Empower Blog

couple smiling outside on their phones during holidays
October 04, 2023

Fraud Prevention Tips for the Holiday Season

Fraud and Security, Podcasts
With an increase in online shopping during the holiday season, scams and fraudulent activity are likely to be on the rise, too. Find out how to keep your personal information safe and your holidays happy.

Scams to Look Out For

Unfortunately, scammers know how to take advantage of people during the holiday season, whether that means going after your generosity, vulnerability or tendency to be on the lookout for a good discount. Some common scams this time of year include:
  • Charity Scams - 'Tis the season for giving, but make sure you vet causes and websites before you pull out your wallet. Fraudsters can create fake websites and even charities that pull at your heart strings in an attempt to collect cash. This is especially common on digital and mobile payment apps, so it’s important to consider where and how you’re being asked to donate. Trustworthy charities will not request that you send money through a money transfer service.
  • Delivery Scams - Double check any emails or text messages from companies that allegedly contain shipping information. Look for misspellings, odd email addresses or overly generic language. Scammers can disguise phishing emails to look like tracking communications to take advantage of the large number of packages being shipped. Be wary of clicking on any links if something seems off, especially if you aren't expecting a package.
  • Travel Scams - At the end of the year, many people are looking forward to planning a vacation. Use caution when searching for travel deals or when opening marketing emails. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Like the other forms of scams, identity thieves can spoof communications and websites for travel bookings in order to steal your personal information.

Online Shopping Safety Tips

With advances in technology, shopping for gifts has become much easier, but so have new ways to steal your financial information. Here are ways to protect your money.

Online E-Skimming
Fraudsters place a skimming code on payment processing webpages to capture your credit card information. This type of theft can happen on any website or app and is difficult to detect, as the skimming code can capture your card information in real time.


Tips to protect yourself:

  • Only enter your payment information once. Don’t repeat the entry on the site multiple times if it doesn’t go through.
  • When possible, use third-party payment systems, such as Amazon Pay or PayPal, so your card information isn’t directly entered into a site. When on the go, use Apple Pay, Google Pay or other similar mobile payment systems. These types of payments send a one-time token of your credit card information to complete the transaction, so fraudsters won’t be able to access your information.
Email Scams

Fraudsters take advantage of deal searching by spoofing email, social media posts and websites to get you to give your financial information. They usually create a sense of urgency or deadline around scoring the discount or special offer to increase the likelihood you’ll act.


Tips to protect yourself:

  • Use caution when clicking on links you receive in emails or text messages.
  • Avoid clicking on banner or online display ads to avoid malware-infected or misleading pop-ups that could take you to fraudulent websites.
  • While shopping, type in the web addresses yourself and only shop on well-known, reputable sites while using a secure browser.
  • Don’t make purchases, donations or access your bank information on public or unsecured Wi-Fi.
Porch Pirates

Fraudsters stealing packages from your porch are rampant this time of year.


Tips to protect yourself:

  • Set your shipping address to your work or a relative’s house who will be home to accept the package, so the package is not sitting in plain sight.
  • Utilize many merchants’ offering of shipping to a nearby store or pickup locker. This option is usually free and allows you to protect your package and pick up your purchase when it’s convenient for you.

And while you've heard this one before, it's important enough to repeat: don't use the same password across multiple accounts, even if you don't think they're important, like online shopping logins.

Tips for Buying from Other Vendors

The desire to support local vendors and artisans in your community is a good one, but you still need to be careful about how and who you are paying. Here’s some advice for shopping safe:

  • Pay by credit card. Most cards offer extra protection for online purchases. If unauthorized charges show up, you can usually dispute them, but check with your card provider to better understand your protections.
  • Vet the sellers' reputation. If you're shopping on a site where you can see reviews or an online profile, be sure to check their info to make sure they're located in your area and see what other buyers are saying about their purchases and interactions.
  • Set up safe pick-ups. If your purchase requires you to meet to exchange goods and/or payment, be sure to do so in a public place, such as a restaurant or coffee shop parking lot, ideally during the day. Many police stations allow you to use their parking lots. It's also a good idea to bring a friend, or at least make sure someone knows where you're going, who you're meeting and when to expect you back.

We hope this handy guide will help you keep your financial information safe this holiday season. To learn more about protecting yourself from fraud, read more here or tune in to our recent podcast below.

Was This Article Helpful?
12 of 12 people found this article helpful
About the Author
roxanne doss
Roxanne Doss

Fraud Investigations Manager

Roxanne Doss has a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist (CITRMS) credential that helps CommunityAmerica and our members combat the increasing problem of identity theft. In 2016, she earned her CFE credential from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

This article has been provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a loan representative or financial advisor. The examples provided within the article are for example only and may not apply to your situation. Since every situation is different, we recommend speaking to a loan representative or financial advisor regarding your specific needs.