It’s that frosty time of year again, when the days are short and the deals online are abundant. And just like last year when we told you about the holiday scams running rampant on Facebook, Twitter and the like, we hoped that in some small way, it would help put an end to cruel holiday scams. But alas, they still happen, and alas even more, people still fall for them — in droves. This year, holiday scams are back and there are more of them than ever. In fact, there are so many of them trending this year, you could call this holiday season The 2016 Holiday Scam-a-Palooza.
What follows are 16 of the most common 2016 internet-holiday-related scams affecting, well, just about everybody. We have been alerted to social media scams, banking-related scams, online shopping scams and even (shock and horrors) a puppy scam! Here is what not to fall for:
Secret Sister Scam- We told you about Facebook’s secret sister scam last year but not surprisingly, it’s making its rounds again. Called a “typical pyramid scheme” by the BBB, the post going around Facebook promises readers that by buying a $10 gift for someone, and then adding their name to a list of gift-buyers, they will eventually get up to 36 gifts in the mail. The gifts never show and you’re out a present.
Amazon Invoice Scam- Planning on doing your shopping from the comfort of your couch? If you are, this is a scam to watch out for – Scammers send out emails randomly with a message that states that there is a problem with “ your recent purchase” and in order to fix it, you’ll need to click a link and re-enter your credit card details. Since there are just so many people making purchases on amazon especially now, they really do have a very good chance of reaching someone who has recently placed an order on the mega-site. Don’t fall for emails like this, Amazon will never ask you to enter any identifying info on an email.
Fake Out Charities – With all the good will and cheer going on this time of year, a whole lot of wonderful people want to share that feeling with others who are less fortunate. Guess what? That makes those good-do’ers prime targets for hackers! Before you give any money to any donation-seekers, check them out online at give.org, which will help you evaluate if the charity of your choice is legit or not.
Fake Refunds – Another Amazon or other retailer scam making rounds. This is also an email based scam, coming in the form of a refund letter, which tells the recipient that their refund (they never say for what, but of course) has been processed They just have to click a link to find out more information. Uh Huh, sure.
Twitter DM Scam – Why let Facebookers have all the fun!? Twitter has its own trending scams like the direct message (DM) scam. In this, a twit gets a DM from someone promising them great deals on tech or other common holiday gifts. Of course, the link leads to bogus websites or contain malware. Stay away.
Wine Drinkers Scam – But really, Facebook is where a whole lot of scams come to roost. This scam is another, higher class version of the Secret Sister Scam above, In this one, the reader is promised up to 36 bottles of wine for every one bottle of wine he or she sends to a person on the list — but it’s nothing more than fancied-up version of a typical pyramid scheme.
Holiday Ringtones, E-cards and Wallpapers Scams- Knowing that there is nothing you want to hear more than “Jingle Bells Rock” or “Hava Nagila” each and every time your phone rings, scammers set up websites and apps just waiting to catch revelers. Same goes for e-cards and wallpapers
ATM Skimmers – With all the money you have to take out from your bank this time of year, you would hope that at least your ATM machine would be safe right? Well sadly, it’s not. Skimmers are machines placed right over real ATM slots that have cameras installed on them that phone-home bank card numbers and your PIN. Your best option is to always cover the key pad as you type in your PIN, which will block it from the camera’s view.
Online Holiday Coupons – Another trending Facebook scam, this one targets coupon collecting shoppers. At the moment, there are fake coupons offering 50% or more off at places like Krogers, Target , Disney World, and Kohls. To avoid falling for this one, steer clear of misspellings, coupons that come in the form of annoying pop-ups and ones that are too good to be true (because they are!)
Travel Scams – Thinking of snagging a few days away before the true holiday madness starts? Look carefully before you book. Scammers set up fake travel websites offering fake deals and tickets, which is a great way to ensure you’ll never make it to your destination.
Gift Card Fraud – Can’t decide what to get your impossible to please sibling or mother-in-law? Before you settle for the gift card option (and we really mean “settle” here), keep in mind that as we posted last year, gift cards should be bought only from reliable sources, like the stores themselves or Amazon or other reputable online retailer. Never buy them off of Craigslist or eBay or the like — chances are, they’ll be empty.
Website Spoofing – This time of year, spoof sites abound, with scammers just waiting for you to misspell Best Buy or Walmart. Make sure to check URLs very carefully before giving over your money to anyone online
Puppy Scams – Okay, this one just takes the cake, the cute, fluffy, Purina Dog Chow cake. And it’s trending in a major way at the moment. Let’s say you want to get your doe-eyed kiddies a puppy as a holiday present. You search online and see that someone in your area is selling The. Cutest. Little. Golden. Puppy. For cheap, too. Wanting to claim best parent bragging rights, you email the “seller” who tells you to wire the money and in exchange, he’ll drop off the puppy. Don’t bother dropping puppy hints to your kids, chances are you’ll never see your dream-puppy and the scammer gets away with your cash.
Temporary Work Scams – Who couldn’t use a big more of the green stuff at this super-expensive time of year? Scammers know you might be looking for easy money (so are they) so they advertise temporary jobs online that require prospects to plunk down cash on expensive starter or training kits. Victims buy the kits but the jobs never manifest.
Fake Surveys – Another scam that’s going around on, you guessed it, Facebook! Just fill out this holiday-themed survey (Who is your favorite holiday character and what flavor ice cream do you most closely associate with them?) and you’ll get a voucher to Starbucks or something similar. In reality, all you’ll get is a trojan foisted onto your device.
Fake Store Apps – This is a relatively new scam in which scammers target victims looking for legit store apps. Recently, a fake Payless Shoe Store app was removed from Apple’s Official App Store. As soon as it was removed, another one popped up to take its place. Fake Zappos, Dollar Tree and Nordstrom apps have been spotted recently as well. The best way to avoid this one is by downloading store apps directly from their website.
As sad as it it, as the above proves, you can never let your guard down. Stay away from these scams and use your head to have a truly safe and happy holiday season.