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12 fraud scams to watch for this holiday seasonĀ 

With the holiday season around the corner, many members are heading to stores and online to shop for the perfect gift for family and friends. It's a busy season for shoppers and scammers looking for opportunities to prey on unsuspecting consumers searching for their next victim. Protect yourself from scams and spot the signs of fraud.

1. Phony online stores that are identical to the actual site

Sure, they look real and carry brand-name goods — but they're not genuine sites. Enter the full address in your address bar, or if using the search function, scroll down past the ad results and select the direct link to the site. Look out for typos or spelling errors in the address and make sure the site has a locked padlock symbol before the URL. Ensure the address begins with https://, and if there is no padlock or it's unlocked, the website is not secure. 

2. Legitimate sites that have links to third-party resellers

Large online retailers often feature products from other companies, who may not have the best intentions. If that price is too good to be true, then it’s probably a sign of fraud. In addition, blurry images or logos of low quality can be a sign of a scam. It's always best to look for the locked padlock in the address bar and typos in the address. 

3. Shop the brands and sites you know and trust

The prices may not be as low as on some sites, but when it comes to electronics and hi-tech gadgets, you may end up paying more in the long run. Do your research and prepare in advance before you shop. Read the customer reviews on the site and look for a variety of opinions and ratings. Too many perfect "5-star" reviews can be a sign of fraud. Look carefully for misspellings and typos in the address — for example, neke instead of Nike.

4. Look out for phishing attacks disguised as email delivery notifications 

A common tactic is to send an email requesting you respond by acting and selecting a link. Don't take the bait. If you are shipping or awaiting the delivery of a package, sign up to track your delivery when you receive your tracking number. If you’re unable to receive notifications, go directly to the delivery provider site rather than selecting a link in the email. Send the tracking number to the recipient of your package so they can also track the delivery. It's also a good idea to keep track of what you've ordered so you know what's coming and when.

5. Fake charities that exploit the warmth and the giving of the holiday season

Don't let a criminal take away the joy of giving and take advantage of your generosity. Before donating, ensure that the charity is on the list of Registered Canadian charities, so you know the request is from a legitimate source.

6. Scammers that target job seekers looking to earn extra money over the holiday season

Here’s how the scam works. You apply for an advertised job online and receive a notice that you’ve been selected for a position. Once you accept, you receive a cheque and are instructed to deposit it in your account and send most of the money via an Interac e-Transfer to an account number you’ve been provided. By the time your financial institution returns the cheque for insufficient funds, there is no job and you’re out the money.

7. Malicious mobile holiday apps that look like the real thing but are not

Scammers create an app that has a similar look and feel to the apps of legitimate retailers under an intentionally misleading, legitimate-sounding name. Then the fake is posted in the app store, waiting for you to download it and use it. If you do, the app could be placing malicious software on your phone or accessing your credit card information when you enter it — only download apps from reputable app stores and retailers.

8. Free Wi-Fi that's not a real hotspot but a scam

While browsing for a network connection, you see an unlocked network calling itself "Free Wi-Fi" or a similar name. Unfortunately, you're not on a hotspot but are browsing through the attacker's internet connection as they watch everything you're doing. If there are two hotspots with the same name, one could be real, but one could be an "evil twin," and you can't tell the difference. Better to be safe and don't use either. Remember, never use public Wi-Fi to bank or shop online.

9. Social media and phone scams that pretend to be family or friends

These scams can include phony contests, a "family" member asking for money for the holidays or in immediate danger and requires cash, a romance scam, or a setup for a grandparent scam where your "grandchild" needs cash for an emergency. 

10. Phone or email scams that request payments for debts by gift cards 

Just like gift cards, gift card scams are rampant. Whether by phone or by email, these scams use threats to manipulate people into purchasing gift cards. A scammer sends an email or phones you, claiming that you have an overdue or outstanding balance that needs to be paid immediately. Often these criminals claim to be from your financial institution, the government, or even the CEO of your company. They use their position of influence to pressure you into purchasing gift cards and provide them with the codes so they can access the money. 

11. While you’re checking your list for who’s naughty or nice, keep an eye on your credit and debit card statements

It’s good for security and helps you keep track of your spending over the holiday season. It may be easier to do this if you limit your online purchases to a single card and email address. This will reduce the risk of falling for a phishing attack, should an email scam come to one of your email addresses.

12. A letter from Santa scam as a holiday treat for the little ones on your list 

It's a lovely thought for the little ones in your life, and many legitimate businesses do offer a customized letter from jolly 'ole St. Nick. But so do many scammers looking to scavenge personal information about you or, worse, your kids or grandchildren. In those cases, they may not learn until many years later that their identity was stolen, and their credit compromised as children. 

Learn more about protecting yourself and others from fraud


Interac e-Transfer is a registered trademark of Interac Corp. Used under license.

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