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5 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

Holiday shopping will soon be in full force, and scammers will be busy – on the internet, at the mall, cash register and even your front door. According to www.scambusters.org, here are key areas you're likely to encounter crooks:

1. Internet holiday scams

This popular scam involves setting up fake websites offering practically everything you could want – at unbelievably low prices. The website sales page looks professional, often featuring bogus customer testimonials and logos implying top-line security. Of course, scammers will take your money for merchandise they’ll never send, and may use your credit card number and personal data for identity theft.

How to avoid it: Don't trust a site or name you don't know – check them out. Don't fall for prices that seem too good to be true – they usually are.

2. Charity-related holiday scams

Holidays are the perfect time for scammers to tug on our heartstrings – most likely when they shake a collection box in front of you as you shop or at your front door. They may fool you by wearing seasonal costumes, donning uniforms or badges or carrying other fake authorization. Often, scammers use kids to convince you they're legit.

How to avoid it: If you don't have time to check out how genuine the collector is, simply don't give. If you do want to help, find the charity name and donate directly. Look for The Salvation Army and other collectors actually inside stores – they're a safer bet.

Also watch out for: Telephone solicitations (how can you know the caller is who they claim to be, and why would you give them your credit card number?) and sellers at your doorstep who show you a charity catalog, take your money and never return.  

3. Holiday scams in the mall

Crowds mean big rewards for pickpockets. If they steal your wallet, they'll have your cash, credit cards and personal info that could lead to ID theft. With an “accidental” bump or distraction from an accomplice, they can swipe your wallet from your pocket or purse in seconds. And often, they'll take any accessible gift from your shopping bags, too.

How to avoid it: Keep your wallet in a closed purse or a pocket with your hand on it. Leave non-essential identifying information and spare credit cards at home. Return frequently with gifts to your car and lock them out of sight in the trunk.

4. Holiday scams at the cash register

At the cash register, beware of being short-changed – intentionally or unintentionally. Both are easy to do in the hectic atmosphere at the cash register this time of year.

How to avoid it: Have a basic idea of the total cost before you reach the register and, if you don’t have the correct money, know what size of bill you'll use and how much change to expect. Don't leave the register until you've checked your change and receipt.

5. Work-related holiday scams

Many retailers and manufacturers need to hire extra staff for the holiday rush. And since many of us are hard-pressed for cash, we're eager to find seasonal jobs. Knowing this, spammers send emails promising non-existent jobs for which you'll need to pay an upfront fee for the job. You may see similar ads in newspaper classifieds and even flyers posted around town.
Even if the job exists, you may be conned into working for nothing – with the promise of a generous payment at the end, which never comes.

How to avoid it: Never pay for a job. Even legitimate agencies that earn their money by finding work earn their fees from employers – not employees. Be wary if it's a "work now, get paid later" job, and check the employer's credentials.

We want you to have a great holiday season – and not get taken by holiday scams. So, always be on guard – and enjoy a Happy Holiday!