The holidays may be over, but scammers never take a break. The weeks after the holiday season generally bring an increase in scams that can be difficult to spot. Watch out for these four common post-holiday scams.
- Charity scams
Did you know that there are more charity donations made nationwide during the last two days of each December than there are all year? People are a lot more charitable during the holidays or when they are trying to get in more tax deductions for the calendar year. Scammers know this all too well. Unfortunately, they use this opportunity to con do-gooders out of their money through bogus charities, look-alike sites and fraudulent fundraising schemes.
When giving to charity this time of year, be extra cautious. Don’t make a donation without taking some steps to verify if the charity is legitimate. You can look up the organization on CharityNavigator.org, do a quick Google search with the charity name and the word “scam,” and look for a physical address and phone number on the organization’s website. Also, if you have a specific cause you like to give to, contact them personally instead of clicking on an ad that allegedly represents them.
- Bargain-priced gifts for sale
The weeks following the holidays bring a rush of scams on resale sites like Craigslist and eBay. Typically, you’ll see a listing of an expensive item priced at a fraction of its real cost with an excuse like, “Got this as a gift and already have it,” to explain the price. Of course, when it’s too good to be true, you’re likely looking at a scam. If you agree to purchase the item, it will probably never arrive in the mail and you won’t see your money again.
Avoid a gift scam by exercising great caution when buying an item on a resale site, especially after the holidays. Ask for the seller’s phone number, street address and for several references to see if they check out. If everything seems to be legit, make arrangements to meet in a well-lit and populated area, preferably one with security-camera coverage. Make the exchange of goods and money after you’ve checked out the legitimacy of the item, using cash only.
- Belated holiday e-cards
Late holiday cards are as much a part of the January scene as yards of tangled Christmas lights. However, lots of the e-cards that land in your inbox after the holidays may be the work of scammers. These fake virtual greetings are often loaded with malware that will infect your device if you click on a link embedded in the email.
Don’t assume that every belated holiday e-card you receive is legitimate, even if it appears to be sent from your friend. An authentic e-card will include a confirmation code for you to copy and paste to the associated website. If you receive a late e-card without such a code, do not open it. Delete the email and mark it as spam.
- Post-holiday sales
With the pre-holiday frenzy over, retailers are looking for ways to attract customers and increase their sales. In fact, January is famous for sales on a variety of products, including furniture, bed linens and even gym memberships. Unfortunately, though, lots of the advertised sales you may see in the weeks after the holidays are actually scams. The scammers may be working off a bogus site that looks just like one representing a legitimate business, or they may be targeting their victims with emails that advertise “sales,” but are actually carriers of malware.
Before making an online purchase, check the site for signs of authenticity. Look for the “s” after the “http,” and check for the lock icon in the URL. If the site allegedly represents a well-known retailer, check the URL carefully to see if there are any spelling mistakes. Words like “deal” and “sale” should not appear in the URL; if they do, you are likely looking at a scam. Look for the store’s logo on the site, and continue to check the URL of each landing page as you complete your purchase.
If you’ve been targeted by an email from an unfamiliar contact that’s announcing a “sale,” delete it and mark it as spam. Never download an attachment or click on a link in an email from an unverified sender.
Stay alert and stay safe!
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a post-holiday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.