The end-of-year holiday season is a busy time filled with plenty of shopping and last-minute gift purchases. Unfortunately, this makes it a ripe period for scammers to strike.

To keep you and your personal details safe from scammers, we're going to take a look at the types of scams that are floating around during the end-of-year holiday period and what you can do to stay safe from scammers.

Just remember that if you need support or someone to talk to, our Sonder support team is available 24/7 to chat whenever you need it.

Types of online end-of-year holiday season scams

The Look-Alike website and online shopping scams

Scammers make fake websites that look very believable and legitimate in an attempt to trick people who are shopping online. While these fakes may look legit, there are several signs that give it away that it's not real, such as the website URL being slightly different or having typos or additional numbers and letters. Verify the legitimacy of websites by checking the following:

  • A Website Trust Seal (such as a certificate authority).

  • Padlock with HTTPS.

  • Check the contact page and see if they have a physical address or registered email that is not generic.

  • Any spelling or grammatical mistakes in the URL or throughout the page.

  • Inspect the URL by copying and pasting the URL into another tab.

  • Know the obvious signs of website malware - these include web defacement attacks, suspicious pop-ups and advertisements that attempt to entice you to click on them.

In addition to convincing fake websites, scammers also post fake classified ads and auction listings. These ads and auctions are usually for in-demand items (such as pets and smart devices) that are advertised for unusually low prices. If it's too good to be true, it almost certainly is!

Puppy scams

This scam is exactly what it says on the tin - Scammers post up fake ads pretending to sell a ridiculously cute puppy, only for people to get their personal and financial information stolen when they fall for the ad. Puppy scams have several red flags, including:

  • Ads offering puppies for sale at discounted prices - if it's too good to be true then it almost certainly is.

  • Asking for money upfront to cover the cost of shipping, insurance, and vaccinations.

  • Asking for a "freight fee" or identifying information such as copies of your driver's licence, passport or bank details.

Missing parcel scams

Australians are predicted to send and receive millions of parcels during the holidays. If you are expecting a parcel from family or friends, it’s important to be aware of scams involving parcel collection.

Scammers may call or email pretending to be from a logistics or parcel delivery service, such as Australia Post, claiming that a non-existent parcel could not be delivered to you. They will offer to redeliver the parcel in exchange for a fee and may also ask for personal details.

If you are in doubt about the authenticity of a parcel delivery call or email, don’t commit to anything. Call the company directly using their official customer service number to verify that it is genuine. Never use contact details provided by the caller or in an email. If you think you have provided your banking or credit card details to a scammer contact your bank or financial institution immediately.

Gift-giving pyramid schemes

These are those "buy one gift and receive several in return" offers that sound enticing but are actually illegal pyramid schemes. Also known as ‘Secret Sister’ exchanges, the scammer sends you phishing emails, e-cards, or social media messages with an attractive invitation in an attempt to steal your personal and financial information.

Fake job posting scams

Scammers take advantage of eager job searchers by creating fake employment postings aimed at stealing money and personal information from applicants. These cybercriminals ask for your private details upfront and even request that you pay for job training or equipment materials before “starting the job”.

Travel phishing and holiday accommodation scams

Many people spend time planning their next big adventure, especially with great deals available on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As such, people are vulnerable to fake travel and holiday accommodation "offers" that are too good to be true (which they are).

Scammers will use social engineering attacks like phishing scams to create highly appealing “deals” through fake emails and text messages. Also keep an eye out for fake accommodation vouchers, scam travel clubs and scammers asking you to pay upfront deposits for properties that aren’t actually available for rent.

Flight booking scams

Scammers set up fake flight booking websites which look genuine and make you believe you are purchasing an authentic flight ticket. When you arrive at the airport you may find your booking was fake. Make sure you:

  • Always book flights through a legitimate travel agent, airline, flight booking or travel website.

  • Be cautious when deciding to purchase very cheap airfares – if it looks too good to be true then it may be a scam.

  • Check that the ABN quoted on a flight booking website is genuinely registered to the trader named on the site. You can look up an ABN on the Australian Government’s website.

Charity scams

Many legitimate charities appeal for donations of money, food, clothing and children’s gifts during the holiday season. Unfortunately, scammers will piggyback off this goodwill by disguising themselves as genuine charities.

Beware that scam charity emails and websites may use official-looking logos and words which make them look genuine. Always check that a website is legitimate before donating. Don't rely on any phone number or website address given by the person who first called, visited or emailed you. Independently search for the charity name online as many scams can be identified this way.

What you can do to stay safe

We've gone through several scams and it may feel a bit overwhelming. Don't worry, we hear ya! As scammers operate in similar patterns and methods, there are several things you can do to protect yourself and your information from cybercriminals:

  • Never provide your credit card details and other personal information to someone you don’t know or trust.

  • Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order or international wire transfer. Scammers will ask you to pay outside of the website’s official payment systems.

  • Always check travel offers are legitimate before you sign up. Search the wording of the offer or the company name on the web as many scams can be identified this way.

    • Before buying holiday or accommodation vouchers, check with the hotel that they are genuine and will be honoured during the period that you intend on using them.

  • Use a search engine to find information and reviews before buying from an unknown vendor.

  • Don't respond to unsolicited communication, especially if it involves requests for money or personal information. If you're in doubt, call or email the company or service yourself.

  • Avoid links in unsolicited emails and text messages.

  • Be suspicious of investment opportunities and offers that seem too good to be true.

  • Never provide remote access to your computer to anyone.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: ABC, Scamwatch, and Trend Micro

Image credit: cottonbro studio at Pexels

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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