The spirit of the holidays is a time of giving for most but, for scammers, it is a time of taking.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre highlights the most popular holiday scams so that you can
recognize, reject, report and be merry.
1) Counterfeit Merchandise – Look out for huge and flashy discount ads that direct you to
websites that look like the legitimate manufacturer’s. If you do receive any inferior
product, they could pose significant health risks.
2) Selling Goods & Services Online – Be suspicious of payment offers that are more than
the asking price and confirm that you have received a legitimate payment before you
send the product.
3) Crypto Investments – Fraudsters are using social media and fraudulent websites. Prior to
investing, ask for information on the investment. Research the team behind the offering
and analyze the feasibility of the project. Verify if the company is registered by using
the National Registration Tool (www.aretheyregistered.ca).
4) Romance Scams – An attractive fake identity lures you into their web of lies spun with
loving messages and sweet promises. The fraudsters play on your emotions to maximize
their payday over time.
5) Online Shopping – Fraudsters pose as genuine sellers and post fake ads for items that
do not exist. The listing price for almost any item (e.g. event ticket, rental, vehicle,
puppy) is usually too good to be true. Research before you buy. Whenever possible,
exchange goods in person or use your credit card for payment.
6) Phishing Emails and Texts – You may receive messages claiming to be from a
recognizable source (e.g. financial institution, telecommunications company, service
provider, shipping company) asking you to submit or confirm your information. They
may even include a malicious link.
7) Secret Santa – You may have noticed multiple gift exchange posts on your social media
feeds. This may seem like a fun activity where you only have to send one gift and receive
multiples in return. Unfortunately, this exchange collects some of your personal
information and also hides a pyramid scheme where only those on top profit. Pyramid
schemes are illegal in Canada.
8) Prize Notifications – You may receive a letter or a call with the good news; you’ve won
millions and a fancy car too! First, you just need to confirm your personal information
and then cover a few fees before your winnings can be delivered. Remember: If you
didn’t enter, you can’t win. You can’t enter another country’s lottery without purchasing
a ticket from within that country. In Canada, if there are fees associated to a prize, they
are removed from the total winnings; you would never be required to pay fees in
9) Emergency – Is a supposed loved one reaching out to you because they need money
now and you’re the only one they trust to keep it a secret? Resist the urge to act
immediately and verify the person’s identity by asking them questions a stranger
10) Gift Cards – Gift cards are a popular and convenient way to give a gift. They should also be
considered like cash; once they are exchanged, it is unlikely that you are getting your money
back. Gift cards are not meant for payments and no legitimate business or organization will
request these; especially under pressure.
11) Identity Theft – In all the hustle and bustle of the season,
DO: keep your wallet on your person and cover your PIN;
DON’T: share passwords or provide your personal information on impulse.
12) Identity Fraud – Fraudsters love a good shopping spree; especially when they’re using someone
else’s name and money. Contact your financial institutions and the credit bureaus, Equifax
Canada and TransUnion Canada, as soon as you notice:
a. Suspicious activity on your financial statement/s.
b. Unauthorized activity on your credit report.
c. Letters approving or declining credit applications you did not authorize.
d. Re-routed mail.
e. Bills from service providers you do not use.
f. Your information was compromised as part of a database breach.
Anyone who suspects they have been the victim of cybercrime or fraud should report it to their
local police and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system or by phone at 1-
888-495-8501. If not a victim, report it to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre anyways.