7 Online Holiday Shopping Scams to Watch Out For

online holiday shopping

Although online shopping during the holidays can be great for missing out on the crowds, long lines and saving time, it also leaves millions of people vulnerable to online shopping scams. 

In 2021, a baffling $337 million was stolen from American shoppers online. Scammers know that there will be a spike in online sales as we surf the internet for the perfect gift for our loved ones, and they take advantage of it.  

Below, we’ve covered the most common online shopping scams you may encounter this holiday season and tips to help keep your money and information safe. 



Stay on the Lookout for These Scams

Gift Card Scams

It’s safe to say that for many of us our backup plan when we don’t know what gift to get someone is a gift card. According to a CardCash survey, 73% of participants buy gift cards during the holiday season. Err on the side of caution when it comes to these scams. A great way to determine if an online gift card is part of a scam is to see if it asks for unnecessary information, such as banking information. If it looks off, it probably is.


Copycat Stores

Becoming more and more common are fraudulent copycat store websites claiming to be the real thing. Scammers will create these copycat stores with extensive discount offerings to entice shoppers into quickly buying. Some red flags to watch out for are over-the-top sales offerings (ie. 50% off storewide), bad grammar and typos, and missing information from the website, such as a return policy page. 


Missed Delivery Scam Texts

Post-online holiday shopping, shoppers wait for their goodies to arrive, and scammers know this. A recent scam tactic involves scammers sending false delivery text messages containing malicious links. These links will likely lead you to a webpage asking for your personal information. Common signs that a delivery text message is fake–if the link you clicked on isn’t on the official domain of the delivery service or if the page asks for highly sensitive information to find your package. 


Fraudulent Social Media Ads

Scammers have begun creating fake social media ads that either lead to being sent a counterfeit item or nothing at all. Signs that a social media ad is fraudulent are similar to the warning signs of a copycat store. If the website of the social media ad looks off or has missing parts, then it may be a scam. A great way to check if the ad is legit is to look at the account that posted the ad. If the account has a low number of followers and little content, it could be a good indication that it is a scam.


Fake Coupon Sites

Many shoppers searching for holiday deals will turn to online coupons for extra savings at checkout. Upon downloading many online coupons, a quick survey is asked to fill out before access to the coupon. Scamming coupons will take you to a survey that will either ask for your personal information or could install malware on your device. A big red flag with this type of scam is if there is a quick survey asking for your private personal information. No coupon is worth losing your hard-earned money or your identity. 


Fake Giveaways

Fake holiday giveaways posted on social media may offer free gifts or cash, but that ‘gift’ comes at a cost, your personal information. To enter a giveaway, you should never have to give them information beyond your name and email. If a giveaway asks for more than that, it should be safe to assume this may be a scam. Some scammers may even create bot accounts to interact on social media more efficiently to scam more people.


Website Malware

Another way scammers are known to target online shoppers is by installing malware onto their target devices. Malware is typically encountered from malicious links sent via email or text. Once one of these links is clicked, victims are rerouted to fake websites. Effective ways to stave off malware are to keep your browsers updated, remain vigilant while shopping online, and look for indications of a fraudulent website. 


The holidays are a time of giving and celebration. Don’t let online scammers ruin your festive season! 

Written by Peter Burg

Peter Burg is Director of Business Development at AgileBlue, partnering with organizations who are looking for ways to make IT and cybersecurity work. Peter currently resides in Minnesota and is a big baseball fan.

December 14, 2022

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