10 Holiday Scams and How to Avoid Them

By Alec Sears

December 27, 2018   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

The holidays are such a joyful time. People are more giving, family and friends are throwing parties, and everyone is merry. But it’s also a time when people are more distracted — and criminals are ready to take advantage.

Here are 10 ways you can detect and avoid holiday scams.

Holiday Phishing

Pay attention to the emails you receive from major businesses like FedEx, Apple or Amazon. Avoid clicking on any links or attachments in the email until you confirm they are not sent from a malicious source. Scammers send these emails hoping you’ll click automatically, unaware that the contents are designed to steal important personal information.

Avoid It: You can sniff out scam emails by watching for things like typos, grammatical errors or addresses that don’t match the reputable site. Always have updated antivirus software running on your computer to avoid this scam.

Fake Charities

People are in the spirit of helping others in this season. With that, beware of false charities asking for donations. People can easily make up fliers with phony websites for donations or ask you to donate on the street.

Avoid It: Always review the details of the charity and how the funds will be used. If you’re concerned about donating online, verify the charity at Give.org.

Travel Scams

It’s tempting to grab an online discount for travel to an exotic location this time of year, but don’t purchase before doing some investigation first. Online scammers will promise you a bargain, but your dream vacation could end up being an expensive mistake if you’re not careful.

Avoid It: Ask for references from companies promising you the deal and never wire money to someone you don’t know. Also, research the company online and look for reviews from multiple reviewers over the past several months.

Taxi Tricks

There are many travelers during this season and taxi drivers know that sometimes, people are desperate to get to their destination. Some taxi drivers will put fees on your fare before you leave the airport or they’ll take you on a longer route home to incur higher pay.

Avoid It: If you’re traveling over the holidays and will be taking a taxi, review your routes to your hotel before you leave. That way you can identify if you’re being scammed.

Loan Frauds

During the Christmas season, people want to have a good time. And those who can’t afford a Christmas vacation or expensive gifts may consider taking loans.

While there are legitimate sites that help people find loans, there are also scam lenders that take advantage of unsuspecting people. Scammers go so far as to pose as brokers offering credit help to people by taking their money or bank details to set up the loan.

Avoid It: If you’re worried about getting ripped off, go to a brick-and-mortar loan center in your city to avoid the risk.

Package Poaching

Online shopping offers a convenient and fast way to shop for the holidays. You can buy for all of your friends and family from the convenience of your own home and the packages will arrive at your doorstep.

Unfortunately, you aren’t the only one waiting for your package to arrive. Criminals eagerly wait so they can steal your packages.

Avoid It: If you can, arrange for someone to be home on the delivery date to pick up your package quickly. You can also install a doorbell camera to detect or identify people stealing from your porch.

Holiday E-cards

We’ve all received cute e-greeting cards in our inbox from friends or co-workers, but not all e-cards are the same. Fake e-cards sent to your email could contain triggered viruses or malware, infecting your system and stealing your personal information.

Avoid It: Some e-cards can be easily identified by antivirus software, but not all. So, avoid clicking on any e-cards as a precaution. You can also call the sender to verify whether they actually sent the card.

Free Gift Cards

A common scam around the holiday season involves large discounts on gift cards or vouchers. These deals may appear on social media or via spam phone calls. You engage with the offer to get a $100 gift card for half the price, and hackers gain enough access to your personal information to raid your bank account.

Avoid It: Check the offer before clicking on the purchase option. Email addresses may look legit, but there is often an extra letter in the site address, indicating it’s a fraudulent site. Running a quick Google search on the deal can also help you detect potential hoaxes.

Counterfeit Goods

We’ve all seen fake goods for sale before- name-brand watches, handbags, and electronics appear during the holidays at great prices. When you see prices that are too good to be true, trust your gut. Second-hand sites, such as eBay, have lots of cheap products listed this time of year and many are scams.

Avoid It: When you see a name brand item listed at an absurdly low price, it’s best to skip the deal.

Santa Letters

Scammers deliver fake offers in many different ways during the holidays. If you receive an email that’s advertising letters from Santa, be sure you review the email closely. These emails promise you a customized letter to your child from Santa that never arrives. These sites steal your information, your $20 payment or both.

Avoid It: Write these letters yourself and avoid this scam, or ask a friend to help with the print so your kids can’t tell it was written by you.


By being aware and by following these tips, you can lower the risk of falling prey to holiday scams. If you encounter any of them, review your financial statements, dispute any unrecognized charges, and report any identity theft you find ASAP.

Alec Sears

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