Holiday Scams 2022: How To Shop Safely During the Holidays

‘Tis the season to bring joy and jolly! Whether you’re shopping for gifts online or donating to your favorite charity, scammers are betting on your generous holiday spirit to take advantage of you. They know all too well that your shopping and charitable giving habits increase this time of year. Which is exactly why they trick you into giving up your money, gift cards or sensitive information in the most sophisticated of ways that you may not even know you are getting scammed at all. 

In fact, nearly 75% of Americans experienced at least one holiday scam last year. And they just don’t happen on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Because retailers are starting holiday sales as early as October and ending as late as the last week of December, scammers have more opportunities to muddle your holiday cheer. 

In order to make the season bright, we’re sharing 8 holiday scams with tips on how to keep your information out of the hands of people who are most definitely on the naughty list.

8 Holiday Scams To Be Aware Of In 2022

  1. Gift Card Scams
  2. Fake Charities
  3. Lookalike Online Stores
  4. Ads Promoting Fake Items 
  5. Too-Good-To-Be-True Prices
  6. Phishing Emails or Text Messages
  7. Missed Delivery Notifications
  8. Fake Online Gift Exchanges

Download this Holiday Safe Shopping Guide

1. Gift Card Scams

This is an oldie but goodie for cyber criminals and for many reasons. One, gift cards are nearly impossible to trace, making the odds of getting caught to almost nil. Two, with so many holiday gifts revolving around buying gift cards it’s easy as pumpkin pie to hook people with scams promoting discounted or BOGO gift cards. Sites like Craigslist are notorious for these types of scams (as are lookalike online stores but more on that later). Basically, you send scammers your credit card information and they send you an empty gift card, if anything at all. 


PRO TIPS To Avoid Holiday Gift Card Scams

  • If you buy gift cards in a store, check the back to ensure the PIN hasn’t been exposed.
  • Get a receipt so that you can verify the purchase if your card is lost or stolen.
  • Only purchase gift cards from reputable retailers. If you’re buying online, check the store’s URL to see if it’s secure. Whenever possible, buy gift cards from the actual retailer or company. 
  • Never pay an “activation fee” for a gift card. Same goes if you’re asked to pay a fee to “protect your money.” This is a red flag that it's a scam.


2. Fake Charities

Scammers literally bank on the fact that people are more generous around the holidays, which is exactly why they create fake charities, GoFundMe campaigns, and Facebook charity pages. These scams are incredibly sophisticated, making them very hard to spot until you’ve lost money or given up sensitive information. 


PRO TIPS To Avoid Fake Charity Scams

  • Check the URL and charity name before donating. Scammers typically create lookalike charities that use variations of the name. 
  • Charities will never threaten you, use hard sell tactics or speak in vague language. They will always be able to tell how your donations will be spent.

3. Lookalike Online Stores

It’s no secret that the majority of people shop online. Scammers know this and use it to their advantage by creating fake online stores that look exactly like the ones of your favorite retailers. They trick you into buying from them by offering deeply discounted prices. And if you take the bait? They steal your credit card number or force you to use payment methods that can’t be reversed such as wire transfers, gift cards and even the popular digital wallet app Zelle.  


PRO TIPS On How To Identify A Lookalike Online Store

  • They advertise large discounts - 50% off or more - on all of their items.
  • The store is one you’ve never heard of. 
  • The site contains poor spelling and grammar, bad quality images, and fake-sounding reviews. 
  • It’s missing basic company information, such as an “About Us” page, contact information or information about returns.

4. Ads Promoting Fake Items

Anyone can create an ad and promote it on social media. And social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook completely welcome it. Scammers know how powerful of a selling tool social media can be which is why they use fake ads to promote personalized items, the perfect gift for someone who “has it all,” or even a popular holiday gift at a discounted price. However, all you’ll end up with is a phony or counterfeit item, or even worse, your money or identity stolen.


PRO TIPS On How To Identify Fake Social Media Ad

  • Look for signs of being a scam, such as poor spelling and grammar, bad quality images, fake sounding reviews and lack of basic information. 
  • Check the account that posted the ad for their following count, posted content, engagement and a completed bio.


5. Too-Good-To-Be-True Prices

We’ve all pleasured in a roll back deal here and there but getting a brand new Apple computer at a quarter of the price is almost never heard of…and if it is, it was most likely a scam. With the rush to get the best deal on these hot ticket items, many people ignore the red flags. Scammers rely on this emotional misjudgement to sell you holiday gifts at steep discounts on platforms like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace requesting that you pay via apps like Zelle or Cash App, both of which can’t be reversed. In the end, you won’t get a gift or your money back. 


PRO TIPS On How To Avoid Fake Discounts

  • Trust your instincts and do your due diligence by researching the store through the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and their ScamTracker database or Google and checking the store for signs of a scam.
  • It’s most likely a scam if the most sought-after item is listed at a significant discount, the seller is asking you to pay using irreversible payment methods like Zelle and Cash App, the retailer or site is one you’ve never heard of before and/or the seller offers a sob story about why they have to get rid of the items.


6. Phishing Emails & Texts

In a phishing email or text message, a scammer poses as a trusted company, like Amazon or Apple, in order to offer you special discounts or free gifts, or to claim that your account has been hacked. These messages are often riddled with poor spelling, grammar and formatting, and contain a link to a fake website or infect your device with malware as a way to steal your personal information. 


PRO TIPS On How To Avoid Phishing Email or Text Message Scam

  • Ignore emails and texts from people you don’t know
  • NEVER click on unfamiliar links. 
  • When in doubt, log in to your account or contact the company directly to see if the message is legit.

Learn more tips on how to identify phishing attempts here.

7. Missed Delivery Notification

Nowadays, it’s super common to receive a notification about a package delivery from a carrier such as USPS, FedEx and UPS, especially since you may not be home to receive it. In this increasingly popular scam, cyber criminals send fake delivery notification text messages in hopes that you’ll click on the link. These links take you to a “lookalike” or fake website designed to steal your personal information or ask for your credit card number in an effort to trick you into sending them money. 


PRO TIPS On How To Avoid A Missed Delivery Notification Scam

  • Delivery companies will NEVER ask for your SSN, credit card number or other highly sensitive information to track your delivery. 
  • To track your deliveries, use the delivery company’s official website via the provided tracking number. Make sure to visit the site directly — do not use the link provided in a text message or email. 


8. Fake Online Gift Exchanges

Scammers love using nostalgia to tap into our emotions, and what better way than the traditional Secret Santa gift exchange. In these insanely popular scams, the cyber criminals trick you into sending money, gifts and even personal information to them. They start off by asking you for your name, address and contact information of a few friends. They then request that you send money or small gifts to a stranger on the Secret Santa list. In return, you are supposed to receive multiple gifts from other people who participate. Unfortunately, the whole exchange is just a scam. 


PRO TIPS On How To Identify A Fake Online Gift Exchange

  • If you’re offered multiple gifts in return for sending money or gifts to a stranger.
  • If you’re asked for personal information in order to enter a program. 
  • If you’re invited to join the gift exchange from a person you don’t know or don’t know well. 

So there you have it: the holiday scams 2022! Follow this guide and trust your instincts for a no-scrooged holiday season.

Easily share with family with our downloadable PDF here:

Download this Holiday Safe Shopping Guide