Top holiday shopping scams

Holiday shopping is in full swing, and there will be plenty of talk about porch pirates. While it’s estimated that over 35 million Americans have been victims with losses of over 5.4 billion dollars each year, there are cybercriminals preparing to steal your holiday cheer without leaving their computers.

The Top 3 Holiday Shopping Scams


A scam that has grown significantly over the past few years is the phantom purchase scam. This involves a phishing email or phishing phone call (sometimes called vishing, for voice phishing) that alerts you to an expensive purchase you supposedly made. The scammer hopes you’ll freak out about the expensive purchase you didn’t make. That’s why there’s always an email or phone number included where you can dispute the charge. That’s when the scammer will ask for your financial information to supposedly give you a refund.

The scam has been so rampant over the last several holiday seasons, that YouTuber Mark Rober started targeting these scammers with his famous glitter bombs.


The second scam to watch out for is similar to the phantom purchase, and it’s the fake delivery scam. It one of the top scams every year, but it tends to skyrocket over the holidays since Cybercriminals know people are usually expecting a lot of deliveries this time of year. Increasingly, scammers are targeting people with the fake delivery scam through phishing and smishing messages. Smishing is a phishing message that’s sent via SMS, otherwise known as text messages.

Frequently, the message tells you there’s something wrong with a delivery and you need to call or number or visit a website to get information about – or correct something about the delivery. Again, once the scammer hooks you in by thinking you have a delivery, they can get your financial or personal information. They might even direct you to a webpage that asks for personal information and a small payment to cover a minimal fee… and if you fall for it, they now have your personal AND credit card information. Never click on a link or call a number from an email or text message. Always go to the company’s website to contact them directly.


Cybercriminals know people will be shopping for online deals during this time of year, and will create fake website with deals that are, well… too good to be true. They lure victims to their fake online stores with extremely low prices on some of the season’s most popular gifts. They’ll even use social media to target victims and advertise things they know they’re shopping for.

While the person thinks they are buying the item, the scammer is just collecting their credit card, payment, and other personal information. The person will get charged for the item, but it never arrives. Usually they’re also surprised to find other fraudulent charges using the same payment card info.

If possible, try to do your holiday shopping on reputable websites you know and trust. If it seems too good to be true or suspicious, look for a phone number to call and speak to someone. If you can’t get ahold of someone, that’s a sign it might not be a legitimate site.

One of the best things you can do is just to keep an eye on your financial statements. Check your credit card and banks statements to make sure there aren’t any suspicious charges. Most credit cards now let you set up alerts on your phone to get notified any time there’s a charge to your account, so you’ll know instantly if something’s amiss.

The holidays are a time of spending time with friends and relatives. Be sure to share this information with them to help them avoid becoming a victim as well.

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