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Some things make an appearance every holiday season: bustling shopping malls, rows of homes strung with lights, office parties—and scams aimed at exploiting holiday shoppers and year-end donations. We’ve highlighted five common scams that can turn your season sour.

1. Too-Good-to-Be-True Travel Offers

A tropical getaway is always enticing as the chill of winter settles in, and that’s exactly what scammers hope will make you take the bait. However, what seems like a dream vacation could end up being a financial nightmare, since you’ll end up paying for a trip you can’t take. Be wise about the travel you book to avoid having your vacation dreams dashed.


  • Be skeptical of free trip offers.
  • Know what’s included in a package deal—get everything in writing.
  • Do your own travel research to verify the legitimacy of any deals.

2. Bogus Sales and Offers

As you shop your way through the holidays, be wary of deals that seem too good to be true—they often are. But it’s not just purchasing products that pose a risk; offers for services like credit repair or any other unknown sources that ask for your online credentials should be regarded with caution as well.


  • Stick to well-known retailers and providers, and buy directly from them whenever possible.
  • Watch out for look-alike websites. Check the web address for anything out of the ordinary like rewording or extra or misspelled words. Always look for the lock icon or a URL that begins with “https” before you click “Buy Now.”
  • Be suspicious of debit- or gift cards-only payment options or requests for P2P app payments.
  • Consider creating an email account specifically to use with online purchases to keep track of electronic receipts and protect other sensitive data from potential hacks.

3. Online Opportunists

Scammers, fraudsters and thieves don’t take a break for the holidays—in fact, some ramp up their activity. Stay vigilant this time of year and don’t let your guard down, because these con artists love launching email phishing attacks and social media scams year-round. With that in mind, be smart about what you’re sharing on social media this season as well. Posts about presents or winter travel plans can make you an attractive target for thieves or vandals.


  • Never share your travel plans on social media. While it can be tough to hide your excitement about a holiday trip, it's wise to reveal your plans only to those you trust. Letting the internet know you’ll be out of town puts you and your belongings at risk.
  • Be cautious of unexpected emails and social media messages you receive.
  • Pay close attention to any communication requesting money via wire as wire transfer fraud is on the rise.

4. Phony Prizes and Sweepstakes

“Congratulations! It’s your lucky day—you’ve won a car/cash/some other incredible prize,” or so the email says. It’s most likely you’re just one of the many people who received this spam email or saw this pop-up ad that’s trying to trick you into handing over personal information or money.


  • Never hand over any financial information or account numbers to individuals or companies you don’t know or trust.
  • Be especially wary of notices that begin with “Dear Sir,” or requests to pay fees or shipping charges.
  • Be suspicious of claims saying you won a contest you didn’t enter or of messaging that pressures you to act quickly.

5. Fake Charities

The holiday season is meant for giving, but be sure to validate any charity to which you choose to donate. For help, use services like the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator® or CharityWatch.


  • Ask for written information about the charity, so you can fact check.
  • Beware of sound-alike charities—look it up before donating. Note that some scams use a name that sounds similar to a well-known charity, and many often sound so similar, the spelling in the web address could be only slightly different from that of the legitimate charity.

At Navy Federal, we work to guard your finances from fraud—always keeping you and your financial protection in mind.

Partners in Security

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This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.