‘Tis the season for holiday scams

December 7, 2021 | By Donna Mattingly

Found a deal that seems too good to be true? It probably is. In fact, it may be much, much worse. Fraudsters are working overtime this holiday season, taking advantage of booming e-commerce and more benevolent mindsets to trap the unsuspecting in shopping scams, or charity cons or phishing campaigns designed to extract personal information or even gain unauthorized access to your personal devices. Here are three popular scams to watch out for this holiday season and how to avoid them.


Misleading social media ads

That hard-to-find bag you know your mom would love popped up in your social media feed – and at half the price?!? Such ads on social media apps and web browsers can be enticing, but beware! Fraudsters may be disguising themselves behind counterfeit items or free trial offers. Avoid clicking on these ads. Instead, search for the item using a web browser. Always research unfamiliar merchants and look for company and product reviews before making a purchase: Try searching for the name of the seller and product plus words like “complaint” or “scam,” the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recommends.


Package delivery or compromised account notice

With the pandemic-fueled rise in ecommerce, we’ve all gotten used to package delivery notices – maybe too used to them. Don’t assume every email or text promising a delivery is legit. Some are phishing emails designed to dig up personal information, like your name, password or even bank account details. Same for alerts that your account may have been compromised. When in doubt, check it out! Avoid clicking on these notices and investigate the notification by contacting the company directly via their website or phone number.


Fake charities

Most of us are in a giving mood this time of year, and fraudsters may prey on that by sending a phishing email or a vishing phone call asking for donations to a charity. Research the charity online using a reputable site like Never provide your credit card or banking details to anyone who calls, emails or texts you. The FTC offers some red flags that you’re talking to a scammer: They rush you into a making a donation; they thank you for a donation that you never made; and they make vague and emotional claims about the charity’s impact but give no details about how your money will be used.


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Donna Mattingly, Principal Project Manager, Operations and Technology, Mastercard