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How to Avoid Shopping Scams During the Holidays

catherinemurphy profile picture
Kate MurphyGuest Blogger
December 12, 2016 · 2.5k Views

holiday shopping scams

Source: AARP

Many of us are doing the bulk of our holiday shopping online. It’s easy, convenient, and saves us from having to deal with the massive, unruly crowds. Unfortunately, this is also a time when scammers take advantage of holiday shoppers. The FBI even sent out a press release advising the public about holiday online scams. Finding out you have fallen victim to an online hoax can take the fun out of one of the most joyful times of the year. Keep guard with this list of scams that you should watch out for during the holidays.


Fake Apps

fake apps

Source: Wired

Apps are supposed to help us out in our daily lives. But now is the time to beware of fake apps, which are designed to do the exact opposite. These apps are often disguised as games and are offered for free. Once you download them, they steal personal information from your device. Be watchful for fake retailer apps as well. They mimic well-known brands and stores such as Dollar Tree, Foot Locker, Nordstrom, Zappos.com, Polyvore, and Christian Dior. In additional to your personal information, they will steal credit card information if you use the app to make a purchase.

Before downloading any new app to your device, read third-party reviews, and look for typos and run on sentences. All are indicators that the app could be a scam.


Online Shopping Scams

online shopping scams

Source: Complex

It seems like every store is offering the best deal around. During these holidays, be leery of any deals being offered by unfamiliar sites that sound too good to be true such as outrageously low prices or unrealistic discounts on popular products. Any information you give to make a purchase will be compromised. And avoid online merchants offering gift cards in exchange for a purchase, and do not click any unsolicited emails or links. Signs of a fake site include a suspicious URL, sketchy contact info, and an unclear refund policy. Visit Complex for more about red flags exposing fake shopping sites.


Social Media Scams

social media scams

Source: Digital Trends

You know how social media works. Someone makes a post, a few shares and clicks, and all of sudden it is viral. This goes for posts for fake coupons and gift cards. DO NOT CLICK even if a friend is sharing them. Inc.com notes that links may direct you to phishing sites that try to steal your information, or sites with advertisements and malware. And NEVER share your information if asked.

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Product Review Scams


Source: Fakespot

We rely on product reviews to make informed decisions while shopping online. Unfortunately, fake reviews are becoming a serious problem with companies actually paying people to write positive reviews on Amazon and Yelp about their products. Don’t be fooled by review scams with the Fakespot browser extension, which allows you to analyze reviews of a product to find out if they are authentic or not.


Phishing Emails from Fake Stores and Brands

phishing emails

Source: Deluxe

During the holiday, you can expect an inflated inbox of emails from the stores you shop at often along with order status and confirmation emails for products purchased online. It can get chaotic, which is why fake retailers choose this time to target consumers with phishing emails. While they look legit, keep a keen eye out for emails claiming there is a problem with your order or offering discounts, deals, and coupons. Clicking links could result in unintentionally downloading malware or providing personal information. Safeguard yourself. Instead of clicking links, only visit vendor websites by entering their URL in the web browser. And never download attachments.


Fake Delivery Service Emails

fake delivery service email

Source: Email Scam Alert

Waiting to receive your online purchase is stressful enough. Now you have to worry about fake-delivery service emails? Yes, unfortunately. Pretending to be major carriers like UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service, scammers send emails and text messages that deliver malware via attachments and direct you to phishing websites. But there are ways to avoid this holiday scam. If you have any questions, or receive a text or email, go straight to carrier’s website by entering their URL into the browser.


Charity Scams

charity scams

Source: Credit.com

It’s horrible to think, but there are scammers who make a profit by preying on peoples’ charitable spirit during the holidays. If you are considering a small and unfamiliar charity, check its rating and performance at Charity Navigator before making a donation. Inc.com notes you should always give payment and credit card information by contacting the charity through its website. Don’t ever give payment information to someone claiming to be a representative of the charity who contacts you by phone or email.


The effects of holiday shopping scams range from annoying advertisements to being cheated out of money to complete identity theft. By knowing which red flags to look for and shopping with caution this season, you’ll beat the scammers at their own game.

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catherinemurphy profile picture
Kate Murphy is a native of Pennsylvania. After receiving a degree in art history, she moved to New York City to test the waters. She enjoys writing about art, culture, fashion, design, and travel. In addition to writing, Kate works with artists, leads, street art tours, and moonlights as an illustrator.
CrystalloverDec 16, 2016
It's useful!!! Thanks!

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