Holiday shopping scam trends in 2022: Delivery texts and more

You should definitely think twice before clicking that “delivery notice” link.

Whether you’re a Black Friday fan or a last-minute shopper, the holidays are probably a busy time for you. This is also a busy — and profitable — time for scammers.

Scammers can pull out gift cards, lure you in with social media ads that are too good to be true, and send fake delivery notifications that cost you more than your holiday fun. Here’s how to watch out for some of the most common scams this year-end shopping season.

Patio pirates are not the only problem

People send and receive lots of packages during the holidays, and porch pirates aren’t the only ones paying attention. A recent AARP survey of U.S. adults found that 29% had received a false transportation notification. These texts or emails don’t just give you hope about a package that doesn’t exist.

“What they’re trying to do is get you to click a link, go to a page that looks like FedEx or UPS, but it’s not,” said Kathy Stokes, AARP’s director of fraud prevention. “You’re logging in credentials, you’re logging in payments – whatever you’re logging in there, they’re stealing.”

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If you receive an unexpected message about a delivery and want to see if it’s real, Stokes recommends looking for contact information on the package carrier’s official website.

Major package carriers like FedEx, UPS, and the US Postal Service will usually let you sign up to receive delivery updates, but they won’t text you out of the blue. With your personal information at stake, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Your payment method matters

When you shop online, think twice about how you pay. Credit cards are considered safer for online payments than debit cards because they have more protections in the event of fraud.

Gift cards pose another set of problems. The AARP survey found that 26% of respondents gave or received a gift card, only to find out that there was no money on it.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but scammers can enter a store, take the cards off the shelf, record the information on the back, and just wait for them to be sold to spend,” Stokes said.

If you’re buying a gift card at a store, experts recommend checking if the back of the card has been tampered with to reveal the PIN. Scammers may also attempt to withdraw gift cards online, using methods such as bots that enter gift card numbers and random PINs. You should redeem your gift card online as soon as possible, giving scammers less time to steal money.

One thing to keep in mind year-round: Gift cards are gifts, not payments. If someone calls and asks you to pay them with a gift card, it’s a scam. Similar considerations apply to peer-to-peer payment methods like Zelle or PayPal.

That ad may make you sad

You’re scrolling on your social media feed during the holiday season when you see it: The perfect gift you’ve been looking for at a great price! So you rush to buy it, enter your payment information. You may not suspect a problem until three weeks later, your package still hasn’t arrived.

“A lot of these fake websites will pop up, they will make some consumers give their information and then they disappear,” said Melanie McGovern, public relations director for the Better Business Bureau.

Shady websites can send you shoddy goods that aren’t as advertised, scam you by not delivering your products, or even steal your information.

According to a report from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, Americans lost more than $337 million to non-payment or non-delivery scams in 2021. The FBI said the scam reports on The internet spikes during the first few months of each year, suggesting that the holidays are a bad time to be careless with your financial information.

“You really want to do those checks and make sure the site is legit,” says McGovern. “If the site looks a bit out of the ordinary, if it’s claimed to be an established retailer, just check that URL. A character error can land you in the rabbit hole of fake sites — you really want to be careful.”

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Whether it’s the holiday season or not, scams are a fast-growing lucrative industry — and anyone can fall victim. The AARP survey found that 81% of 18- to 34-year-old respondents had been scammed, while this number dropped to 69% for those 65 and older.

“Most people believe scams disproportionately target older adults,” says Stokes. “And in fact, that’s not true at all. More young people lose money to scams than older people. But what’s interesting is that if you’re an older person, you have more to lose. ”

Basic cybersecurity measures like updating your computer or phone system when prompted and using anti-virus software can be of great help. Keeping organized is also a good idea.

“Make a list and just keep an eye on it so it’s easy to find out if something goes wrong and how to fix it,” says McGovern. Holiday shopping scam trends in 2022: Delivery texts and more

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