9 Scams to Watch for During Scam Season

Welp! Halloween is over. You’re getting ready for the awkward Thanksgiving at Aunt Bula’s and, whether you like to admit it or not, until the end of December, the commercial holiday season has begun. As you navigate the holidays, most of us feel stressed, excited and charitable all at the same time. Guess what? Fraudsters love it when you feel that way! Here’s why: it’s easier to take advantage of people when their emotions are involved.

Fraud is tricky to expose, especially when the crooks are good at it. But when your emotions are heightened by the fact that little Timmy’s dream toy is out of stock or your wallet is getting thinner, you’re going to be far more susceptible to fraud. In short, we just don’t think as clearly when emotion is involved. So, here are some scams that you should watch out for this holiday season…

Fake Charity Scams

It is the season of giving, and kudos for having such an open heart to give. But fraudsters will try to make it the season of taking. A fake charity will ask for your personal information so they can take funds to “help the needy.” Some of them will use names similar to real charities to fool you. And all of them will likely make you feel terrible if you don’t help. So do your due diligence and research charities thoroughly before doing any giving. Don’t let guilt turn into fraud! You can find out if a charity is real by searching it on https://www.charitynavigator.org/or https://www.givewell.org/.  

Seasonal Employment Scams

It doesn’t hurt to have a bit of spare change in your wallet over the holidays and what better way than to get a temp retail job when the holidays are afoot. However, don’t let an attempt to gain some extra cash turn into losing all you have.

Fraudsters will create fake jobs that you apply for online and in the application process you give away valuable information. Worse yet, they’ll “pay you” by baiting you to give out your online account credentials. Then, they’ll deposit a bum mobile check into your account and remove the check amount via PayPal/Venmo before it bounces. Or, they may mail you a fake check for more than you agreed upon and ask you to send back the extra amount before the check returns. Either way, they get money while you wind up in the hole. Make sure the job is real by going onto the actual website of the company you’re applying for or even calling one of their locations. You should also use only credible job search sites like Indeed, Snagajob, or LinkedIn. However, fraud can occur through these sites too, so be cautious.

Holiday Travel Scams

Who doesn’t want a vacation during the holidays? It’s even better when you find a sweet deal and avoid the price uptick that takes place in the industry during the season. But ‘tis also the season for fake websites as well as fake email offers trying to trick you into giving away information with no ticket in return.

Additionally, some of these scams will ask you to pay in ways that a conventional air or cruise line would not request like money orders, gift cards, wire transfers, etc. If it’s not the actual company site or a reputable travel agency site (Expedia, Hotwire, etc.), don’t pay them or give out your info! Again, call the actual company if you are not sure. And remember, if the deal is too good to be true then it probably is!

Help a Friend for the Holidays Scam

Someone you know reaches out to you and says they are in a jam and can’t get home for Christmas without financial help, or they’ve been in an accident and, with their holiday bills, they just don’t have the money to pay the hospital. I know your heart is being pinched when you hear that but think logically. Why are they contacting you via email or social media when you typically talk on the phone? Or why are they telling you they’re stranded in Europe when you just talked to them last week and they mentioned nothing about traveling?

If someone asks you for money online, try to talk to them in person. Call their actual phone number and, odds are, they’ll have no clue what you’re talking about. If you can’t talk to them, get in contact with others who know them. Rarely will your friend or loved one be in a bind where they can’t talk to you and you are the only one who knows about it.

Copycat Websites

It’s that time of the year for your inbox to be inundated with coupons and offers. Some of these, though, are not from real companies! Even if you see a familiar logo it may not be legitimate. Fraudsters are brilliant at duplicating real sites so they can obtain your information or inflict your computer with malware. If the deal is so good you can’t believe it, then don’t believe it! If you have questions, ask your friends if they are getting the same ad or call the actual company and ask if the promotion is legitimate.

Fake Package Confirmation/Delivery

You get an email saying your package has shipped but, think for a moment… Were you expecting an email or a delivery? What item is it for? If you’re not certain, it could be a scam! Fraudsters will send you a fake email hoping for you to click on it. It will then generate malware or ask for information needed to give you the “tracking status.” Remember, most online ordering sites will give you tracking numbers or confirmations that an item shipped. Furthermore, if you’re just not sure about that email, visit the site you usually use to send or purchase packages (Amazon, USPS, etc.) and check the status of any items you have sent or purchased. If what’s on the site doesn’t match the email, delete the email immediately!

Desperate fraudsters may even leave receipts at your door stating that the delivering company missed you and to call the number on the receipt to get your package. Always double check the number on the company’s website before proceeding!

The Social Media Gift Exchange Scam

You read a social media offer, “give a gift, put your name on a list and, as soon your name reaches the top of the list, you’ll get multiple gifts in return.” That’s a textbook “too good to be true” scenario. What’s more, according to the Better Business Bureau, it’s also illegal. This constitutes a pyramid scheme. Don’t do it because you will likely lose money and it’s against the law.

Letters from Santa Scam

Some companies offer to create letters from Santa that look quite enchanting for your little tikes. This can be a legitimate business but be careful. Some of these sites will only get your info and funds, leaving you wishing Santa could bring you your missing money. To find out if a “Letter from Santa” business is real, visit the Better Business Bureau website at https://www.bbb.org/.

Gift Card Scams

Who doesn’t want an email saying you can get a free gift card? But what if it also tells you that you have to put in your information to receive it. This is a sign that it is fraud! Remember, no company is going to give out free gift cards just to be nice, even if it is the holidays. So, if there is a free gift card offer out there, just walk away. If you really think it’s real, then do your due diligence to find out.

These are just some of the most common holiday scams so be careful and cautious this holiday season. There are a lot of good people doing a lot of good things this time of year, but there are also some who are simply being greedy. When you take the bait, you are likely going to be liable for ALL losses incurred! So, while ‘tis the season to be jolly, it’s also the season to be careful! Most Financial institutions have systems in place to protect you from fraudulent behavior, but safety starts with YOU. Stay smart and be aware of timely scams so you can stop fraud before it starts.

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