Blog 10 common scams to avoid this holiday season
Robert Siciliano December 18, 2018

10 common scams to avoid this holiday season

‘Tis the season for shopping, eggnog, and holiday parties. But it’s also the season where scammers are out in force. Here are the top 10 holiday scams you need to be aware of.

1. Fake websites

As you are online shopping, make sure that you are only purchasing from legitimate websites. You might get emails that look like they’re from a legit company with links pointing to shopping sites that contain great holiday deals. When you click on the links, however, they take you to a lookalike site where they’ll offer fake products to get you to input your credit card details.

If you take a closer look at the URL, you’ll notice a few things will be off — c0ach.com vs. coach.com, for instance. Always ensure the site you’re shopping with begins with https, not http, and that the URL reflects the correct spelling of the site.

If in doubt, do not click on random links in emails.

2. Sketchy surveys

Speaking of emails, you might also get surveys emailed from trusted companies. As we just mentioned, scammers can easily create legit looking emails that tempt you into handing over personal information. These surveys often lead to malware getting installed onto your computer, or they ask questions that can trick you into sharing financial or personal info.

3. Online gift exchange

If you have seen any social media posts asking to join a gift exchange, do not do it. These are simply pyramid schemes, and in fact, they might actually be illegal.

4. Fake charities

Many of us like to give donations to charities during this time of the year. But, if you do, make sure you are donating to a legitimate charity. There are plenty of fake ones out there, so use caution before clicking on any links. Also, never donate to charities if you get a random call asking for donations. These are often scams. Ask them for a website where you can donate and do your own research.

5. Grandparent scam

Hackers often target seniors, and this ramps up dramatically during the holiday season. They will call a senior, pretend to be associated with their grandchild, and claim they need money due to an arrest, accident, or other situation. Don’t send money until you fully verify the claim. Ask for a name and number of who to call back and then call your family members.

6. Bogus apps

You might find yourself downloading new apps around this time of year. They, too, might be designed to look like retailers or organizations that you know. In reality, however, they install malware onto your phone or install some type of ransomware. Don’t download an app unless you know it is legitimate. This is especially important for Android users who can download apps from external sources that are not verified by the Google Play store.

7. Fake shipping notices

We all get shipping notifications during the holidays, so seeing one in your inbox isn’t unusual. However, scammers send fake ones via email so they can get your personal info—like your address, date-of-birth, and even your social security number. If you get a shipping notification, make sure it’s legitimate before you voluntarily hand over any details.

8. Disappearing packages

Speaking of shipping, you’ll likely be getting a lot of deliveries. Delivery drivers toss the packages on the front porch, and before you know it, the package is picked up by a porch pirate thief. You can avoid this by having packages remain at pick up locations and getting them yourself, or even providing instructions to the delivery driver to leave the packages around the back.

The best thing you can do, however, is to use a security camera, like a video doorbell. That way, if something does happen, you have video evidence of the theft.

9. Temp jobs for the holidays

Temp jobs are popular during the holidays; they can be especially tempting if you need some extra cash to pay for presents. Many of these, however, are scams, and they only list jobs to get your personal info (which they can then use to steal your identity and set up accounts in your name). Again, do your research before applying for anything.

10. Free gift cards

Finally, we all love free things, especially gift cards. Scammers know this and are all-too-willing to take advantage. If you get an email offering a free gift card, do not click it. This is almost certainly a scam.


Need a way to remain anonymous online, protect your privacy, and keep your devices secure against hackers? Download the free Hotspot Shield app and click “connect.” Your WiFi connection will be instantly encrypted and your mobile and desktop devices secure. With Hotspot Shield, you can shop online with the peace of mind that your transaction are safe.

Robert Siciliano
About Robert Siciliano

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft expert consultant to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. FInd Robert Siciliano on Google+

View all posts by Robert Siciliano
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