Holiday-themed image with miniature Christmas trees and presents next to a laptop and a person scrolling through their smartphone.

Holiday Shopping Scams

Scammers Try to Steal Deals Too!

With more people shopping online this year, the FBI advises that shoppers should stay vigilant and be aware of potential scams. One of the best ways to protect yourself and your wallet is to practice good cybersecurity hygiene.

  • Don't click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on a website, or on social media. Phishing scams and similar crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device.
  • Be wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company's phone number on your own and call the company. If the deal from an unknown seller looks too good to be true it may be a scam, so do your due diligence. 

Common Scams

Phishing Emails

Scammers often offer too-good-to-be-true deals via phishing emails or advertisements. Oftentimes they look like they come from legitimate companies you may do business with, but they lead you to fake websites or allow malicious programs to be downloaded to your computer. Hackers are then able to gain access to your personal information and your money.
Red Flags of a Phishing Email.
  • The sender's address is not the real company address.
  • A link that leads you to an unfamiliar log-in page - always go directly to the site to login, never use a link.

Gift Card Scams 

These kids of scams can take two forms. Sometimes the scammer will call, text, or email you saying you owe money for something and need to pay with gifts cards. Scammers may also offer discounted gift cards that could be worth nothing.

Red Flag of a Gift Card Scam:
  • If someone asks you to pay in gift cards, it's likely a scam. It's an untraceable form of payment and one scammers often use. No reputable company will do that. Learn more about gift card scams here.

Charity Scams

Fraudulent charity scams, in which perpetrators set up false charities and profit from individuals who believe they are making donations to legitimate charitable organizations, are common during the holiday season when individuals seek to make end-of-year tax-deductible gifts or are a reminder of those less fortunate and wish to contribute to a good cause. Seasonal charity scams can pose greater difficulties in monitoring because of their widespread reach, limited duration and when done over the Internet, minimal oversight.

Red Flag of a Charity Scam
  • A charity scam solicitations may come through cold calls, e-mail campaigns, crowdfunding platforms, or fake social media accounts and websites. If you have not heard of the charity before, research it to ensure your donation gets where it can do good. Use Charity Navigator to research charities.

Tips to Avoid Being Victimized

  • Do your homework on the retailer/website/person to ensure legitimacy.
  • Conduct a business inquiry of the online retailer on the Better Business Bureau’s website (
  • Check other websites regarding the company for reviews and complaints.
  • Look at the contact details of the website on the “Contact Us” page, specifically the address, email, and phone number, to confirm whether the retailer is legitimate.
  • Be cautious of offers with significantly discounted goods.
  • Be wary of online businesses who use a free email service instead of a company email address.
  • Don’t judge a company by its website; flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly.
  • Beware of purchases or services that require payment with a gift card.
  • Do not provide credit card information when requested through unsolicited emails.
  • Don't click on links contained within an unsolicited email or respond to them.
  • Check credit card statements routinely. If possible, set up credit card transaction auto alerts, or check balance after every online purchase. It is important to check statements after the holiday season, as many fraudulent charges can show up even several weeks later.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in email messages that ask for personal information.
  • Be cautious of emails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan all attachments for viruses if possible.
  • Verify requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
  • Secure your credit card accounts, even rewards accounts, with strong passwords. Change passwords and check accounts routinely.
  • Make charitable contributions directly, rather than through an intermediary, and pay via credit card or check; avoid cash donations, if possible.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to reputable charities; most legitimate charity websites use .org (NOT .com).
  • Don’t be a money mule; it’s illegal!

What to Do if You Are a Victim

  • Report the activity to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at, regardless of dollar loss. Provide all relevant information in the complaint.
  • Contact us immediately upon discovering any fraudulent or suspicious activity on your account.  
  • Turn off your debit card by using the debit card on/off  feature in our mobile app.
  • If you suspect you may have been a victim of identity theft, it is important to take action immediately.  Contact us and we'll put you in touch with a fraud specialist who can help you determine your best course of action, cut through the red tape and do most of the heavy lifting - so you don't have to struggle on your own. There is no added cost to you for this service, no matter how often you talk to a fraud specialist.

For additional information and consumer alerts, and to report scams to the FBI, visit

Flatwater Bank Resources
To learn more about other ways we help protect you and your accounts, visit our identity theft page.