Most of us dig deeper into our pocketbooks during the holiday season. Unfortunately, it’s something scammers take advantage of every year, causing tens of thousands of everyday holiday shoppers to fall victim to a variety of deceptive, illegal cons.
Holiday scams may change year to year, but the most common ones are fundamentally the same. Here are 7 major scams to be aware of during the holidays:
1. Misrepresented Goods Sold on Online Marketplaces
Online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace allow virtually anyone to sell their possessions by simply uploading a few pictures and writing their own descriptions. These listing sites don’t have a system for verifying the items being sold. That said, it’s completely possible for you to end up on the bad side of a deal, as has happened to people across the U.S.
DeliverEnd has a video chat feature built into the app designed for you to virtually meet with the seller, view the product live, and ask any relevant questions.
2. Fake Charities
One of the most common holiday scams involves preying on generous people to siphon money off to a nonexistent charity organization. With websites like GoFundMe, it’s easier than ever for scammers to make fraudulent claims about where charitable donations are going.
Bogus charities typically solicit funds from donors by email, phone, or mail. They may also be looking for your financial data under the guise of being a registered charity.
Use a third party like Charity Watch to check the legitimacy of a charity before you donate.
3. Shipping and Delivery Scams
With postal delivery services at their peak season during the holidays, scammers take advantage of people expecting packages in the mail. If you get a notice on your door or in your mailbox saying an unsuccessful delivery attempt was made, know that it could potentially be a scam.
While these notices are generally legitimate, scammers have been known to photoshop postal service logos onto the notices to make them look official, and direct you to a website or phone number. From there, they ask you to give out your sensitive personal data. Authentic postal service notices won’t ask you to do this.
4. Bootleg Item Sales Online
One of the biggest Facebook Marketplace scams we see is the selling of fake designer brand items. It’s even more prevalent during the holiday shopping surge when sellers know people spend more than any other time of the year.
Criminals sell bootleg items for dirt cheap, calling it a “holiday sale” to make a too-good-to-be-true offer more believable. Not only is it illegal to buy counterfeit goods, but you don’t end up with the item you expected and may not be able to return it.
When purchasing a brand-name item online, be sure to buy from the actual company and not a reseller to avoid this scam. For secondhand shopping, DeliverEnd’s video chat feature lets you see the product live when it’s in the seller’s hands, so you can be sure they’re not just copying and pasting a designer product they don’t own. The delivery driver also gets on a video chat with you at the time of delivery so you can verify the item you’re getting is the same.
5. Holiday Gift Card Phishing Scams
Holiday gift card phishing scams take many forms, but you’re sure to find them year after year. One such scam is an email or text phishing scam whereby you’re offered a holiday gift card. It may say it’s from a well-known retailer or even what looks like one of your own private contacts. But when you open the link to claim the gift card, the scammer phishes your information. Make sure you only accept gift cards in their physical form, unless you purchased a digital gift card for yourself.
If you receive a gift card over the holidays but aren’t interested in the store, you can use websites like Cardsell or Raise.com to trade your gift card for the amount in cash. These websites also take a commission for the transactions. However, gift card scammers advertise that they’ll take your gift card code and give you 100% of its cash value in exchange. Once you give up your code, the balance disappears and you don’t get your funds. As a rule of thumb, avoid social media offers to purchase gift cards and stick to legitimate websites.
6. Bait and Switch Schemes
Brands are known to lower their prices for blowout, end-of-the-year sales that attract holiday shoppers. Shady online sellers capitalize on this to promote eye-catching offers that end up as bait-and-switch scams.
The “bait” is the product with an extremely low price tag that lures you in. The “switch” happens when you find out the product isn’t actually available, and then you’re pressured into buying the high-ticket item. By this time, you may have already given your payment information, or at a minimum, been fed a series of promotional materials.
You can avoid these situations by sticking to trusted online retail websites. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is!
7. In-Person Sales Using Private Payment Apps
If you’re looking for an alternative to flea market shopping while in quarantine this holiday, you might be checking Facebook Marketplace, Letgo, and other marketplaces for quality used items.
Online marketplaces like Craigslist let sellers post listings for items on sale, but have no way of facilitating a safe transfer of cash. Typically, an independent third-party payment app like PayPal, Venmo, or Cash App is used, which lacks protection against physical harm or fraud that can result from the exchange. It sadly creates robbery and assault opportunities for criminals who can pose as either buyers or sellers.
When using DeliverEnd, you can avoid all this trouble because the app facilitates financial transactions that protect both parties involved and every purchase and delivery goes through an item verification step. Your payment is held in temporary escrow until the safe delivery of your purchase by one of DeliverEnd’s drivers—you never have to make in-person contact with a stranger.
Steering Clear of Fraud in 2020 and Beyond
Title tag: Scams to Avoid This Holiday Season
Meta description: Scammers get more sophisticated year after year, but the same types of illegal scams take place every holiday season. Knowing the red flags can keep you safe.