7 Most Famous Scams to Avoid on Holidays

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Online shopping over the Holiday season has increased dramatically this year. According to Adobe Analytics, American shoppers spent 109.3 Billion dollars between November 1 and Cyber Monday, up 7.3% from the previous year.

The surge in online scams caused a loss of an average of $1,500, as per Norton’s survey. Along with online shopping, people are also donating and booking trips on holidays. And scammers are ey2eing every potential target they can hit.

To help you avoid these turbulent situations, we are sharing the famous holiday scams ripping off people and our expert recommendations to stay safe.


7 Popular Scams and Ways to Avoid Them

Elf Name Generators:


CyberGhost’s post says Elf name generators pose risks beyond harmless fun. While generating an elf name may seem innocent, providing personal details like email or birthdate can lead to data falling into third-party hands for phishing or sales. Malware distribution is a hidden threat, as a simple click on an “elf name” link could unleash malicious software, compromising personal data or causing havoc. Additionally, many generator sites employ trackers and cookies, potentially invading privacy by monitoring online activities for targeted advertising or data selling.

How to avoid: Caution is crucial, as even experienced individuals may struggle to identify potential risks in these seemingly playful tools. Only use a trusted elf name generator. Always look for sites with “https://” code on the URL of the website to ensure that the site is legit. You can also look for user’s reviews before accessing the platform.


Scam charities stealing funds:

Beware of holiday season scammers exploiting your generosity through fake charities and deceptive fundraising efforts. It’s challenging to detect these scams until you’ve lost money or compromised sensitive information.

Whenever a crisis arises, scammers also jump in to make money by fraud. For instance, at the time of COVID-19 in 2020 and the Ukraine war in 2022, many fake fundraising and donation-collecting websites emerged out of nowhere to scam people.

And in the holidays, when it is the busiest time of the year for charity (as the amount rises up to 31% of total donations), fraudsters also fasten their seat belts to scam innocent people. In 2022, people have reported a loss of 40 billion just to phone scams.

How to avoid: Scrutinize URLs and charity names, as scammers often create deceptive replicas. Watch out for aggressive tactics or vague language, and always research charities using platforms like Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance or Charity Navigator before donating to ensure legitimacy.


“Brushing” Scams:

Beware of an unusual scam involving unsolicited packages from online marketplaces. You’ll receive a random, lightweight item you didn’t order, likely during the holiday season. Although it may seem like a generous gift, it’s a ploy to generate fake positive reviews for the sender’s products. To post a review, a legitimate tracking number is needed, and your mystery package serves that purpose. Fortunately, you won’t be charged, but check for any unauthorized account activity.

How to avoid: Report the incident to the marketplace, change your password if applicable, and find more details from the United States Postal Inspection Service.


Phishing emails from familiar companies:

Holiday phishing scams exploit the festive chaos to impersonate trusted entities like Amazon or Apple. The scammers aim to trick you into clicking suspicious links or divulging sensitive information by posing as your bank or offering fake giveaways. Watch for red flags like unsolicited messages, strange links, or poor grammar.

It is important to be well aware of phishing scams because, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, there have been 1,286,208 phishing attacks from April to June 2023.

How to avoid: Always scrutinize emails and texts, ignoring unfamiliar senders and refraining from clicking on dubious links. Prioritize security by logging into your accounts directly or verifying messages with the company. Stay alert this holiday season to avoid falling victim to these deceptive tactics.


Vacation rental scams:

Holiday travel scams are rampant, targeting families seeking vacation spots. Scammers lure victims with fake rental properties or deceptive “free” vacations, aiming to extract payments off-app to evade traceability. These scams are rising so much that according to stats, almost 15% of customers say that they have faced fraud while booking for traveling.

How to avoid: Safeguard against fraud by using reputable sites like Expedia and VRBO, keeping communication within the app, and utilizing a travel credit card for added protection. Additionally, consider travel insurance for potential trip disruptions. Never click on a link in an email if you need to make an online payment since it can be a fraud. If you wish to access the website yourself, type its domain into the search bar.


Shipping fraud:

In this season of awaited packages, beware of “smishing” scams, where scammers pose as delivery services, seeking personal or bank details. Watch out for texts claiming missing information for undelivered packages, urging you to click a link.

Most of the time, these are fake websites to trick people. The aim is to steal sensitive information like your personal details and banking details to rob all your money. Or the link that they urged you to click can install malware into your device, making it vulnerable to data theft.

How to avoid: Besides avoiding suspicious texts, keep a record of your purchases to track deliveries. Note down details like “Bought for Mother from Nordstrom” to stay vigilant against potential scams. Plus, always look at the URL or link closely before clicking it. If you see a spelling mistake or missing letters in any part of the link, it is a scam for sure. Avoid clicking those links.


Too-Good-To-Be-True deal fraud:

Scammers exploit the demand for popular items by creating fake listings or sending deceptive emails. They lead you to a seemingly authentic website to complete a transaction, but you may never receive the goods, and your payment information is at risk.

Stay alert for red flags, such as unrealistically low prices or a seller offering every size and color. Counterfeit products are also a possibility. Another famous way of tricking people into the trap is making them comfortable with the company policies. For example, they can offer you a full refund if you do not get the product at your address. These potential red flags should raise doubts.

How to avoid: On platforms like Facebook Marketplace, be cautious of peer-to-peer payment options and sellers unwilling to meet in person. Protect yourself by questioning suspicious deals and trusting your instincts.

Gift Card Scams:

There is a simple one-liner red flag when it comes to gift card scams, and that is if someone is asking you to make payments via gift card. It is highly unlikely that government entities, credible stores, and e-commerce platforms ask you to buy a gift card as a mode of payment instead of real money.

As the trend of digital payment is increasing, the crooks are also getting more active. For example, according to the Federal Trade Commission or FTC, ever since 2018, the losses due to gift card fraud have been increasing. From 2018 to 2021, the individual median losses have reached up to $1000 from $700, and the number is rising year by year.

How to avoid: If someone is impersonating your close relative or friend and asking you for gift cards, always contact them directly for confirmation. Or if you are buying it from any physical store, you must check it for any damage or tampered sticker.

Online Shopping Scams:

Like any other festive day, holidays are the busiest times of the year, and fraudsters actively look to prey on internet consumers. Online sales are expected to reach $1.2 trillion globally in 2023, with 80 million purchasers having made purchases since 2022. The sheer number of people who potentially fall prey to internet fraud is evident from these figures. As for Americans, every 1 in 3 people risks getting online scams. But these figures could just be a fraction of the true number because less than 3% of victims report to government entities and 4.8% report to BBB about consumer scams.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), many shoppers get caught in these scams when buying emotional stuff online because they ignore the red flags from the start.

How to avoid: Use credit cards wherever possible and always use credible websites to shop. Never use public WiFi to access e-commerce platforms or any password-protected website where you have to enter any sensitive data to complete the process. Browse the website properly and look for people’s reviews to enure that the platform is legit.


Holidays are the most happening and chaotic time of the year when most crooked scammers get hyperactivated to fraud the public. If you know what potential scams and risks are involved in any activity, like purchasing, sending donations, and vacation booking, then you can take preventive measures to avoid them. These preventive measures include avoiding giving sensitive details to just anyone, clicking suspicious links in emails, and using safe and credible websites for purchasing holiday gifts.

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Stefan Mitrovic

Stefan is a long-time content creator and one of the Stream Mentor's co-founders. He's a tech geek and a Dota 2 player (not even a good one) who wanted to help others become professional streamers and earn from the comfort of their home.

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