The holidays are always an exciting time, regardless of how you choose to celebrate. People are feeling more generous and trusting — and unfortunately, identity thieves love to take advantage of that.
It’s frustrating that during a time that is supposed to be so special, criminals kick things into overdrive to make money off of our happiness. Don’t let it ruin your fun, though! Here are 3 holiday scams to look out for during this festive season:
- Handwritten letters from Santa – There are plenty of legitimate companies that will send handwritten letters from Santa to the children in your life, but don’t buy from the ones that send you sketchy-looking e-mails. In a typical letter from Santa scam, you’ll get an e-mail that promotes the letters and directs you to a website to make the purchase. This can go a few different ways —the thieves may steal just your money, or your money and your personal information. Another version of the scam offers a free letter from Santa, and while it does not require credit card information, it does ask for other personal information that identity thieves can turn around and sell.
- Holiday eCards – We wrote an entire post about holiday eCard scams a few days ago because this type of scam is so prevalent during the holiday season. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between a real eCard and a fake eCard, but in general, delete the e-mail if you don’t know the sender or if there are major spelling or grammatical errors. If the e-mail includes an attachment, do not download it. Reputable eCard companies do not send attachments and if you download one, it may install malware or a virus on your computer.
- Shipping notification e-mails – Scammers love to take advantage of the surge in online shopping during the holidays by sending out fake shipping notification e-mails. With this scam, the victim receives an e-mail that look just like a shipping notification one would receive from UPS, FedEx, or the USPS. However, the e-mail contains an attachment that, if downloaded, can unleash a virus on their computer and steal their personal information. This type of holiday scam can take a few different forms, but the general idea is still the same.
Online Holiday Shopping & Identity Theft
This is a busy time of year, but be sure that in addition to looking out for holiday scams, you’re still practicing smart identity protection habits as well:
- If you buy something online, check the URL and be sure it uses the secure https:// and/or has a padlock symbol.
- If you can choose between paying with a debit card or a credit card, pick the credit card. Debit cards draw from existing money in your bank account and if someone gets their hands on your debit card info, it can place a big strain on your finances while you try to get it straightened out. Credit cards also typically have more fraud protection in place.
- Keep an eye on all your financial accounts. You’re undoubtedly spending more right now and identity thieves are hoping you won’t spot a couple extra charges until it’s too late.
Be smart, keep your eyes open, and if you have a bad feeling about an e-mail, website, or phone call, just remember that your intuition is probably right on point. For more tips to avoid scams while online shopping during the holidays, view our printable tip sheet.