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 December 08, 2023

Holiday Scams: How to Spot Fraudulent Schemes and What to Do if You Fall Victim

Older man and woman during Christmas season sitting in front of a laptop. The woman is holding a credit card for an online purchase. A decorated Christmas tree is nearby.

Financial fraud, identity theft, and other harmful crimes can happen to you in a moment’s notice during this busy holiday season . Holiday scammers are working overtime to steal your information, so we’ve got some important tips on scams to watch out for.

What are some of the most common holiday scams?

Woman holidng phone with screen that reads, Xmas Sale Support Us.Shipping scams, social media scams, and Christmas scams are prevalent at this time of year. Let’s dive into the details of these types of financial fraud. Knowing what each scam looks like can enable you to avoid falling for it!

Social media scams

Have you ever been scrolling through your social media feed, only to catch sight of an advertisement for the perfect gift? Think twice before you click and buy. Scammers will set up fake stores and put out ads on social media, luring you in with promises of shiny trinkets or personalized items. When you “buy” this item, the scammer gains your money and personal info, and you probably won’t receive anything in return.

Remember: if an ad is promising something that seems too good to be true, it probably is. You can also double check if the site contains vague information, typos, or no contact information. You can also do a reverse image search of the item’s picture to see if it comes up on another website. If it does, the site has likely been cloned to look legitimate. Does the account that shared this ad have a short list of followers? That could mean it’s a new account and therefore a potential fake.

Christmas scams

Christmas scams are especially frustrating because the fraudsters take advantage of charitable feelings and holiday spirit.

Santa scams

One such scam is a Santa scam. A scammer will put out an advertisement offering to write a “letter from Santa” for your child. If you provide your mailing address (and most likely a payment with your credit card information), the scammer now has your personal details. They can use your money and mailing address to pose as you and receive all sorts of goods and services in your name.

Charity scams

Another popular Christmas scam is a charity scam. A criminal can make phone calls or send emails wherein they pretend to be a charity. They will ask you to make a holiday donation. If you give them the sensitive information they need, they will simply steal your identity and move on to the next victim.

Job offer scams

Thinking about picking up another job to help pay for those big holiday purchases? While retailers do hire temporary workers during the holiday season, fraudsters will also try to lure you in. Before you jump on the first job offer you receive, research the company that offered it. Do a separate internet search to find the company yourself and find out if their website looks legitimate. Is it complete with contact information and a human resources department that you can call? If a company requires you to pay a fee before you can work for them, look elsewhere!

Upset woman wearing a Santa hat sitting on the floor in front of a laptop on a coffee table with Christmas tree in background.Shipping scams

Chances are, you will make a lot of online purchases in the next few weeks. As a result, you might not think twice if you get a text or email stating that your package is arriving soon. But don’t just assume these messages are legitimate!

Scammers sometimes send deceptive update messages, complete with links for you to click so you can make an “important update.” When in doubt, don’t click! Contact the seller or delivery service directly using their official number or website so you can ask if your package is indeed on its way.

Remember that FedEx and UPS have both stated that they will not ask you to state your personal information via an unsolicited text or email. So, if you receive a request for your card info, address, or other sensitive details, delete or hang up!

Here are a few warning signs to look out for if you receive a shipping update:

  • Misspelled words, grammatical errors, and general sloppy sentence structure.
  • Urgent requests for your money or personal info because your package was “lost in the mail.”
  • Links with misspelled names of well-known sellers or delivery services.
  • If you click the link, double-check the website. Fraudulent websites often don’t contain much contact information for the site owner.

Beware of scammers: How to avoid holiday phishing scams

Phishing scams are another common tactic that criminals use during the holidays. These are typically disguised as emails in your inbox. Among the many holiday updates, you may be receiving, you might not notice a fake message right away. Here are some red flags to watch out for, as well as some helpful tips to avoid falling for these malicious schemes:

  1. Does the email contain a generic greeting and only vague messages with no information directly related to you?
  2. Does the email want you to click a link to make a payment or important update?
  3. Does the message say you’re eligible for refunds or coupons? This sounds nice, but it likely isn’t true.
  4. Does it include an invoice or a request for you to confirm some personal information?
  5. Does it urgently warn that you need to take action now to resolve suspicious activity on one of your accounts?

Here are a few proactive ways you can try to avoid phishing scams before they even hit your inbox!

  1. Download the security updates that your computer and phone prompt you to download. These updates are official protective measures from the makers of your device, meant to keep you and your personal data safe from prying eyes.
  2. Use unique, strong passwords for all your different accounts. That way, if you do click a link and compromise one email address, the scammer can’t access your other accounts with that email log-in.
  3. Back up your data regularly. In the worst-case scenario, you won’t lose your precious memories and important data if a scammer does try to wreak havoc on your device.

Stressed man talking on phone and looking at his laptop screen hoping he hasn't been scammed. A Christmas tree is in the background.What do you do if you have been scammed?

Don’t panic! Several resources exist solely to help you if you get scammed. If you believe you’ve received a phishing email, forward that email to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at [email protected]. They store this kind of information to help fight common scams. You can forward phishing text messages to SPAM (7726). And always report phishing messages to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

What if you think the scammer has gotten ahold of your personal information, such as your credit card, bank account, Social Security, or other important numbers? Start by reporting the fraud to your bank so they can temporarily freeze your accounts. This way, the scammer can’t use your information to make purchases for themselves. Inform your card company to receive further help from them. You can also visit IdentityTheft.gov for more steps to take.

How can LegalShield and IDShield help protect you from scams?

LegalShield has existed for 50 years to give LegalShield Members the access to personal legal advice you need when you need it most. Scams can result in legal frustrations if the scammer uses your information to commit further crimes, thus implicating you! LegalShield provider law firms can respond to your phone calls, offer consultations, and answer your questions if you need personal legal advice.

Help keep your assets and family safe during the holidays by becoming a LegalShield Member with LegalShield’s Personal and Family Plan!

IDShield is here to help protect and restore your identity to its pre-theft status. We offer monitoring services with alerts to let you know if we notice suspicious activity of your accounts. If your information is stolen, our Licensed Private Investigators will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to restore your identity to its pre-theft status. Keeping your identity safe is important, no matter what time of year it is.

IDShield helps you protect yourself online and off.

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. IDShield provides access to identity theft services through membership-based participation. IDShield is a product of PPLSI. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. The information made available in this blog is meant to provide general information and professional advice and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide a recommendation as to a specific matter. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist, and you should seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter or professional advice. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be third-party paid contributors. All information by authors is accepted in good faith; however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.

 

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