Scams to watch out for during the holiday season

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It’s the season for spreading love and cheer!

Everyone’s making lists and shopping. Spending is expected to increase despite inflation pushing up the cost of goods.

With everyone in a spending mood, scammers are bound to take advantage.

Online shopping/online fraud

Statistics Canada reports that online purchases were up by more than 110.8% during the pandemic. Statcan also reports that over four in 10 Canadians (42%) have experienced at least one type of cyber security incident in this period.

This includes phishing attacks, malware, fraud, and hacked accounts. Of the 42% who have experienced an incident, around 13% lost money.

We need to be careful with our online transactions.

How to protect yourself from scams

You are much less likely to get scammed if you know about these schemes. Knowing what to look for makes you a wiser consumer.

Here are the most common scams:

  1. Fake order confirmations:

    • You get an email that says your order is “confirmed” but you didn’t order anything.
    • A link in the email will allow you to cancel the order or ask about it.
    • Clicking the link will install a virus on your computer. It can also let the scammer get your personal or bank information. They can use this to steal money from you.
    • Remember never to click links in emails.
  2. Fake shipping notices

    • You get an email from UPS, FedEx or Canada Post.
    • It will say that your shipment is delayed and provide a link to track the package.
    • Just like fake shipping notices, the link may have a virus or take you to a page where you have to provide account details.
    • If you are expecting a delivery, go directly to the merchant or courier’s website to verify. Don’t use the email link.
  3. Duplicate websites

    • Scammers create websites that look like trusted sites.
    • You might get free items from special offers or coupons.
    • If you click one of these offers, the website will ask for your account name and password. Once they have this information, they can access your account and make unauthorized purchases.
    • The best practice is to always check the URL or website address. Stay away if it does not have “https” or the padlock icon.
  4. Porch pirates

    • Package thieves go around neighbourhoods looking for deliveries left on porches.
    • If you won’t be home to receive an order:
      • Ask Amazon to deliver it to the nearest hub locker.
      • Choose to have it delivered to your workplace or to a friend’s house.

Read this article for more tips on how to stay safe while shopping online.

Gift cards or requests for donations

  1. Check gift cards before you buy them. Scammers can copy codes from cards, scratch off the coverings above the PIN, then return them to their packaging. It’s safer to ask the cashier for gift cards stored behind their counter. You can also buy gift cards online directly from retailers, chain restaurants, and other stores.
  2. Fake charities might email or call you, or post urgent requests on social media. They might even come to your door. Never let anyone pressure you into donating. Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. Take the time to learn more about the organization or cause before you support it. When you’re ready, go to the organization’s site to donate.

Part-time jobs

There are real part-time holiday jobs. However, it could be a scam when:

  1. The job offer came by email. They found your resume on a job search website, but they don’t call you by name.
  2. This job title is not clear. There is no job description.
  3. This job ad has a lot of spelling and grammatical errors.
  4. The offer is too good to be true. The salary is too high for the position. They offer many benefits like free trips, gift cards, gadgets, and others.
  5. They’ll hire you right away, no interview needed.
  6. You need to pay before they hire you. They will ask you to “invest” in products or pay for training.
  7. They ask for your SIN and other personal information.
  8. Your salary will be paid with crypto currency (bitcoins), wire transfer, gift or prepaid cards.

Don’t get scammed!

Article updated November 24, 2023.
Sources: The 12 frauds of Christmas: Fraud prevention during the holiday season, Bill Stephenson, CPA, CMA; 10 online shopping scams to avoid this holiday season, Maryalene LaPonsie, US News; How to avoid gift card scams, Bree Fowler, CR; BBB Tip: Avoiding job scams this holiday season, Better Business Bureau. Accessed November 17, 2020.

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Community Resources

For more tips, read Scams to watch out for during the holiday season 2.

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