The holiday season is the biggest time of the year for scammers to take advantage of online shoppers. Did you know that online fraud attempts grew 22% during the 2017 holiday season, and a projected $22 billion will be lost from online fraud during 2018?

If you are rushing around to complete holiday shopping, you may not notice if something looks fishy; however, all shoppers should remain aware of online scams during this time of the year. Keep reading to learn more about the biggest scams targeting holiday shoppers and tips for how you can avoid them.

Phishing emails

Phishing emails are one of the biggest ways that people are targeted online. Online scammers take advantage of the fact that most email users’ inboxes are filled with store coupons and order notifications during the holiday season. By disguising themselves as emails from retailers or delivery services, they hope that you will click on suspicious links without even realizing it.

Phishing emails can take any form including fake shipping notifications or order confirmations from emails that are identical to an Amazon or UPS email. The email may say that there has been a problem with your order and prompt you to enter your login or payment information.

How to avoid: Before you click on the links in an email, always check for signs that the email is fake. Signs include obvious typos or email addresses contain a long string of letters. Instead of clicking on any links within an email, always visit the secure website and log-in from there to view your order and any notifications.

Look-alike websites

In addition to fake emails, scammers use fake websites which mimic the exact look of trusted stores such as Amazon or Walmart. The lookalike website appears to be the same but offers huge savings deals that are too good for you to pass up. Once you enter your payment information on a look-alike website, your bank information will be stolen.

Other fake websites include fake retail sites which pretend to offer designer brands but for a fraction of the cost. These discounts are too good to be true and once you add your information, the website scammers will have unlimited access to your bank account.

How to avoid: When you are browsing the internet, be cautious of the sites you are on. If something appears slightly off with the webpage, you may be using a look-alike website. Always do research before purchasing something from a website that you are unfamiliar with. Check to make sure the site has a phone number or customer service email. If it doesn’t include these, it is most likely a fake website.   

Travel scams

If you are looking to purchase a vacation bundle for a holiday present, be on the lookout for travel scams. Phony travel deals offer packages at amazing rates and ask you to pay everything up front. However, once you submit your payment information, they will steal your information.

How to Avoid: Avoid getting scammed by a fake travel company by only purchasing from a reputable and trustworthy company that you are familiar with. In addition, always be cautious if the company asks you to pay for everything up front.

Fake charities

The holiday season is the season of giving and unfortunately, many scammers take advantage of this time of year by setting up phony charities. By creating fake charities and soliciting money over the phone or through email, scammers are able to steal from those willing to donate during the holidays. While you might think you are giving to a good cause, these fake charities will actually be pocketing your money.

How to avoid: To avoid this, only give to reputable charities that you know. Make sure to do your research beforehand by using sites like Charity Watch. As mentioned above, always be on the lookout for phishing emails and be cautious before clicking on any links.

In addition to these tips, there are many other tactics you can use to avoid being scammed during the holiday season. If you are interested in learning more, our free online financial education center offers a course on identity protection. This course covers how identity theft occurs and offers more tips on how you can protect your identity and your finances. Stay safe and shop cautiously this month to avoid being on the wrong side fo a holiday scam!