Visa Issues Scam Alert, Just In Time For The Holidays

Scammers prepare all year for the holiday season so they can take advantage of increased activity and people who let their guard down while shopping, Visa said.

Balaclava-clad man in Santa suit, holding laptop
(Image credit: Selimaksan, Getty Images)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which can also leave you the most vulnerable. A new report from Visa predicts an uptick in shopping fraud schemes for the holiday season.

“Crooks prepare all year for the holiday shopping season, taking advantage of increased activity and consumers who let their guard down searching for the perfect gift,” said Paul Fabara, Visa chief risk officer, in a statement.

Visa cited advancements in artificial intelligence (A), increased foot traffic at stores and a higher demand for goods as some of the reasons that scammers are likely to prey on consumers both in person and online. Their tactics include phishing schemes that, at first glance, closely mimic legitimate retailers and promotions but end up leading unknowing consumers to click through and risk exposing their personal information, the company said.

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But various types of scams have been on the rise and require a whole new level of discernment on the part of the average consumer. For example, recent data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that online shopping scams accounted for 44% of all social media scams in the first half of 2023. AI is similarly responsible for the increase in phone scams, with the average cell phone user receiving 14 spam calls per month.

Seniors and retirees are especially targeted by scammers, as they tend to be higher earners with more income, according to the FBI's 2022 Elder Fraud Report. The report found that senior investors are being targeted as cryptocurrency payment use grows. In 2022 victims of fraud over the age of 60 accounted for more than $3 billion in losses.

There is work being done to help prevent these predatory practices. For instance, the Federal Communications Commission cracked down on text messaging scams earlier this year, requiring phone carriers to block texts from certain numbers that "don’t normally transmit text messages." For its part, the FTC has offered guidelines and alerts about scammers impersonating well-known companies like LinkedIn.

Take steps to safeguard your information

As part of its report, Visa provided guidelines for safeguarding consumers during the busy season. These include ensuring the safety of any website you visit or do business with (look for the https:// at the beginning of a hyperlink). The company also recommends doing research on a company if you’ve not shopped with them before and do it ahead of providing your sensitive information. It also said to avoid using public Wi-Fi when shopping for gifts. 

If you suspect you’ve already been a victim of credit card fraud, there are a few steps you can take. You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you notice fraudulent charges, you can call  AARP's Fraud Watch Network helpline at 877-908-3360.  

To learn more about how to spot, avoid and report scams, or steps to help you recover money you’ve lost to a scammer, visit the FTC's scam reporting page.  And if you spot a scam, you can report it directly to the FTC's fraud report site.


Jamie Feldman

Jamie Feldman is a journalist, essayist and content creator. After building a byline as a lifestyle editor for HuffPost, her articles and editorials have since appeared in Cosmopolitan, Betches, Nylon, Bustle, Parade, and Well+Good. Her journey out of credit card debt, which she chronicles on TikTok, has amassed a loyal social media following. Her story has been featured in Fortune, Business Insider and on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, CBS News, and NPR. She is currently producing a podcast on the same topic and living in Brooklyn, New York.