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Then and Now: Holiday Crime Over the Years

posted on: Wed Nov 01 2017

While the holiday season is known for family, friends and feasts, it has also long been known for an increase in illegal activities. With families doubling down on gifts and other spending during this time, theft and property crimes greatly increase between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day…from scamming unsuspecting vacation home renters, to snatching gifts from under the tree, to even stealing the Thanksgiving turkey right off the table. 

Sadly, holiday crime is nothing new, but over the years it has evolved. Once upon a time, crime over the holidays was more about Peter taking from Paul, with those who were lacking in funds stealing food, gifts and money to help meet their own families’ needs and wishes. In recent years, holiday crime has become much more impersonal, especially in the age of cybercrime and cyber-scams, when victims become faceless nameless targets – quite literally reduced to a string of digits (be it an IP address, or social security or credit card numbers).

All of the holiday thievery that happened in past decades still occurs today, but is compounded with measures that have been enacted to bring e-shoppers more convenience (and, thus, more sales for the retailers). Here are a few recent past and present trends that have taken holiday fraud to a whole new level: 

Then: Shoplifting. Now: Fraudulent in-store pick-ups.

In addition to watching out for shoplifters, retailers now need to be wary of false in-store pickups. Fraudsters have found a new way of stealing in-stores by using stolen information to buy and pick-up merchandise in-store. Especially with the shift to EMV, fraudsters have used stolen identities and credit card information to make purchases online that they can easily pick-up in-store. The quick turnaround has costly chargeback implications for brick-and-mortar retailers.

Then: Packages taken from front door steps. Now: Package phishing alerts.

Thieves skulking through neighborhoods or tailing delivery trucks that may have once stolen packages from the front door have become more sophisticated with UPS and FedEx phishing scams. Given the holiday season has lent itself to more online purchases and deliveries, customers can easily be fooled into clicking on a package-tracking link.

Then: Credit cards stolen from the mailbox. Now: Mass data breaches.

Infiltrating mailboxes for credit card information has shifted online. During the 2013 holiday season, hackers accessed roughly 40 million customer credit cards and as many as 100 million customers’ personal records (that we know of). While some retailers have certainly stepped up their security and anti-fraud protection as a result of high profile breaches, cybercrime continues to be on the rampant rise, with retail losses reportedly topping $2.2 billion during the 2015 holiday season (NRF). According to some figures, this staggering number increased 31 percent during the 2016 holiday season (ACI Worldwide), whereas the number of overall transactions increased by only 16 percent.

So, what is the takeaway? Well fraud is clearly outpacing activity  even more so online with the introduction of the EMV chip – and retailers need to be vigilant and proactive in protecting their customers. Customers also need to stay vigilant, researching before spending, protecting purchases by using credit cards over debit cards, and being aware of which retailers are putting fraud protection at the top of their lists for Santa this year.

Learn more about what holiday chargebacks are really costing you and download the eBook "Beat Those Post-Holiday Chargeback Blues".

Ebook: Beat Those Post-Holiday Chargeback Blues