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Common Holiday Scams and How to Protect Yourself

‘Tis the season of giving! While most of us get in the spirit of gifting during the holidays, we can quickly become a Scrooge if we fall victim to an online scam or mail theft. The increase in shopping, travel, and charitable donations around this time of year makes most of us easy targets for these crimes. In 2021, nearly 75% of Americans experienced at least one type of holiday scam1. Learn what these scams are, how to prevent them, and how to report them if it happens to you.

Mail Theft and its Rise in Houston

In recent years, mail theft has become increasingly common and the impact can be devastating for victims. Thieves intercept mail for use in identity theft as well as fraudulent check cashing. Often the thief simply endorses the stolen check and deposits it into their own bank account. The stolen check can also be “washed” and used as a template to create additional checks. Mail thieves target the mail and the carrier arrow keys that can open every mailbox in a specific zip code. This type of theft is rampant during the holidays; however, it has been a major issue in the Houston area since May 2022. Mail theft has become such a problem in Houston that the United States Postal Inspection Service has created a specific Houston mail theft team to try to stop robberies of mail carriers2.

You can review a map of Houston carrier robberies in 2022 here.

How to Prevent Mail Theft

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) suggests the following to protect your mail and avoid being a victim of mail theft4:

  • Do not send cash in the mail
  • Deposit mail close to pick up time; it is best to use the letter slots inside the Post Office
  • Use the Hold for PickUp option when shipping packages, and the recipients can collect the package at their local Post Office
  • Request signature confirmation
  • Inquire about overdue mail. If you do not receive a check, credit card, or other valuable mail you’re expecting, contact the sender as soon as possible
  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight
  • When traveling, notify the Post Office to place a hold on your mail
  • Set up PO Boxes with automatic payments and renewals to ensure the box is not closed and contents returned to sender

From a banking perspective, there are additional steps you can take to avoid mail theft. 

  • Utilize electronic payments when possible instead of mailing checks.
  • Review your account daily in online banking and be on the lookout for suspicious charges.
  • Review and balance statements promptly.
  • Do not place stop payments on more than 4 lost checks or check stock orders not received. Immediately report it to the Bank for assistance on the compromised account.
  • Businesses can use Positive Pay, Payee Match, to view check exceptions to intended payees.

How to Report Mail Theft

If you have been a victim of mail theft, you may refer to the USPIS website at to report it. Or, call USPIS at 1-877-876-2455 (press 3).

Common Online Shopping Scams

In addition to the seasonal increase in mail theft, online scams are also widespread during the holidays. Online shopping scams can affect buyers as well as online sellers. The FBI says the two most prevalent holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. A non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid5. Online scammers may also utilize your credit card or debit card information elsewhere to make fraudulent purchases. Some common ways scammers target consumers or sellers are through:

  • Online ads that lead to fake stores
  • Fraudulent text messages
  • Fake charities and GoFundMe campaigns
  • Too-Good-to-be-True deals – if it seems too good, it probably is!
  • Impersonation of well-known brands through emails or texts for login information or money

In this article you can find the 15 latest holiday scams to watch out for in 2022

With inflation and economic uncertainty looming over us this holiday season, you want to protect every dollar you spend. In 2021, Americans spent $204 billion online during the holiday season6, and $337 million was lost to non-delivery and non-payment scams7. Read below to learn about ways to protect yourself and report any scams you may encounter.

How to Prevent this from Happening to You

  • Keep a close eye on your credit and debit card purchases – Most bank apps have a setting to receive notifications on purchases above a certain amount you specify. If even just for the holiday season, when scams are at their highest, consider setting a spend limit notification. This way, you will know in real-time if a fraudulent purchase is made on your card
  • Do your research – Verify the seller before purchasing by reviewing the store. There are many ways to find store reviews through Google reviews, Facebook reviews, and now even Instagram or TikTok pages. Look for a long history for the store or seller, with valid reviews over the years. If the seller appears to be brand new, with only recent reviews that appear solicited, there is a high chance that it could be fake
  • Know the price & “Grinch Bots”– If an item or deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. By knowing the value of an item, you can avoid receiving a counterfeit or possibly no item. A good deal is hard to pass up, so stick to trusted sellers for potential sales. The opposite is also true of “Grinch Bots” that buy merchandise and resell the item for 10x what it is worth. These “Grinch Bots” put you at risk for fraud and counterfeit goods. The best way to battle the bot is to refuse to buy from them, and only purchase from verified vendors
  • Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for shopping and online accounts that allow it
  • Use a password manager to create different passwords for each account login. Multiple passwords may be tedious, but if one account is hacked you have peace of mind knowing your other accounts are safe

Read the full National Cybersecurity Alliance Online Tip Sheet Here

How to Report Online Scams

  • Contact your bank immediately
  • Report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at

Stay Merry & Bright, Even if You Get Scrooged

With the resources listed above, you have more insight into how to protect yourself from mail fraud and online scams. However, even the most educated individual can still fall prey to scammers. If this happens, stay calm, contact your bank, and any additional necessary contacts. While these scams can be frustrating during what is often a stressful time of year, remember, you are not alone; there is help.

Allegiance bankers are here to help with all of your banking needs.
Have a question? Contact us here.


  6. Adobe Digital Economy Index




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