Tis the season for holiday scams

A family of three sits in front of a Christmas tree wearing Santa hats and holding gift boxes.

Are you concerned about getting scammed this holiday season? Check out these common scams and how to avoid them.

The holiday season starts every year with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. Over the coming months, millions of people will shop online in search of the perfect gifts for their family and friends, and, unfortunately, we’ll also see an increase in scammers trying to trick people into giving them money and personal information. But don’t fret, we’ve got everyone’s back with the most recent insights around online holiday shopping to educate and inform consumers before it’s too late.

And luckily, they won’t need to wait long. Today, we released our Holiday Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, which explores consumers’ experiences, attitudes, and concerns surrounding digital safety during the holiday season. Conducted by Dynata on behalf of Gen, the survey is based on responses from Americans 18 and older. The report reveals that shopping scam victims lost $1,500 on average during the holidays in the past. As a result, consumer confidence in the ability to safely shop online dropped from 89% to 72% from last year. Bah, humbug!

For those who experienced scams, the report also shows that the most commonly reported scams during the holiday season were online shopping scams (40%), phishing scams (37%), delivery notification scams (31%) and gift card scams (30%). More than half of Americans (56%) are worried about falling victim to cybercrimes this season.

12 holiday scams to watch out for in 2023

At Norton, we strongly believe that being aware of scams is the first step to fighting them. So, in the spirit of the season, here are the top 12 scams to look out for this holiday season:

1. Online shopping scams

With online shopping scams, scammers create fake websites that look and perform similarly to the sites of popular retailers, tricking people into providing financial information. These sites offer popular items at a fraction of the usual cost and promise perks such as free shipping and overnight delivery, exploiting the premium online shoppers put on price and speed.

2. Phishing scams

In a phishing scam, a cybercriminal disguises themselves as a trusted source (like a retailer or charity), leading you to click on a malicious link in an email, instant message, or text, which then allows the attacker to steal their data, including login credentials and credit card numbers.

3. Fake delivery scams

While shoppers await their packages, cybercriminals take advantage of the hectic delivery season via fake delivery scams, where they send fake delivery notifications via text or email impersonating the Postal Service, Amazon, FedEx, or UPS. These notifications may link to a fake site or ask you to enter personal information or a credit card number, which they can then use for themselves.

4. Gift card scams

With gift card scams, scammers will text, call or email their targets with an urgent financial issue (e.g., overdue taxes, mortgage payments, bills). The scammers then demand that victims pay off their loans by purchasing gift cards and sending them the gift card’s number and PIN.

5. Overpayment scams

In overypayment scams, scammers offer to buy items with a check that's more than the asking price. They then request the excess amount back. Later, their check bounces, and the seller loses out on the whole amount. Overpayment is a common tactic used during OfferUp scams when the buyer requests paying outside of the app.

6. Charity scams

People are exceptionally generous during the holiday season. Scammers exploit this by tricking them into donating to fake charities. These scammers either imitate real charities or create their own with convincing websites, all to steal from unsuspecting donors.

7. Travel-related booking scams

For travel-related booking scams, scammers create fake hotel and flight booking sites with alluring deals to steal money, personal information, and/or to harvest personal data, often leaving victims in the red and hunted by phishing emails.

8. Investment scams

The new year is a time many people start thinking about their long-term financial goals and begin looking for good investment opportunities. Scammers take advantage of this annual trend via investment scams by offering unsolicited investments on fake websites endorsed by a celebrity or by testimonials. Victims willingly share personal information, bank accounts and credit card numbers, not knowing they’re being conned.

9. Fake gift exchanges

During the holidays, while white elephant and secret Santa are popular, be cautious of "Secret Sister" gift exchanges on social media. These fake gift exchanges are pyramid schemes that falsely promise up to a high number of gifts in return for sending one gift and your personal information.

10. Temporary holiday job scams

With the rise of inflation, seasonal jobs will be more popular than ever this year. And with increased job demand comes a rush of fake offers and job posting scams. Scam artists will often send tempting email offers that urge you to click a link for further information, provide personal information that can be used to steal your identity, or even give bank routing details to prospective, fake employers.

11. Imposter scams

Being increasingly more common with the rise in AI technology, imposter scams occur when a scammer pretends to be someone you trust to convince you to send them money. Consumers need to be especially vigilant when they receive a message from a number or email address they don’t know. Whether the scammers are trying to impersonate a family member or well-known company, consumers should double check the sender’s information before sharing any information or money.

12. New pet scams

Family pets are a very popular gift during the holidays, especially with people able to dedicate more time away from work or school. Sadly, sometimes people are lured in by a cute puppy or other pet for sale, only to find out that they have been scammed out of their money. Consumers should watch out for people selling a dog or cat on social media, especially if asked to purchase through gift cards or Zelle.

Our scam detection technology in Norton Genie is a free, AI-powered scam detection app for messages, social media posts, email or websites. Genie is powered by advanced AI, so the more people use it, the smarter it gets at detecting new scams. Additionally, our other Norton solutions like Norton AntiTrack and Norton Secure VPN help protect against malicious domains and links as well.

To learn more about how to stay Cyber Safe this holiday season, we also have tips on Back Friday scams and online shopping, offering insights on how to avoid scams and keep your identity and information secure. Our recent report also includes tips from Norton experts for shoppers to protect themselves from cybercrime.

Author: Iskander Sanchez-Rola, Director of Privacy Innovation for Norton

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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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