Watch Out for These Scams This Holiday Season

The holiday season is in full swing, and scammers are seizing the opportunity to target unsuspecting consumers.

While you are finishing up your shopping and spending time with loved ones, watch out for the following scams to avoid entering the new year as a victim.

QR Codes

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently warned of a new scam involving QR codes – the black and white squares with smaller squares inside.

Scanning the code will take you to a unique website. QR codes appear on just about everything since the pandemic, from parking meters to posters to restaurant menus.

The FTC says that one of the most common scams involves the criminals covering up QR codes on parking meters with a scam code. The fake code directs victims to a website that could steal personal information or download malware on your device. The FTC also warns against QR codes that are sent randomly via text or email especially if the email or text:

  • Says that a package can’t be delivered and includes a link to reschedule
  • Says there is a problem with an online account and that you need to verify information
  • Says there is suspicious activity detected on your account and that you need to change your password

The FTC recommends that you inspect the URL to ensure it is real, particularly if the QR code is in an unexpected place. Ensure the URL is spelled correctly, as many scammers will switch the letters around, hoping consumers won’t notice. Also, don’t scan a QR code from a text message or email, especially if the sender is stressing urgency. If you think the code is legitimate, go to the company’s official website rather then scanning the code.

In addition, don’t download a QR code scanning device. Most built-in camera apps for Android and Apple already do that.

Gift Card Draining

Another scam that has popped up recently is what authorities call “card draining.”

The scam involves tampering with the bar code on a gift card; the scammers remove or record the code that is needed to activate the card, wait until it is activated, then use the card. Often, the money is drained within minutes.

To protect yourself and your gift recipient, take the following preventative measures:

  • Ensure the card is sealed and has not been tampered with. Inspect the protective cover and tape covering the PIN to make certain they’re intact.
  • Don’t buy gift cards from online auction sites. They could be stolen or counterfeit.
  • Keep your receipt in case the gift card is compromised.
  • If you purchased a gift card used by a scammer, report it to the gift card company. Request a freeze and refund.

Package Smishing

“Smishing,” a term that combines “SMS” and “phishing,” involves scammers sending unsolicited text messages in an attempt to obtain personal and banking information.

One type of smishing scam that pops up around the holidays is “package smishing.” In this scam, criminals send out emails and texts disguised as shipping and postal services. Many times, the sender indicates you need to update shipping information online, then you will be directed to a website to pay a “redelivery fee.” The scammers then have access to your personal information.

When in doubt, if you think there is a legitimate problem with your shipping information, contact the company directly.

The FTC also offers a few precautions you can take to avoid falling victim:

  • Look to see if others received the same text or email. If it was sent to multiple people, that is a red flag.
  • Be cautious of any text or email asking for personal information.
  • Be suspicious of any text or email stressing urgency.

You can also report any smishing messages to the United States Postal Service (USPS) by taking a screenshot and emailing it to (in this case, the email domain is correct – it stands for “United States Postal Inspection Service”) or to the FTC at

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