Spotting Holiday Scams

• in categories: advice • by: Michelle Balestrat

As December rolls on, finishing our gift shopping becomes more urgent and can cause us to spend much more than we’d prefer.

(Image) A stack of three gifts, topped with a large bow, in front of a white background.

Unfortunately, it’s this very urgency that scammers love to take advantage of every year. Here’s how to see through the rush and spot these common holiday scams.

##Imitation Websites## Not everything on the Internet is as it seems, and this is a lesson often learned the hard way. Over the holiday season, scammers often create false phishing fronts for sites that attract a high volume of hits: payment gateways, online banking, stores and shopping sites.

They might also use existing shopping platforms to host their scams – see our guide to Ebay Scams for tips on spotting these types of scams.

A common tactic involves typosquatting, registering a lookalike domain name that includes a minor spelling error, for example: or This can allow for legitimate-looking links and emails to fly under the radar of otherwise savvy shoppers.

Needless to say, examine all email links and senders carefully. If you have an account with the service in question, log in by typing the address into your browser instead of following links in emails.

##E-Cards## While social media is now a more popular way to send seasons’ greetings, emailed E-Cards are still circulating.

However, these carry the same risk as any other email link – they may be a phishing attempt, trying to get you to click and enter details to “receive your card”.

Telltale signs include major spelling errors in the body of the email (for example, mentioning that you ‘sent a card’, rather than received one), an unknown sender or “Secret Admirer” or strange looking URLs and attachments.

##Fake Shipping Emails## Fake parcel tracking, payment and delivery emails prey on a user’s sense of curiosity or the general rush of the holiday season.

If you’ve ordered five or six different parcels from all over the world, you’re bound to be unsure whether that shipping payment email is a legitimate error on your part. However, don’t get swept up in the urgency.

Be very skeptical of any links embedded in shipping emails. If your device allows, you can hover briefly over the link may display its real address. However, your safest bet is to independently log in to the service you’ve used and view the tracking status straight from your dashboard.

##Travel Deal Scams## Many families, couples and singles alike will often seek a getaway at the end of a busy year. Cheap travel offers can tempt you to jump at what seems like an excellent opportunity. However, always do your research – even on short notice.

Never make payments with methods like MoneyGram or Western Union, ensure that the travel company offering the deal has received good reviews online, and in general be very skeptical of email offers appearing in your inbox.

Always visit the agency’s site independently to make your booking and view the latest travel deals.

In short: avoid hasty clicks and the urge to panic these holidays. Take a deep breath, stand back and don’t forget to think rationally over the silly season… your wallet will thank you!

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