7 Seasonal Shopping Scams to Know and Avoid

The holiday season is just about in full swing, with Halloween decorations coming down and being replaced by Christmas lights, and Thanksgiving recipe supplies stocking grocery store shelves. Shopping is synonymous with this time of year and with it comes a wide range of scams – some new and some old. Knowing what these scams are and how to avoid them is critical to helping you to limit possibly becoming a victim of fraud and other annoying issues that could hamper your Holidays.

  1. Non-Delivery Scam

Making all your gift shopping ahead of time will be important this year because of lingering supply chain issues and increased shipping volume around the holidays. But you always want to ensure that you actually receive what you pay for and avoid common non-delivery scams that will keep your supposed gifts from ever arriving at all. 

This scam involves buying a product from an online retailer with the purchased goods never arriving after payment is made. Signs of this scam include never being given a tracking number after you make a purchase or the seller vanishing after getting your payment information. Fake or malicious websites and social media accounts can be probable culprits for this scam. Avoid making purchases from websites that don’t look authentic or fail to have SSL encryption.   

  1. Black Friday Phishing

Phishing is an ever-present scam for you to remain aware of, but cybercriminals often take a seasonal approach to capitalize on the times. Phishing is an email scam that attempts to trick a victim into clicking a malicious link or visiting a phony website. Scammers will pose as a legitimate or familiar source to limit suspicion and build trust. 

Black Friday phishing attempts typically involve shopping-related emails or links. An example of this could be a spoofed email pretending to be from Amazon or another familiar online retailer asking you to update payment information or provide additional delivery payments. These emails can look authentic. As always, never click on suspicious or unknown links in your emails or text messages. If you think the message is authentic, visit the verified business website and inquire with them.

  1. Fake Websites

“Fake” websites pop up often during the holiday shopping season. The goal of these is to convince you to purchase a product that probably doesn’t exist. Scammers will convince you of a deal that seems too good to be true or funnel you to the phony site through ads or links on social media. If you provide personal or payment information, criminals can steal your money or use the information to commit future fraud. 

Many fake websites are easy to spot. If the site pages are full of grammatical errors or poor designs, it’s almost certainly a spoof. Double-check the URL to ensure any website that you are browsing is secure and has SSL encryption. Visit authentic websites directly rather than through links to ensure that you are on the official site of the business or product you want to purchase. 

  1. Gift Card Scam

Gift cards are a popular item to purchase around the holidays. They are easy to find and are readily available for many retailers, restaurants, and other businesses – but they can also be an easy option for scammers.

The typical gift card scam starts when a seller of a product you wish to purchase (often from auction sites like eBay) asks you to pay with a gift card rather than a credit card. This is an immediate red flag. Gift cards are easy to steal from and if the scammer gets a number or verification code from the gift card, then the scammer can make off with the funds on the card without sending you anything that you had hoped to purchase. You can use authentic gift cards at related businesses relatively safely, but never use the card because you are pressured into doing so. 

  1. Package Delivery Scams

Package delivery scams have been on the rise in recent years. They can occur at any time of year, but with the holidays being such an in-demand time for deliveries, it’s important to remain aware of the situation. 

This scam starts in a fashion similar to how phishing starts — by contacting you through email or text. The scammers send a message claiming to be about a possible delivery you may or may not know anything about. The message might even include a fake delivery number or a tracking link and instruct you to update your payment or address information to receive the delivery. These messages can look authentic, but you should never click on the link as they are designed to siphon off your personal information to awaiting scammers. 

Check out some more good information on package delivery scams from the FTC here

  1. Verification Code Hijacking

Verification codes are a good security measure that often works with two-factor authentication (2FA) to provide more secure forms of payment or access to important personal accounts. Verification code hijacking occurs when a threat actor contacts you pretending to be associated with your bank or another business or service you hold an account with. 

The scammer might tell you there is an issue with your account and that they are reaching out to verify your identity. But they are really trying to steal your identity and already have access to your password. If you provide them with this verification code, they can get into 2FA-protected accounts to commit fraud. Using strong passwords and changing those if they were involved in a data breach can help limit this scam.  

  1. Fake Charity Scam

The holiday spirit can bring out the best in all of us, which the worst of us will try to manipulate to their advantage. Fake charity scams attempt to play on your heartstrings to trick you into supporting a cause or person in need that doesn’t exist. The scammers often create an elaborate story to set the scene and ask for donations. 

This scam can be avoided by doing a bit of research on any charity or cause that you may possibly want to support. Don’t rush into donating based on something you read online or through social media and be cautious of sending any payments to charities or situations that you can’t find any information on. Not every sad story you hear is a scam, but it’s good to be cautious before sending money or sharing payment information. 

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.