It’s a busy time of year for everyone. You may be planning your meals for hosting or traveling to see loved ones, and you’re more likely than not starting to think about gifts to buy before the new year.
Scammers know how easy it is to catch you off guard during this time of year, so we’re here to warn you about 4 of the most common ways you can become a victim around the holidays.
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4 common holiday scams to watch out
1. Package delivery scam
With the holiday season in full swing, the end-of-year sales have begun and you probably have already started your holiday shopping and expecting packages coming via different types of delivery services like FedEx, UPS, or USPS. So if you receive a text that mentions a package delivery, you may be likely to easily fall for a scam.
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I was expecting a package recently and received this text out of the blue:
Even though the text says the sender is not in my contact list and that it may be junk, I almost clicked the link because I was so focused on the fact that there may have been a typo in my delivery address. But once I looked a little closer, there were a few red flags in this text message that tipped me off to it being a scam.
Red Flag 1: The link does not lead you to usps.com – it’s a fake link that scammers hope you won’t notice. Notice it is uspsts.top…and not usps.com. This is a common scam going around called ‘typosquatting’ that I’ve written about in other articles where a scammer uses a domain that looks close to a real website. Next, the text says “pls” which is lingo you likely wouldn’t see in correspondence from the USPS. Scammers often make typos or use poor grammar when communicating, so always double-check.
Red Flag 2: Scammers are sending emails, texts, and even occasionally there could be a phone call that is regarding an issue with package delivery. It may be something like this text I received that has a link where they’ll end up asking for information, or you may be asked to pay a “shipping fee” to get your package.
Use Protection: Be sure to always have good antivirus protection running on your devices to prevent any disasters from happening if you were to click on a malicious link. You can find my reviews of the best antivirus protection at CyberGuy.com.
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How to avoid package delivery scams
If you are expecting a package and you’re wondering if you’ve received real information or not about it, the best way to check is to go to the original confirmation you received about shipping. You most likely received an email regarding your package, and if you go to that email to get your order number, you should be able to look up the status of your order directly on any website.
2. Charity scams
Sadly, charity scams aren’t new, but they are way more prevalent during the holiday season since scammers are hoping you’re feeling more generous during this time of year.
Sometimes scammers may create fake names of organizations to get you to donate money, or they may reach out to you via phone/email/text posing as someone working for a legitimate charity. Social media has also become a popular place for charities to market themselves to reach more eyes in hopes of donations, so scammers may try and pose about fake charities.
These schemes will try and appeal to your emotions during this season, so be sure double check where you donate your money so you don’t fall for a scam.
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How to avoid charity scams
Never give your money to anyone immediately who approaches you or reaches out on behalf of any organization without doing your own independent research. Either do a little googling or check with a family member to see if it’s real and if it is, you should be able to donate on an official website or to an official address. You can always mention this to anyone who asks you to donate somewhere – don’t fall into the pressure of donating right then and there.
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Also, always double-check the name of an organization. Sometimes (especially online) scammers will alter the name of a known organization slightly to trick you into donating.
3. Social media gift exchange scam
The Better Business Bureau is warning about a gift exchange scam and a new twist that is occurring in recent holiday seasons. It’s an online version of the popular “Secret Santa” gift exchange. However, the BBB says these social media-driven gift exchanges are actually pyramid schemes and you will most likely be disappointed if you participate.
In the past few years, variations of the gift exchange have popped up, with someone asking you to select a random person and send them a gift to pay it forward. Another asks you to exchange bottles of wine with someone else, and while it seems fun and light-hearted, you don’t know who is on the receiving end.
How to avoid social media gift exchange scams
It may sound nice to send a holiday gift to a stranger in turn for receiving multiple gifts yourself, but you’re never going to receive many (if any) gifts at all. Don’t participate in gift exchanges with anyone you don’t know, or you won’t be able to guarantee you’ll actually be gifting someone who isn’t a scammer.
4. Gift card scams
Gift card scams are another popular method that has been rising in popularity recently, but it’s especially important to watch out for the possibilities since you may be purchasing gift cards for friends or family for the holidays.
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Scammers often steal gift cards and use the information before they make it look like they didn’t. There are a number of methods that they’ll trick you using gift cards, so if you can send an online one (so that you can ensure you’ve purchased it on a legitimate, official website) that would be a much safer alternative.
How to avoid gift card scams
If you’re getting anyone a gift card and buying it in person, be sure to check that the package hasn’t been tampered with. Double-check that nothing on the packaging looks suspicious since scammers will try and make it seem like the package was sealed, but they will already have used the gift card so you’re essentially buying a useless piece of plastic.
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Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson is an award-winning tech journalist who has a deep love of technology, gear and gadgets that make life better with his contributions for Fox News & FOX Business beginning mornings on “FOX & Friends.” Got a tech question? Get Kurt’s CyberGuy Newsletter, share your voice, a story idea or comment at CyberGuy.com
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