Beware of holiday scams

Elf and text "beware of holiday scams"

According to the FBI, every year, thousands of people become victims of holiday scams. Scammers can rob you of hard-earned money, personal information, and, at the very least, a festive mood.

Phishing Scams

Phishing refers to scams where cybercriminals will send you an email with the goal to get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, or other sensitive information.

Beware! Scammers will even use spoofing technology and send emails posing as members of the UIC community with the goal of getting you to open attachments, click on a link or buy gift cards.

Tips to Avoid Phishing Scams

  1. Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, or on websites or social media.

  2. Think twice if you receive an email asking you to update your password or account information. Make sure the email is legitimate.

  3. If you receive an email or text message from a UIC employee you’ve never met — or an employee you work with — and they are asking you to buy gift cards, do not fall for it. Scammers are posing as UIC employees asking for “favors” to purchase gift cards and send them the codes.

  4. Instead of clicking, hover your cursor over any hyperlinks or URLs to see where they actually go to first, and if you are in doubt, contact the person or organization who appears to be sending you the information to confirm they did send it.

If you are in doubt, please forward any suspicious emails to

Holiday Sale Scams

  • Non-Delivery Scam: a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received.
  • Non-Payment Scam: goods or services are shipped, but the seller is never paid.
  • Auction Fraud: a product is misrepresented on an auction site.
  • Gift Card Fraud: a seller asks you to pay with a prepaid card.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2020 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $265 million in a year. Credit card fraud accounted for another $129 million in losses.

Tips to Avoid Sale Scams

Whether you’re a buyer or the seller, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself from increasing cybercrime.

  1. Check website URLs to make sure they are legitimate and secure. For example, a site should have “https” in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site. 
  2. Be careful how you pay for online purchases. Never wire money directly to a seller or send them gift cards as payment. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
  3. Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.

And remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Holiday Season Job and Charity Scams

Looking for a holiday season job? Make sure it’s legitimate! Cybercriminals are targeting students eager for work with fraudulent job offerings that attempt to steal sensitive information or request funds in the form of cash transfers, Bitcoin payments or gift cards.

Crafty scammers can use sophisticated technology to create realistic communications that can fool you. We understand that identifying the legitimacy of an email can be difficult, especially when scammers can mimic UIC email addresses.

This holiday season, charities you don’t recognize may be asking for donations. While it is great to give back, scammers take the opportunity to mask themselves as charitable organizations.

Verify all charities on the IRS tax exemption site before donating

Tips to Avoid Job and Charity Scams

Look out for these red flags to keep yourself safe from job and charity scams:

  1. Too good to be true – The job’s description is usually vague and will offer a large amount of money for very little work. 

  2. Written poorly – The emails are usually full of typos, not written in professional language and use very casual greetings or closing words.

  3. Ask for sensitive data – If you start to engage, scammers may ask you to purchase something, provide them with sensitive data or personal bank account information through a link, fake webpage, or an online “job” application.

  4. Request money, gift cards or fund transfers – Scammers will email you a check to print, ask that you deposit it in your bank account, and send funds back via bank transfer, gift cards or Bitcoin. This should be an immediate red flag. The checks are fraudulent and you may be stuck with bank fees and headaches.

  5. Ask to use another email – You may be asked to contact individuals through a non-university email, such as a Hotmail or Gmail address. Scammers are also not available to speak on the phone if you ask to call them.

Please do not respond to these emails if they seem suspicious. Evaluate each email carefully and perform your research. If you are unsure if an email is fraudulent, forward the email to so it can be investigated and shared with the community.

Need Support?

If you receive phishing/scam emails or calls and have given or entered your NetID and password or other personal information, please immediately change your password at and contact with the details.

If you receive phishing/scam emails or calls and purchased gift cards, Bitcoin or deposited a fraudulent check, please contact UIC Police for assistance at 312-996-2830.

If you receive a scam telephone call, hang up, block the number and call UIC Police to report it at 312-996-2830.

If in doubt, email with any questions.

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