‘Tis the season to be wary. Yes, you read that right. Beware of scammers as the holiday season shifts to high gear. Because when everyone’s distracted by the festive frenzy, scammers are looking for opportunities to steal your identity – and your money! So, you better watch out, you better not cry – know the holiday scams to watch out for.

Phony package delivery notices

Scammers know you’ll receive unexpected packages this season and will send realistic-looking delivery failure notifications so you’ll follow up and reveal personal info. Before you hand over information on the internet, head to your local post office or call the delivery service to verify the notification.

Public “Lie”-Fi

Scammers will target hotel visitors, coffee shop patrons, and other users of public Wi-Fi with pop-ups that requests that they install a foreign program (i.e., data-stealing malware) before connecting to a network. Ask yourself if using public Wi-Fi is worth the risk (using public Wi-Fi to access bank accounts or other sensitive info is never a good idea). If you do choose to use public Wi-Fi, remember that you shouldn’t have to install anything.

E-card danger

Almost everyone with an email address will receive these little Flash programs spreading holiday cheer. Unfortunately, scammers have designed some that can install data-leaching programs on your computer and do untold damage. Don’t click links in emails unless you know the sender. Even then, if something looks out of the ordinary, it could be a sign that the sender’s identity has been compromised (might be a good idea to let them know).

Fake charities 

These crop up every time there’s a major disaster, but they also appear around the holidays. Leaflets and phone calls from organizations with familiar-sounding names will ask you to open your wallets for a good cause. To be safe, don’t give to any charity with whom you didn’t start the contact.

Must-have gift scams  

The “it” gift. You’ll know it by the high demand, low supply, and inflated eBay prices. Almost on cue, websites will pop up offering the rare widget at an unbelievably low price. Don’t fall for this “deal”—the advertiser likely doesn’t have the product and is using the offer to harvest personal information or payment through PayPal.

Holiday vacation scams

If it’s cold and miserable where you are, it’s always tempting to get away to some place tropical. But be wary of too-good-to-be-true offers. Scammers have long been setting up phony travel sites to gather personal information. Make sure to book through reputable websites.

 Mobile malice

If you’re facing a five-hour flight and a three-hour layover, a distracting mobile game can help pass the time. But be careful not to download the wrong one. Mobile games can steal passwords and other data from your device. Always do a quick search to check the validity of the app you’re downloading and read the permissions carefully. A fun game should never ask for permission to send texts or information to third parties.

Old-school pickpocketing

Crowded malls and shopping centers are havens for pickpockets. Why would you notice one more jostle in a day full of them? To combat this threat, it’s best to wear purses across the body and wallets in front pockets or inside a closed jacket. Consider leaving the house with the bare minimum, like your ID and debit or credit card (the latter which offer fraud protection and security features not available with cash).

Credit card scams

In the age of digital, thieves are eyeing to steal your identify via your credit card information. They would use this to make purchases or open a credit card in your name. If you think that’s bad, it gets worse:  these fraudulent activities would eventually hurt your credit scores. The fraudulent application would lead to a hard inquiry and lower your account’s credit history – a double whammy on your credit. Then, if the fraudster uses the card without paying the bill, you will end up with a higher credit balance and a higher utilization rate – both of which hurts your credit. To protect yourself from such scams, track all your accounts and set up email, text or app notifications for credit card transactions. On top of these, add a fraud alert on your credit reports to let lenders know that they need to verify your identity before opening an account in your name.

Now if your credit card is piling up debt because of holiday spending, there’s a simpler solution you can turn to - call Financial Rescue’s certified debt consultants and we’ll be happy to assist you in getting out of debt. You may also visit our website to learn more about our services for a happy, debt-free holiday.