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7 Common Holiday Scams to Watch Out For

holiday typing at computer

As the holiday season approaches, it’s not just the festive decorations and joyful gatherings that come to the forefront. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when scammers are on the lookout for unsuspecting victims. In this article, we’ll shed light on some common scams that people may encounter over the holidays and provide tips on how to protect yourself and your finances.

1. Online Shopping Scams

With the surge in online shopping during the holiday season, scammers often create fake websites or online marketplaces to lure shoppers into providing personal information or making payments for goods that never arrive. Always verify the legitimacy of a website before making a purchase, and use secure payment methods.

Make sure to read reviews and check for inconsistencies – if an online shopping website has a lot of spelling errors, limited or low-quality pictures, or prices that seem too low to be true, it’s probably a scam. Another way to double check is by googling the name of the website with the word “scam” to see if anyone has advised against purchasing from them.

2. Phishing Emails and Messages

With all the email advertising going out for holiday shopping, it’s a good idea to be cautious of unsolicited emails or messages claiming to be from reputable companies or financial institutions. These phishing attempts often aim to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information. Never click on links unless you’re 100% sure they’re legitimate, and double-check the sender’s email address. Scammers will usually have a typo in their email address or it will be unrelated to the message.

3. Gift Card Scams

Gift card scams are one of the most common (and, unfortunately, irreversible) scams today. If anyone asks you to send them money via a gift card, it’s almost definitely a scam. In gift card scams, fraudsters usually pose as a trusted friend, family member, or even stranger who needs help, and the only way you can help is by sending them money in the form of a gift card.

A common tactic used by these scammers is time pressure. They want you to act now, so you don’t have time to stop and think twice about the situation. It’s always okay to take a second to think about their request, or hang up and call your friend, family member, or bank back. Someone legitimate will not have any problems with this.

4. Fake Charities

The holiday season is a time for giving, but scammers exploit this generosity by creating fake charities. Before making any donations, ensure the charity is reputable and registered. You can use the Better Business Bureau’s website to search their database for legitimate charities. In addition, much like with gift card scams, any real charity will not be concerned if you donate tomorrow instead of today. It’s okay to take time to double check that a charity is real before giving them your hard-earned cash.

5. Puppy Problems

If you’re looking for a new furry friend to add to your family this holiday season, be cautious! Scammers have been known to sell kittens and puppies that don’t actually exist online. Once you purchase a pet from one of these scammers, they will engage in a variety of tactics to steal your money – such as asking for payment in the form of gift cards, requesting additional fees to transport the animal from a different state, or telling you the animal is having medical problems or has passed away, or even threatening to harm the animal if you don’t send them more money.

These types of scams can be especially scary.  If something doesn’t seem right, ask a trusted friend or family member to think through things with you. To keep yourself safe, consider checking your local animal shelter instead, or at least ensure you can see the animal in person before purchasing.

6. Delivery Scams

With the increase in online shopping comes a rise in delivery-related scams. Be cautious of fake delivery notifications, especially those requesting additional payments or personal information. Verify such communications directly with the delivery service using official contact information.

7. Social Media Scams

Scammers exploit the festive spirit on social media platforms, creating fake contests or promotions. Be cautious when sharing personal information online, and verify the legitimacy of such promotions before participating.

Staying vigilant and informed is crucial to protecting yourself from scams during the holiday season. In short – keep yourself safe by doing your research, staying alert, and never acting immediately under pressure if you don’t know who you’re talking to. Encourage your friends, family, and credit union members to remain cautious and report any suspicious activity. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. All of us at Elevate Credit Union wish you a safe and happy holiday season!

If you enjoyed this article, you can find more just like it on our MoneySmart Tips blog.

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