**Originally published December 14, 2015. Updated November 13, 2019.**
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 three 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 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 looks 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 of 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 this printable tip sheet from Sontiq, IdentityForce’s parent company.