‘Twas the Scam Before Christmas

“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

— from the poem by Clement Clarke Moore

The mice might not be stirring the night before Christmas, but the Christmas scammers are. Not all through your house, of course, but all through the internet. And if you don’t take the necessary precautions when you shop for Christmas presents, the scammers, rather than St. Nicholas, will soon be there. You’ll be a victim of a scam before Christmas.

In America, the holiday shopping season traditionally begins on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. In recent years, Black Friday expanded far beyond the borders of the United States. It is now a truly international phenomenon. The initial shopping rush now extends past the weekend into what has become known as Cyber Monday.

From then on through Christmas eve, shopping is at its apex. Last year, holiday-timed purchases exceeded $1 trillion. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts it will break that record this year. As you can well imagine, scammers see the holiday crunch as hanging fruit, ready for the picking. After all, when demand is at its peak, legitimate merchants may have a hard time keeping up with demand. And the closer Christmas is the more the demand grows. The NRF estimates that 18 percent of Americans wait until December to buy their holiday presents.

It’s Easier for Christmas Scammers than Ever Before

The only challenge holiday scammers face, therefore, is leveling the playing field to enable them to compete with real merchants. That was a problem yesteryear when people shopped in brick and mortar stores. For the most part, they no longer do.

The internet is the reason why. According to Deloitte (which is the largest professional services network in the world), two-thirds of American shoppers begin their search for holiday gifts online. And that statistic is also growing year-by-year. Now add to that two more relevant Deloitte stats:

  • 58 percent of all Christmas shoppers in the U.S. rely on social media to help them decide what to buy
  • And 61 percent of Americans would gladly reveal personal information to get special deals

Why Are These Numbers Important?

Advertising on social media sites is cheap as opposed to television and radio, which can reach mass audiences of competing size. So virtually anyone can afford a social media ad campaign. And they can reach gazillions of people at one fell swoop. Most importantly, they can do so when shopping is reaching a fever pitch. And when the availability of the most popular and trendy presents is being exhausted.

So, it’s one week before Christmas, or even, as in the poem, the night before. You see a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram ad for the perfect present you haven’t been able to buy until now. Perhaps it’s a holiday getaway on a warm Caribbean island. Or a brand-new car at an unbelievably reduced price. Maybe a laptop, 75-inch TV or an entire home entertainment system.

What’s sure is that the price can’t be beat. So, you order it online. Or fill in the contact form for more information. That form asks for your name, number and email address, of course. Maybe even your credit or debit card number (just for purposes of identification, the form will say). In any event, like 61 percent of other Americans, you don’t think twice about revealing personal information on some site you’re convinced is legit. Besides, the clock is ticking before St. Nick comes down the chimney.

But What Happens if It’s a Scam Before Christmas?

If it is a scam before Christmas, your best bet scenario is that you’ll become a victim of identity theft. The scammer will use your name and contact information for any one of a variety of nefarious purposes.

The other possibility is that you click on the link in the ad and go to the scam or spoofed website it leads to. You make what you assume is a purchase and provide your CVV2 or verification code on the back of your card to complete the transaction. Needless to say, you will not receive what you ordered. The odds are you won’t get anything. If you do get something it’ll be a cheap imitation of what you expected. By then, the scammer will disappear with your money. And with your credit or debit card number and its verification code. He’ll then be able to withdraw cash from your bank account. Either until he empties your account entirely or you bank notifies you that something unusual is happening.  

Bottom line: Be careful. And Merry Christmas from MyChargeBack. We’ll be here on the holidays if you need us.