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Festive Fraud -Silly Season Scams That Will Have You Sobbing

Festive Fraud

Festive Fraud -Silly Season Scams That Will Have You Sobbing

They don’t call it the Silly Season for nothing.

The countdown to Christmas has begun, and between now and December 25, millions of shoppers around the world will spend hours online choosing the perfect gifts for friends and family.

Eager to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals to sweeten their seasonal shopping, bargain-hunting buyers are already gearing up, ready to put their credit cards to work.

Unfortunately, the excitement of this time of year is not only reserved for shoppers and retailers. Scammers, too, are waiting in the wings, making their lists and checking them twice, ready to cash in big on all the increased activity online.

As always, a gram of prevention is worth a kilo of cure, so here are some of the most common Festive Season Scams to watch out for:

Fake websites

This is a biggie, and one that catches tens of thousands of people every year. A fake website can look identical to the real thing – the only real difference is the URL, so this is the first thing you should check before proceeding with any kind of purchase.

The easiest thing to look for is the “https://” part of the URL. The “s” in “https://” means the website has a security certificate. You might also see a locked padlock near the domain name – this means encryption is present and the website is safe.

It’s also important to check for other “tells” such as spelling or grammatical errors. And if the site tries to redirect you to another URL, get out of there quickly!

Billing Scams

There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve bought something online, only to receive a notification that your payment hasn’t gone through, and your purchase might be cancelled.

Scammers often pose as your bank, requesting verification of your personal information before processing your payment. Be wary of any communication urging you to act urgently or face serious consequences.

If in doubt, phone your bank directly.

Delivery Scams

Ever had a text message or email saying the parcel you ordered is stuck at customs and won’t be delivered until you pay a fee?

The chances are good that’s a scam. Fraudsters might send you a link, asking you to update your personal information before they can deliver your parcel. Please NEVER do this. Most of the time, as soon as you click that link, you’re not only taken to a fraudulent website, but you’re also very likely inadvertently installing malware on your device.

Unhappy Holiday Apps

At the time of year, Google and Apple’s app stores are overflowing with “free” seasonal apps that let your little ones chat with Santa, play a variety of Christmas-themed games, and track the Big Man’s progress as he wings his way from the North Pole into our homes with his magic sack of joy.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell which Santa apps are naughty and which are nice. Some might cause significant damage to your device, but more commonly, they’re likely to have pricey, in-app purchases or ask for too many permissions.

Please thoroughly check any apps before downloading them and giving your kids free rein. If an app wants access to your device’s camera or microphone, delete it.

Charity Scams

Charity might begin at home, but scammers don’t care where you are. Watch out for unsolicited requests for donations – especially from charities you don’t recognise or haven’t previously given to. As always, the number one rule is: Check before cheque.

Gift Card Scams

Never pay for anything with a gift card – this is not how legitimate organisations work.

Dating Scams

The festive season is traditionally a time when families get together, but the sad reality for thousands of people is that they will be on their own and lonely. This makes them very susceptible to catfishers and other romance/dating scammers.

Please be on the lookout for online profiles with extremely attractive photos, and people who want to get very serious very quickly – their modus operandum is to establish an emotional connection and then ask for money or detailed personal information.

How To Avoid Being Ho-Ho-Hoodwinked This Christmas

The last thing anyone wants or needs is to have their hard-earned savings and Christmas bonuses taken by scammers. Fraudsters are becoming cleverer, but savvy shoppers can still stay one step ahead:

Stick with the names you know

Avoid unfamiliar 3rd party resellers and only shop from retailers you trust – either directly from their store website or through their app.

Browse Brainily

Use safe browsing tools to warn you that a site you’re about to enter cannot be verified or deemed as secure. Always heed these warnings – and remember that if anything feels even the smallest bit “off”, get out of there fast.

Stay Site Savvy

Check, double-check and triple check the URL of any website and make sure you’re on the official retailer’s website before going any further. Be on the lookout for spelling errors, particularly in the name of the retailer (for example,,za instead of

Check before you click

If you’re unsure about clicking on a link, here’s a handy hack: Hover your cursor over the link (on desktop) to see where it’s going before you click.

As always, the more information we have about how scammers like to operate, the better our chances of avoiding a scam.

Let’s all stay safe out there this holiday season.