There’s never a good time to get scammed, but getting conned during the holidays stings just a little bit worse. Not only could the money you lose go toward gifts for loved ones or colleagues (or even yourself) but since many scams play on our feelings of joy and goodwill toward others, it can make one feel particularly jaded and bitter.
Criminals don’t see it this way, of course, just that not unlike your favorite clothier or electronics store, the holidays are a busy season, a time for maximizing profits. That, and the explosive growth in online shopping and commerce, have helped the number of scams to grow exponentially year over year.
Scams are growing in number
In fact most shoppers didn’t even get through their post-Thanksgiving dinner nap before the Better Business Bureau and FBI issued alarming notices concerning bad actors. The FBI noted the two most common scams are non-delivery and non-payment, noting that last year, the Bureau received more than 17,000 complaints of non-delivery of goods in 2020, totaling more than $53 million in losses.
The BBB is even more detailed in its reporting of current scams; in fact, much of the “News” page on its website detailing one con game after another, how they work and how to protect yourself.
Be aware of these common holiday scams
Some of the more common scams that pop up during the holiday season include:
Charity scams – Simply put, these are donation requests from bogus organizations and represents the most common type of holiday scam. One-third of all charitable giving happens in December, so fraudsters find a willing audience.
Travel scams – looking to spend Christmas in a warmer climate? You’re not alone and criminals know it. Be careful where you book that dream vacation, especially online where crooks have become masters of making the fake look authentic.
Letter from Santa – Who wouldn’t want to give a little tyke the thrill of knowing St. Nick knows who they are and how good they’ve been over the past year? Seriously parents, just create one yourself and avoid the headaches later.
Pet scams – And in what has to be at the top of the Naughty List, we give you pet scams. That’s right; criminals are posing as legitimate adoptions services are enticing animal lovers with an irresistible pet photo and adoption fees that are often too good to be true.
Besides the loss of funds and perhaps erosion of your goodwill toward (con) men, there’s a larger issue at stake with many of these scams. Not only do many grab your hard-earned cash on the front end, but capture your personal information in the process, information that can be used later in all kinds of identity thievery.
Tips for avoiding holiday scams
Here are a few broad reminders to keep from being a victim, at any time of year:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it is. It’s not your lucky day, you’re not the 1 millionth customer, it’s not a Christmas miracle – it's a scam.
- Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately either with payment or personal information.
- Don’t overshare information. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.
- Call them back to double-check the offer; you might find the number they called you from and the business or organization’s phone numbers do not match.
When you’re aware of what to expect from scammers, you know exactly what to avoid. This helps you protect your identity and personal information, so you can enjoy your holiday season without incident. Need to report a scam? Visit https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety.