5 Scams to Avoid so You Can Enjoy the Holidays

It’s the season of giving, but with that comes an uptick in fraudulent activity. While most scams are creatively disguised to try and trick you, there are certain red flags and common schemes you can familiarize yourself with to keep you and your money safe.

Keep in mind that these scams exist all year round, however, they become more prevalent during the holidays as fraudsters take advantage of heightened consumer activity and people in good spirits who aren’t expecting to be taken advantage of during such a joyful time of year.

Fake Websites and Digital Ads

Finding a good deal during the holidays is always the best feeling. But, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Fraudsters know that when people are buying gifts they are searching the internet for the best deals they can find, whether it be for the most recent Apple product, newest toy or best clothing sale. Fraudsters also know that there are people out there who will fall victim to only paying attention to how much they will save, rather than the red flags of the website they end up on.

Don’t believe ads or websites that are almost giving good stuff away for free. Sales on these fake sites might look great, but that is exactly how fraudsters trick you into giving up your information. Once you click the ad and place an order, you will never hear from that company again. The scammers might even use your personal information to take your money.

To avoid falling victim to a scam, always shop at trustworthy sites. If you are familiar with the site, it is less likely to be a scam. Look for misspellings or sites that are using a different domain such as .net instead of .com. If you are entering banking of personal information into a website, always check for the “https” at the beginning of the URL—this indicates a secure portal.

Delivery Scams

With packages arriving at your house more frequently, it can be easy to forget what you ordered or where it’s coming from. As you’re waiting for holiday packages to get delivered, watch out for phishing emails or text messages disguised as delivery services.

These notifications will appear to be from UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service about your incoming or missed delivery. The message may say that you need to confirm your order so that it can be delivered, or that there was an unsuccessful attempt to drop your package off and you need to schedule another time. The link will lead to a fake sign-in page asking for your personal information, or to sites that have malware.

Pay close attention to any communication you receive regarding shipments and make sure it’s regarding a purchase you actually made. These fraudulent messages will typically include urgent language to try and get you to make a payment or provide personal information to help with the delivery. Look to see if the message includes poor grammar and misspellings—this is a good sign it’s a scam. If it’s an email that you received, check the email address because it will probably have a slightly different version of the delivery company name.

When in doubt, return to your original email confirming the order and visit the webpage or tracking link from there to verify the company used to ship your package and the timeline for delivery.

Amazon Scams

Amazon has revolutionized online shopping with their easy to use app and fast shipping. The daily deals, endless gift options, and convenience of shopping from home, have consumers turning to Amazon more than ever for their holiday shopping needs. As with any highly trafficked retail site, fraudsters are always looking for ways to create unique scams to capitalize on consumers.

Recently, fraudsters are calling customers posing as Amazon and asking for their debit or credit card information. They’re claiming that the payment method they have on file for your Amazon account is invalid, and then ask you to provide updated card details to fraudulently obtain your personal information.

Another Amazon scam to be aware of is one that utilizes a fictitious Amazon refund to get customers to provide their personal banking information. Fraudsters will manipulate your online banking account by transferring your own money from one account to another to make it appear that you have a “refund” from Amazon. Once the fraudster completes the transfer, they will call to collect the wrongful “refund” they are tricking you to believe is from Amazon. Learn more about this Amazon Scam

If you have been contacted by someone pretending to be from Amazon, please don’t give any personal information over the phone. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of the phone call, hang up and call Amazon directly to verify before going any further.

Charity Scams

During the holidays, many of us open our wallets to charity. Sadly, there are fraudsters out there willing to capitalize on people’s goodwill. Scammers try to take advantage of your generosity by impersonating real charities and asking for your donations. Not only will this cost you money, but it also takes your donation away from a legitimate charity that could have used it for good.

Pay attention to the name of the charity and if you’ve ever heard of it before. Don’t be fooled by fake charities. If the charity is well-known and you are donating online, make sure it is the true website. A fake website will try to look almost identical to the real one but the URL will be different and the details of where to send donations will normally seem suspicious.

If you find yourself wanting to contribute to one of these worthy funds, please do your research first. It’s important to make sure you’re giving to a trusted non-profit organization and that you know where the funds are being directed before giving. The FTC advises you to avoid requests asking you to donate by cash, gift card or wire.

Contest Scams

Free gift cards and presents always sound nice, especially during the holidays. When you’re spending money buying gifts for family and friends, it’s nice to think that in the spirit of the holidays it’s possible to get something as an added bonus. However, this thought process is exactly how fraudsters get you to fall victim to their scams.

It’s also important to remember that you can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. If you receive any communication, whether it is through a text message, email or even Facebook post offering you something completely free of charge, it is most likely a scam. In order to receive your iPhone, luxury vacation, or whatever is being given to you for free, you will need to input your personal information, which scammers will then steal.

If you come across one of these messages, report it and then delete it. Don’t reply to it or click any of the links included. These links will often install malware on your computer and take you to fake sites that look real to take your confidential information.

Understanding that these popular holiday scams exist and their specific warning signs is a great step to avoiding them. Remember to check your bank statements regularly, especially during the holiday season, to make sure that all the charges you are receiving are correct. Finally, if you have questions or concerns about any of your Needham Bank accounts, call 1-781-444-2100 or your local branch as soon as possible. If your card is lost or stolen, or you suspect unauthorized use, contact Needham Bank immediately at 1-833-337-6075. For international calls, please call 1-614-564-5105.