What Do You Know About Holiday Scams?

What are holiday scams?

Holiday scams are essentially crimes committed against unwitting victims who, during the course of the Hanukkah and Christmas season, give away money, property, or other valuables to criminals willing to exploit their vulnerability by using holiday-related tactics.

Though holiday scams have long existed, online shopping, email and phishing scams, and other digital-based activities have made holiday scams all the more prevalent, due to their relative anonymity, difficulty in finding and arresting the perpetrators, and people’s increase in gullibility in an effort to get a “good deal.”

How much damage do holiday scams do?

On a strictly financial level, holiday scams do quite a bit of damage. According to the 2020 report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (also known as the IC3), victims of holiday scams lost nearly $400 million in credit card fraud, non-delivery, and non-payment crimes. 

These categories make up for what are the most common categories of holiday scams. Non-delivery scams are those crimes where a person pays for a service or a good online, but delivery never occurs. Non-payment is just the opposite. A business is scammed out of payment for a good or service they’ve shipped, causing the transaction to be cited as a financial loss. 

Between the loss of their money or property, as well as the loss of personal information, these holiday scams also come with an emotional toll. The holidays are already a stressful time of year for many, or at the very least, a time where people often find themselves going out of their way to make others feel special through gifts or other expressions of gratitude. 

Being scammed and having those gifts stolen from you can dampen a person’s holiday spirit and potentially ruin what is intended to be a festive time. The elderly are common victims of these types of scams, as are those people who are less internet and media-literate. 

The FBIs recommendations for avoiding holiday scams

The number one rule of thumb is, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. The online shopping landscape has become considerably more secure over the last few decades, but caution should still be taken. 

If you want to have a safe, secure, and satisfying online shopping experience this holiday seasons and beyond, then make sure that you and your loved ones use good online habits, including the following:

Avoid suspicious emails, sites, links, and attachments

Did you receive a suspicious email from a person or vendor that you don’t know? Does it contain links or attachments that you need to click on in order to receive some sort of deal? Don’t click on them or open attachments from unknown sources. You could be downloading malware (malicious software) to your devices, which could steal private information from you. 

You should never have to share private information with a legitimate vendor

Similarly, any “vendor” asking you to share usernames, passwords, or bank account information should be avoided. The same goes for being asked out of nowhere to update your username and password. 

Scammers will sometimes impersonate legitimate brands

Sometimes, scammers will impersonate legitimate sites, ask you to update your information, and then log in using your credentials so that they can steal your private information. If you suddenly receive a request to update your username and password, we recommend reaching out to that vendor to make sure that it is a legitimate request. 

Before shopping on a new site, read reviews about prior customer experiences

Does the online store you’re planning to shop at have reviews? How did those customers enjoy shopping there? Did they have any difficulties? Do they have a feedback rating? Be wary of and avoid those sites where people have had negative experiences. 

Is the website you’re planning to shop on secure? 

You may not know how to check this, but it’s actually very easy. Look at the URL (the website address) of the site you’re browsing. Does the address have “https” (not “http”) in it? If it does, that is one indicator that the site is a more secure site. 

Some browsers, like Google Chrome, will also show you a padlock icon as an indicator of a secure site, and will even put roadblocks in place to encourage you not to visit a site that isn’t secure and encrypted. 

Use caution when you pay, and make sure you get a tracking number for shipment

Though many banks will provide you with some protection if you get scammed when using your debit card, most will have to conduct an investigation before reimbursing you of your stolen funds, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get it back. If you use a credit card and get scammed, you can always contact them to dispute the charges, which is typically an easier process. 

Also, your vendor should provide you with a shipping confirmation, as well as a tracking number, so that you can track your shipment to ensure that it gets delivered properly. 

Want more tips for avoiding scams? Need legal advice regarding a criminal accusation? Then call The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot. For a half century, we’ve built a reputation for providing sound, effective legal defenses across a wide range of different criminal accusations. Contact us today for your confidential consultation!