During the holidays consumers are more giving and willing to open their wallets to spend on presents and donate to charity — something identity thieves count on. Thieves often prey on victims during the holidays through a variety of schemes to take their information and their money. Since the Grinch isn’t the only one out to steal Christmas, consumers should protect themselves from the rise in scams this holiday season.
Here are five common holiday scams.
1. Santa Letter Scam
Writing letters to Santa is one of the most innocent ways to celebrate the spirit of the season, and identity thieves may use this opportunity to steal your information. The Santa letter scam uses a website claiming to write children a letter from Santa, but aims to steal personal information.
2. Malware-Infected Shopping Sites
Similar to the scam above, fraudulent shopping sites that may show up on search results could try to steal your financial information through malware, AARP warns. Once you click on a link on a fake shopping site, you may accidentally download malware that will allow cybercriminals to spy on your login details and more. These types of scams can easily progress to new-account fraud, with scammers using your keystrokes to figure out your Social Security number, date of birth and more. To avoid an identity theft nightmare, be sure to keep an eye on your financial accounts and credit. You can get your credit reports for free once a year under federal law, and you can also check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.
3. Gift Card Fraud
With the holiday season, shoppers are likely to purchase preloaded cards as a gift. However, scammers could attempt to scan and copy the information of unloaded gift cards on display. Then they wait until consumers add money and activate the card (they can check by calling the number on the back of the gift card) before they steal the money using the information scanned from the card or transfer the data onto a new card. While in stores, ask the cashier to scan the card to ensure it is the right value.
4. Email Phishing Schemes
Scammers often try to take advantage of the holiday season by pursuing consumer information using email phishing. You may get unsolicited emails from senders masked as well-known brands offering deals that are likely too good to be true. Avoid email phishing scams by not clicking on emails from addresses you don’t recognize.
5. Fake Charities
Known as the season for giving, the days surrounding Christmas mean more charities are out asking for money. However, if you get a call or email from a charity requesting a donation, make sure that these organizations are legitimate. You can check to see whether these charities are real by going to www.guidestar.org, which rates charities and nonprofits, or by visiting the BBB’s site.
More on Identity Theft:
- Identity Theft: What You Need to Know
- 3 Dumb Things You Can Do With Email
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?