Beware of These 5 Holiday Credit Card Scams

November 30, 2017, Written By Bill Hardekopf

You are probably using your credit card significantly more right now than you do throughout the year. Between gifts and travel expenses, the purchases add up quickly. Before you get too carried away, you need to be aware of some common credit card scams that take place around the holidays.

Fake Charities

It’s nice to make a charitable donation during the holiday season, but you need to make sure the funds actually go to a charity. There are many fake websites that steal your money or credit card information when you think you are making a donation.

Before submitting a payment to a charity, confirm their legitimacy through a state regulator or through a site like Charity Navigator. You could also donate to a charity using the PayPal Giving Fund. PayPal verifies the organization is a non-profit, and 100% of the donation goes to the charity. You also get added protection from PayPal because they will dispute a transaction for you if a scam is discovered.

Text- and Email-Based Donations

Sometimes the fake charities will use text messages and emails to solicit donations. You may receive a text that says, “Donate $XX to {organization} by replying “YES” to this message” or an email that provides a link for a donation. The messages may use the names of actual charities and even have logos and website designs that look similar to the original organization.

Rather than following through with those messages, contact the organization directly to make a donation. This will ensure your money goes to the cause, not the scammers.

Tempting Discounts

Most shoppers hunt for deals and discounts around this time of year because they have a lot of purchases to make. But don’t be fooled by specialty pricing. Some online stores may list products at severely discounted rates as a way to lure customers into placing an order. They may not send an item after the order has been placed, or they may send a knockoff that is as cheap as the price tag.

Only make purchases online through trusted websites and retailers, and be leery of prices that seem too good to be true.

Travel Sweepstakes

You may receive emails or see ads with special travel sweepstakes you can enter. Some of these are legitimate, but others are ploys to gather your personal information. If a travel sweepstakes asks for your credit card or bank information as part of the entry requirement, assume it is a fraud.

“Free” Subscription Packages

This isn’t necessarily a holiday credit card scam because it can occur throughout the year. However, these types of scams are more popular around the holidays because people are looking for creative gift ideas. You get the option for a “free” subscription to a website or service, and it may indeed be free for the first month or two. Eventually though, the company will charge the credit card you have on file if you do not cancel services within a certain length of time.

If you are signing up for a subscription that requires your credit card information, read the terms of use closely. Find out how much you will be charged after the free period is over, and make sure you cancel the subscription if you do not wish to continue with the paid version. Furthermore, you need to learn what the free trial entails—is it the full service, or just a sample of it? Don’t sign up for anything where you don’t have all the information.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of November 30, 2017. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.

About Bill Hardekopf

Bill Hardekopf is the CEO of and covers the credit card industry from all perspectives. Bill has been involved with personal finance for over 15 years. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, The Street and The Christian Science Monitor.
View all posts by Bill Hardekopf