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10 Online Shopping Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

Cyber Criminals are Taking Advantage of the Growing Trend of Smartphone Shopping

Internet ScamEvery year around the holidays, the number of scams and phishing schemes that show up in email skyrockets. With the incredible increase in online shopping using smartphones and tablets, more and more cyber thieves are turning their attention to mobile shopping scams.

Here are ten of the top online shopping scams to watch out for this holiday season.

Holiday SMS Scams

Some scammers have the ability to obtain cell phone numbers and other pieces of personal information from websites you may have visited or from online forms you may have filled out for a legitimate purpose. They then send malicious SMS texts to their targeted victims promising a free gift. The moment the phone’s owner clicks on the link, malware is installed on the phone, providing the thieves with more personal information, including bank authorization codes and other financial data.

Fraudulent Apps

During the holidays, new apps are introduced at an incredible rate. But, not all of these apps are legitimate. Some are fraudulent apps designed to look like trusted apps. These also install malware onto your smartphone or tablet. You can easily avoid these fake apps by only downloading apps from either Apple iTunes or the Google Android Market store.

Email Deals That Seem Too Good to Pass Up

Open up your inbox any day during the holiday shopping season and you’ll probably be inundated with special deals and limited time offers from all kinds of different stores. Some of these offers are so good they can be hard to resist. Always be mindful of the old adage, “if something seems too good to be true…” Often, these “deals” only serve to provide cyber thieves with your personal and financial information. Unless the offer is from a store you have bought from in the past, avoid it.

E-Greeting Cards

Cute e-greeting cards are popular during the holidays, but not all of them are warm and friendly. Some e-greeting cards are simply cloaked malware delivery systems. If you don’t know the sender, you should never open it.

Online Holiday Games

Holiday-themed online games are irresistible for many smartphone and tablet users. But, some of these games are simply fancy ways for malware to get on your device. Before you download any online game to your smartphone or tablet, always check for reviews and only purchase apps from your trusted app store.

Fraudulent Gift Cards

Never purchase gift cards from a third party website because many of these cards are fraudulent. They take your money and send you a gift card that is not legitimate. Only purchase gift cards from the store that it can be redeemed at.

Fake Shipping Notifications

Some scammers send out fake emails to people knowing that they are shopping online and waiting for packages to be delivered. The emails are designed to look like shipping notifications, but they will usually ask for some personal information before delivering the shipping update. Authentic shipping notifications never ask for personal information.

Fake Charities

‘Tis the season for giving, and cyber thieves know this. That’s why many choose to pull at your heart strings by sending out emails soliciting for charity donations. Unfortunately, the only charity they are concerned about is filling their own wallet. If you receive such an email and you really want to give to the charity, visit the charity’s website and make your donation from there, never through an email.

Fake Retailers

Some cyber thieves craft their emails to look just like they are coming from genuine retailers. These emails will usually involve special deals and other incredible offers that “aren’t available on the website.” Pay close attention to the email and you may discover several nuances that separate the fraudulent email from the real thing. These can be hard to identify, so just make it a habit not to respond to unsolicited emails.

Holiday Travel Scams

Since so many people travel for the holidays, cyber thieves often target travelers by sending them email or SMS offers for special discounts or incentives of travel packages. Their goal is to get you to input your credit card numbers and other personal information. As always, be very wary of deals that appear too good to be true and avoid emails or SMS offers from companies you do not use often. By following this simple rule, you will avoid most online shopping scams altogether.


Photo Credit: Thomas Anthony Zampetti, Flickr

Thos Anthony Zampetti

Dave Donovan


Dave Donovan has written extensively for the web with a primary focus on articles targeting finance and business.