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 common holiday scams. Unfortunately, fraudsters don’t take time off. In fact, some of them specifically set their sights on us during this time of year. Keep your season merry and bright by avoiding these common holiday scams:
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 type a popular search term such as “discount toys,” and the fraudulent website shows up in your search results disguised as a legitimate retailer.
This kind of fake website is toxic; you may download a virus by clicking its links, or unwillingly hand the scammers who run it 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 carriers don’t ask for your email address, so if you never provided it but received a message from a courier service, delete it. The link inside the email is most likely designed to download malware to your computer. You can also avoid this by visiting the sites for USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL directly to check tracking on a package.
Charity scams are particularly devious, as they prey on your good will. Unfortunately, they 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, Google the company and visit its website.