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By: AgFed Credit Union

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How to Spot this Season's Holiday Scams - Part 1

 Dec 07, 2023
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The holidays bring joy and celebration, but it’s also a season when fraudsters are up to their most deceiving tricks. From gift card fraud and travel scams to fake charities and package theft, there’s nothing that scammers won’t do to try and steal your festive cheer. We’re here to help you stay safe by shining a spotlight on some of this season’s most common scams and their warning signs, plus tips on how to protect yourself.


1. Amazon Scams

Amazon is one of the go-to holiday shopping destinations for many people. As your email and text inboxes fill up with order confirmations and shipping updates, be wary of messages claiming to be from Amazon. You may receive a message stating that you need to update your payment method to ensure your package gets delivered on time, to prevent your Prime membership from expiring, or that your Amazon account will be deleted unless you verify your account by providing payment details.


How to protect yourself: If you have any doubts that the email or text is legitimate, don’t click any links! Instead, log in to your Amazon account to review your information. You can go to the Message Center to see a record of all communications you’ve received from Amazon. Do not provide your credit card details over the phone or enter your payment information on any website other than


2. Gift Card Scams

Gift cards are a favorite pick for stocking stuffers or last-minute gifts. But they’re also a favorite target of scammers. With cons involving gift cards, the fraudster may contact you by phone, email, or text saying you have an outstanding bill or payment. Then, they ask you to purchase gift cards as a form of payment for these late financial obligations. They will request the gift card’s number and PIN, preventing the need to have access to the physical card.


How to protect yourself: No legitimate business accepts gift cards as payment. Gift cards are still a safe pick for gifts, but make sure you keep the receipts in case there are any issues with the card.


3. Missed Delivery Texts

Many of us are eagerly awaiting special packages during the holiday season. A recent scam on the rise involves scammers either sending fake text messages claiming that you missed a package delivery or that they need help to locate your delivery. They may even say you must pay a fee before it can be delivered. The intent is to get you to click a link in the message that takes you to a fake website to steal your personal or payment information. The site or message may claim that you need to verify your address or payment details to trick you into providing this information.


How to protect yourself: Only track your packages through the official website of the delivery company using the tracking number you were provided. Make sure you visit the site directly, not by clicking on links in emails or text messages. Only enter information on reputable sites such as,, or


4. Fake Charities

The holiday season is meant to be a time of giving. Unfortunately, fraudsters are eager to take advantage of this giving spirit. They will pretend to solicit donations on behalf of a charitable organization or individual in need, asking for contributions by phone, email, text, or a crowdfunding platform. They may prompt you to provide payment information over the phone or on a phony website.


How to protect yourself: Carefully research the charity before agreeing to donate. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by pushy tactics. To vet a charity and learn more about them, you can look them up on trusted platforms like the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, or Charity Watch.

When making donations, pay with a credit card when possible. Most credit card issuers provide greater financial protection from fraud. Payments made in cash, cryptocurrency, wire transfer, or gift cards are harder to recover. If you’re asked to donate using any of those methods, it is likely a sign that you are dealing with a scammer.


5. Travel Ticket Scams

You may be looking for deals on affordable airline tickets and other expenses for your holiday travel. Scammers target travelers with schemes ranging from too-good-to-be-true sales, phony flight-booking websites, fake flight cancellation emails, and sudden price increases. You may be contacted and told you have an outstanding payment needed to secure your booking or that your travel has been canceled, and you must pay more to rebook it.    


How to protect yourself: Purchase airline tickets and travel bookings from the airline or from trusted third-party sites that offer reputable customer service. If you receive any messages about your trip, contact the airline or provider directly to resolve any potential issues with your booking. Do not click links in any emails or text messages received, and do not submit any additional payments online.


6. Mail Theft

With a surge of packages and cards being delivered to your home throughout the holiday season, there is also a rise in porch piracy. Thieves stay on the lookout for cards containing cash and gift cards, as well as unattended packages that they can steal and resell.

Common signs that point to mail theft include:

  1. You’re missing mail or packages.
  2. You received delivery notifications, but no packages were found.
  3. Your mailbox appears to have been tampered with.


How to protect yourself: Sign up for USPS Informed Delivery® to see previews of your incoming mail and packages, and to control their delivery. When available, request a signature for delivery of your packages from other providers, such as UPS or FedEx.


We’re Here to Help!

Although scammers are constantly evolving their tactics, one of the best strategies to avoid becoming a victim is staying in the know. By understanding the latest scams, you’ll be able to protect yourself and prevent a bah-humbug holiday season.

If you believe you were a victim of fraud, please get in touch with us immediately by giving us a call at 202-479-2270.

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