The holiday season is known by many to be the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately, this is especially true for scammers.
Emotions are high, generosity is flourishing, and criminals are relentless. Coupled with sophisticated scamming tactics, these schemers are more dangerous than ever — and simply being trusting can cost you thousands.
Common Holiday Season Scams
There are many types of scams that typically take place during the holidays. Here are a few to keep on your radar.
Santa Letter Scams
Santa letter scams prey on parents who want to make their children’s Christmas dreams come true. There are various fake websites that claim they sell custom-made “letters from Santa,” sending emails with special offers and shipping deals to encourage quick action. In reality, victims of this scheme just end up throwing away money and providing their credit card information to criminals. Most kids would do cartwheels in joy of receiving a personal response from Santa, but they won’t get one from these scammers — no matter how much their parents pay.
People are particularly giving during the holidays, and scammers take note of that. Just like
during natural disasters or nationwide tragedies, charity scams rise as the holiday spirit sets in. The masterminds behind these schemes target kind consumers with a desire to give back, pressuring them to donate right away (before they get the chance to research the fraudulent “charity”).
Online Dating Scams
It’s easy to feel lonely during the holidays, even at families gatherings when everyone else is paired off. For single individuals, seeing friends and family so cheerful and full of excitement can make them crave affection and romance more than usual. That’s why romance scams skyrocket during the holidays, taking advantage of those vulnerable lovers just looking for some companionship.
Tips for Avoiding Holiday Season Scams
If you want to steer clear of scams, follow these essential tips from Urban Milwaukee:
Do your homework.
Don’t assume that the site you’re browsing is legitimate. There are many fake organizations that claim they’re a five-star brand with fraudulent reviews and customer testimonials. Conduct some basic research before sending any transactions or providing your information. This includes looking for “HTTPS” in your browser bar to make sure the site is secure.
Beware of email scams.
Many con artists leverage email to carry out their schemes. If a message seems “phishy,”
it probably is. Don’t click links or open attachments unless you’re absolutely sure it is from a credible site.
Check your bank accounts.
While it can be painful to review your bank account during the holiday season, it’s crucial to make sure you haven’t somehow been charged a few hundred dollars (or more) you didn’t spend yourself. Simply signing in and sorting through your transactions on a regular basis should hopefully help you stop a thief before it’s too late.
Even if you shop at a well-known retailer, you can still fall victim to a security breach. Your best bet is to buy from smaller retailers in your area rather than larger corporations. In doing so, you’ll also be supporting your local businesses.
Staying safe year-round
While scammers are especially active during the holiday season, assume they’re ready
to strike at any time. Be vigilant, be skeptical, and always question whether a
person or deal really is too good to be true.