Holiday scams to avoid

The holiday season is officially underway! As we all get ready to spread some cheer and celebrate with family and friends, scammers are eagerly waiting to take advantage of this generous time of year. With new and evolving tactics, scammers want to take the joy out of our festivities or even worse – our money and personal information.

We’re here to keep you aware of the latest scams and help you avoid them so you can properly celebrate this holiday season.

1. Delivery Tracking Scams

Many of us now take advantage of the ability to track every movement of our packages as they make their way to our doorstep. Online and by text, we continually check the estimated arrival time of that last-minute gift we’re counting on for a relative or friend.

As we’ve evolved our habits, so too have scammers. Pay extra close attention to the texts and emails you receive from delivery services this holiday season – they might not be what they seem.

Scammers are sending fake alerts about unexpected delays, directing you to a tracking link for more information. Clicking on these links brings you to a seemingly legitimate website requesting your personal information to receive the update. Sometimes scammers don’t even ask you for this information; just clicking the link installs a virus that’ll get them what they’re after. Some instances have been reported of scammers asking for money in return for delivering the package.

Here are a few tips on what to do if you encounter this type of scam:

  • Examine URLs carefully before you click to look for misspellings and “https” to ensure it is secure.
  • Do not click URLs you are unsure of. Instead, go to the delivery service’s official website to track your package.
  • Do not enter sensitive personal information or financial details. Legitimate delivery services shouldn’t ask for this to track your package.
  • Never pay any additional money. No legitimate delivery service would require this.

2. Gift Card Scams

Gift cards have become one of scammers’ preferred method of payment. That’s because they are untraceable and lack proper security, meaning scammers can run away with your money and you have no recourse to get it back.

They are a few ways that scammers commonly try to solicit money through gift cards. Beware of online sellers that demand payment by gift card. If they don’t accept debit or credit cards, you likely won’t receive that item you’re hoping to purchase. Scammers may also send emails posing as government employees, representatives of charities or family and friends asking for payment by gift card for a variety of purposes.

Avoid these gift card scams with the following tips:

  • Do not engage with anyone demanding payment by gift card.
  • If someone refuses all other types of payment, it’s a scam.
  • Check email addresses to ensure the message is coming from a legitimate source.

3. Charity Scams

During the holiday season, many of us make charitable donations. Scammers are well aware of this and are ready to take that money out of the hands that need it.

By email, phone or even text, scammers are posing as representatives of legitimate charities or advocating for ones that were made specifically to trick you out of your money. Scammers will have all the right words to pull at your heartstrings this time of year, but their claims will often be vague or lake sufficient detail about the charity or where the money will go. Then, they’ll attempt to rush you into donating before you have time to evaluate the situation.

Many of us are eager to give back during the holidays, but keep these tips in mind before making that donation:

  • Thoroughly research charities you haven’t heard of to ensure they are legitimate.
  • Take the time to think about the donation, there is no need to feel rushed.
  • Ensure the person you are corresponding with is from the charity they claim to be.
  • Ask specific questions about the charity’s mission and how your money will be used.

4. Too-Good-to-Be-True Scams

During this time of year, we’re all looking to get the best deal on gifts for others and even ourselves. You’re likely inundated with email offers from your favorite retailers or seeking out deals on specific products or services.

Sometimes, it can be hard to tell the real from the fake. Scammers have become experts at replicating these types of deals by email, text or phone.

Whether it’s a free vacation, complimentary item or heavily discounted product, it is important to examine each deal carefully. As a rule of thumb, anything that just feels too good to be true most likely is.

Follow these tips to make sure you only purchase real deals:

  • Do your research to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate seller or company and purchasing through a safe website.
  • Do not provide personal or financial information before purchasing a product or service.
  • Follow your gut. If it seems too good to be true, it is.

The holidays can feel a bit chaotic as we search for that perfect way to give back to our loved ones and our community. It’s important to remember to do your research and follow your instincts – they could be the difference between a joyous or stressful holiday season.

OTELCO wishes you and yours a wonderful holiday and a happy and healthy new year!