Five Financial Scams to Watch Out for This Holiday Season

financial scams over the phone

Unfortunately, financial scams are not few and far between; and they’re not even always very good. Sadly, the world is filled with trusting people who take others at their word and believe whatever is said to them. I will never forget the first time that someone tried to con me into a financial scam a few years ago. We received a phone call at my parent’s house – somewhere I have not lived since I was 18 (and that was 14 years ago) stating that my husband needed to call back right away. He asked me to go ahead and call back on his behalf while we were in the car, and when I called they were happy to speak to me instead of him and without asking to verify my identity or his, informed me that there was a warrant out for his arrest in South Carolina.

He needed to pay $500 right away if he wanted to avoid jail time. When I asked them precisely why he might be going to jail the following day, the man on the phone yelled at me and told me that it’s because he’s a deadbeat father who did not pay his child support from 1981. Now, I’m going to stop him right there and hang up, and then explain to you several things.

One, if there is a warrant out for your arrest, they’re not calling to tell you that for your debit card number, they’ll make it go away. Additionally, my husband was born in 1983, making it quite difficult for him to father a child more than a year before he was even conceived. Finally, I could go on, but you get the point. Financial scams are all over the world, and they tend to happen more often than not around the holiday season. Now, while many financial scams are far more believable than the one that we were hit with, they’re still scams. That means it’s time to watch your bank account and make sure you’re not being scammed this holiday season. Here are five of the biggest and most prevalent financial scams around this holiday season.

Fake Tech Support

Unless you are looking for someone to do some work on your electronics, never trust anyone who states that they are looking to help you with your technical support. This financial scam is a little newer than some of the others on this list, and it’s one that tends to work quite well on many occasions. You will receive a phone call from someone claiming they are a part of a technical support team designed to assist you with some sort of technical feature, and the company that manufactures your computer hired him. He’ll then walk you over a few process steps over the phone, asking you to yield control of your item to him so that he can ‘fix’ your issues.

Now that he’s into your computer, he can take anything he wants from your stored passwords to your Social Security Number to anything that you have stored on your computer at any time.

How do you handle a situation such as this one? You say no; no, you do not want someone going through your computer to help you with anything. No, you are not home and cannot help at the moment. Yes, you will be more than happy to call your computer company and ask them to prove that they are hiring third party vendors to ask for control of your computer over the phone. Until then, no, no one is going to go through your computer and do anything. It’s very, very simple. It helps, too, to keep different passwords for all your different accounts rather than using the same one on all your accounts, as it helps prevent hackers and thieves from accessing one account and then accessing all the rest of your accounts in the process.

One more important thing to note is that neither Microsoft nor Apple will contact you over the phone or via email to ask if they can log onto your computer for something to fix. They will wait for you to call them with issues and work on them from there.

Faux Charities

We all want to give back this time of year; it feels good. I am a huge fan of paying it forward at the drive-thru window. I never miss an opportunity, always paying for the car behind me at a drive-thru. It seems like a great way to do something nice for someone else. Someone did it for me once, and I remember how good I felt the rest of the day that someone else was so kind, even though it was all of $5. I also recently took it up on myself after standing in line at the deli in front of a police officer in uniform and her small daughter to do something nice for her. A group of disgusting teen boys standing behind the officer were ‘subtly’ referring to her as a pig and using very unkind and very abhorrent language to talk about her just loud enough so that she and I could hear, as well as her daughter.

The daughter was crying, and the officer was gently explaining to her that some people are simply ignorant and that their parents taught them no matters. She explained to her daughter that those are the same kids who will one day change their minds about her when they are in an accident and in need of her help. The daughter was upset, and so was the officer, though she kept her cool and ignored the situation. When I was checking out, I bought a store gift card and asked the cashier to watch my cart so that I could find the officer. I presented it to her telling her that her groceries were on me. I thanked her for her service and then told her daughter that she is a very lucky little girl to have a hero for a mom. It made me feel good to do it after her daughter’s face lit up and she was so excited to have someone tell her that her mom was a hero.

But I knew that she was a cop and I trusted that my donation was going to the right place. Many times, financial scams occur this time of year in which criminals will make a phone call, send an e-mail or even show up in person to solicit money from you for a charity that sounds legit, but is anything but. These financial scams are relying on the fact that this time of year, we all feel a lot more generous and giving, less likely to say no to charities that call to solicit donations. However, many of them are just looking for your credit card information so that they can treat themselves to whatever they want.

Do not give to any charities without ensuring they are legitimate. If you want to give to a charity, check with Charity Navigator to ensure you are giving to a real company. Additionally, you will want to give on your terms, not theirs. Do not give payments over the phone unless you call the number listed on their site, and not give money to someone who seeks you out at any time.

Empty Gift Cards

If you want to buy someone a gift card for Christmas, buy it from the retailer or a trusted retail site. Do not go to discount sites and think that you’re getting a deal when you spend $25 for a $250 gift card to Neiman’s. You’re getting an empty gift card. Someone already used that card, replaced the backing and literally just sold you a valueless card for a fee you will never get back.

If you’re going to buy discounted gift cards, we have a few sites that will see you guaranteed gift cards. These are all sites that are accredited and highly rated, and you will not have to worry about issues such as this when you make purchases from these sites: CardHub, Gift Card Granny and Raise.


This is one financial scam that you have to be very careful of. It’s very common, and many people are willing to fall for this one because it looks like a deal. Phishing is when you receive an email about a great deal. However, the deal is going to lead you to a fake website. Usually this kind of financial scam targets those looking for electronics on sale for very little money, and that makes many people susceptible this time of year. What’s really happening, though, is that you are providing this fake website with your personal information, your credit card information and permission to use your card, name and number for just about anything you want in the world. It’s a pretty lucrative financial scam that pops up year after year.

To avoid being caught in a phishing scam (see what I did there?), do not purchase anything online from a store you are not familiar with. Do not purchase anything through an email link, either. Do yourself a favor and make sure that if you are purchasing something from Nordstrom, you head to the Nordstrom site, log yourself in and go from there. Don’t click on a link in any email, as it’s so easy for scammers to trick you with false links and carefully constructed and elaborate scams.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to simply delete any email that you feel looks suspicious and never open an email from someone you don’t know or a business you do not recognize. It’s a very simple concept, and it’s one we think you will pick up with ease.

Card Readers

This is a huge problem in so many locations. It’s called skimming if you want to get all technical, but it’s essentially thieves sticking little illegal devices in locations you swipe your card and then taking your card information. It’s very, very common at gas stations and at ATMs. If you want to avoid this kind of problem and save your finances as well as your identity, it’s a good idea to pay for your gas inside. It’s also a good idea to use an ATM that’s located inside your bank since it’s a little bit obvious to bank employees when someone is working on adding devices to their ATM and the lobby is closed after hours.

I know it’s an inconvenience to go inside a gas station to pay when you can pay so quickly and easily at the pump. However, it is so much safer. I have four kids, including a set of 1-year-old twins, so I know that I’m not getting out of the car and unloading all of them, reloading them and then pumping gas. My husband always recommends I use my credit card, not my debit card, and that I shake the reader before I insert my card. Apparently, loose and moveable readers are more likely to have a skimmer attached to them, so he recommends I avoid those. On that note, I also lock my car doors the second I exit the vehicle after reading an article that states some criminals are sneaking in open passenger doors to take purses and wallets and electronics when drivers are focused on the pump and their back is to the car.

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