Scamming for the Holidays

Each year, the Better Business Bureau releases an article warning the public of common scams that come around during the holiday season. With all of the online shopping happening during this period, scammers try to slip in and phish for consumer information or attempt to download malware on personal computers. Below is a compiled list of items to consider for protecting oneself when shopping online.

Free Gift Cards
Around this time of year it’s not uncommon to receive an email offering free gift card for taking a survey or filling out a form – the chances are high that this is a phishing scam, so avoid clicking any links within the email and send it to the trash.

Social Media Gift Exchange
This is a process where someone will ask another to participate in an online gift exchange, promising they will receive more gifts in return if they buy something first. The Better Business Bureau claims that these programs (such as the Secret Sister Gift Exchange) are not only scams, but illegal pyramid schemes.

In our times, people may opt to send an eCard instead of physically mailing one out. While there are legitimate sites that do this, there’s quite a few out there that are phishing for your information or trying to trick the recipient into downloading malware. Do not open these if you are required to enter any personal information and avoid clicking attachments that end in ” .exe”or have suspicious links. It’s advisable to contact your friend or family member outside of the email to verify if this is a legitimate item they sent you.

Look-alike Websites
During this time of year online shopping sales generally go up across online retailers. This gives incentive to scammers to build up websites that try to impersonate the legitimate online retailers, and trick consumers into entering their credit card information or download malware. Always check the website address to ensure it’s the correct URL, and not a similar one-letter-off address, and only enter information into a site that has https:// listed before the URL.

Phony Charities
In the season of giving, charities often reach out online to ask internet users to donate via email and website pop ups. Scammers can utilize this to steal credit card information from unsuspecting people looking to donate. It’s recommended by the BBB to verify the legitimacy of your charity at before clicking through links or entering any personal information.

Travel Scams
It’s common to travel during the holidays, and generally the prices for hotels and airlines inflate because of it. Scammers utilize this with pop ups and emails offering incredible traveling bargains. Always do your research on the company offering these deals before you give them any information.

Puppy Scams
Sometimes the holidays seems like the perfect time to get a new addition to the family. Scammers know people can’t resist a cute puppy, and post fake offers to steal credit card information from the every day animal lover. You can verify the legitimacy of rescue shelters and accredited breeders by searching The Better Business Bureau Website.

Unusual Forms of Payment
When shopping online, be cautious of forms of payment that seem shady that may not be traceable. This can include Wire Transfers, prepaid debit/gift cards, and getting rerouted to a third party service to complete payment. Always do research before shopping online at a site you’ve not previously used.

Fake Shipping Notifications
Since December is packed with packages for the holidays, scammers try to trick consumers with fake emails concerning an order they may not have placed, blending in with the legitimate package tracker emails. These can contain links to download malware or attempt to steal your personal information. These emails should not ever ask for your information or request payment for shipping – this is always done when you place your order on legitimate online retailing sites.

Letters from Santa
Although this is a legitimate service from certain businesses, but less credible sites look to steal and utilize your personal information with promises to send a letter from Santa to your home. By visiting the Better Business Bureau website, one can verify the companies that offer this service.

For more information, read this year’s holiday scam article by the BBB and watch for future articles on CU*Secure.

Happy Holidays!