What are they?

Although scams happen all year, fraudsters take advantage of increased consumer spending during the holiday season, especially via the internet. They leverage different strategies in hopes of convincing you to send them money, download harmful malware, or divulge personal or financial information.

How they work

  1. Fraudsters send out emails that replicate the shipping notices of legitimate companies like UPS or FedEx. These emails will have an attached link that when clicked on, will either download malware or ask for victims’ personal and banking information.
  2. Fraudsters will leave a “missed delivery” notification on victims’ doors with a phone number to call. When victims call, fraudsters on the other end will attempt to get their personal and banking information.

  1. Fraudsters will physically steal the account and PIN numbers from gift cards and leave the unpurchased cards in the store. Once the cards are purchased, fraudsters will strip the value of the cards without the victim being aware.
  2. Fraudsters will send phishing emails and pop-up ads offering free gift cards. When the email link or ad is clicked on, either malware will be downloaded or victims will be asked for personal and banking information. 

  1. Fraudsters use email or social media posts to lead victims to a website of a fake charity or organization that uses emotional appeals for donations. The fake charity requests payment methods that make it difficult to recover funds like a wire transferor a pre-loaded credit card.

  1. Social media is used by fraudsters to invite participants to take part in a gift exchange, where victims believes that by giving one gift, they will receive many in return. This type of scam is a pyramid scheme — as people will invite their friends to join. Fraudsters may also ask participants to provide personal information like their shipping address or banking information like their e-transfer details.

Signs of a holiday purchase scam

  • Grammatical errors, blurry logos, or imperfect branding on websites and within emails
  • Attempts to create a sense of urgency, requiring you to buy or send money now 
  • Gift cards with exposed security codes or other signs of tampering 
  • Requests for unusual payment methods that are difficult to reverse like wire transfers or prepaid cards
  • If a deal seems too good to be true, then it likely is

How to protect yourself

  • Open attachments or links within unsolicited emails

  • When applicable, register gift cards with the retailer as soon as possible after purchasing
  • Before donating to a charity, verify its legitimacy with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 Opens your phone app.. Or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca Opens in a new window.
  • When in doubt, Google the company’s name with the word “scam” and you will usually discover any common scams
  • To monitor your account activity, manage your CIBC Fraud Alerts
  • Check your credit score through the CIBC Mobile Banking® App