The 12 Scams of Christmas!

  • Reporter

The 12 scams of Christmas!

Yes, you read that correctly, it is not 12 days of Christmas but the 12 scams of Christmas. With the holiday shopping in full swing there are possible scams that may affect your Christmas spirit.

1. Fake Shipping Notifications

The fake shipping notifications! Whether it is online shopping or in-store purchases you might get shipping notifications during this busy holidays. Please be mindful as some of these communications could really be phishing scams. The notification is designed to look legitimate with the reputable businesses logo and name but it is really fake. Opening these emails and clicking on the links enclosed may allow unwanted access to private information and passwords and also download malware onto your device.

Things to remember:

  • Most online vendors provide tracking information that indicates the delivery company as well as verifies the status and location of your items.
  • You should not be required to pay an additional fee to receive your items as typically, delivery charges are paid when making the purchase.
  • Delivery companies do not require your personal information to conduct deliveries.
  • You should be able to track your package through the delivery’s companies website.

 2. Phony Charities

‘Tis the season of giving and also year end so many people make donations during this time. In fact, statistics shows 40 per cent of all charitable donations are received during the last few weeks of the year. People need to be on the lookout for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be needy individuals.

How to protect yourself:

  • Look for sound-alike names.
  • Do not use the size of the charity or its regional scope to determine its trustworthiness, as charities of all sizes have demonstrated bad accountability practices. Also, do not rely solely on friends’ recommendations.
  • Verify your charity.
  • Always donate money using a credit card or cheque, so that your gift is traceable.
  • Be wary of door to door solicitations. Ask for written information about the charity as well as proof of tax deductions.
  • If you are donating online, ensure you are not using public Wi-Fi. Do the transaction directly through the charity’s website or through reputable payment portals such as PayPal or Verified by Visa.

3. Look-alike Websites

The holiday season brings endless emails offering deals, sales and bargains. Be mindful of the emails you receive and the links enclosed as some may lead to look-alike websites that are created by scammers to mimic legitimate websites and trick people into downloading malware, making purchases and sharing private information.

Safety tips:

  • Review the sender’s email address. Legitimate businesses will often send emails with a proprietary address.
  • If you are uncertain about the email, do not click any of the links. Instead, hover over them to see where they reroute.
  • Look for misspellings and bad grammar in the emails you receive and on the websites you visit.
  • Only enter private information if the website begins with ‘https’, as the ‘s’ means it is secured and will be encrypted.
  • Contact the company or retailer or visit their website directly to confirm the promotions.

4. Social Media Gift Exchange

While the thought of buying one gift and getting 36 in return sounds like a great way to increase the number of boxes under the tree, this is a pyramid scheme and these are illegal. Stay away from any offers and invitations that. You may even hear from friends who have done this and actually received the gifts. Perhaps they were lucky and were the few who did receive the gifts, whatever the case is, you don’t want to get caught into this.

  • Sound like a quick way to get money or benefits;
  • Have no paper trail;
  • Require cash only; and
  • In some cases, prevent you from sharing details of the transaction with anyone.

Rule of thumb: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Travel Scams

Holiday vacations and travel plans can put a major dent in the coffers. Big bills can make the ugliest sale sign very attractive. However, pay attention to the offers being advertised as some may be scams, instead of opportunities to save. Also do your research and homework before plunging into a travel deal that ends up costly you much more.

Tips to avoid travel scams:

  • Be wary of email offers about travel discounts, especially those coming from unknown senders. Only do business with legitimate travel websites.
  • Never transfer or wire money to someone you do not know.
  • Always ask for references, shop around and read reviews before you finalize a transaction.

6. Puppy Scams

Many families, especially those with children, may be considering to add a furry friend to their household during the holidays. However, you could fall victim to the year-long pet purchase ploy. Typically, the scammers pose as breeders or pet owners with too many puppies to care for. They will share photos or videos of the pet and request that you wire money to them for the purchase and shipping. In theory it makes sense that you are putting a deposit down to secure the puppy but be mindful of scams out there just to get your money. Once they have received your money, they may start sending updates about delays with shipment or you may never hear from them again. In most cases, the buyers are left with nothing, as there was no puppy to begin with, and there is no chance of getting their money back. In a few instances, the puppy that arrives is not what was ordered.

Puppy scam prevention tips:

  • Request to see the pet in person before making a purchase.
  • Do an image search online of the photo given of your pet. If multiple websites pop up, it is probably a scam.
  • Know what prices to expect for the type of pet you are interested in.
  • Search for accredited breeders and rescue shelters.
  • Never pay using a money order, Western Union or Moneygram. Use a credit card as this will give you the added protection of being able to dispute the charges.

7. Letters from Santa

Several trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. This one is easy as the target is little children and often parents don’t see the harm of opening emails or deals from so call Santa.

Safety tips:

  • Check  to find out which companies are legitimate.
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails offering deals on letters from Santa

8. Temporary Holiday Jobs

Retailers and delivery services need extra help during the holidays and are recruiting seasonal and temporary employees. However, beware of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job applicants. Here are a few tips to avoid these scams:

  • Apply for the job in person or by visiting the employer’s website directly. Avoid clicking any links in the email.
  • Look out for vague company descriptions. If you cannot identify the company’s contact information, owner, headquarters or product from its online ad, it could be a scam. Check to see if the company exists and to confirm its rating.
  • Be wary of email or text message solicitations that require you to share personal information, pay for a job lead or offer to hire you without an interview. Also, avoid job offers where interviews are conducted via online chats and instant messaging services.
  • Look out for jobs that require you to pay for equipment or software needed to do the work.
  • If you have been hired for a work-from-home job, be careful if your new boss sends you a cheque for more than you need and requests you to send some back or to use part of it to pay someone else. That is a classic overpayment scam. The cheque will most likely bounce, and you will be stuck with repaying the bank.

9. Free Gift Cards

Nothing brings good cheer like the word ‘free’ and scammers have been known to take advantage of this weakness by sending bulk phishing emails requesting that you share personal information to receive free gift cards. They may also use pop-up ads and in other cases, tamper with physical gift cards being sold in stores.

 Here are a few tips:

  • Check physical cards to see if the pin number has been exposed.
  • If purchasing online, only purchase gift cards from reputable websites.
  • If you have received a phishing email with gift card offers, do not open it. Instead, mark it as ‘Spam’ or ‘Junk.’ However, if you opened the email, do not click on any links.
  • Do not share any personal information to receive a gift card.
  • To prevent pop-up ads from appearing, turn on your ad blocker on your device.

10. E-Cards

These are becoming a popular alternative to physical Christmas cards and it saves people money from stamp to mail it out to the actual card. However, scammers are using them as a way to retrieve your private information. Be mindful even if you are not the one sending it but receiving it. Here are a few tips to identify legitimate e-cards:

  • If the sender’s name is unclear or the email is asking you to share personal information or pay money to open it, it may be a scam.
  • If your email has an attachment that ends in ‘exe,’ it could contain a virus or some form of malware.

11. Unusual Forms of Payment

As you do your holiday shopping, be wary of individuals and businesses that request payment:

  • By wire transfer;
  • Through third parties;
  • By prepaid debit or gift cards; or
  • By cash only.

These methods do not have a paper trail, have no form of recovery and cannot be undone.

12. Counterfeit Goods

We all want a good deal, especially on big ticketed price items. Low or ridiculously priced luxury goods, jewellry, designer clothing and electronics are almost always cheap counterfeits and knockoffs. For this scam, the primary rule applies – if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. The last thing you want is to spend so much thinking it is such a great deal but turns out to be counterfeit.

If you encounter one of these scams this holiday season, help protect yourself and others by:

  • Keeping a close eye on your financial statements and quickly disputing any unrecognized charges.