It seems that as fast as we are alerted to a new type of scam, another one pops up.   It is the scammer’s version of Whack-A-Mole.

We wrote about Holiday scams last December, but 2023 is proving even more challenging.  The FBI’s 2022 Internet Crimes Report showed that Americans lost $281 million to internet scams, including online shopping and “non-delivery” schemes, that generally spike during the holiday season.

Some of the scammers most favorite scams are listed below. Enjoy this holiday season, but PLEASE be careful!

The Most Common Holiday Season Scams:

  1. Beware of Fake Online Stores: These fraudulent sites, often advertised through social media, mimic legitimate stores offering high-demand items at unusually low prices. Check that the web address starts with https:// (the ‘s’ validates the security of the site), the little lock next to the https:// and take a moment to check the spelling.
  2. Missed Delivery/Non-Delivery Notifications: With the surge in online shopping, be cautious of emails or texts about missed package deliveries. These are often phishing attempts to steal personal information. Verify the legitimacy of these notifications by checking the domain address or contacting the delivery service directly.
  3. Gift Card Scams: Scammers may sell fake gift cards or use them as payment for fraudulent services. Purchase gift cards directly from established retailers to avoid this scam.
  4. Fake Charities and Fundraising Campaigns: Cybercriminals exploit the holiday spirit by setting up sham charities or fundraising campaigns. Thoroughly research any organization or campaign before donating, looking out for red flags like misspelled URLs and missing contact information.
  5. Phishing Emails or Texts: These deceptive messages often impersonate banks or other trusted entities, aiming to steal personal information. Always approach unsolicited communications with skepticism, and avoid clicking on suspicious links. Some bonus tips from HLA:
    1. Check the sender’s email address; beware of [email protected]. Legit companies ONLY use their company’s domain to send emails.
    2. Check the spelling: [email protected]….the extra ‘e’ is easy to miss but can be an expensive one.
    3. NEVER, and we mean NEVER, respond to an email or phone call with personal information, credit card or checking information, or even what time you will be home.
    4. If in doubt, call the company that sent you this email at their customer service number…not the one in the email! Take a moment and look it up (and don’t be too surprised if they are not the same number).
  6. Employment Scams: With the need for seasonal jobs, be wary of too-good-to-be-true job offers, especially those requiring upfront payments or personal financial information.
  7. Bonus Tip #1: Mailed Check Scams: This is from our client’s painful experience. He put a check made out to a charity in his mailbox, expecting that the postman would pick it up while delivering his mail, a common and lovely act during the holidays. Common enough that thieves drive around the neighborhood, stealing these envelopes before the postperson collects them.  The thieves used our client’s banking information and our client’s signature to create new checks and bought themselves a lot of grown-up toys before our client realized it. Yes, the bank in the end refunded the money, but it took a long time and a lot of aggravation.
  8. Bonus Tip #2: Beware the QR code: The FTC has put out an alert about the abuse of QR codes. From the FTC: There are reports of scammers covering up QR codes on parking meters with a QR code of their own. And some crafty scammers might send you a QR code by text message or email and make up a reason for you to scan it. These are some of the ways they try to con you:
    • They lie and say they couldn’t deliver your package and you need to contact them to reschedule
    • They pretend like there’s a problem with your account and you need to confirm your information
    • They lie, saying they noticed suspicious activity on your account, and that you need to change your password

Read here to learn how to protect yourself from these scams.

Key Tips for Avoiding Financial Scams:

  • Protect your personal information; never share it with strangers. Frankly, never share it with anyone.
  • Be skeptical of requests for payment, especially via gift cards or wire transfers.
  • Don’t succumb to high-pressure tactics or seemingly lucrative deals.
  • Verify the legitimacy of offers and organizations before engaging.
  • Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Contact Hoffman, Larin & Agnetti, P.A.: If you believe you’ve fallen victim to an online scam or want advice on how to protect yourself, our experienced team is here to help. Call our office at 305-653-5555 or email us at [email protected].