Christmas scammers are impersonating Netflix, Lowe’s and more — how to stay safe

A holiday shopper looking at their smartphone in shock
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Christmas may only be a few days away but scammers are still trying to con holiday shoppers out of their hard-earned cash.

According to a new blog post (opens in new tab) from Bitdefender, Christmas-themed spam continues to be a big problem for holiday shoppers looking for last-minute Christmas gifts. According to the cybersecurity firm’s researchers, tens of thousands of spam emails have managed to sneak into shoppers’ inboxes.

When it comes to this year’s Christmas spam, holiday giveaways, bogus surveys and discount codes for designer goods are just some of the scams making the rounds. Here are two scams in particular that you’ll want to watch out for as they can ruin your holidays by draining your bank account.

Gift card

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Although there are plenty of legitimate surveys out there, scammers often like to use surveys of their own as a means of gathering more information on potential targets.

For instance, one holiday-themed spam email discovered by Bitdefender’s security researchers claims to be from Dollar General. These emails claim you can get a $100 reward gift card if you take a short survey.

Scammers are also impersonating Netflix in spam emails that say users can get a $90 gift card if they take a survey on their experience using the streaming service. This scam also tries to instill a sense of urgency by telling shoppers that “supply is extremely limited” due to the popularity of this offer.

Instead of gift cards, spam emails impersonating the home improvement retailer Lowe’s claim shoppers in the U.S. can win a fitness watch or power drill by taking a 30-second survey. The catch: they need to pay for shipping and once again, “supply is extremely limited” which is why would-be victims of the scam are urged to quickly enter their credit card details.

Free giveaways are meant to be enticing to get shoppers to click on them. However, if you fill out your address, scammers have even more information on you to use in future attacks. Likewise, entering your credit card info is a sure-fire way to have your accounts maxed out.

Letter-from-Santa scam

Santa writing the Naughty or Nice list

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Besides these fake giveaways, Christmas scammers are also preying on parents using letters from Santa as a lure.

This is a common scam that appears each year promising parents a special package containing customized, signed letters from Santa as well as an "official" nice-list certificate for their kids. 

Parents still looking for last-minute gifts may fall for this scam as these Official Santa Packages are quite cheap and even come with free shipping. However, instead of a personalized letter from Santa, these parents are actually setting themselves up to lose money to fraud and to potentially become a victim of identity theft.

How to have a scam-free Christmas

Christmas sales

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

To avoid falling victim to these scams and others like them this Christmas, you want to be extra careful when looking through your inbox. Emails from unknown senders promising free money, vouchers or gift cards are almost always a scam and if you interact with them, you could put your data, money and privacy at risk.

This is why you should never click on any links in unsolicited emails, texts or messages on social media. At the same time, you should never fill out any online survey that asks for your credit card info or other sensitive data to claim your prize. Shopping at known retailers will also help ensure you actually get what you pay for instead of being scammed. 

For additional security, you should install one of the best antivirus software solutions on your computer as well as the best Android antivirus apps if you’re using one of the best Android phones.

If you’re still having trouble getting gifts for everyone on your list this year, then it might be worth checking out our roundup of the best last-minute gifts under $50. This way you can get all of the presents you need without breaking the bank.

Anthony Spadafora
Senior Editor Security and Networking

Anthony Spadafora is the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to password managers and the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. Before joining the team, he wrote for ITProPortal while living in Korea and later for TechRadar Pro after moving back to the US. Based in Houston, Texas, when he’s not writing Anthony can be found tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.