Scammers Make the Naughty List Targeting Last Minute Shoppers

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The countdown to Christmas is well and truly on. With just under a week to go until the big day arrives, many families are checking their lists twice, still scouring the internet for deals on gifts that (hopefully) will grace their doorsteps by Christmas. 

However, massive discounts aren't the only thing you should keep on the lookout for. Scams are rife around the holidays, and this year is no different. Scammers love the lead-up to Christmas because they’re able to use the increased volume of emails and texts from major retailers to their advantage. All it takes is one email or SMS scam to lead you to a fake site, putting you and your financial safety at risk. 

Worried concerned girl in Christmas Santa hat having problems with payment by credit card online for New Year purchases, looking at smartphone screen with puzzled face. Scam, fraud concept

Image: fizkes, iStock

Last year, Australian mobile network Telstra blocked around 66% more scams in November and December compared to the previous three months. From January to November this year, Aussies already lost over $7 million, and this number is only expected to increase as we reach the Christmas rush and post-holiday sales. 

In the US, the FTC issued a consumer alert about fake emails and text messages targeting holiday shoppers. Darren Pauli, Telstra’s Cyber Security Expert, warns that people should remain extra vigilant during this time of year. Here's what he says to look out for:

Beware of deceptive QR codes – there’s currently a spike in email scams using QR codes to direct consumers to fake websites.

Avoid engaging with fake emails and SMS – fake emails and SMS scams are getting progressively more sophisticated. Some are even using AI to correct the bad grammar and spelling errors we associate with scams. These fraudsters know that the last-minute Christmas chaos means you might not notice a legit-looking email with a fake URL. Always double-check the URL and sender, and don’t click on any attachments or URLs if you think it might not be 100% safe.

Ignore impersonation scams – scammers will target people by pretending to be a well-known courier like UPS, and inform them that their parcel is delayed because they haven't paid a fee or their address is incorrect. They might also contact you pretending to be from a bank or a reputable brand, offering a discount or asking you to change your password via the provided link.

Pay attention to payment methods – Alarm bells should sound if you are asked to pay for the goods in your cart with gift cards or any method that offers less purchase protection (like direct deposit).

What to do if you get a scam text or email

If you get a message that you think may be a scam, here's what the FTC recommends you do:

  • Don't click: Avoid clicking on any links in unexpected package delivery messages. If in doubt, refrain from clicking.
  • Go to the source: To verify the legitimacy of such messages, reach out to the shipping company through a known and trusted phone number or their official website. Avoid using any contact information provided in the message itself.
  • Check your order history: If you suspect the message pertains to a recent order, visit the website where you made the purchase to check the status of your shipment.
  • Safeguard your personal information year-round. Explore FTC resources to help you identify and combat spam text messages, phishing emails, and unwarranted calls.
Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

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