Avoiding Not-So-Jolly Holiday Scams

Dec 01, 2014

MoneyLife100 The holiday season is a time when family and friends come together to celebrate. Sadly, it is also a time when thieves of all kinds are trying a variety of scams. To help keep the sparkle in your holidays, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers this advice to avoid scams so you can keep the season merry. 

Don’t Trust Social Media Scrooges 

Did you ever see an e-mail or social media posting urging you to enter a contest to win the latest iPad or Xbox? Did it sound too good to be true? It probably was. Contests or offers of free gift cards or other rewards are among the ploys scammers put to work to trick you into sharing personal confidential data or financial information. Con artists also send bogus confirmation e-mails that appear to be from reputable retailers or delivery companies, but if you open them or click on the links they contain your system could be hit with destructive malware. If you’re not expecting a package—or if the e-mail message line contains misspellings or other signs it’s not from a legitimate source—send these messages straight to your spam or trash file without opening them.  

Scrutinize Your Ecards

Ecards are a popular way to express holiday greetings, but sadly scammers have gotten on the bandwagon. They send out mass mailings with cards containing malware that will disrupt or steal information from your system. If it’s not clear who sent the card, trash it. 

Watch for Pickpockets on the Prowl

With the holiday shopping frenzy underway, it’s important to always be aware of your surroundings. Hiding among all the holiday shoppers crowding the stores are criminals seeking to separate you from your money. To avoid becoming a pickpocketing victim, stay away from dense crowds if possible and always be sure to keep your wallet in an inside pocket or money belt or in a bag that zips or snaps shut. To protect your privacy should you become a victim of pickpocketing, be sure to remove your Social Security card from your wallet, along with anything else that shows your Social Security number, before going shopping. Other things to keep at home when you’re shopping include lists revealing your ATM PIN or passwords to important accounts. Remember, never leave your wallet, purse, or holiday purchases unattended or they might disappear.

Prevent Package Pilfering

You may also become a victim if you leave packages inside your car in a quiet parking lot. To prevent criminals from breaking in and taking them, store your purchases in your trunk and try to park your car in a busy area. Packages left on your front porch are another temptation for crooks. It’s a good idea to have expensive items either sent to your office, to arrange deliveries for when someone is home, or, if possible, to have them sent to a friend or relative who can accept them in person.

Turn to Your Local CPA

No one wants to think about crime during the holidays, but a few simple actions can help you avoid becoming a victim. There are also many steps you can take throughout the year to protect your finances. Whenever you have questions about the best ways to keep your financial life in order, contact your local CPA. He or she can offer the advice you need to make smart financial decisions. Visit PICPA’s consumer page to find a CPA by location or area of expertise.


The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of more than 22,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States.

Money & Life Tips are a joint effort of the AICPA and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), as part of the profession’s nationwide 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program.