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The top holiday scams of 2022 and how to protect yourself

Holiday fraud and how to protect yourself against identity theft.

23 December 2022Tassie Milne 3 min read
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Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

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The holidays are all about giving, but for some, it’s a season for taking. Unfortunately, scammers are out in full force at this time of year and it’s important to be aware of the holiday scams that fraudsters have up their sleeves.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has released a list of the most popular scams to look out for this year, so you can protect yourself. Let’s take a look.

Ever received a message from a random number posing to be a bank or Canada Post? It usually asks you to confirm personal information or click a link in a timely manner to claim a prize. There are many forms to this scam, so the best thing to do is delete and report phishing messages right away. Responding in any way could lead you to disclose personal information or clicking a malicious link, which fraudsters will then use to commit their crimes.

If ever in doubt, confirm the insitution’s number to make sure it’s legitimate and give them a call to verify its identity before responding. Learn more about how to protect yourself online.

If a number you don’t recognize texts you claiming to be a loved one, stay on high alert. The holidays may be a popular time to get a new phone, but that doesn’t mean you should take their word for it. If a ‘loved one’ follows up with a request to borrow money, be sure to confirm their identity before sending any funds. It’s as easy as asking them to give you a call so that you can hear their voice. If they can’t call, assume they are a stranger until you can confirm otherwise. Don’t share any information about yourself until you’ve proven the identity of the texter.

If a deal sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Counterfeit merchandise is at a height during the holidays, especially online. So if you come across any undeniable finds, don’t take the bait. Be sure to confirm the product you’re buying is what you think it is. A quick Google search can also help determine if the retailer has a good or terrible reputation on the Better Business Bureau.

Have you ever participated in a Secret Santa gift exchange? Well apparently scammers have introduced a new way to play via social media. Unfortunately, there are no prizes to be won because it’s likely a pyramid scheme, which is illegal in Canada. If anyone invites you to play the online version by buying gift cards or sending money to an account, stay away.

If you're the seller, make sure you’re being paid from a legitimate source. A lot of scammers offer payments higher than their total to trick you into accepting phony funds. Always confirm that you've received your money before shipping or handing out products to a customer. If you’re the customer, treat any gift cards you have like cash and never give them up under pressure.

The holidays are a time to give. Unfortunately, some fraudsters leverage your generosity to take away when you donate to charity. They do this by soliciting donations to fake organizations, associations, federations, or religious causes. If approached for a donation in person, make sure to do your research before giving away any money. Ask for written information about the charity and verify that it’s registered with the Canada Revenue Agency by calling 1-800-267-2384. Do not give out your personal information and walk away if the representative continues to use high-pressure tactics on you to persuade you to give on impulse.

With all the extra spending, the holidays are unfortunately a prime time for scammers to commit identity theft. Review your financial statements and see if you have been charged any tiny amounts like $0.01. This is a test charge scammers make to verify access to your funds without alarming you. If you do spot a small charge, report it to your bank immediately.

The holidays are a great time to check and review your credit report, too. You can get your credit report and credit score for free with ClearScore. Once you have it, look for any suspicious activity, like any unauthorized credit accounts being opened in your name. Notify the credit bureaus of the activity (here’s how to contact TransUnion and Equifax).

If you recognize any of the scams above and believe you may be affected, you can report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre online or by phone at 1-888-495-8501. Armed with these tips, we hope you have a happy and fraud-free holiday season.

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Written by Tassie Milne

General Manager - ClearScore Canada

Tassie heads up ClearScore Canada. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young boys. In her free time, she can be found at the family lake house or playing ball hockey.