How to Avoid Getting Scammed This Holiday Season

Jalesa Campbell
Updated Dec 10, 2020
3 min read

As the weather turns colder and holiday decorations are added to homes, scammers are scheming up twists to old tricks. TransUnion shares that about half of consumers are concerned about falling victim to fraud for the holidays this year. The credit agency also reports a “14% rise in suspected online retail fraud rate worldwide during the start of the 2020 holiday shopping season compared to all of 2020 thus far.”

Globally, consumers need to be on the lookout for holiday scams this year, given that many are shopping online and turning to mobile purchases. We’ve put together a guide to help you avoid holiday scams with a list of common ones to avoid, an example, and a short list of do’s and don’ts.

Common Holiday Scams

1. Email & Text Scams

Be on the lookout for emails claiming to be from major retailers with coupons and promotions. Often, these promotions may seem too good to be true. You may also receive coupons and deals by text. If you’re using a computer, one simple thing you can do before clicking on any link is to hover over the link to see if it will direct you to the retailer’s website. If the link has misspellings or is illegible, do not click the link. You could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or open yourself up to further attacks for your information.

2. Charity Scams

Often during this time of the year, people are looking for ways to help others in need. Unfortunately, scammers will try to take advantage of this and create fake charities to get consumers to donate to.

One of the best things you can do to avoid charity scams is to do your research before sharing any personal information and donating. Type in the name of the charity online and see if there are any reviews or complaints against the organization. Look for the official website and contact information if you’d like to take it a step further. Once you’re able to verify the organization, then it may be safe to donate.

3. Fake Websites

Bogus websites tend to pop up around the holidays as a tool for scammers to steal your information and potentially your identity. Be careful before clicking and following links. You’ll often find that the web address or URL has a misspelling, and the images on the website may not appear as clear as they would on official sites. Do not purchase anything on a website that looks deceptive. Look for the official site instead and make sure there’s always an “S” at the end of “HTTP” to help ensure your information is protected while on the site.

4. Gift Card Scams

Another scheme that’s growing in popularity this year are gift card scams. You’ll need to pay extra attention when purchasing gift cards in-store this year. Look for tampering with the PIN code on the back. Thieves are making note of gift card information and PINS so they can easily wipe the value of the card when it’s activated. If you’re planning to purchase gift cards online, then make sure you shop with a reputable and well-known retailer.

A Closer Look at The 2020 Amazon & Apple Scam

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reporting a recent scam by robocalls and email. Some people have received calls or emails claiming to be from Amazon and saying there’s been an unauthorized charge or an issue with your account.

The Amazon robocall typically mentions a charge and provides instructions to press 1 to speak with customer support or call another number. The Apple scam has typically involved someone claiming there’s an issue with your iCloud account or a security breach.

The Detroit Free Press spoke with Ron Kroll, who almost fell victim to an Amazon scam. He received a call about a pending charge of $799.75 but struggled to dial the number 1 as instructed, potentially saving him for further trouble. When he dialed the number back, he didn’t get anyone on the line. So, Kroll reached out to Amazon to see if his account had been hacked.

The Detroit Free Press shares, “Scammers try to scare you into thinking that your bank account or credit card has somehow been compromised — and you must act immediately by handing over more personal information to fix the problem. . . .One red flag of a scam: The robocall asks you to hit one or some other key to continue.”

Quick List of Holiday Do’s and Don’ts to Avoid Scams

Here’s a brief list of do’s and don’ts that are easy to remember to help you avoid falling victim to a holiday scam or fraud.


  • Do be careful of any text messages, emails, or phone calls claiming to be from major retailers or organizations about a purchase or account information.
  • Do shop with trusted brands and retailers through their official websites or stores.
  • Do check physical gift cards for tampering.
  • Do heed warnings through major news stations and government websites.
  • Do report scams to the FTC at


  • Don’t press any number to speak to a representative on unsolicited calls.
  • Don’t call any number provided via an unsolicited call.
  • Don’t be so quick to share any personal information by phone, email, text, or social media.
  • Don’t follow links to websites that look suspicious.
  • Don’t make a payment to someone by gift card - their goal is to scam you of your card’s value.

A Sense of Security

It’s easy to get upset receiving news like this, but it’s important to take a step back and think through the situation.

First, if you receive a call, text, or email claiming to be from a major retailer or large organization, ask yourself whether or not you have a legitimate connection to this organization.

For instance, if you get a call or message from Apple about your iCloud account, ask yourself, “Do I have an Apple product?” Or, if you get a call or message about an Amazon order, ask yourself, “Have I made any orders from Amazon recently?

These questions can help you determine whether or not the information you’re facing is meant to deceive and take advantage of you.

Photo by Betsie Van der Meer / VectorUp / Marko Geber / mediaphotos / Constantine Johnny / fizkes

Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on and elsewhere.

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