5 Online Scams To Be Aware Of This Christmas

Joel Lee 09-12-2013

The holidays are a dangerous time. It’d be nice if the season of cheer was all happiness and joy but, unfortunately, there are malicious people out there who will capitalize on your good spirits to scam you out of a lot of money. If you think you’re safe from scams just because you’re safe at home behind a computer screen, think again.


The basic idea of a scam is always the same: trickery and deceit. We’ve covered this topic before with subjects ranging from Craigslist scams Taking the Battle to Craigslist Scammers: How to Avoid Scams on Craigslist Launched way back in 1995, Craigslist took the Internet world by storm with its innovative cross of classified ads with the web. But as with all Internet-based transactions, some users prefer to game the system... Read More to free gift card scams How to Recognize and Avoid Free Gift Card Scams: 7 Warning Signs Suspicious of free gift card scams? Here's how to confirm that you haven't, without giving away your details to cybercriminals. Read More to online marketing scams Avoid Sneaky Online Marketing Scams By Popular Websites! You know that feeling when you are fooled into clicking on something on a website that you didn't intend to click on? Maybe it was an order screen that fooled you into paying for extra... Read More . The difference here is that people tend to drop their guard during the holidays, resulting in emotional vulnerabilities that can easily be exploited.

Keep these tips in mind and stay alert, or you may end up regretting it.

Deceptive Giveaways on Social Networks


For those of you who spend a lot of time on social networks — especially Facebook — please be wary when you come across any links. Any links. Yes, even those links that were shared by that friend you trust with all your heart. Though your friend may be the farthest thing from malicious, there’s always the chance that their account has been compromised.

Around this time of year, you’ll see plenty of claims that promise free giveaways, free gift cards, and free products where the only catch is that you need to click a link and answer a question or fill out some details. If you click, you’re as good as done.


At best, these sites will steal your personal data and spam you in the future or sell your data to other companies who will spam you in the future. At worst, they’ll snag your credit card details or install dangerous malware on your computer without you knowing.

Stay safe by… not clicking on these links. If you’re really interested you could probably get away with running a few searches on Google to see if the giveaway is legitimate, but even then I’d still be wary.

Shipping Notification Emails


The months of November, December, and January are flooded with online shoppers who want to take advantage of amazing deals and holiday sales; and that means that there are LOTS of products being shipped all around the world. Scammers have learned to exploit this by sending out fake shipping notification emails.


In fact, I just got one of these a week ago. I hadn’t purchased anything online in a while so I figured it to be a bit fishy, plus I didn’t recognize the sender or the purported product, so I tossed it out and chalked it up as a scam. Do NOT fall for these!

Why are these dangerous? Because they’ll usually mention some sort of problem with the shipping or delivery of your product and ask you to sign in to resolve the issue. The hope is that you’ll click one of the email links — which will be a fake — and enter your Amazon or ebay or whatever site’s login details. They’ll steal that information and use it against you.

Stay safe by… never clicking on links that are directly within an email. If you get an Amazon notification, for example, the safest thing is to open up a new tab in your browser and navigate to Amazon by typing in the address proper. Links might be more convenient, but emails and link addresses are just too easy to spoof.

Fake Online Charities



As Christmas nears ever closer, we tend to feel a bit more generous towards those who are sick and in need. Perhaps it’s the biting weather or the heartwarming festivities, but either way it’s nice to know that charity donations do increase in the winter months.

The sad part is that scammers know how to exploit this, too.

Before you go and give a few hundred dollars to the first charity to win your heart, you should be aware that you might be donating to a fake. These scammers will collect hundreds of thousands of dollars before pulling the plug and running away with all the money. It’s a sick practice but it does happen.

Stay safe by… researching charities ahead of time and donating only to those who have proven to be reputable. Similarly, to add to the tip above, never click on a charity link. Always look them up on a search engine and manually type in their address to avoid fake links.


Phishing Malware Apps


Like computers, smartphones are vulnerable to malware and viruses. That shouldn’t be surprising since smartphones are pretty much mini-computers these days. However, what is surprising is how prevalent malware is in the mobile world.

During the holiday season, scammers will try — and succeed — to put fake shopping apps on various app stores in order to trick smartphone users into typing in their personal details. At worst, people can end up giving away banking details or entire identities in this way.

Stay safe by… only downloading apps that have received lots of good reviews. If you want to use a shopping app, stick with the ones that are tried and true. Experimenting with new apps can be fun but there is risk involved. Also, stay up to date with smartphone antivirus apps The 3 Best Antivirus Apps To Protect Your Android Security As we’ve reported frequently at MakeUseOf, Android is no longer safe from malware. The number of threats is on the rise. This shouldn’t be surprise to anyone. Smartphones and tablets can carry all sorts of... Read More .

Anonymous E-Cards


E-cards might seem like a relic of an Internet age from the past but they’re still alive and kicking. It’s always nice to receive a genuine e-card because it means someone out there is thinking of you. Fake e-cards, on the other hand, are a pain in the butt.

If you haven’t gotten a fake e-card before, it’s pretty simple to spot. You receive an email from an unnamed person and the email will say that you need to click on a link to view the e-card sent to you. Hopefully you can see what happens next.

Stay safe by… not opening e-cards from anonymous senders. A genuine e-card should at least identify the sender in the email. If it doesn’t say who it is — or if you don’t recognize the sender — just put it in the trash. Better to be safe than sorry.

Don’t let these scams put a damper on your Christmas. However, do be aware of their existence and be smart as you browse the web this holiday season. Being scammed is the fastest way to lose all of your holiday cheer and we wouldn’t want that to happen!

Image Credit: Gift Thumb Via Shutterstock, Bad News Via Shutterstock, Donate Can Via Shutterstock, Virus Phone Via Shutterstock, E-Card Mail Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Christmas, Scams.

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  1. sunshinedickey
    January 7, 2014 at 10:58 pm


  2. sunshinedickey
    January 7, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Info is good. Thanks.
    God Bless
    you and yours,

  3. alan
    December 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    kill christmas

  4. Svetlana's sugar daddy.
    December 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    I've seen all of these at one time or another - along with the fake sexy lady needs money scam! Hopefully people keep exposing these, because the only reason they still exist is that someone is still falling for them.

    • Joel L
      December 30, 2013 at 5:55 am

      Unfortunately, yeah. These scams exist because they work. We need to get the word out there!

  5. ngockonvang
    December 23, 2013 at 9:37 am

    All you have to keep in mind, is never trust strangers asking for personal information without the knowledge beforehand and it’s especially true on Craiglist, it’s a hivemind of scandalous activities.

  6. Vanessa
    December 22, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Thanks so much for this --- I'm forwarding it on to my tween who needs this kind of info reinforced!

    • Joel L
      December 30, 2013 at 5:56 am

      Great! Whatever can be done to equip people to be more cautious of scams, I'm all for it.

  7. Kim
    December 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks heaps. I was going to Like you on Facebook but I was too worried to click the pop up link! Thanks a lot though. I appreciate your effort.

    • Joel L
      December 30, 2013 at 5:55 am

      Ha, no problem. Don't click on links you don't trust 100%!

  8. Dave
    December 11, 2013 at 6:10 am

    You guys rock! I indeed will live alot differently in all aspects in this enormous world of information . Not only that you seem to me that you tower over everyone else in brainpower,but also give out MakeUsefulOf' information. Get it. Ha ha. Thank you!J Just call me 'New Guy to the Internet' Need your emails,Thanks.

  9. Godel
    December 11, 2013 at 4:06 am

    If you are tempted to click on any links and you use Windows, browsing within a Sandboxie sandbox will provide a little extra protection.

  10. mmcl26554
    December 11, 2013 at 3:15 am

    The facebook link is broken or you are a scammer!

  11. Zhong J
    December 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    All you have to keep in mind, is never trust strangers asking for personal information without the knowledge beforehand and it's especially true on Craiglist, it's a hivemind of scandalous activities (mostly originated outside US). I'm not very concern about mails since people don't look at the mail at a regular basis but if they ask you to send money or buy items for them, it's the first sign that a impersonator is acting in place of the true authority.

  12. Anonymous
    December 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm
    • Christian Melgarejo
      December 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Quit sending cards, you!