The holidays are a time for cheer, family, and friends. But, unfortunately, it’s also a time when criminals take advantage of people who are busier than usual. We’re enjoying the holiday season and might be paying a bit less attention to the world’s negative forces.
To raise awareness and give a gentle reminder to always be on the lookout, we’re outlining the most common holiday scams. Of course, scammers work year-round, and these scams aren’t limited to happening around the holidays, but since the number of scams increases by about 20% this time of year, it is important to be extra vigilant.
The Grandparent Scam
This scam usually targets seniors whom they believe to be easier targets. It starts with a call from someone saying they are a grandchild or other family member in some kind of trouble. Then, they will say they are out of the country and need you to wire them money right away.
These days, this scam can go beyond just phone calls. Criminals have been known to take advantage of social media, too, contacting people through Facebook Messenger pretending to be a relative in need after hacking their account.
If someone is calling you for money, it’s also a good idea to call them directly on your phone and ask them if they need you to send any funds.
The Fake Charity Scam
This scam is as old as the hills, but it’s still going strong. Criminals will create fake charity websites or send emails asking for donations. They may even go door-to-door asking for money. The best way to protect yourself from this scam is to research the charity first and make sure it is legitimate.
The Covid-19 Scam
We’re all still learning how scammers are taking advantage of the fears brought about by the covid-19 pandemic. We’ve heard of fake contact tracers seeking to obtain your Personal Identification Information, scammers charging a fee to conduct contact tracing or schedule a vaccine, and more. Review this resource from the FTC with a comprehensive list of covid-19 scams.
The Phishing Scam
This scam usually happens through email. Criminals will try to get you to click on a link or open an attachment that installs malware on your computer. The goal of this scam is to steal your personal information like passwords, bank account numbers, or social security numbers.
One way to protect yourself from this scam is to never open attachments or click on links in emails unless you are absolutely sure it is safe. Also, be suspicious of any emails that ask for personal information, even if they appear to be from a legitimate source.
The Prize Scam
This common holiday scam usually involves a letter or email informing you that you have won a prize. To claim it, you first have to pay a processing fee. Sometimes these fees can be quite small and seemingly harmless, but it sends the victim down a slippery slope where they just keep paying fees. The more a victim pays, the harder it is to stop, and they continue to lose more money.
The Fake Check Scam
In this scam, which usually occurs when buying and selling online, criminals send you a check for an amount higher than what is owed. They may even include a note saying something like, “You can keep the change!” Once you deposit the check, the bank will eventually realize it is fake, and you will be on the hook for the amount.
Protect yourself from this scam by avoiding accepting checks when selling items to individuals you don’t know personally.
The Shipping Scam
This scam targets people selling items online, particularly through sites like Craigslist or eBay. The criminal will agree to buy the item but then claim that they never received it and ask for a refund. Since it’s hard to track down where the package was sent, the victim is often out of luck. Then, they may threaten to leave a bad review hoping that the seller will just choose to refund the sale.
To protect yourself from this scam, always use a tracking number when shipping items and take pictures of the item before shipping it. Also, be sure to get a payment in full before shipping the item.
The Fake Debt Collector Scam
This one is tough to spot, especially if you have an unpaid debt.
This common scam involves phone calls demanding payment for a past-due debt, which is common for someone with delinquent debt. The scam lies in the caller not being a legitimate debt collector. They will often have a fraudulently obtained credit report or copy of collection letters that show how much is owed. Armed with all of that information, they can be very convincing.
How do you know if the call is legitimate? You can call them back using a phone number you obtain from their letter or directly from their website. Never agree to pay over the phone unless you are absolutely sure who is on the other end of that line. Contact your creditor directly using the number on their invoice or statement if in doubt.
Now that debt collection on social media has been made legal, we expect to see scams rising on those platforms.
If you’re facing debt and are worried about debt collection scams, let us help. Our debt settlement law firm can help resolve your debt and take action against debt collectors who are violating your rights.
The Tech Support Scam
This scam often begins on the computer and then happens over the phone. First, the scammer will install malware on your computer that wreaks havoc and prompts you to call a specific number for anti-virus support. Once you call, the criminal will pose as a tech support representative. Then, they will try to trick you into paying them to remove the malware they installed on your computer.
The IRS scam
This scam targets people already known to owe money to the IRS, such as those with unpaid tax bills. The fraudster will contact you claiming to be from the IRS and threaten to arrest you unless you pay immediately. They may even have your Social Security number or other personal information.
The best way to protect yourself from this scam is to never give any personal information over the phone unless you are absolutely sure it is a legitimate call. Also, the IRS will almost always send documentation via mail before attempting any other contact methods.
The Amazon Fraud Alert Scam
This one hits customers of Amazon.com.
The scammer will say they work for Amazon and tell you that your account has been suspended. They say that to keep it active, you must provide them with updated credit card information or a gift card number. You may also receive an email from “Amazon” asking you to click on a link to verify your information. However, the link will actually take you to a fake website designed to steal your personal information.
The best way to protect yourself from this scam is to never open links in unexpected emails or provide any personal or financial information unless it’s coming directly from Amazon.com.
Amazon will never ask you to provide your credit card information or password through email.
Here at National Legal Center, we see a spike in scams and fraudulent activity around the holidays year after year. If the matter involves a legitimate debt collector acting in an illegitimate way, contact our law firm for help.
With scam artists attempting to take advantage of people with these common holiday scams, it is important to be vigilant about protecting your personal information and finances. Do not respond if you suspect that someone is trying to trick you into giving up sensitive data over email, phone call, or text message.
Verify, verify, verify!
Make sure that the person is who they say they are and initiate the conversation from your side by calling a number you know to be legitimate. We hope these steps keep your holidays merry and bright!