Top Holiday Scams 2024: Stay Safe with Our Essential Guide

Concerned couple on a laptop, click on the link to connect to the blogpost Holiday Scams

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Wondering how to recognise and fend off holiday scams? This article cuts through the noise to deliver straightforward pointers on uncovering and protecting yourself from the devious schemes that surge around the holidays. From fake travel deals to online shopping traps, we’ll help you spot the red flags and stay secure.

Key Takeaways

The holiday season experiences a surge in online phishing scams exploiting increased internet activity, with many individuals losing an average of £1,200 from these fraudulent activities.

Travel booking scams involving fake accommodation listings and counterfeit travel deal websites can disrupt holiday plans, necessitating caution and verification before making payments.

Common Red Flags for Holiday Scams:

  • Too-Good-To-Be-True Offers: If the holiday deal seems too good to be true, it likely is
  • Unsolicited Communications: Be skeptical of unexpected emails, calls, or texts requesting personal or financial information
  • Pressure to Act Quickly: Scammers often create a sense of urgency to prevent you from doing due diligence
  • Payment Method Requests: Be cautious if asked to pay with gift cards, wire transfers, or other untraceable methods
  • Direct you away from the holiday website / platform: Scammers will often attempt to direct you away from the relative saftey of a legitimate website

To protect yourself from these scams, it’s crucial to:

  • Verify the legitimacy of accommodation listings and travel deals, avoiding payments through bank transfers to individuals or unverified entities
  • Exercise caution with social media ads and marketplace listings, especially those offering items at significantly lower prices than usual
  • Be skeptical of unsolicited emails or texts, particularly those requesting personal information or directing you to click on links

Navigating the Maze of Holiday Phishing Scams

A person receiving a suspicious email which is one of the numerous holiday scams with the subject 'Unbelievable Holiday Deals'

The holiday season is a time of increased online activity, and unfortunately, this makes it ripe for holiday phishing scams. Phishing scams occur when criminals impersonate trusted companies or agencies to trick victims into revealing personal or financial information. The prevalence of these scams is alarming, with 50% of consumers falling victim while shopping online during the holiday season. The financial impact can be significant, with victims losing an average of £1,200.

Given the plethora of scams out there, understanding their warning signs and learning how to shield yourself is paramount. As we proceed, we’ll explore how to spot suspicious emails and messages, the risks posed by clicking unrecognisable links, and the ways to secure your personal information online. By staying vigilant, you can enjoy the holidays without falling prey to these malicious schemes.

Identifying Suspicious Emails and Messages

Recognising a phishing email or message can be challenging, especially when scammers impersonate well-known companies like Jet2, TUI or Apple to deceive victims. However, certain phrases might give them away. Urgent messages requiring verification, invoices, or requests for help can raise suspicion. Bear in mind, offers that seem incredibly lucrative are often deceptive.

If you receive a dubious email or text, it’s best to refrain from clicking any embedded links or dialing any provided numbers. Instead, follow these steps to protect yourself:

  1. Do not click any embedded links or dial any provided numbers.

  2. Log into your holiday online account through the official holiday company website.

  3. Contact the company directly using verified contact information to verify the message’s authenticity.

Vigilance and a healthy dose of skepticism can go a long way in protecting you from these scams.

The Dangers of Clicking Unknown Links

Clicking on unknown or phishing links can lead to dire consequences. These can include:

  • Transmission of your location and device statistics

  • Redirection to fraudulent websites designed to trick you into revealing personal information

  • Download of malware, compromising your device and data

To protect yourself from unknown link threats, ensure that you:

  • Have updated antivirus software on your devices

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links

  • Exercise caution when dealing with emails or messages that urge you to follow seemingly convincing but fraudulent links

Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your personal and financial information.

Protecting Your Personal Information Online

While online shopping and banking have made life easier, they’ve also opened new avenues for scammers. Phishing scams often use deceptive messages and pose as trustworthy entities to acquire personal information. Therefore, it’s crucial to verify any information through reliable sources, such as a local tourist information desk, before providing your personal data.

Using two-factor authentication can enhance the security of online accounts and safeguard sensitive data. And if you become a victim of a ‘brushing’ scam, where you receive unsolicited items, promptly report the suspicious activity to the marketplace and change your password. Your personal information is valuable; protect it like you would your wallet.

Unwrapping Gift Card Fraud: Don’t Get Fooled

A stack of gift cards with warning signs around them, depicting a part of holiday scams.

Gift cards make great presents, but they’re also a popular tool for scammers. Gift card fraud encompasses deceptive tactics aimed at coercing individuals into surrendering their funds or personal details by exploiting gift cards. Scammers use various strategies, from physical in-store tampering to counterfeit websites. The average monetary loss experienced by victims of scams, including those who purchase gift cards from fraudulent sources, is £1,200.

How does one identify a counterfeit gift card offer? Look out for signs of tampering, ensure the protective stickers and PIN number are intact. If an individual requests payment of fees or protection of funds using gift cards, it should be identified as a fraudulent scheme. After all, gift cards should only be used for gifting purposes and solely at the designated stores of the issuers.

Spotting Fake Gift Card Offers

Fake holiday gift card offers often involve fake surveys, fraudulent emails, or bogus gift cards to entice individuals into providing personal information or completing phony surveys in exchange for free gift cards. These gift card scams can be cleverly disguised, making it hard to distinguish them from legitimate offers.

To spot a fake gift card offer, be cautious of:

  • Gift cards sold at significantly reduced prices

  • Offers from unreliable sources

  • Instances where funds are transferred but the card is empty or not operational.

Bear in mind, offers that seem incredibly lucrative are often deceptive.

What to Do If You Encounter a Gift Card Scam

If you suspect a gift card scam, don’t panic. There are steps you can take to mitigate the damage and protect yourself in the future. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Promptly contact the gift card company to report the scam.

  2. Notify the issuer of the card.

  3. Report the scam to the Action Fraud (UK).

In the event of falling victim to a scam, follow these steps:

  1. Gather as much evidence as possible, such as all communication with the scammer and receipts from the gift card purchase.

  2. File a dispute with the gift card company, providing all relevant information and proof of purchase.

  3. They may be able to provide a refund.

Scams can happen to anyone, so don’t be too hard on yourself. The most important thing is to learn from the experience and take steps to protect yourself in the future.

Project yourself from AirBNB Scams, read our informative blog and protect your money.

Safeguarding Your Getaways: Avoiding Holiday Booking Scams

A person cautiously booking a holiday rental online, suspecting it could be one of the numerous holiday scams.

Planning a holiday should be a joyful experience, but unfortunately, scammers are ready to turn your dream holiday into a nightmare. Whether it’s a fake villa rental or a non-existent flight, holiday booking scams can ruin your holiday before it even begins.

These holiday scam tactics often involve counterfeit websites that advertise non-existent flights and deceptive cancellation emails, both designed to trick people into using insecure payment methods.

As we move forward, we’ll assist you in discerning questionable accommodation offers and securing cheap travel deals. With some smart strategies and a little vigilance, you can ensure that your holiday plans, including booking accommodation, go off without a hitch.

Recognising Dubious Accommodation Offers

Finding the perfect holiday accommodation can be exciting, but it’s important to stay vigilant. Scammers often post non-existent beautiful rental properties or market a “free” holiday that in reality has a substantial cost. These scams can leave you without accommodation and out of a significant amount of money, so it’s wise to consider a reputable holiday company when booking your holiday.

So, how can you avoid falling for these scams? Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Be cautious when encountering counterfeit listings on auction sites and social media

  • Be wary of unusually appealing prices

  • Be cautious of sellers who insist on payment via bank transfer instead of secure payment methods

  • Always keep in mind that if a deal appears too good to be true, it likely is

  • Consider all the details before making a decision

By following these tips, you can protect yourself from falling victim to scams.

Ensuring Secure Travel Deals

As you book travel deals, it’s vital to confirm the authenticity of the companies involved. Counterfeit websites and deceptive cancellation emails can trick you into paying for flights that don’t exist. This can leave you stranded and out of pocket.

To ensure secure travel deals, follow these tips:

  1. Visit the official website of the hotel, airline, or rental car agency directly.

  2. Ensure that the website’s URL starts with ‘https’ as this indicates that the site is secure.

  3. If a deal appears to be too good to be true, it is likely not a genuine offer. It’s important to be cautious and thoroughly evaluate such deals before making a decision.

  4. Always do your homework before booking your holiday.

Social Media Swindles: Steer Clear of Deceptive Ads

Social media platforms, also known as social media sites, can be a great way to stay connected and find deals, but they can also be a breeding ground for scams. Fraudsters often create fake advertisements that lead to fake stores or listings, sometimes even directing users to a fake website. Deceptive holiday giveaways or surveys promising gifts and prizes can also trick people into providing personal information or money.

Next, we’ll help you assess the legitimacy of social media promotions and deal with scam texts and messages. With the right knowledge, you can enjoy social media while avoiding the pitfalls of deceptive ads and promotions.

Evaluating the Authenticity of Social Media Promotions

Social media promotions can be a great way to score a deal, but it’s important to ensure that they’re legitimate. Scammers often use social media platforms to promote fraudulent holiday giveaways or surveys promising gifts and prizes in exchange for personal information or money.

To evaluate the authenticity of a social media promotion, you can:

  1. Verify the source is reputable and reliable

  2. Confirm the content’s originality

  3. Identify where the promotion originated from

  4. Check if the promotion’s timing aligns with events or campaigns

Tools and apps such as Truecaller and Aura can also help you recognise potential scam promotions on various social media platforms.

Responding to Scam Texts and Messages

Scam texts and messages can appear legitimate, making it easy to fall for them. However, engaging with these messages can validate your number and lead to more scam texts.

If you inadvertently respond to a scam message, follow these steps:

In the United Kingdom:

  1. Identify the Scam:
    • Be cautious of messages with urgent requests for personal or financial information, offers that seem too good to be true, and messages with poor spelling and grammar.
  2. Do Not Respond or Click Links:
    • Avoid replying or clicking on any links in the message. This can lead to more spam or potentially harmful malware.
  3. Report the Scam:
    • Forward the scam text to 7726 (which spells “SPAM” on your phone keypad). This free-of-charge service helps mobile operators to identify and take action against spammers.
    • Report the scam to Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime.
  4. Block the Number:
    • Use your phone’s blocking feature to prevent further messages from the scammer.

In the United States:

  1. Identify the Scam:
    • Watch out for texts that ask for sensitive information, promise free gifts or prizes, or threaten to close an account if you don’t respond.
  2. Do Not Engage:
    • Do not reply to the message or click on any links. Responding or clicking links can expose you to identity theft and other scams.
  3. Report the Scam:
    • Forward the text to 7726 (SPAM), which alerts your mobile carrier to block future texts from those numbers.
    • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at
  4. Block the Sender:
    • Use your phone’s features to block the number to prevent future texts.

General Tips for Both Regions:

  • Keep Software Updated: Ensure your phone’s operating system and security software are up to date.
  • Educate Yourself and Others: Be aware of the latest scamming tactics and inform friends and family about how to protect themselves.
  • Use Spam Filters: Many messaging apps and services have built-in spam filters that can help reduce the number of scam messages you receive.

Remember, awareness and prompt action are key to protecting yourself from scam texts and messages. Your personal information is valuable; protect it like you would your wallet.

Secure Shopping Strategies: Keeping Transactions Safe

A secure padlock symbol next to a credit card and a shopping cart

Online shopping is a convenient way to tick off your holiday gift list, but it’s important to take steps to protect your transactions. This involves using trusted payment methods, double-checking website addresses and security features, and creating a secure place for deliveries.

In the next section, we’ll delve into specific strategies for each of these areas. With a little knowledge and vigilance, you can enjoy the convenience of online shopping while keeping your transactions safe.

Using Trusted Payment Methods

Using trusted payment methods can significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of online scams. Reputable payment methods for online shopping include:

  • Virtual credit cards

  • Digital wallets

  • Prepaid credit cards

  • ACH payments

  • Bank transfers

Credit card companies offer protection against online fraud. For example, Visa’s Zero Liability Policy and Mastercard’s fraud protection for purchases provide you security against fraudulent charges. Digital payment platforms like PayPal also provide protection against online shopping scams by constantly monitoring transactions and providing buyer protection for eligible online purchases.

Double-Checking Website Addresses and Security Features

It’s vital to confirm the security of the website while shopping online. A secure website will have a URL, or website address, that starts with ‘https’ instead of ‘http’ and will have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate.

You can also verify a website’s legitimacy by checking its domain registration details using platforms like Whois,, or GoDaddy WHOIS lookup tool. These platforms provide insights into the domain’s owner and other associated statistics. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry when shopping online.

Creating a Secure Place for Deliveries

A secure place for deliveries is crucial to prevent package theft, especially during the holiday season when online purchases increase. Here are some tips to help you secure your packages:

  • Install outdoor cameras near where packages are typically delivered

  • Use a delivery container for your home

  • Ensure that packages are not left out in the open and are hidden from view

By following these tips, you can help protect your packages from theft.

Shipping companies provide various secure delivery locations, including safe place delivery, UPS Access Points, and Amazon Lockers. Using these options can help ensure that your packages arrive safely and are not left vulnerable to theft.

Staying Vigilant: Other Signs of Holiday Scams

Aside from the scams we’ve covered, there are other signs of holiday scams to watch out for. These include:

  • Holiday fraud

  • Deceptive job scams

  • Fraudulent charity advertisements

  • Deceptive holiday giveaways or surveys promising gifts and prizes

These Phishing scam tactics can trick people into providing personal information or convincing them to donate money.

It’s of utmost importance to meticulously review all communications during the festive, or holiday season, and confirm the authenticity of any offers or requests involving personal information or financial transactions. Remember, staying vigilant is the best defence against scams. After all, the holiday season is a time for joy and celebration – don’t let a scammer ruin it for you.


In this digital age, scams have evolved from simple doorstep swindles to sophisticated online schemes. From phishing scams to fake gift card offers, the variety and complexity of these scams are staggering. But with a little knowledge and vigilance, you can protect yourself from these scams and enjoy a safe and joyous holiday season.

So, as you prepare to celebrate the holidays, remember to stay vigilant and safeguard your hard-earned money and precious personal information. After all, the holiday season is a time for joy and celebration – don’t let a scammer ruin it for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do holiday scams work?

Holiday scams work by taking advantage of travelers’ stress or offering fake giveaways and surveys on social media. Scammers create fake flight-booking websites, travel cancellation emails, and listings for non-existent travel accommodation. They advertise cheap travel deals that are too good to be true.

What are the 4 most common scams?

The four most common scams are grandparent scams, imposter scams, mail fraud, and money mule scams. Be cautious of these deceptive practices when dealing with financial or personal matters.

How do I know if a holiday website is legit?

To know if a holiday website is legit, check multiple independent review sites such as Trustpilot or to ensure the company has genuine positive feedback. Additionally, verify the website’s security with “https” and a padlock in the address bar, and consider booking directly with established hotels or ABTA- or ATOL-protected companies.

How can I identify a fake gift card offer?

Be cautious of gift cards sold at significantly reduced prices, offers from unreliable sources, and instances where funds are transferred but the card is empty or not operational. Always validate the source before purchasing a gift card.

How can I avoid falling for holiday booking scams?

To avoid falling for holiday booking scams, be cautious of counterfeit listings, unusually low prices, and sellers who insist on payment via bank transfer instead of secure methods. Be vigilant to protect yourself.

Useful Informative Websites

United Kingdom:

  1. Action
    • The UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime, offering advice on avoiding holiday scams.
  2. Citizens
    • Provides guidance on consumer rights and tips to spot and avoid holiday scams.
  3. Which?
    • Offers extensive consumer advice, including how to recognize and deal with various scams.
  4. Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
    • Features warnings about financial scams, including those related to holiday offers.
  5. Get Safe
    • Provides practical advice on staying safe online, including tips on avoiding travel and holiday fraud.

United States:

  1. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Consumer
    • Offers tips and advice on avoiding holiday scams, including travel scams and online shopping fraud.
  2. Better Business Bureau (BBB)
    • Features scam alerts and tips on how to avoid holiday-related scams.
  3. – Travel
    • Provides information on common travel scams and how to report them.
  4. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
    • Offers resources and tips for safe online practices, including during holiday seasons.
  5. AARP – Fraud Watch
    • Provides resources and news on the latest scams targeting seniors, including holiday scams.
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With over three decades of experience in the heart of London’s financial sector, I have dedicated my career to the pursuit of robust cybersecurity practices and IT leadership. As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.

My journey in the field of cybersecurity has not only been about personal growth but also about sharing my insights with others. As an international speaker, I have had the privilege of addressing audiences worldwide, discussing the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital age. My passion for knowledge sharing extends to my work as an author and blogger, where I delve into the complexities of cybersecurity, offering practical advice and thought leadership.

In my role as a CISO and Head of IT, I have overseen the development and implementation of comprehensive information security and IT strategies. My focus has always been on creating resilient systems capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

My Master’s degree in Cybersecurity has provided a solid academic foundation, which, when combined with my practical experience, allows me to approach cybersecurity from a holistic perspective.

I am always open to connecting with other professionals in the field, sharing knowledge, and exploring new opportunities. Let’s secure the digital world together.