Rebecca Garland
Business and Education Expert

Christmas 2022 is quickly approaching and families are excited to celebrate. Holiday lights and displays are popping up in stores and neighborhoods. Christmas music is playing, people are decorating trees, purchasing gifts at the best Christmas deals, and wrapping them.

We all want to enjoy a traditional Christmas pastime with friends and families, but some are planning to take advantage of others in the hustle and bustle of the season. Every year there are new Christmas scams to watch for, and this year is no exception.

As you celebrate the season, always be vigilant and avoid the top Christmas scams of 2022. We’ve outlined the top frauds to watch for below

Top 7 Christmas Scams

Below is a list of the most common Christmas scam 2022 has to offer.

1. Gift Card Scams

Technology can be hard to beat sometimes, especially when someone is willing to use it to take advantage of Christmas deals. When someone unethical finds a way to steal serial numbers and barcodes from gift cards, they don’t need the actual card you purchased as Christmas gifts – they have all they need to access the funds. 

Of course, in the case of faulty delivery, thieves can have easy access to gift cards. In their Christmas review, one Amazon customer complained that their package was delivered by a “flex-driver” who left the package on the windshield of the car “within a foot of a public road.”

The package contained gift cards as Christmas gifts and wasn’t placed safely by the door as typical Amazon package deliveries are. While frustrated in their Christmas complaint about the possibility of theft, in this situation, fortunately, the customer was able to retrieve their package quickly.

How to stay safe: In the case of hackers on a retail network, there aren’t many individual buyers can do if they want to give a present of money for Christmas Day. One thought might be to buy items instead of gift cards and include gift receipts for exchanges. Another idea might be to simply give cash on Christmas Day instead of a gift card to avoid any technology that might be susceptible to hackers. 

Consider also buying gift cards in person to take advantage of Christmas deals without risking them being lost or taken in the mail. And if you do order gift cards through the mail, be sure you’re home to grab the mail or packages as soon as it is delivered. Don’t let mail with gift cards pile up while you’re on Christmas vacation, for example.

2. Social Media Gift Exchange Scams

The most common social media gift exchange preys on our good intentions. The scheme works like this: you join a “Secret Sister” or “Secret Santa” group. You give the group your personal information and invite other friends to join – the more members, the better! Then, you are supposed to buy gifts for certain folks, and in return, you’ll be getting potentially dozens of gifts sent to you! 

Of course, it only works because you have recruited more people to play after you, ensuring you get things, but they might not. While this sounds like a fun game to play during the holidays that might help boost your gift count, the BBB calls social media gift exchanges like this an illegal pyramid scheme, and the U.S. Postal service considers it gambling. If you participate, you can be charged with mail fraud with its associated fines and potential jail time.

Secret Sister scam alert

How to stay safe: If you are invited to join a gift exchange system like this with strangers online, ignore the invite or report it. Never give your information out through links online and focus on a gift exchange circle with your close friends and family instead.

3. Social Media Networks Giveaways 

Holiday giveaways are great promotions for companies, and they can land you a great deal or even a free item. Scammers know this and might create fake giveaways that look legitimate to try and collect personal information. 

If you are invited to participate in raffles or giveaways, you may be offered free coupons and gift cards. You will likely be given a link to a new page where the giveaway is happening. These might be fake social media pages for celebrities or popular brands. Once you interact with the page, you may be prompted to sign up with your personal information or asked to include your credit card information for free shipping on the item you “won.”

How to stay safe: To avoid this scam, simply be on the lookout for things that seem too good to be true. If it seems too good, it probably is. Some companies do offer legitimate giveaways, so you don’t need to skip every event or raffle. Just be sure you are on the company’s actual page and that you haven’t been redirected or sent to a new site. You should be able to find applicable terms and conditions on the official company’s website or social media page as well.

4. Fake Shipping Notification Emails

The holidays are a busy time for shipping. Scammers take advantage of the volume by trying to sneak a bit of extra information from you through shipping notifications. This usually shows up as an email from a “company” about a “shipping or delivery issue.” 

When customers click on the link provided in the email to resolve the “issue,” they are taken to a website where they are asked to provide personal information or login details for sites where they have stored payment information like Amazon or eBay. The scammer then can order items on their dime and have them sent to them instead of the card holder.

Below you can find an example of such a fake shipping email. Pay attention to the link. It is not a valid UPS link:

Fake UPS delivery

How to stay safe: The best way to protect yourself from fake delivery notifications and their attempts to steal your login or personal information is not to interact with them. If a company is having trouble sending you your items, you should be able to log into your account on that company’s website and find the information you need to resolve. Don’t click on anything in an email about shipping issues. Instead, visit the site directly and log in to see if there is something you need to resolve.

5. Deceptive, Fake, or Low-Quality Products

Mistakes happen, but when you’re trying to take advantage of a great Christmas sale, you like to imagine everyone on both sides of the transaction is working in good faith. In some cases, however, there may be misleading practices that entice customers into buying gifts, food, services, or Christmas decorations that are broken or lower quality than advertisements led customers to expect. Issues with promised or expected quality don’t just happen with Christmas shopping online. Problems can pop up in all areas of the holidays. 

In her Christmas complaint #4115429, one mother explains that she ordered items from a store that arrived incorrectly and then were never replaced. She states that she ordered items for her daughter’s Christmas gift ideas, but the items were “all the wrong size.”

When she sent them back, many of the items were back-ordered and she was never sent a refund or a store credit gift card to make up the price difference. The consumer in this case was frustrated by the perils of Christmas shopping online – bad sizing, bad delivery, and a lack of refund.

Christmas gift card customer review

How to stay safe: Before you jump into a Christmas sale on a new website or online store, see what others have to say. PissedConsumer.com has thousands of reviews from customers who share their experiences with online shopping.

Whether you’re shopping for new Christmas decorations or the perfect Christmas gift, it’s important to protect yourself. Learn about a vendor by reading reviews and complaints before you order those new Christmas ornaments. It’s worth checking out to be sure that the ugly Christmas sweater you’re ordering is ugly for all the right reasons!

6. Delivery Scams

If you’re doing your Christmas shopping online this year, be sure you’re working with reputable vendors. Delivery scams can happen when customers use Christmas shopping online to buy items coming from vendors who aren’t entirely ethical. This might happen when you buy Christmas decorations or gifts from a website, and then the items simply never arrive. Or, you try to take advantage of a Christmas sale, and there are suddenly problems that arise after the company has your money but before you have your products. 

Some delivery scams take advantage of those doing their Christmas shopping online. Boxes arrive, and homeowners assume they are Christmas gifts, only to discover they are items that they never ordered. In their Christmas complaint, one homeowner experienced exactly this. She received a box that they thought was something they ordered through a Christmas sale for a gift.

Instead of Christmas decorations or other gifts, it contained women’s clothing from Shein, a site she had not ordered through. Since she did not order the items and the box was clearly labeled for her at her address, she is worried that the whole situation “could be scam.”
delivery scam customer review

How to stay safe: Delivery scams happen when companies deliberately don’t ship items or perhaps send the wrong thing. The best way to avoid issues like these is to work with stores and companies you are familiar with and trust. Stores that have been established for years will have safer delivery policies. 

If you want to try a new store for some Christmas gift ideas, do a quick search on the PissedConsumer website to see if others have had issues with delivery. If one person is being scammed, there will almost certainly be others with the same experience. 

7. Charity Scams

Unfortunately, there are those who would prey on the generosity of others. Be on the lookout for charity scams as you are popping into the local Christmas tree shop or when fielding phone calls or checking your emails. Charity scams rely on the generosity of others by soliciting donations to a particular charity cause when the scammers are just pocketing the money.

Some charity frauds are straightforward with someone collecting money with a sign or official banners near popular Christmas shopping locations. Others are more complex and involve calling or emailing victims and requesting donations to help buy Christmas gifts for the less fortunate or other ploys that rely on the victim’s goodwill. Some might offer a small “gift” like Christmas ornaments or a certificate for your “donation.”

While there are complex charity scams, some are much simpler. For example, a common Christmas complaint on Reddit is about parents asking for gift donations for their children. While there is a thread asking parents to do this, one poster recently called out would-be scammers for asking for gifts in multiple locations or even being complete scammers.

He explains that “This mentality is disgusting,” and warns posters that “we check your post history, even after we gift you” in an effort to catch scammers because, according to the poster, some “show up on Reddit with a sob story, get their goodies from one sub and then jump to others to rack up more.”

charity scams warning

How to stay safe: Before donating any money to charities, be sure that you are working with an actual charity organization. Check for a website. If you receive an email or phone call, check for the URL of the email address or the phone number on the official website. Even better, call the number or visit the charity directly through the links and information provided on the website rather than encouraging random, unknown solicitations. 

If you want to help the less fortunate in your area, consider working with a church or local organization to get Christmas shopping ideas for local families in need rather than donating to a charity organization you haven’t worked with previously.

How to Stay Safe While Shopping During Christmas 2022

Stay Vigilant

Christmas deals usually look very enticing but, do not drop your guard. Avoid any suspicious and too-good-to-be-true offers.

Only Shop on Secure Websites

Websites that have https at the beginning of the URL are generally secure. If the URL has http without S, it is likely that if you provide your personal information and credit card details, they will be accessible to hackers.

Only Use One Credit Card

Using a prepaid card or a credit card with a low limit will allow you to do your online holiday shopping a tad easier and safer. It will also simplify things as you will only have one account to monitor for unusual activity. Also, it is recommended to avoid using a debit card for your online purchases. This is because, in the event of a scam, the card issuer will have to fight to get its money while if a scam involves your debit card, you will be the one trying to get your money back. 

Do Your Homework

There is a handy way to determine how long a website has been in existence and whether it was thrown up a couple of days ago to hit on seasonal shoppers. In the address bar, type “site:” and then the name of the company you want to check. For example, if you wanted to check out Pissed Consumer, you would need to type “site:pissedconsumer.com”. Once you hit enter, you will get all the pages that Google has indexed. If the company is old, you will get 100s or even 1000s of pages indexed. Click on the “search tools” > “Any Time” > “Custom Range” (“Any Time” scroll-down menu). You will be able to search a range of dates. 

Shop Early

Last-minute shopping does not leave you with many choices so you will probably end up buying the first thing that pops out. This makes you rush things and not focus on identifying red flags and tell-tale signs of Christmas fraud. To escape frustration, it is better to start shopping before the big rush.

Check Online Reviews

This applies whether you are shopping on a well-known platform or a newer platform. You will easily find the top complaints about the company and hence be able to determine if the company is legitimate. It is advisable to check various review websites to get a clear sense of the company’s reliability. Also, search for “company’s name + scam” to see any reported cases of scams about the company.

Verify the Offer

Reach out to a company’s customer service to verify any suspicious offer you may come across. If you are uncertain about a particular deal, contact the company’s customer service to ascertain it.

Install Antivirus

As long as the antivirus software on your computer and phone is up to date, it will catch any malware and viruses before they can infect your device. Some antiviruses will even warn you about suspicious links and websites before opening them.

How to Find Legit Christmas Deals

Below are  tips to help you find legit Christmas offers in 2021:

Follow Your Favorite Stores on Social Media

Most businesses have legit sales and promotions during the holidays that are posted exclusively on their social media pages or through their newsletters. Follow their official social media pages and sign up for their newsletters to be in the know about ongoing deals.

Use Coupon Codes

Coupon codes can help you save up to 15% on your Christmas shopping. There are numerous shopping apps and websites that offer legit coupon codes. Before you check out an order, check if there are any coupon codes online. If the coupon code has a specific validity date, wait for the right day to complete your transaction.

Leverage on Free Shipping Promos

Most stores offer free shipping all year round on a given minimum order amount. Get clear about what you would like to buy then check various stores to see if you can find most of the items in one store. This will increase your chances of reaching the minimum required amount to be eligible for free shipping. Another option for saving on shipping costs is to buy online but opt for at-the-store pick-up.

Beat Dynamic Pricing Strategies

Some retailers use cookies to track your browsing history and location hence increasing your prices. To outsmart this pricing strategy, clear your browsing history, delete cookies, and switch to incognito mode.

Install Cashback Apps

Cashback apps such as Rakuten partner with online stores to offer customers a rebate on the total purchase amount. Although the rebate amount per purchase may seem insignificant, over time it adds up.

Alternatively, if you are a frequent shopper at a given store throughout the year, it is a great idea to join their rewards program. You may be eligible for some discounts towards the end of the year.

Christmas is a joyful time of year for most families, but there are those who seek to take advantage of others. Keep your holiday merry and bright by staying alert and avoiding the sorts of Christmas scams that might otherwise diminish the fun this holiday season.

Rebecca Garland
Business and Education Expert

Rebecca Garland, M.S. is a business and education writer. She holds secondary teaching certifications in six areas, has a degree in Business, and earned a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. As an expert, Rebecca has been working with international clients since 2005.

Legal disclaimers:

1. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide any legal, medical, accounting, investment or any other professional advice as individual cases may vary and should be discussed with a corresponding expert and/or an attorney.

2. All or some image copyright belongs to the original owner(s). No copyright infringement intended.