid.

5 Fake Wi-Fi/Hot Spot Scams

Although it might be tempting to take advantage of your lunch hour to sit in a coffee shop or other public space and cross some items off of your holiday list, it can also be dangerous. The Wi-Fi network or hotspot you use might not be secure. A hotspot is simply a location where people can access the internet such as a hotel or restaurant. While a malicious hot spot or honeypot as it is also referred to might look valid, it is actually a fraud planted by a cybercriminal. While fake hotspots can be difficult to detect, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk.

  • Assume that all public networks are unsecured and avoid online shopping on a public network.
  • If you need to use Wi-Fi, be sure you select the correct network. Verify with the provider that it is legitimate. For example, go to the shop owner and ask for the exact name of their network.
  • Update all device security software.
  • Be sure none of your devices auto-join networks. You can set most devices to ask for your permission before they connect to a network, rather than automatically joining.

4 Sham Charity Holiday Scams 

The holidays are a time for giving and scammers are taking advantage of that charitable spirit to swindle unsuspecting donors. Before making a donation, we recommend you:

  • Research the legitimacy of the charity. You can search charitable organizations on the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, or GuideStar.
  • Visit the charity’s official website to be sure the contact information you have is accurate and authentic, before mailing a check or donating online. Do it directly from the authorized site and not through a link you receive.
  • Do not open suspicious emails requesting donations or click on any attachments.
  • Do not donate based on social media posts or calls from unknown sources. Always verify authenticity before donating.
  • If you feel pressured or rushed to donate, it is probably a scam.

3 Fraudulent Shipping Notifications 

‘Tis the season for millions of package deliveries, and sadly it’s also the season for fake shipping notifications. Scammers are posing as shipping companies, such as FedEx, UPS, Amazon, and even the USPS, and sending victims links regarding package tracking. Please don’t fall for it.

  • Never click a link from an unexpected delivery notice.
  • Never provide any personal or payment information over the phone or via text when contacted regarded a delivery.
  • If you receive a suspicious link, text, or phone message, go directly to the carrier’s website, or use the retailer’s tracking tools to verify the sender’s identity and avoid a potential scam.

2 Bogus Website Scams 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, online shopping scams accounted for about $392 million in reported losses from consumers last year. That was up significantly from the previous year. Not only are online shopping scams extremely common, but they are very likely to lead to financial loss for the victims.

  • Be wary of online marketplaces where you won’t have the same purchase protection that you would have when buying from a reputable retailer.
  • Avoid deals that seem too good to be true. If you see a social media ad for a popular, hard-to-get product at a ridiculously low price, it is probably a scam.
  • Don’t click on any suspicious links in emails, texts, websites, or on social media.
  • If you are ever asked to pay for online items with a gift card, cryptocurrency, or a wire transfer, it is a red flag for a scam.
  • Verify a site’s legitimacy before making a purchase.
  • Don’t share any personal information online unless you have verified the site.
  • Use a credit card when shopping online so you can dispute any wrongful charges. Check your statement regularly.

1 Phony Order Confirmations from Amazon

Amazon has over 300 million active customers worldwide. This makes it a prime target for scammers. Fraudsters are pretending to be a trusted company, such as Amazon, to lure victims into sharing personal and financial information. According to Amazon, fake order confirmations accounted for more than 50% of the Amazon impersonation scams reported by customers.

  • If you receive a message about an Amazon purchase or authorization, do not respond to the message or click on any links. Log into your Amazon account instead and confirm the purchase is in your history before taking any action. Contact Amazon directly through the Amazon website or App. Amazon will never ask you to download or install any software to connect to customer service or request payment for customer support.
  • Don’t be lured into an action you will regret due to a sense of false urgency.

There’s always a higher risk of falling victim to identity theft and various scams during the holiday season. Being on the alert with our list of holiday scams to avoid can help protect you. We hope you will take the precautions mentioned above and enjoy a safe holiday season.

Prepare yourself for holiday shopping with our Benchmark FCU blog post “6 Tips for Smarter Holiday Spending.”

Tap to learn more about fraud and see a listing of fraud resources available.

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