With the holiday season upon us, many Americans will be anxious to travel and visit loved ones, possibly for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic. Unfortunately, with scams linked to the pandemic continuing to affect millions of Americans, the holidays are no time to let your guard down. Here are scams that holiday travelers and shoppers should be on the lookout for.
Air travel has been a nightmare the past six months. With consumers spending hours on hold for customer service and dealing with vast cancellations and delays, travelers should be cautious when considering offers for accommodations, alternate travel arrangements, or other reimbursements—especially ones not coming from the original airline. Common scams — such as fake booking sites that take your money without providing the promised plane tickets, or free vacations that suspiciously ask for your credit card information — will be prevalent this season. Even in a rush to make alternate accommodations following a last-minute cancellation, it is important to remain wary of any suspicious offers, websites, or reimbursements.
Although COVID-19 has supercharged the growth of legitimate work-from-home employment, remote work scams have been around for decades. The combination of these factors has created what appears to be a distressing rise in fraudulent work-from-home “opportunities.” That’s why it’s important to fully vet any remote business opportunity before investing. Be especially careful when receiving offers from entities that you have not previously worked for, individuals who are unable to provide evidence for their earnings claims, and arrangements that seem too good to be true. These are common signs that the company making the offer is not acting in good faith.
Gift card resale scams
Gift cards are always a popular holiday gift. Scammers know this and have found a way to take advantage: gift card resale scams. Consumers should beware unsolicited offers of payment in exchange for the numbers on the back of a gift card. To reduce your risk of this scam, only accept payments for gift cards from trusted friends or family members. If you must sell a gift card to a stranger, using a known gift card exchange (such as Cardcash.com) can increase your chances of receiving legitimate offers. Anyone offering full dollar value (or higher) for a gift card is likely to be a fraudster.
Although there are a variety of scams out there, there are a few tried-and-true rules of thumb for avoiding scams, no matter what form they come in:
- Be suspicious of offers from strangers. The old adage that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is a great rule of thumb. Stick with the companies and individuals you have either already done business with or can otherwise verify their legitimacy. For example, compensation for a cancelled flight is likely to come from the original airline rather than an unknown user via Facebook direct message.
- Protect your information. Sensitive information should never be given out before verifying the identity and legitimacy of the recipient. Vetting an unsolicited work-from-home offer before sending your Social Security number or ensuring that gift card codes are being sent to a reputable exchange market are a couple preventive measures consumers can take.
- Do your research. Typically, legitimate offers can be easily verifiable. Contacting an airline directly to check the validity of compensatory travel or conducting a Google search of a company offering remote work are simple ways to prevent identity theft or monetary loss. Trust your instincts! If a site looks unusual or suspicious, if the URL contains a misspelled word, or if there are no outside references to this entity besides its own website, it’s probably best to stay away.
Be an ally in the fight against fraud! If you suspect that you or someone you know has become a victim of one of these scams or any other fraud, report it at once. You can file a complaint at Fraud.org via our online complaint form. We’ll share your complaint with our network of law enforcement and consumer protection agency partners who can investigate and help put fraudsters behind bars.