November 18, 2022

Common scams that pop up during the holiday season

The holidays are a time of joy, celebration, and gathering with family, friends, and neighbors. However, fraudsters also look forward to the holidays for different reasons. For them, the holidays are just brimming with opportunities.

Last year, Americans reported an estimated $6.9 billion in potential losses from cybercrimes, according to the FBI's 2021 Internet Crime Report. 

Don't let scammers ruin your holiday. Instead, here are four common holiday scams and how to avoid them. 

The grandparent scam

Some of the most common holiday scams are Grandparent Scams, where a fraudster contacts older Americans and pretends to be their grandchild in need of money. 

More than 450 Americans over age 60 fell victim to grandparent scams in 2021, costing them approximately $6.5 million. So it’s worth keeping a watchful eye out for this holiday scam.


How grandparent scams work

Imposters often use personal information gathered from social media to create convincing and urgent stories that appeal to the "heartstrings." For example, a grandchild needing bail money or a relative involved in an accident.

How to avoid grandparent scams

If you suspect someone has become a victim of this scam, report it immediately to authorities and loved ones who may be able to intervene. 


Holiday phishing scams

Nearly 19% of global retail sales happen online. Last year, almost $5 trillion was spent with online retailers worldwide. Unfortunately, although online shopping offers more convenience than in-store shopping, it also carries more risk in the form of phishing scams.


How phishing scams work

A scammer poses as a legitimate company or individual to obtain personal information like passwords or credit card numbers. These scams often show up in emails, texts, phone calls, or even fake online stores. 

Scammers request immediate action, including threats to suspend accounts or saying there has been suspicious activity on a payment method. Alternatively, they might even say a large purchase is pending authorization.


How to avoid phishing scams


  • Never click on a link provided in an email or text message.
  • Always check the sender's email address.
  • When in doubt, call the company to verify they sent the email.

Remember, legitimate companies will never ask for sensitive information via email or text message.


Fake shipping notifications

Another scam that ticks up during the holidays is the fake shipping notification. These get tricky because many of us do some of our shopping online. So, we're expecting shipping notifications and tracking numbers for our purchases.


How fake shipping notification scams work

The scammer sends you an email or text claiming to be from a popular retailer or delivery service. They inform you that your package has shipped and provide a tracking number with a convenient link. 

You click on the link and the page looks like the retailer or delivery service page. The page prompts you to enter your personal information. However, no shipping information populates because the page is fake. The scammer has successfully stolen your personal information.


How to avoid fake shipping notification holiday scams


  • Never click on links in emails or texts. 
  • Remember, retailers and delivery services will not ask for your personal information via email or text.
  • Check the sender's email address. Does it look generic or suspicious?
  • When in doubt, call the retailer or delivery service directly to ask if they sent the email.

Fake gift card holiday scams

While holiday shopping, you may consider purchasing gift cards for friends and family. Unfortunately, scammers have also caught on to this holiday tradition and created a fake gift card holiday scam.


How fake gift card holiday scams work

Scammers set up fake websites imitating legitimate retailers. The phony website or social media post offers a significant discount on gift cards -- too good to be true. Then the page link redirects you to what looks like a legitimate retailer's website. 

The imposter page then prompts you to enter your personal and financial information to purchase the gift card. Once you input your payment details, the scammer has your money, and you have no gift card.


How to avoid fake gift card scams


  • Never click on links in emails or texts about gift cards.
  • Check the sender's email address to make sure it is legitimate.
  • When in doubt, call the retailer directly.


Holiday scams can be costly to victims and result in identity theft or financial losses. Be vigilant about any unsolicited emails, text messages, or phone calls you receive. Finally, report holiday scams to the Federal Trade Commission. You can help protect yourself from becoming a victim by reporting holiday scams.