Scams to watch out for this holiday season

Ryan Boyd
Scams to watch out for this holiday season

Online shopping is bigger every year, especially around the holiday season.

But with the increase of digital transactions comes an increased risk of scams. Here are some scams to keep an eye out for, plus some tips on avoiding falling into the traps.


Charity Scams

Scammers know people often donate to charity at this time of year, so they use this to their advantage. They may use phishing emails or fake links to try get your details through “online donations”.

How to keep safe:

  •   Only make donations through verified channels, e.g. the official website.

  •   Don’t click on any attachments or links provided in suspect emails. 


Unbelievable deals or offers

Scammers can offer gift cards and deals at heavily discounted prices, and when you buy them online they gather your account, credit card details or personal information to either raid your account, max out your credit card or sell on the black-market.

These scams target victims through phishing emails, websites, and social media ads that scammers have built.

How to keep safe:

  •   If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

  •   When shopping online make sure you stick to reputable e-commerce sites that have been verified as safe by a third-party Trustmark.

  •   Look for “https” at the beginning of a site’s URL, which indicates that the site is using encryption to protect your information.


Fake delivery email or text message

Taking advantage of the fact that many of us are expecting online deliveries, this scam sees fake courier emails or text messages with subject lines such as, “NZ Post Delivery Failure Notification” asking the recipient to click a link in order to organise delivery or pick up.

Here’s an example.

Clicking on the link downloads malware, which can steal personal information such as usernames, passwords and financial account information stored on the victim's computer.

How to keep safe:

  •   Never click on links in emails unless you know the sender

  •   Look out for fake email warning signs (unusual email addresses, spelling mistakes, unusual formatting, etc)

  •   If in doubt, Google a contact number for the delivery company and call to confirm with them

Prizes, discounts, and gift card scams

Another email or text message related scam, this one tells you you’ve won something, such as a gift voucher.

How to keep safe:

  •   If you don’t recall entering any competitions, you probably didn’t.

  •   Don’t click any links in the email. Instead contact the store directly via official channels, such as their website listed phone number.

  •   To check a link, hover the mouse cursor over it to reveal the web address. If it looks unusual, it’s probably a redirect to a scam website.

  •   Visit the store’s website and look for the page with current promotions. If it’s not listed there, be wary.


Home delivery theft

Not all scams are online, and as lots of us do or shopping online home delivery parcel swiping is becoming increasingly common, with reports that thieves trail couriers looking to snap up fresh deliveries.

How to keep safe:

  •   Require sign upon delivery

  •   Install motion activated security cameras above your front door

  •   Get deliveries sent to your work or a friend who works from home


Christmas puppy scam

As if trying to steal from you is not low enough, this scam brings innocent puppies into it as well.

It starts with a post on social media or Facebook Marketplace about a new litter of puppies that are going to sell fast, so you better be quick. You think a puppy would make a great Christmas gift for your kids, so you buy one. But of course the puppies don’t actually exist.

As Sorted point out, “It’s always better to meet a new furry member of the family in person. Good breeders won’t even let a puppy go without seeing how it interacts with its potential owners, making sure the puppy is going to a good home.”

How to keep safe:

  •   Don’t buy pets from unverified breeders (or on a whim, they are a long term commitment)

  •   Don’t send money online. A cash transaction when you pick up the puppy is the way to go.


If you think you’ve been scammed

It may be embarrassing, but it could happen to any of us. In fact a third of all New Zealanders have been affected by fraud of some kind.

So if it does happen to you, or even if you just think it may be happening, then:

  •   Stop all contact with the scammer

  •   If you’ve given over any financial details, call your bank

  •   Report the scam to Netsafe


Fraud and scam tips


  •   Monitor your bank statements regularly.

  •   Be suspicious of callers purporting to be from your bank, a utility company (Spark, Vodafone etc), or a government agency such as the Police or Inland Revenue, asking for your PIN number or your username or passwords for internet or telephone banking.

  •   Use privacy settings to limit who can see your information on social network sites – as these can be used to impersonate you or steal your identity.

  •   If you think you may have been targeted or fallen victim to a fraud or scam, contact your bank and let us know as soon as possible.

  •   If you believe you have received a Westpac-related phishing email (where scammers send an email pretending to be from Westpac in order to attempt to obtain sensitive information such as your usernames, passwords and credit card details), forward it to or a Westpac related phishing SMS , please report it by forwarding the SMS to 021 4 Check (021 4 24325)


  •   Give out your PIN number

  •   Give out your personal info

  •   Respond to or click on a suspicious email or link

  •   Give out your bank account details

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