Many of us let our guard down during the holiday season. It’s just so cheery and bright and sparkly, that our attention turns elsewhere. Unfortunately, because of the hustle and bustle, we overlook the red flags that are usually so obvious.
Here are the Top 9 Holiday Scams to watch out for: (Ladies Dancing not included)
1) Screensavers, ringtones and Ecards
Oh, ho ho how we love our holiday kitsch! We get the screensavers, the ringtones, and deck out our virtual world in Holiday garb. Scammers, unfortunately, know this, and set up sites that look legitimate, but instead download malware and malicious code onto your devices. Ringtones that are downloaded from the internet can also download software onto your phone that will spam and scam your friends. Beware! The Grinch will definitely get you if you’re not paying attention!
2) Package deliveries
This is the time of year when most retail stores (and delivery services) make their money. It’s very realistic for the average person to get 2-10 packages before the end of the year. Phishers will take advantage of the holiday season by sending out spoof emails stating that you have a package delivery from UPS (or FexEx or USPS or whoever) and you have to fill out an attached form to get it delivered. DON’T OPEN THE ATTACHMENT! It could have malware, or it could just ask for a lot of personal information, financial verification, your physical address, and a lot of other creepy stuff. If you’re waiting for packages, go directly to the courier’s website and enter in your tracking code. Don’t just blindly trust an email from a courier service…most likely, it’s fake.
Nearly every major retailer (even supermarkets) offers gift cards at checkout stands and even on “virtual mall” racks. Most of these cards have scratch off codes to prevent information theft. However, if cards are not protected, those codes can be written down for later use. Then, all a scammer has to do is call the 800 number until the card is activated, see how much it’s for, and then put in claim for a lost card to get a renewal. It seems like a lot of work, but the reward can be great.
Also, never buy a used gift card online. Sometimes people will sell them, claiming that there is money still left when there isn’t.
4) “It” gifts:
Did you hear about the lady who bought an iPad at a gas station? It sounds like the beginning of a joke…but it actually happened. And, *gasp* the iPad was fake! I know! Who would have thought?Click for the the full story
5) Fake Charities
Holidays are ripe with scammers trying to tug on our heartstrings. Be very aware of people standing outside of stores, in parking lots, and yes, even at your front door.
Wearing costumes, using props, donning fireman or police uniforms they may even carry bogus authorization or badges. Sometimes they’ll even use kids to sway your common sense!
If they’re at your front door, it’s easy to offer to look up their charity online. Beware that they may also be casing your home to see if it’s worth coming back to rob! If you’re out in public, you can ask for their website and look them up on your mobile phone. Or simply, offer to take their card and make a donation online later.
If they’re calling you, just remember to never give out your personal information, credit card number, etc, until you fully verify that they are who they say they are.
6) Parking Lot Thieves
Have you ever noticed how busy stores get during the holidays, even at normal 9-5 business hours? Thieves know this, and they case mall parking lots with the assumption that you’ll be away from home for a few hours. (Movie theaters are especially vulnerable.) The thieves break into your car, take your registration, but leave everything else undisturbed. Then, knowing you’re not at home, they head to your house and rob you.
Best thing to do: carry your registration and any personally identifying information with you. Yes, we’re used to keeping it in the glove compartment, but that’s the first place they look!
7) Facebook Promotions
Cyber scammers come out in full force during the holidays. After all, whoe doesn’t want to win prizes or get a deal during the holidays. (Sometimes the story of the deal is more exciting than the actual product itself!)
Unfortunately, scammers know that prizes and giveaways are amazingly popular and they hit Facebook with phony promotions and contents with the goal of getting your personal information. Don’t believe it! Check out FaceCrooks.com, it’s an amazing resource that will keep you up to date on all kinds of Facebook scams.
8) I’m Not Home: Please Rob Me!
You should know by now that posting information about an upcoming vacation or time away from home is pretty much an open invite to thieves. Even if you think your privacy settings are locked down tight, Facebook changes these settings constantly, with little warning, and usually makes the default “public.” If you use your real name on Facebook, thieves could find your home with a quick online search. Additionally, if you post photos from your phone online, there is metadata embedded, giving the location of where the photo was taken. Yes. It’s creepy.
Want to see how public your personal information is? Check out Please Rob Me and I Can Stalk U. While they’re both not active, they still have valuable information on protecting your location while posting online.
9) Holiday Work Scams
Many people look to make some extra income during the holidays. (Hey, it’s the Elves’ busiest season!)
Knowing this, scammers send out emails offering non-existent jobs. A very common example is holiday house-sitting, for an owner that is already out of town. They’ll give you a local address of a house (which may be vacant or for-sale or otherwise in a gated area so you can’t just walk up to the front door) and tell you to drive by to make sure it’s suitable for you.
Then, they’ll ask you to go through a “background and credit check.” It makes sense for the owners to take precautions, but of course, they’re just taking your money, and personal information…there is no actual job.
If you’re looking for holiday work, stick with LOCAL employers. People you can meet in the flesh, and do your due diligence. And, you can also buy I Got Scammed So You Don’t Have To! With legitimate companies and resources. Makes a great gift!
Happy (non-scammy) Holidays!