holiday scamsWhile many pull out their Christmas trees, dreidels and decor to spread cheer during the holiday season, con artists are known to pull off holiday scams, taking advantage of the goodwill and jolly spirits that abound during this festive time of the year. Unfortunately, though this season is full of cheer for many, the holiday season is also known as a season ridden with scams. To better prevent scammers from dashing your hopes of having a wonderful holiday this year, read on as we detail six scams you should watch out for.

Package theft

Package theft technically isn’t a scam, but it’s something all consumers should be aware of. That’s because not much can ruin a celebration more easily than this: the realization that the gifts you ordered for your loved ones (or gifts a loved one mailed to you) have been stolen from your doorstep or theirs. While you may think it won’t happen to you, a 2017 Xfinity Home survey said 30% of Americans said they’ve experienced package theft. And cities all across the U.S. — from Baltimore to Sacramento — are warning consumers about package theft, especially during the holiday season, which is also known as the online shopping season. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to decrease the chances of package theft. First off, you can consider having your packages delivered to your workplace or theirs, as doing so decreases the odds of the packages mysteriously disappearing from porches. If this isn’t a possibility, you could consider scheduling the package delivery so that it gets to your home or their house when someone is home. For an added measure of security, you could even require that your packages require a recipient’s signature — you may be charged more for shipping, but it’s probably worth the peace of mind. By undertaking these steps, you would be able to reduce the amount of time the delivered packages are left unattended, minimizing package theft opportunities.

Charity scams

‘Tis the season of giving, but before you donate to charity, you’ll want to make sure you’re not throwing caution to the wind. Because scammers tend to take advantage of the goodwill that many sport during the holiday season, charity scams frequently pop up alongside legitimate charities during the season of giving. For that reason, be on the lookout for unsolicited calls and messages, and make sure to also proceed with caution if someone asks you for donations in person. You’ll also want to watch out for signs of scams, such as callers that rush you to donate or requests for you to pay through non-traditional means (e.g., wiring money or gift cards).

That said, while charity scams may run rampant during the holiday season, it’s still possible to donate to a legitimate cause. To carry out your wish to give to others, make sure to do some research on the organization or person you’re donating to before giving them any money or goods. According to the FTC, there are some online websites that can help you determine if a charity is legitimate or not, such as BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator. If the organization you’re thinking of donating to tells you that your donation is tax deductible, it’s also a good idea to check the IRS’s tax-exempt organization search. By doing so, you would be able to verify your donation is really tax deductible — something you’ll want to confirm, since some scammers will tell you that your donation is tax deductible when it’s not.

Fake websites and apps

When you’re gift shopping, you’ll also want to avoid fake websites and apps. That’s because using such sites or apps to shop could result in your devices getting infected with malware, your payment information getting stolen and more. As such, make sure to familiarize yourself with the signs of such websites and apps, so you’ll be able to circumvent these scams, saving yourself from accessing or downloading something that could harm your device or turn you into a victim of identity theft. Our guide to spotting fake websites and our guide to avoiding fake apps explain everything you need to know.

Gift card fraud

When it comes to holiday scams to keep your eyes peeled for, gift card fraud needs to be on your watch list. Giving people gift cards as a gift can seem like a great idea, but if you don’t give them secure gift cards, you could end up unwittingly turning them into victims of gift card fraud. That’s because thieves are known to steal money from gift cards. To prevent this from happening to your giftees, you’ll want to make sure you’re selecting a secure gift card. If you buy the card from a brick-and-mortar store, opt to get a prepackaged credit card with a hidden PIN, or try to buy a card that’s being sold from behind a register, as those cards likely haven’t been tampered with (e.g., the protective strip hasn’t been scratched off). You can also consider buying a gift card directly from the issuer online, which could help ensure that nothing strange has happened to the card before you buy it. Other preventative measures include seeing if the gift card offers loss protection, checking the card’s balance checking website to make sure it’s secure and more. To get the full scoop on buying secure gift cards, refer to our tips for avoiding gift card fraud.

Holiday-themed freebies

Freebies always sound great — except when they come in the form of holiday scams. Unfortunately, while it is the season of giving, you’ll want to make sure that if you’re offered something for free, be it through email or social media or other means, you’ll want to exercise caution. After all, that free holiday-themed screensaver that you’re downloading could actually be malware or a scam in disguise, and that free cruise trip prize from your completion of a survey could actually be a ploy to steal your personal information. For these reasons, be extra wary of unsolicited offers, and don’t download anything or provide any information before doing your research on the developer and offeror.

Travel scams

Last but not least, keep in mind that not all holiday scams hit you when you’re at home — they could creep up on you when you’re making your travel plans or traveling as well. Some of the travel scams to avoid include fake Wi-Fi hubs masquerading as free Wi-Fi networks at airports, hotels or any other public place, fraudulent vacation rental listings, fake hotel bookings, taxi scams (e.g., taxi overcharges or broken taxi meters) and more. Take a look at our guide to avoiding travel scams to recognize when you’re getting scammed.

Now that you know more about holiday scams to be on the lookout for, find out more about scams and how to protect yourself from them. To get started, keep up with our scams blog.