Falling victim to a holiday shopping scam could run you $1,500


Privacy experts share the top 12 scams consumers should be aware of this holiday season

The holiday season is in full swing. While many shoppers are keeping their eyes on the plethora of Black Friday sales that have already started, there’s another thing to be aware of while checking off gifts on your list this year: scams

Norton released its 2023 Holiday Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, highlighting some of the most common scams, as well as how to identify them and protect yourself this holiday season. 

“The holiday shopping season is a busy time for cyber criminals,” said Iskander Sanchez-Rola, director of privacy innovation for Norton. “During the hustle of the holiday season, shoppers often fall victim to scams as they look for discounts on popular holiday gifts, make last-minute purchases, and overlook suspicious activity. 

“Avoid the cost of falling victim to cyber criminals by knowing how to recognize a scam and keeping vigilant for suspicious links and unfamiliar activity in your bank and credit card accounts.” 

Holiday scams could cost you

Based on Norton’s report, which surveyed consumers in 13 countries over the age of 18, a holiday shopping scam can cost you a pretty penny. Their survey found that the average holiday shopping scam runs consumers $1,500. 

With over 55% of consumers concerned about falling victim to a shopping scam this holiday season, and consumer confidence in safe online shopping dropping from 89% last year to 72% this year, it’s important to know the warning signs. 

The most common way to fall victim to a holiday shopping scam is digitally. Norton’s report found that social media platforms are the number one way cyber criminals will be lurking this holiday season. However, third-party websites, emails, texts, and phone calls are all possible avenues for scams. 

What to look for

With scams coming in from nearly every angle, what should consumers be on the lookout for this holiday season? 

According to Norton, online shopping scams, phishing scams, delivery notification scams, and gift card scams are the most common ones to be aware of during the holiday season. However, there are a total of 12 scams that consumers should be keeping their eyes peeled for while shopping this year:  

  • Online shopping scams: These are often fake websites that promise all kinds of deals, discounts, and perks of buying with them. They get consumers to provide personal financial information to scam them. 

  • Phishing scams: Scammers will take the form of popular charities, retailers, or organizations, mimicking brands that consumers know well in emails or text messages. They provide fake links to click on that steal consumers’ identities. 

  • Fake delivery scams: Beware of any correspondence you receive from a supposedly trusted delivery service – Amazon, UPS, FedEx, USPS – this holiday season. Notifications posing as these companies are often trying to get consumers to provide payment information in order to receive packages – but they’re really just from scammers. 

  • Gift card scams: Scammers urge their victims to buy gift cards in order to help them pay off a seemingly urgent financial matter. 

  • Overpayment scams: If you’re selling something online this holiday season, beware of anyone who offers to pay more than the listing price. Scammers do this and then ask for the excess amount back; when the seller goes to cash the check, and send the extra funds back, the original check bounces, leaving the victim on the hook for the total amount. 

  • Charity scams: Cybercriminals will lure victims into donating to fake charities. 

  • Travel-related booking scams: With these scams, consumers land on fake hotel or airfare booking sites that are advertising great deals. Scammers get them to book fake trips and steal their financial information. 

  • Investment scams: Fake websites will tout great investment opportunities for consumers looking to get involved in long-term investment plans. However, they steal personal and financial information, with no reward.   

  • Fake gift exchanges: These can take the form of a virtual “Secret Santa” where consumers receive a gift after sending one to someone else. However, scammers bank on consumers wasting their own money on purchasing and sending a gift, as well as providing their personal information for a gift they never receive. 

  • Temporary holiday job scams: Steer clear of any potentially suspicious holiday job postings. While many retailers are hiring extra help for the holidays, not all listings are legitimate. Scammers look for ways for consumers to share personal information, including bank routing numbers. 

  • Imposter scams: Cyber criminals will often pretend to be people in consumers’ lives to get them to send money, gift cards, etc. 

  • New pet scams: Scammers create fake pet listings and get consumers to send them money for their new family pet. However, there is never a real pet, and consumers are out hundreds of dollars. 

Staying safe this holiday season

To help consumers avoid a costly scam this holiday season, Norton has offered some tips to stay safe when shopping: 

  • Never buy from unrecognized retailers. 

  • Check that websites are secure and start with https. 

  • If anything looks too good to be true, it probably is. 

  • A virtual private network (VPN) can keep your personal and financial information safe when shopping online. 

  • Strong passwords will prevent you from getting your accounts hacked .

  • Device protection software can help keep your devices safe. 

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