4 Online holiday scams + tips to help protect yourself this season


The holiday season is a busy time for online scammers. Here are a few online holiday scams to keep an eye out for and tips to help you avoid becoming a victim to them.

The holidays are a busy time, and unfortunately, scammers know this. While shoppers are focused on the hustle and bustle of the season, cybercriminals are scheming online holiday scams to trick people into handing over their personal information or hard-earned money. 

Holiday scammers tend to prey on our generosity and our good nature—common themes of the season. So how can you help protect yourself while creating a merry and bright holiday season? Here are a few online holiday scams to keep an eye out for and tips to help you avoid becoming a victim to them. 

Fake online retailers

One common online holiday scam is the use of fake retail websites. These sites are designed to look like legitimate stores, complete with product photos and descriptions. However, when shoppers attempt to make a purchase, they are typically asked for their credit card information. Once the scammers have this information, they can make unauthorized charges or even sell personal information to other cybercriminals. 

When doing your online holiday shopping, be sure to do your research and only shop at reputable websites. One of the easiest ways to spot a fake website is to check the URL. If the website address looks suspicious or includes misspellings of common brands, it could be a scam. Make sure you're on the correct website by typing the URL directly into your browser rather than clicking on a link. 

Also take a closer look at the URL—it can reveal if the website is using a secure connection. If the URL only has HTTP, the website is not encrypted. Make sure the URL begins with HTTPS, which is a security feature provided by an SSL certificate to encrypt the website. 

Too-good-to-be-true deals

As the holidays approach, you start to see more advertisements for amazing deals. Whether it's a too-good-to-be-true travel deal or a must-have item at an unbeatable price, it’s easy to be tempted to take advantage of a great deal. However, holiday scammers know this and often create fake deals that look too good to be true. Before you click the "buy" button, take a moment to research the deal and make sure it's legitimate. Check reviews, compare prices, and find contact information for the company. If something seems fishy, it probably is. 

Be especially cautious of deals that say they are only for a limited time. Scammers will try to create a sense of urgency to pressure you into their scheme. Also be wary of any deals that require you to click on a link, enter personal information, or download something before you can access the deal. These are all common techniques that scammers use to collect your personal data.

Holiday phishing attacks

Another type of holiday scam cybercriminals use is phishing, where scammers use fake emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate company or organization. These messages often contain attachments or links that, when clicked, install malware on your computer or redirect you to a fraudulent website, where hackers can steal your personal information or take control of your computer, tablet, or smartphone. 

Phishing can show up in several ways. For example, be cautious of holiday e-cards or email invitations, even if they appear to be from family of friends. A scammer could have sent it, and when you click on links in the email body, scammers can gain access to your account and send more phishing emails to your contacts. 

Keep an eye out for fake delivery scam messages as well, which are another phishing attack example. Scammers send an email or a text message, telling you that there's an issue with delivery for an item you ordered. Because it's the holiday season, they're betting that most people will have ordered something recently and will click on a link and possibly even provide their credit card number to "fix a problem" that doesn't exist. 

Charity Scams

The holiday season is a great time to give back to charitable organizations, but use caution that the money you think you're donating isn't actually going to a scammer. There are a few key red flags that can help you spot a charity scam.

Sometimes scammers capitalize on the names of well-known organizations to confuse donors. You can double check the authenticity of the organization by reviewing its website. A legitimate charity should have a professional-looking website with clear information about the organization's mission and how donations will be used. 

Charity scammers may also call directly. Be cautious if the caller is aggressive or pressuring you to donate. A legitimate charity will not try to pressure you into giving and will be happy to answer any questions you have about the organization. Another sign it might be a charity scam is how they ask you to donate. A legitimate charity will not ask you to pay by cash or gift card. 

The holidays are a time for cheer and giving, but unfortunately, they can also be a time when scammers take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. Be aware of these online scams and stay vigilant against other cyber threats that are out there to help you have a happy and Cyber Safe holiday season. 

Clare Stouffer
  • Clare Stouffer
  • Gen employee
Clare Stouffer, a Gen employee, is a writer and editor for the company’s blogs. She covers various topics in cybersecurity.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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