It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time when we slow down, enjoy good company and carry on cherished traditions. It’s also a time when we begin to search for the perfect gift for our loved ones to show them just how much we care.
This holiday season, ecommerce sales are predicted to grow between 10 and 12 percent, according to the National Retail Federation. However, along with the growth of online sales, comes an increased risk of holiday shopping scams. Don’t let a scammer extinguish the excitement of the holiday season. Be on the lookout for these three common signs of a holiday shopping scam that could ruin your holiday season.
1. Fake Websites and Ads
The holiday season is a prime time for scammers to create fake websites that look like well-known retailers. These sites are designed to trick you into entering your credit card information or personal data. Before you enter any payment information on a website, make sure you verify that the site is legitimate. Look for security features like https in the URL and a closed lock icon in your browser, which shows whether a site has a security certificate — also known as an SSL certificate — verifying whether or not any information you send to the site can be intercepted by hackers.
In addition, it’s important to remember that anyone can post ads on the internet, whether they are a legitimate retailer or not. Social media ads are particularly deceiving because they’re so easy to create. Always verify a seller before making a purchase online by performing an internet search with the company’s name followed by the word “scam” or “complaint”. If you notice a fake ad, report it to the site or app that it appeared on.
2. Phishing Emails and Text Messages
Scammers also use the holidays as an opportunity to send out phishing messages that appear to be from well-known retailers. These messages may contain fake ‘limited-time’ holiday offers or include links and attachments that download viruses to your device when clicked. Be careful about clicking on links or opening attachments in emails or text messages, even if they appear to be from a trusted source.
If you’re not 100 percent certain that a message is legitimate, it’s best to err on the side of caution — no matter how good the deal is. If you receive a message that you suspect is a phishing attempt, forward texts to 7726 (SPAM) and emails to [email protected]
3. Requests for Strange Payment Methods
Beware of online sellers who require you to pay using gift cards or payment apps such as Zelle, Venmo or Paypal. If you use one of these payment methods, it’s very unlikely that you will be able to recover your funds if the purchase ends up being a scam. When shopping online, it’s best practice to pay using a credit card because it offers the most protection against fraud and loss. Check your statement regularly and contact your credit card company immediately if you notice any suspicious activity.
What to Do if You Spot a Holiday Shopping Scam
If you come across any of these warning signs, report it immediately to the FTC at ReportFraud.FTC.gov—even if you didn’t lose money or compromise sensitive information. By reporting scams, we can help others avoid the devastating impact of scams.