How to Spot and Avoid Financial Scams This Holiday

According to findings released by TransUnion in 2022, the average number of suspected digital fraud attempts in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday was 127% higher than the rest of the year.

Although these statistics are alarming, there’s no need to let fraudsters dampen your spirit during this magical time of year. Learn what to watch for and how to protect yourself from scammers, ensuring they earn a place on Santa’s ‘naughty list’ this holiday season.

Five Holiday Financial Scams To Avoid This Season

Here are five financial scams to be on the lookout for this holiday season:

The Amazon Scam

For many holiday shoppers, Amazon is a go-to for gift ideas and deals. However, be cautious of emails, text messages, and phone calls claiming to be from Amazon; they could be fraudulent attempts to steal your information.

For instance, if you receive a text message claiming to be from Amazon that says there is a problem with your payment information, disregard it. This could be a smishing attempt to steal your personal information. Instead, log in to your Amazon account and check the Message Center for legitimate Amazon communications.

Learn more about smishing and avoiding this common fraud tactic during the holidays.

The Romance Scam

Although the holiday season represents a time of togetherness for many, it can be lonely for others. Fraudsters exploit individuals’ emotions during the holidays using social media and dating websites. They may impersonate someone seeking a meaningful relationship or needing money.

According to the 2023 Consumer Impact Report from the Identity Theft Resource Center, romance scams consistently result in six-figure losses, drawing attention to the seriousness of these scams.

To avoid falling victim to such schemes, verifying the identity of the person you’re communicating with is essential. If they request money or personal information, consider it an immediate red flag for potentially fraudulent activity. Never share personal information with someone you haven’t met in person.

The Gift Card Scam

Be cautious of phone calls, emails, or text messages from individuals who request that you purchase a gift card as payment for an outstanding bill or prepayment for a service they claim to offer.

For instance, they might propose a home-related service in exchange for an Amazon gift card purchased upfront. After you acquire the gift card, they’ll request its number and PIN, granting them access to the card’s funds without needing the physical card. This leaves you with an empty gift card and no service rendered in return.  

To ensure your holiday season stays merry and scam-free, remember that legitimate businesses or government agencies do not request payment in the form of gift cards.

If you purchase gift cards this holiday season, save receipts and take pictures of the card numbers and PINs. This information can bring peace of mind if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. Plus, it will allow you to file a report with the gift card company or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you do suspect any fraud.

The Charity Scam

The holidays are a time when many people donate to charities. Yet, it’s important to be cautious of fraudsters who may try to exploit this spirit of generosity.

They may reach out via phone, email, text message, or even through crowdsourcing platforms, soliciting donations on behalf of a charity that is near and dear to your heart. Additionally, they might redirect you to a fraudulent website, urging you to enter payment information or attempt to get you on the phone to disclose personal information.

If you choose to make donations this holiday season, consider using a credit card if it’s an option. Many major card issuers have zero-liability policies that provide financial protection against fraud, ensuring your generosity remains secure.

On the other hand, cash, cryptocurrency, and wire transfers can be more challenging to recover, so it’s advisable to avoid using these methods when donating. If asked to donate using any of these payment methods, it should alert you to a potential fraudulent scheme.

Furthermore, gathering information about the charity, including its name and the cause it supports, is essential if you receive a solicitation for a donation. Utilize reputable websites such as Charity Watch or Charity Navigator to assess the organization’s legitimacy.

The Lottery Scam

Generally, if something appears too good to be true, it usually is. This practice applies to the prevalent holiday scheme involving fraudsters claiming you’ve won a substantial prize just in time for the holidays, all yours for the taking if you share your personal information with them.

Exercise caution if you find yourself in a situation where you’re supposedly winning big this holiday season. Ask for the name of the company claiming you’ve won the prize and contact them directly to verify your status as a winner. Instead of using the contact details provided by the person who claimed you won, research the company’s website and use the contact information listed there.

Remember, a legitimate prize should never require you to disclose personal information or make a payment.

How To Be a Fraud Fighter During the Holidays

Protecting yourself from fraud is a year-round necessity. Staying vigilant is especially important during the holiday season when fraud rates tend to rise. Learn more about common scams and ways to protect your accounts in the Connexus Security & Fraud center.