The 12 frauds of Christmas: Fraud prevention during the holiday season

The holiday season is a busy time of year when spending increases as people are entertaining and purchasing gifts. However, as spending increases, so does the risk of fraud.

During the holidays, we all get busy with the excitement and pressure of the season. We’re busy at work meeting our year-end deadlines, we’re busy shopping and we’re busy entertaining. Unbeknownst to many of us is that at the same time, scammers are busy trying to steal our money.

Holiday scams are often variations of the scams that occur throughout the year. However, with the hectic and rushed activity around the holidays and with more people buying online, especially those who are not internet savvy, there is a greater risk of losing money. Here are some typical seasonal scams, which I call, “The 12 frauds of Christmas.”

1. Gift card scams

When purchasing a gift card, make sure the card hasn’t been tampered with and that the value hasn’t been drained from the card. Be careful about buying cards from an auction or third-party website and beware of anyone who demands payment by a gift card.

2. Fake retail websites

Websites can be made to look legitimate, like Amazon, but malicious links will give scammers your personal data and credit card number.

3. Donation scams

Donation scams rely on phony websites that look like the real thing. Like the fake websites, be careful before clicking on any link that looks suspicious.

4. Travel scams

Everybody likes to go on a vacation, but if a travel offer looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you have just “won” a vacation but must pay a fee to redeem the winnings, watch out.

5. Letters from Santa

There are some retailers who legitimately sell letters from Santa to be sent to children and grandchildren. However, other nefarious organizations can steal your child’s identity which could lead to problems as they get older (such as a damaged credit score)

6. Data theft

Credit card numbers, bank account information and personal data can be stolen if someone uses public Wi-Fi. Avoid using public Wi-Fi when online shopping!

7. Free USB drives

USB drives are often added to gift baskets or given as a gift with purchase. They could have malware or viruses on them. Since they are inexpensive, buy them yourself and refuse them as a gift.

8. Fake holiday ecards

These could contain viruses, so make sure you don’t open any that you aren’t expecting and don’t provide any personal information to open these cards.

9. App scams

Apps can be fun, but what isn’t fun is if your phone gets hacked or infected with a virus. Download with caution!

10. Fake charities

Only donate to well-known and legitimate charities. You can determine if a charity is legitimate by referring to the Government of Canada’s List of Charities.

11. Malicious advertising

There can be malware embedded in online ads. If you click on an online ad, check the URL of the page you are redirected to in order to ensure it is a legitimate site.

12. Free-trial websites

In this case, you give out your credit card to get something for free. This sounds great, but isn’t. The next thing you know, you are being charged every month for this product that you probably don’t want or use.

Watch out for these types of scams this year, because it’s not nice when fraudsters are naughty!

Keep the conversation going

Have you experienced fraud over the holiday season or do you have any suggestions on how to prevent fraud during the holidays?  Post a comment below.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Bill Stephenson, CPA, CMA

Bill is a financial literacy volunteer with CPA Canada. He has broad experience in financial management, process improvement and assisting organizations that are undergoing transition. He has worked as both an accounting instructor and corporate trainer and is committed to promoting financial awareness and education. He can be reached at: