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The Student News Site of Oakmont Regional High School

The Oakmonitor

The Student News Site of Oakmont Regional High School

The Oakmonitor

Top 5 Holiday Scams To Be Aware of

In 2023, there are more ways to be scammed than universes and futures Dr. Strange can look into. According to the FBI’s official website, 280+ million dollars were lost to scams. Some scams don’t take that much money, whereas others can drain your bank balance.

Scams can take many forms. Some can pose as legitimate corporations (like Amazon, eBay,  and even Costco). Others  even try to pose as your bank(s) or ISPs (Internet service providers). Scams don’t always necessarily go for money, as many scams are for phishing, to get passwords or IP addresses.

This is a form of a spoofing attack where they send you a malicious email link, that once you click on, could download malware on your machine that could spread over your LAN (basically your wifi network). But if it’s not malware, it’s a website that will steal your password once you enter it. Some advanced phishing websites can often redirect you to legitimate pages. 

AI has also been reportedly improving AI phishing, as some language models can improve the illegitimate messages they send and make them seem more legitimate.

But back to the main topic, which is the holidays. As I’m writing this, Christmas is just around the corner. With that being said, here are the top 5 holiday scams you and your family/friends need to keep a close eye on.

  • Gift Card scams

Gift Card scams have been around for some time now. They can happen in many ways. A common example could be that after “Tech Support” refunds you 1,200 dollars instead of $120, you need to pay them back $1,080 or else the guy will get fired by his supervisor and he won’t be able to feed his family. Another example could be the IRS of another government agency calling you that you need to pay off some debt and they just happen to accept gift cards.

If you’ve ever been in a CVS, Hannaford, Walmart, or any other store with a moderately sized gift card section, you might notice a sign that says something along the lines of “Beware of gift card scams ‘. 

If my previous words haven’t said enough yet, you also might want to consider the fact that CNBC stated that over 48,000 consumers have reported at least some sort of suspicious gift card activity and that over 225 million had gone into the pockets of gift card scammers alike.

  • Package scams

Package scams can be notoriously difficult to sniff out during the holiday season. This is for a really interesting yet simple reason.

If you think about it, many parents/families may be ordering lots of packages online (for example, let’s just say Amazon, a relatively credible company). 

If one day a random email/text pops up on your notifications claiming to be Amazon about anything between the lines of a delivery error/delay, a package needing signing, etc., you might read it for a moment and believe it’s legit.

Of course, it wouldn’t be in reality, and you could end up leaking your personal information. And as far as a list of names goes, credible company names like Amazon to UPS and many in between have many scams claiming to be legit companies.

A good measure to protect yourself from these messages is to avoid directly clicking on links sent to you from your Email / Text app, open a new page in your browser, and then look. If it turns out that none of your packages were being delayed once you checked the real Amazon, then you just avoided a scam.

Plus, if you get a shady text message from a random number, containing broken English and Spelling with a random URL attached to it, your common senses should kick in harder than Peter Parker’s Spidey Senses and should tell you to block that faster scam than Al Horford can block a layup.

  • AI scams

Perhaps a very alarming new reality. AI has been improving drastically over the years. 

AI has been improving so much that a concerning new scam going around is riding the lines of a deep fake scam.

Scammers, some armed with the help of AI, can impersonate the voice of people you know using audio recordings/clips of their voice, according to a CBS article. Some advanced AI algorithms can even upscale the quality of the sound, making it seem all the more legitimate.  

A good countermeasure for this is to refrain from answering Unknown callers and not responding to spam/scam calls or texts. And if a person you know asks you for money out of the blue and something seems off, hang up, and have them confirm it to you, face to face.

In other words, common sense can save you 8 / 10 times here.

After all, CBS also stated that almost $10 billion had been lost to this kind of fraud. That data was from 2022, where from then until now, AI had a big development jump. So you can just imagine what those numbers could look like next year.

To add a side note, another good countermeasure for this that you can take is to limit the amount of data you share on social media publicly. The platforms/devs already have some of your info, but there are data privacy and protection laws and standards they must follow.

  • Charity scams

During the holiday season, generosity is a big theme. Many cultures/styles of Christmas value being kind and generous, by giving to those who cannot help themselves.

But, since scammers lack both the honesty and integrity to get a real job it’s evident they’d get in on the holiday charity game.

According to many credible online sources, many illegitimate charity organizations claim to give around 80 to 100% of their funds to good causes. Yet, some leaked or unearthed documents suggest that less than 25% goes somewhere, while the other 75% + gets put to vague things like “administration costs”.

In other words, imagine scam charities like a pool. When you throw your money in, it all floats around, and you have to trust the people in there to put it in the right place. And if it’s a GoFundMe, you might as well not even bother reading it.

But since these scams and others alike are spreading faster than the Black Death, it’s best to be very cautious when donating generous amounts of cash,

And I’m not denying all charities of legitimacy.  For example, the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is in the upper echelons of legit charities. And there are many other charities out there that are legit. But, a bad apple (or batch of apples) can ruin the bunch.

One could say that a good piece of advice would be to thoroughly check and read into things like legitimacy and where funds come from and go to. The Better Business Bureau and even a Google search can say plenty, so you don’t need to dig up more dirt than an excavator or an angry teenager who was given social media. 

  • Social Media scams

Social media is very prevalent in modern-day life. With that being said, many people on social media are promoting all sorts of scams ranging from fake giveaways to borderline pyramid schemes. But in this article, the giveaway scams are going to be the main focus.

According to a Federal Trade Commission article, social media is the perfect outlet for scammers to deceive the public to buy into their schemes and lose money/information with it. Nearly 1 in 4 people who lost money to fraud in the last 3 years say that social media had been involved.

Some common scams may include fake giveaways, promo, or just flat-out clickbait. For example, I have seen many sketchy holiday giveaways on the internet (more specifically social media and YouTube), where they claim that all you have to do is follow them and then do some sort of survey/poll for marketing purposes, that requires a suspicious amount of personal information.

Since the holidays are just around the corner, scammers get into the generous Christmas spirit to host an illegitimate giveaway for things like a new high-end Gaming Console/gaming PC, gift cards, some crypto, or even a trip (in case you didn’t notice, there is a common theme of gift cards involved in scams).

All of these scams can work on some for a couple of reasons: people are busy during the holidays and often look over to the internet to do the heavy lifting for them (courtesy of online shopping). Some people therefore are busy to the point where they may not read into suspicious messages, and fall victim to these scams. Or, in the case of charities, gullible old Grandmas might not always consider whether it’s a scam or not, and give $450 to a charity they had no clue was a scam.

In conclusion, despite the holidays being a fun time of the year to celebrate, it’s also a dangerous and unpredictable time for scams, as they are hiding around every corner of the internet, no matter how obscure or mainstream. But when using standard internet hygiene practices and using common sense when analyzing suspicious emails, you can stay safe online.

With all of that being said, happy holidays to everyone reading, and stay safe online.

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About the Contributor
Harris Morand, Reporter
Harrison Morand is a Sophomore in the Oakmont class of 2026. This is his 2nd year of being in The Oakmonitor. Harrison is also a Political Discussion Club and Debate Club member and enjoys Tech Ed classes. As an honors student, he also swims, runs Track, and likes being outdoors. He works at Market Basket for a weekend job and is in his 2nd year there. Topics like gaming, IT/programming, and work influence his writing. He hopes to contribute to the Oakmonitor with his skills in writing.

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