9 online scams to watch out for this holiday season

Emma McGowan 4 Dec 2023

By being aware of these common online scams and taking precautions, you can protect yourself and your family from becoming victims this holiday season.

The holiday season is upon us, and that means it's time to start shopping for gifts. But it's not just the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that you need to be aware of; there are also online scams that target unsuspecting consumers. Whether you're shopping online or browsing social media, understanding these 9 common online scams can help keep your family safe this holiday season. 

1. Phishing emails 

Phishing emails remain a top concern for online shoppers. These deceptive messages attempt to trick you into revealing sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers. Always verify the authenticity of emails and be cautious of any requests for personal information or deals that seem "too good to be true." 

2. Fake shopping sites 

Another common scam is fake shopping sites. These sites look like real stores but they are actually set up by scammers looking to steal your credit card information. To protect yourself from this type of scam, always research a company before you make a purchase, read customer reviews, and check for secure payment methods such as PayPal or credit card processing. Additionally, if the website looks suspicious (i.e. low quality graphics and spelling errors) then it could be a sign that it is not legitimate.       

3. Fake charities 

Criminals often take advantage of people's generosity during the holidays by creating fake charities and soliciting donations from unsuspecting victims. Before making a donation, make sure that you verify the organization's credentials with the Better Business Bureau or other reputable organizations, such as Charity Navigator. Additionally, never give out your credit card number over the phone or via email; instead opt for secure payment methods such as PayPal or direct bank transfer when possible. 

4. Fake social media profiles 

Scammers will often create fake social media profiles in order to send messages that appear to come from someone you know in order to gain access to sensitive information such as passwords or bank account numbers. If you receive any suspicious messages on social media platforms, make sure you verify who the message is coming from before responding with any personal information. 

5. Online dating scams 

People get lonely, so dating scams are pretty common during the holiday season. Dating scammers create fake profiles on dating websites in order to gain access to people’s personal information or even money through fraudulent promises of love and companionship. Be sure you thoroughly research anyone you meet online before agreeing to meet them in person—and never send money without verifying their identity first! 

6. Malicious downloads 

There are also malicious downloads that can sneak their way onto your device if you're not careful. Scammers will often disguise malicious downloads as free games or other apps that appear harmless enough—but once installed on your device, they can steal your personal information or even lock up your computer until you pay a ransom fee! The best way to protect yourself is by only downloading apps from trusted app stores like Apple's App Store or Google Play Store and by using a trusted antivirus software, like Avast.

7. Gift card fraud 

Gift card fraud occurs when someone purchases gift cards with stolen credit cards in order to resell them at a discounted price online or in person. Another example of gift card fraud is when a scammer convinces you to buy a gift card and then share the information on how to use it with them, allowing them to steal your money. To protect yourself against gift card fraud, always buy directly from retailers like Target or Walmart and never purchase pre-loaded cards from third-party sellers and never buy a gift card for someone you’ve met online.

8. Social media scams 

Social media scams come in many forms but usually involve someone posing as a reputable company or individual in order to “phish” for sensitive information like usernames and passwords or credit card numbers. Be wary of any requests for personal information that come via social media — even if they appear to come from someone you know — as these could easily be fake accounts set up by scammers targeting unsuspecting victims.

9. Fake deals and coupons  

Another common scam during the holiday season is fake deals and coupons. Scammers will create fake websites that offer unbelievable discounts on items such as electronics or clothing but never actually deliver those items after they’ve taken payment from unsuspecting customers. Be wary of any “too good to be true” offers online and always thoroughly research companies before making purchases from them. 

It’s important to stay vigilant while browsing online this holiday season since there are so many potential threats lurking around every corner! By being aware of these common online scams and taking precautions — such as doing thorough research before making purchases and not giving out personal information over email/social media/phone calls — you can protect yourself and your family from becoming victims this holiday season. Stay safe out there!

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