The holidays are here and it is a wonderful time filled with family, friends, gifts and gift-giving. It is also a time for scammers to try to take the magic out of the holiday. As you enjoy this holiday season, be on the lookout for these common, but sometimes hard to spot, scams.
Estimated read time: 11 minutes
Top Scams of the Season:
1. Look-alike Websites and Fake Shipping Notifications
Scammers are looking for the easiest and quickest way to get your cash this season. One of the most popular ways they do this is by creating a look-alike website. They mimic the real website to the point that it can be really hard to tell it is a fake. By not knowing, you unintentionally give the scammer exactly what they are wanting when you buy online on a look-alike site.
Here are some common red flags to look for when you are on the web:
- Website domain name has an additional prefix or suffix in the web address such as www.paypal.com.delivery.ips
- Website domain name has letters transposed or subbed for a different letter. For example, WaImart.com where the letter “l” is changed to a capital “I”.
- Website domain name has extra letters. For example, BankoffAmerica.com where an extra letter “f” has been added.
- Poor spelling and grammar errors.
- Pixelated or low-quality images.
- Malicious pop-ups that appear to be legitimate but download malware when opened.
Fake Shipping Notifications
Beware of phony tracking links for your shipments in route to you or other recipients you are mailing packages to. Anytime a scammer can get your information through a link you click, they will. Similar to look-alike websites, scammers create look-alike tracking links. These links look nearly the same as a legitimate tracking link from your package carrier. If you click on a suspicious link, immediately close the browser and ensure you do not download any requested information on the browser page.
To spot a fake, take care to look for red flag warnings such as those listed above. Look-alike websites and look-alike shipping notifications can have very similar nuances and small, almost unnoticeable changes to the URL.
If you are unsure if the link you are looking at is malicious, go to the official website of the carrier and utilize their tracking link on their website. Simply type the tracking number from your package into the carriers website to gather information rather than clicking on the link sent to you. That is the safest way to prevent clicking on a malicious link.
2. Free Gift Scams
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Whether it is a sign up link on a website or a link asking for you to enter your information to receive a free gift, be cautious that the site you are on is a valid and legitimate website. Do not enter your contact information, especially specific details such as your home address on any site offering a free gift. This typically is a ploy to gather your information which can be used to steal your identity. Before providing any personal contact information, confirm what your information will be used for and that it is a valid gift offering. Contacting the company directly to confirm the details is always a good idea.
3. Fake Charities
Unfortunately in the spirit of giving we often see fake charities pop up more during this time of the year. Scammers posing as an organized charity find it far to easy to steal your information, credit card details and banking information by capitalizing on those gifting for the holidays. Before giving to your favorite charity consider contacting the charity directly to provide your donation rather than relying on gifting through their website or on social media links. As with look-alike websites and look-alike web links, be cautious to notice anything unusual about the link which would indicate it could potentially be fraud.
4. Elderly Scams
A trend we are seeing and hearing lately is scammers trying to take advantage of the elderly. We are seeing many scams that attempt to capitalize on using an elderly person’s family member names in an attempt to have money wired. Be aware of callers posing as a grandchild asking for money while they are traveling or that they have been involved in an accident or arrest needing money to assist with the costs. As silly as it seems, scammers have become quite good at using real names and voices to mislead an elderly individual into thinking their family member is truly calling for assistance. Educating your family members of the types of phone scams out there will be the best way to try to prevent any unintentional mishaps.
5. Travel Scams
This time of year, we can all use a nice vacation, can’t we? If you are traveling to visit family and friends or are heading off to a fun vacation location, holiday scams could follow you. Here are some tips to consider when traveling to keep your identity safe as well as prevent scammers from getting your money and turning your much needed trip into a nightmare.
- Beware of bargains that seem too good to be true.
- When booking online, beware of the look-alike websites we mentioned above as well as fraudulent travel agency websites.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know without first validating their services and the account you are sending money to.
- Ask for references if you are using a travel agency.
- When traveling, be sure to call your credit card company to advise them of the dates and locations you will be traveling to.
- Refrain from posting on social media about your travels until you are back home.
As you enjoy the holiday season, we hope these tips can help protect you from unwanted challenges taking time away from all the fun the season has to offer.