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8 Holiday Scams to Watch Out For, FBI Says in New Warning

Don't let your giving heart get you in trouble this year.

The holidays can be a hectic time, to say the least. Many of us are dedicated to finding the perfect gifts for our loved ones, and we spend hours scouring stores and websites for the best deals. But don't let your giving heart get you in trouble this year. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) just issued a new warning about criminals who are looking to take advantage of people trying to spread Christmas cheer. Read on to discover the eight holidays scams you need to watch out for.

RELATED: FBI Issues New Warning About the Latest Scams Designed to "Steal Your Money."

Scammers stole over $10 billion from victims last year.

A senior couple looking at a letter with a shocked expression on their faces
Shutterstock / fizkes

Your hard-earned money is at risk—especially during the holiday season. In 2022, the FBI's Internet Complaint Center (IC3) received a total of 800,944 reported complaints about online scams, with victims losing more than $10.3 billion in total.

And while the total number of complaints decreased by 5 percent compared to the year prior, criminals are managing to steal more money than ever from individuals. The amount lost last year "increased significantly" by 49 percent, according to the IC3 report.

The end of the year is a particularly problematic time. As the FBI explains on its website, the IC3 receives large volume of its complaints in the early months of each year. This suggests "a correlation with the previous holiday season's shopping scams," according to the agency.

RELATED: Scammers Are Targeting Older Adults in a Costly New Way, FBI Warns.

The FBI is urging people to be more cautious during the holiday season.


Ahead of Thanksgiving, the FBI sent out new warnings on Nov. 21 through two of its local branches in Texas. In its Houston alert, the agency urged people to "remain vigilant against criminals who care less about giving and more about stealing," as they start their holiday shopping. Those "looking for a good deal this holiday season need to be aware of aggressive and deceptive scams designed by criminals to steal money and personal information."

This is especially important in 2023, as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says retailers are expecting to see even more people shopping online this year.

"As you shop online during this holiday season, be careful about the smaller cyber scams run by individuals or groups looking to take your money during a time when all you want to do is provide the perfect gift for your family," John Morales, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI El Paso Field Office, said in a statement accompanying the agency's second alert. "The best thing you can do to be a savvy shopper is to know what scams are out there and take some basic precautions."

There are eight holiday scam tactics you should watch out for.

Shopping online during holidays. Man using laptop computer and credit card, ordering Christmas gifts. Shopping, internet banking, store online, payment, surprise, spending money, holidays concept

In its El Paso alert, the FBI shared that there are "certain red flags and common schemes" that holiday shoppers can watch out for and guard themselves against this holiday season. The agency listed eight common holiday scams that you might come across this year.

The first two fall under the "online shopping scams" umbrella.

"Scammers often offer too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing emails, texts, or advertisements," the FBI warned. "Such schemes may offer brand-name merchandise at extremely low prices or offer gift cards as an incentive."

Alongside this, you should also watch out for "untrustworthy sites" that are offering items with unrealistic discounts or special coupons. The products being sold may not be the same as the products advertised, or you could end up paying for something and inadvertently giving away personal information and credit card details, just to "receive nothing in return except a compromised or stolen identity," according to the agency.

Most people end up falling for social media shopping scams.


The next two holiday scam opportunities hit people through their social media feeds. These social media shopping schemes are reported by more victims than any of the others, according to the FBI.

"Consumers should beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards," the agency said, noting that they may show up in one of two ways: "Some may appear as holiday promotions or contests," the FBI cautioned. "Others may appear to be from known friends who have shared the link."

Either way, both scams lead to the same place, which is often an "online survey that is designed to steal personal information," according to the FBI.

"If you click an ad through a social media platform, do your due diligence to check the legitimacy of the website before providing credit card or personal information," the agency advised.

RELATED: 5 Biggest Mail Scams Happening Right Now—and How to Stay Safe.

But you should also be cautious about work-from-home and gift card schemes.

Gift cards on a display

There are other scams to watch out for. Many people are looking for work now in the hopes of making a little extra money for gifts. Unfortunately, scammers are all-too-aware of this, and will try to take advantage of it.

"Consumers should beware of sites and posts offering work they can do from home. These opportunities rely on convenience as a selling point but may have fraudulent intentions," the FBI said. "Consumers should carefully research the job posting and individuals or company offering employment."

Scammers may also try to get you through gift cards.

"During the holiday season, consumers should be careful if someone asks them to purchase gift cards for them," the agency warned. "In these scams, the victims received either a spoofed email, a spoofed phone call, or a spoofed text from a person in authority requesting the victim purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons."

One example of this common con may start with a fraudulent request urging you to "purchase gift cards for a work-related function or as a present for a special occasion," according to the FBI. "The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services, which may or may not be legitimate."

Don't forget about charity and seller scams, too.

Charity collecting tin against wooden background. American holiday fundraising

Charity fraud also "rises during the holiday season, when individuals seek to make end-of-year tax deductible gifts or are reminded of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause," the FBI warned. "Seasonal charity scams can pose greater difficulties in monitoring because of their widespread reach, limited duration and, when done over the Internet, minimal oversight."

With this type of scam, criminals will typically set up a fake charity to steal money from people who think they're making donations to a legitimate organization.

"Charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, email campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites," the FBI said. "They are designed to make it easy for victims to give money and feel like they're making a difference. Perpetrators may divert some or all the funds for their personal use, and those most in need will never see the donations."

In its Houston alert, the agency also alerted certain individuals to an eighth scam they may see during the holidays. According to the FBI, this con usually affects sellers—so if you're trying to get a little extra money this season by selling things through Facebook Marketplace or Etsy, make sure to be extra cautious as well.

"Keep an eye out for buyers who want items shipped before they will send payment, especially if those buyers use one name when communicating and another name or business for payment purposes," the agency warned. "Also, buyers who receive your merchandise and ask for a refund, but do not send the original merchandise back may be part of a larger fraud scheme."

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Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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