Personal Resource Center

Common Holiday Scams

Human head with dollar sign icon
A thief might "overpay" you for goods or service via check; when you send them the difference and deposit their check, you find out it's fraudulent.

Holiday Scam 4: Relative Imposter Scams

How the scam works: This can take a couple of forms. In the first one, you receive a call from a “niece" or “grandson," who is in a jam and needs money immediately. The thief often might even throw in convincing details unearthed through a quick internet search of your real loved one's social media accounts. They may even mimic a loved one's voice using artificial intelligence and a short online audio clip, making fraudulent calls indistinguishable from real ones. The result: A holiday scam where a supposed long-lost relative asks you for money, often preferring untraceable gift cards, to cover travel or other expenses.4

If you get a call from someone claiming to be such a relative, ask them if you can call them right back (if you have their number) or connect via social media or email (using whatever info you've used to communicate in the past), rather than using the contact info given to you by the caller. If you contact the real person and they say they didn't call you, you know the call was a scam. You also can contact other family members to verify that your “niece" is indeed traveling. Chances are good she isn't. And only use gift cards for actual gifts — never as payment.


Holiday Scam 5: Fake Check Scams

How the scam works: Say someone agrees to buy the old holiday decorations you listed for sale, and then mails or leaves a check. Upon examination, you realize they have “accidentally" overpaid, and they ask you to repay the overage. You do, but when you cash their check, you find it's fraudulent. In another iteration, you answer a fake job posting for a “mystery shopper" (hey, you're out shopping anyway!), and they send you a check to cover gift cards, which they'd like you to purchase and send. You realize you are out the money when the check bounces.

Tips to avoid this holiday scam: Avoid using funds from a check to purchase gift cards, send money orders, buy cryptocurrency, or wire money as requested by others; once sent, it's just like handing over cash and nearly impossible to get back.5.


Holiday Scam 6: The Usual Scams

How the scams work: Christmas phishing scams (by email), vishing (“voice" or phone-related scams), and smishing (by text) are omnipresent, but often become more common around the holidays. Each of these involves getting contacted by what appears to be a trusted source, asking you to click a link (which installs malware) or send money (which is then stolen). Another common scam you'll see all year long is “card skimming," when thieves capture your credit or debit card data when you swipe for a transaction.

The key is to be vigilant all the time. Never click on a link in an email or give out personal information by phone or email. If someone contacts you, don't just immediately reply. Instead, call the number you normally use for them or look it up online. And for card skimming, inspect card readers to make sure they haven't been tampered with. Use credit if it's a choice since it won't require a PIN code and your credit card provider will typically cover any fraudulent charges. And always monitor your bank account and credit card accounts carefully so you can catch and address fraud as soon as possible.

And remember: No reputable financial institution — including Synovus — will ever call, email, or text you to ask for your personal information. Keeping an eye out for potential holiday scams will help you keep the season merry and bright.

Enroll in Credit and Identity Protection Services

As a Synovus Plus, Synovus Inspire, or Synovus Private Wealth customer, you can enroll in complimentary Credit and Identity Protection services. With this service, Synovus will monitor your credit reports and notify you any time any changes are made. Synovus will also scan the web to make sure your personal information hasn't been compromised by checking websites, blogs, peer-to-peer networks. Synovus also offers full-service identity restoration if you become a victim of identity theft.

Want to know more about how you can achieve peace of mind as a Synovus customer? Get your personal code by talking with your Synovus advisor and then enroll here.

Important disclosure information

This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.

  1. Federal Trade Commission. "'Tis the season to spot and avoid gift card scams," December 5, 2022, accessed March 22, 2024. Back
  2. Federal Trade Commission. "FBI Warns 'Tis the Season for Holiday Scams," November 21, 2023, accessed November 30, 2023. Back
  3. Federal Trade Commission. "Donating Safely and Avoiding Scams," accessed March 21, 2024. Back
  4. Federal Trade Commission. "Scammers use AI to enhance their family emergency schemes," March 20, 2023, accessed March 22, 2024. Back
  5. Federal Trade Commission. "How To Spot, Avoid, and Report Fake Check Scams," July 2022, accessed November 30, 2023. Back