2021 Christmas Scams You Need To Look Out For


As technology continues to advance and criminals get more crafty with identity theft practices, an influx of holiday scams are arising that can compromise the good cheer of the holiday season. An FBI investigation release from 2012 revealed that shoppers are especially vulnerable to cyber crimes over the holidays because victims are more likely to let their guards down to help others.
Whether online or in stores, you can protect yourself from these potential credit reporting headaches by recognizing the warning signs of fraudulent activity ahead of time. Below are five of the most popular Christmas scams to watch out for this year.


(1) Shipping Notification Scam

christmas scam

It is predicted that online sales will amount to approximately $105 billion this holiday season. Online shoppers will be susceptible this scam in particular, as it targets shoppers who require delivery of their purchases by distributing shipping notifications and confirmations that are actually phishing scams.

How it works:
Potential targets receive an email containing fake shipping information, often from a common delivery company such as DHL, UPS, FedEx, or Amazon. There are a few variations to the scam message, such as a “delivery failure notification,” that suggests the company attempted to deliver a package while you were out. There is usually a file attached to the message, which is one of the biggest indicators that you’ve just received a phishing email that is fraudulent.

Unknowing recipients will then click on the file, initiating a virus download that aims to phish (i.e. scan) through their computer databases. During this, sensitive information such as bank account numbers and passwords can be collected. In some cases, viruses go as far as to hijack access to computers, only returning access after a payment has been made. Unfortunately, according to the FBI this type of “ransomware” has resurfaced as of late.


(2) Mobile App Scam

This season, long road trips to get to holiday gatherings may be the incentive to download a string of new applications to your phone and stay entertained during the commute. The trouble, however, arises when inadequate research is done before downloading a new mobile app. Ultimately, smartphone users learned the hard way that innocent-looking apps ended up being the vehicles by which criminals wirelessly swiped tons of credit card information for fraudulent use.

How it works:
Dangerous mobile apps are created with a technology known as near field communication (NFC) encoded into the app. This allows for two NFC-compatible devices to share data with one another; the problem is, some credit cards have built-in NFC technology.

The malicious app continues to scan for credit card information in the background, even while the phone isn’t being used. Then, when a compromised smartphone is put in close proximity to a wallet, it collects the credentials and emails them to the perpetrator. Criminals then use this information for online purchases, and even in stores that have the touchless payment device.

To avoid becoming a victim of this complicated form of online identity theft, research the developer beforehand by verifying that its website is legitimate and reading through the user reviews.


(3) Text Message Scam


Christmas Scam

This type of identity theft is conducted via Short Message Service (SMS), also known as text messaging. Referred to as “SMS phishing,” this scam tricks cellphone users into providing their bank information to the perpetrator under false pretenses.

How it works:
As with any scam, this particular scheme operates under a number of guises. Some may suggest that you’ve signed up for a service that will cost a certain amount of money if you don’t cancel the subscription by clicking a link contained in the message. Others might assume the identity of your bank and ask you to “verify your PIN” in order to reactivate your debit card.

Ultimately, victims end up either giving their information to perpetrators, or downloading the virus that tracks and stores all activity on the device. If you’ve received an unsolicited text message like the examples described above, forward it to 7726 (or SPAM). This will redirect all suspicious messages to your cellular provider and initiate an investigation.

Furthermore, you should immediately delete the message after you’ve reported it and stay away from responding to any prompts like “text message STOP.” Even if it may seem helpful to end the texts, responding will alert spammers that the number is, in fact, active. For added peace of mind, call your bank to alert it of the incident.


(4) Charity Scam

Christmas scams

Although it’s easy to be focused on holiday gifting this time of year, it is also more importantly the season of giving. However, unyielding crooks look to charities to use as vehicles for their own gains through solicitous emails and fake charity websites.

How it works:
An unsolicited email is sent in mass as fraud criminals wait for who will take the bait. The message often tells a heart-wrenching narrative that’s believable and potentially tied to a real disaster. At the end of the email, the sender requests a temporary loan from the would-be victim, with the promise to repay it as soon as the sender gets home or a hold of cash.

Recipients are then encouraged to wire the funds via MoneyGram or Western Union, only to find that the individual at the other end of the computer screen has just gotten away with their money. This emotional appeal also takes the form of an email soliciting donations under a well-known charity organization, such as the Red Cross.

One piece of advice to avoid this unfortunate occurrence in the season of giving is to do your homework first – know who you are giving to, and where your money is going.


(5) Gift Card Scam

Christmas scams

Gift cards are a popular stocking stuffer during the holiday season; however, this commonly gifted item has recently been used as a tool to drain the holiday spirit.

How it works:
As you probably see often, lots of retailers will display gift cards at the checkout aisle out in the open for consumers to browse and choose between. However, this makes them vulnerable to thieves who then take the cards, get the numbers listed on the back, and sneak them back onto store racks.

Afterwards, they electronically track the cards and wait for money to be activated. Once a customer adds money, the thieves promptly drain the funds, leaving the person receiving the gift card with a balance of zero and lots of confusion at the checkout aisle.

To avoid having you and your gift recipient fall victim of this holiday scam, we recommend the following tips:

  • Be suspicious of buying any gift cards enclosed in packaging that appears to be tampered with.
  • If a retail outlet keeps its gift cards out in the open, ask the clerk or manager if there are any behind the counter or hidden from plain sight.
  • Only purchase gift cards from trusted retailers or their websites; avoid purchasing from third party vendors you aren’t familiar with.


Inform Others

Christmas Scams

While there’s is no surefire way to avoid becoming a victim of these holiday scams, by staying aware of popular tricks, you can reduce the likelihood of fraud and identity theft. It’s also important to share this information with family and friends, especially those that might not be “tech-savvy”, so that awareness about how these types of scams happen becomes mainstream.

It’s everyone’s duty to help protect those we care about, be it friends, family, or complete strangers! Together, we can prevent future victims and strengthen our community’s awareness of all types of scams.

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