Top 5 Online Scams to Avoid this Holiday Shopping Season

Dennis Faas's picture

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday officially behind us, Christmas is fast approaching. As such, online scamsters are working overtime to swindle as many victims as possible in response to the increased online traffic that comes with the bustling holiday season.

Responding to the issue is the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), Better Business Bureau (BBB), and security software companies McAfee and F-Secure, which have all offered their take on the five most pertinent scams that online shoppers will face this year.

Scam #1: The Free iPad

It seems as if iPad-related scams began popping up from the moment the Apple tablet was released last spring.

While common sense would indicate that the deal is too good to be true, it is amazing how many people still take the offer at face value. While "Free iPad" advertisements have since been banned from Facebook, similar scams might still be offered on rogue websites. Don't fall for it.

Scam #2: The Free $1,000 Gift Card

Hackers continue to entice people into filling out online forms and quizzes in exchange for 'free' $1,000 gift cards to various retail outlets. While under the guise of a harmless questionnaire, the personal information provided on these forms is later sold to marketers and are often used to facilitate identity theft.

Scam #3: Bogus Auctions and Classifieds

This is a new trick that, as the FBI is warns, is particularly devious. On a number of auction and classified sites, fraudsters are implementing their own order forms to get payment details from holiday shoppers.

Here is where it gets a bit confusing: the fraudster still charges the credit card of the victims, but uses a stolen credit card to purchase the actual item. In other words, the victim will still get their product, but might be liable for receiving stolen goods. Fortunately, this scam is avoidable by using legitimate payment services like Paypal instead of providing money directly to the seller. (Source:

We also suggest you stay clear of the "Penny Auction" websites, as many of them are nothing but scams designed to drain your money. More info on that here.

Scam #4: Malicious Websites

Spamming Google with fake holiday gift pages is becoming an annual tradition for hackers. These pages can be riddled with malware or bogus payment forms intended to steal identities. F-Secure has released a number of popular "hit words" shoppers should be careful researching this year, including: Kinect for Xbox, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad. (Source:

F-Secure also warns individuals to check for "https" in the URL bar before ordering online to ensure safety and security.

Scam #5:WiFi Hackers

Those traveling this holiday season are most likely to be victims of WiFi-related hacks. This is especially true with Google once again planning to offer free WiFi service on domestic flights from three major airlines. Individuals are warned to avoid shopping and paying bills when using an unsecured WiFi connection.

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