Five common holiday scams to avoid in 2019. Don’t be fooled by these popular holiday scams threatening to steal your information and then your identity.

Anyone can be a victim of a scam. Just ask the 35,000 people who lost $10 million to an ongoing phone scam where scammers pretend to be from the Social Security Administration. 

The holiday season is a goldmine for cyber thieves seeking to take advantage of online shoppers. They trick Americans into divulging just a few key pieces of personal information, like their names and addresses, and then use that info to steal their money and their identities. 

This year, to help you shop in a safer way, we rounded up the details on five common holiday scams that you should beware of throughout the holiday season.

Five Common Holiday Scams to Avoid

On top of being extremely cautious about sharing personal information, especially online, being well-informed of the strategies scammers use can help Americans avoid being scammed this holiday season. 

Holiday Scam #1: ‘Secret Sister’

The ‘Secret Sister’ gift exchange is a viral social media campaign targeting Facebook users. It promises participants will receive up to 36 gifts, in exchange for sending one gift, valued at $10. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that when users sign up, the alleged campaign organizer asks for personal information such as your full name, mailing address and email. Scammers can then use that information to target you for future scams or to commit identity theft.

Holiday Scam #2: Coupon Scams

Coupon scams happen when someone clicks on an ad that appears to be from a popular retailer offering a significant coupon. All you need to do to claim the coupon is answer a few quick questions. The coupon is, of course, fake and it was only a ruse to steal your information. Scams for a $100 Kohl’s “anniversary” coupon or a $75 Costco coupon have already been reported this year. When in doubt, reach out to the retailer (or visit the retailer’s official website) to clarify if what you’re seeing is a real deal or a deceptive lure.

Holiday Scam #3: Package Theft

Some 23 million recipients each year don’t get their packages because someone stole them from their doorsteps. There are a few ways consumers can reduce the risk of package theft. You can arrange for a delivery that requires a signature upon receipt or send gifts to the recipient’s workplace. Another option some online retailers like Amazon provide is pickup at a secure location nearby for no extra charge.

Holiday Scam #4: Pet Scams

A national survey found that more than 80 percent of sponsored search sites offering pets for sale were fraudulent in 2017, according to AARP. Consider adopting locally, or, if you have your heart set on a certain breeder or rescue organization you found online, make sure to thoroughly vet it before making any payments.

Holiday Scam #5: Cyber Monday Scams

Eight percent of consumers reported being a victim of identity theft during the holiday season, according to Experian. Nearly 30 percent said it occurred while they were shopping online. Another 16 percent said it specifically occurred while shopping online on Cyber Monday. Avoid clicking on advertisements and stick to shopping directly through retailer’s official websites to avoid scams like these. 

How to Protect Yourself from Holiday Scams

Scammers create fake phone numbers, logos, websites, emails and whatever else they need to make targets think they’re a legitimate business. They expect the excitement of the offer, giveaway or coupon to distract you from your natural skepticism. If something sounds like it’s too good to be true, it probably is, and you should slow down and do some research. 

Look for little things, like mismatched subject lines and email bodies or a logo that’s somewhat pixelated. Do a quick web search about the offer and see what comes up. As scammers get more creative the internet has become more vigilant about reporting new scams. 

When in doubt, don’t give any of your personal information out and report the potential scam to a relevant Consumer Protection Agency.

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