Top holiday scams this year include gift card scams, fake texts and phishing links

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Thursday, December 8, 2022
Top holiday scams this year include gift card scams, fake texts and phishing links
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Gift card scams, fake websites, phishing emails, and scam text messages are all on the rise as more people get their holiday shopping done.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Tis the season of giving and receiving gifts, and that means new holiday scams are flooding your email and text messages.

There is no better time than the holidays for thieves to fool you, because you're doing more online shopping and getting plenty of shipping confirmations.

Before you click a link or send money, there are warnings. Here are some of the top holiday scams.

One of the most popular holiday scams, according to consumer and security experts, are email and text messages that appear to come from legitimate online shopping sights and shipping companies.

One scam message claims you need to click a link to locate an alleged missing package.

"They look legit but I tell myself to not click on anything from a number I don't recognize," said Hannah Henderson, shopper.

"My grandmother would probably fall for that," said shopper Brandson Smith.

The scam is designed to fool you into clicking on a malicious link which could install malware on your device or trick you into giving up personal information.

"They'll think that that particular package is meant for them," said Zulfikar Ramzan of Aura, a security company. "In reality the link is fake, the phone numbers fake, and it only takes you to a site that's going to siphon your information."

Security groups like Aura said if you have a question about a package delivery, contact the merchant or shipper directly. Don't click on links sent to you.

In 2021, Aura said three in four Americans experienced a holiday scam, losing overall $7 billion to cybercrime.

"I think, in the holiday season unfortunately, it not only attracts the best in people, but sometimes it tracks the worst in people," Ramzan said.

Another popular holiday scam are fake websites, which take your money and send you counterfeit products or don't deliver your goods at all.

"You will disclose your credit card information to the cybercriminal, and you, as a victim, will keep waiting for the product to be delivered. But the cybercriminals are vanishing away," said Bogdan Botezatu, security expert at Bit Defender.

You should check URLs carefully and look for misspellings on websites.

"Sometimes you miss a period or exclamation point added on to it, something that is similar to a brand you are trying to get," said shopper Jeff Jones.

And a third warning is out for gift card scams.

Crooks are looking for envelopes in the mail that may have holiday gift cards inside.

"I buy gift cards I put them in the mail and I hope nobody takes them out of the mail until they get there," Jones said.

As the I-Team has reported, thieves are breaking into blue boxes and residential mailboxes. To make sure your stocking stuffers are secure, go directly to a post office to send gift cards.

You can also send gift cards electronically but if you do, beware of another scheme: links in phishing emails made up by scammers claiming to get you a Home Depot gift card. The emails and links are fake. Home Depot said it combats crimes like this, and regularly works with social media platforms to take down scams.

"They typically appear in the form of an email message is sent to you with an offer for a gift card or a text message, or sometimes even a phone call," Ramzan said.

Other fake gift card offers may be on social media ads or in your direct messages. So trash the messages and go directly to sites you know and trust.

"Pay attention to what they are clicking during this holiday season," Botezatu said.

And there is another gift card scam that's popular right now. Some websites may claim you can pay for a holiday service or product using a gift card number. Maybe it's a gift card you don't really want, but once you give those numbers up on the back of the card, they're gone along with the money on it.