The holidays are in full swing, and while we’d all rather focus on family gatherings and spreading good cheer, the reality is that we need to watch out for seasonal scams. Unfortunately, fraudsters don’t take time off. Some of them specifically set their sights on us during this time of year.
Keep your holidays merry and bright by avoiding these seasonal scams:
Shady shopping websites
Anticipating a flurry of online shopping for the holidays, scammers have been known to create fake retail sites designed to harm you. It works like this: you search a popular term such as “discount toys,” and the fraudulent website shows up in your search results disguised as a legitimate retailer. Or you click on a link in a Facebook post about a hard-to-find gift this year, leading you to a website created to scam you.
How to spot a fraudulent website:
- the brand/company name is misspelled in the URL
- you found this website through an unfamiliar link or website
- the prices and deals are too good to be true
- there is no contact information for customer support
These kind of fake websites are toxic; you may download a virus by clicking its links or unwillingly hand over your credit card information when you make a purchase. The takeaway? If the site looks suspicious in any way or advertises deals significantly lower than other retailers, don’t use it.
Special delivery—of malware
If you’re like most people, you’ll probably do at least a little online shopping this holiday season—which means you’ll be receiving packages via USPS or another courier.
Scammers take advantage of this opportunity to phish for your personal information. Most delivery carriers don’t ask for your email address, so if you receive a message from FedEx, UPS, or DHL, delete it. The link inside the email is most likely designed to download malware to your computer.
Charity scams are particularly devious, as they prey on your goodwill. Unfortunately, these seasonal scams tend to flourish during the holidays when people are in a giving kind of mood. While you should always donate to charity if you’re moved to do so, research the organization first.
Scammers will likely try to phish you with emails from fake charities supporting disabled veterans, needy kids, or another emotionally-charged cause. If you’ve never heard of the organization in question, research the charity on Charity Navigator before you donate.