At a Glance

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! There is no better feeling than finding the perfect gift for everyone on your list this season. Unfortunately, there are a lot of different holiday scams that can happen when you are shopping for holiday gifts, and some of these situations are so common that you might not even notice them.

It’s not enough to just be aware of the holiday shopping scams though, you have to be able to avoid holiday shopping scams. This can be tricky, but if you’re careful and do your research, you can avoid getting taken advantage of this holiday season. Here’s how:

Stay aware of holiday shopping scam tactics

Scams tend to increase alongside consumer spending, and the holidays are prime time for shopping. One place where fraud tends to occur is online. Just since 2019, the amount of online sales made worldwide has jumped 56%, according to market insights from Statista. This year, 57% of consumers plan to make their holiday purchases online, according to data from the National Retail Foundation.

Online shopping can leave your personal information open for scammers to engage in identity theft, extortion, personal data breach, non-delivery of your order, and even phishing scams. When you’re trying to maximize your gift-giving budget, a sale, discount or deal can look tempting, but when you’re shopping online, it can be hard to tell what’s real and what’s not.

Scams are also commonly found on social media, in the form of links to sites that offer free shipping, coupons and other deals, since everyone tries to save what they can this time of year. Especially with credit card scams, many people don’t even realize that they are being scammed until it’s too late, so it’s important to stay alert and aware while shopping.

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Pay close attention to reviews

Holiday decor scams are everywhere this year; you think you’re buying a cute Christmas wreath, but what you get is nothing like what’s pictured online. Reading reviews can help you weed through this type of scam.

Before you click buy, scan reviews of items to see if the holiday decor or item that you’re looking at is what people have actually received. If there are a ton of reviews, but no photos or personal details, the reviews may be automated, which is another indication of a scam setup.

Vet the companies you purchase from

Shopping from a small businesses is great, but it’s worth paying attention to the details when you do. Scan the website to look for typos or questionable wording; these can be red flags for a scam setup. If the web address is strange or has an odd-looking URL, it’s worth your time to do a deeper dive into the company.

Even if you’re shopping on a site like Amazon or Etsy, you can look for company contact info like a physical address and a phone number or look them up on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site before making your purchase.

$6.9 billion

The amount lost to online scams in 2021, according to the most recent FBI Internet Crime Report.

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FinFact

Avoid impulse purchases through ads

Often, scammers will impersonate a legitimate business with an ad on social media. Instead of clicking on the ad to make your purchase, do your research on the company through your web browser and make purchases directly through the website.

This is also a common scam tactic used in email. A scam site will impersonate a real company and send an email that advertises a big sale, coupon, or other discount. If you click on the email ad, you’re often redirected to a scam site. The best practice is to avoid clicking on links in your email, and go to the site directly through your web browser.

Protect your personal information

Create an email account solely for shopping online. Give this account a particularly strong password to help protect your personal information against identity theft.

Enter your credit card information manually with each online purchase and uncheck any boxes that indicate a site will auto-save your credit card information. Also take care to ensure that your web browser is not storing any of your personal payment information.

Use a secure payment method

When shopping online, stay aware of requests for unusual payment methods like wire transfers, cashier’s checks, or cash apps. A major credit card or PayPal payment is usually the best way to ensure that your payment method is secure. Don’t enter your personal banking details on retail sites.

Be wary of refund scams

One popular holiday shopping scam spikes after the season is over, once recipients start returning unwanted items. If you receive an unsolicited call or email asking for personal information in order to process a refund, it could be a scam. Don’t respond. Instead, call the company directly and never give out your payment information over the phone.

Holiday decor scams are everywhere this year; you think you’re buying a cute Christmas wreath, but what you get is nothing like what’s pictured online.

Bottom line: If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

If you do get scammed, report it. You can report a fake business using the BBB Scam Tracker tool. For other types of fraud including online credit card scams and identity theft, make a report on the Federal Trade Commision website IdentityTheft.gov.