How to Protect Yourself from Holiday Scams

september 04, 2017 | identity theft

With the holiday season upon us, it isn't just retailers looking to turn a profit. Scammers exploit the spirit of the holidays to help separate victims from their money. Many of these scams are used throughout the year but are given a new twist for the holidays.“

We are all familiar with the classic Dr. Seuss story about The Grinch,” says Jeff Bell, CEO of LegalShield. “What many people don’t realize is how many real life ‘Grinches’ are out there looking to ruin their holiday season!”

AARP recently released a study that demonstrated most adults (67 percent) failed a short quiz on how to stay safe from holiday scams. The study further revealed many of these adults are also unaware of the dangers of seemingly innocuous behaviors such as using public Wi-Fi. This is particularly problematic because more than two-thirds of adults also reported at least one stressful life event occurred in the past six months; such events, the AARP claims, make it more difficult to spot and resist holiday scams.

Based on decades of experience protecting families from “holiday Grinches,” IDShield offers the following tips to help you protect your family during the holidays:


Scammers frequently use cheap tablets, smart phones, MP3 players, jewelry, and gift cards as part of bait-and-switch scams. They may approach potential victims in a mall, on the street, or through the Internet with a deal that seems too good to be true. They may even allow the victim to check out the item; but, rest assured, the victim will not get the item they are expecting after the money is exchanged.

Hard Luck Stories

Scammers often take advantage of the holiday spirit of giving. They may send victims an email requesting assistance or approach victims in public. Scammers will often have an elaborate hard luck story and sometimes even use children to elicit sympathy from victims. Some scammers may also pose as stranded holiday travelers in need of assistance to get home for the holidays. Be wary of these scams and never give out your address, bank information or large amounts of cash to strangers. Instead, a better strategy is to support local charities that help people facing such crises and to refer anyone soliciting you to these charities. Just be sure you follow the advice below about picking a charity!

Charity Scams

Fake charity scams also take advantage of the spirit of giving. Beware of scam charity emails. Research a charity before making a donation and make sure they are legitimate. You should never make large donations in cash and always ask for a receipt when making a large donation. In general, you should also avoid donating to unsolicited phone calls from companies raising money for charities; read Charity Navigator’s tips for responding to calls from charities.

Gift Card Swap

The rise in popularity of gift cards has led to a new type of scam. Scammers will use high tech scanners to read the numbers off of the gift cards sold in the aisles of major retailers. They will then return the cards to the store shelf and monitor them to see when they are activated. Once activated, they will use the card numbers to spend the funds before the intended recipient has a chance to use the card. Whenever possible, purchase your card from behind the counter of a retailer or through the retailer’s Web site.

Email Greetings

Holiday emails can sometimes be a Trojan horse for hackers. Do not open attachments from senders you do not know and be wary of strangely worded emails. Make sure your computer's antivirus software is up to date and use it to scan anything suspicious.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract at for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal or medical advice. Please contact a medical professional for medical advice or assistance and an attorney for legal advice or assistance.

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