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Top 5 Christmas Season Scams


Don’t let a thieving “Scrooge” ruin your Christmas Holiday. Watch for holiday‐specific versions of these 5 popular scams. 

As the Holiday shopping season shifts into high gear, take time to think carefully before making your purchases and any charitable donations. Con artists are ready to exploit busy, distracted shoppers — some desperate to buy popular gift items. They’re also ready to “ramp up” their emotional appeals when posing as representatives of real (or real-sounding) charities.

  1. Fly-By-Night Web Merchants. Each holiday season features THE gift — an item so “hot” that many store shelves are quickly emptied, causing people to literally lose their minds in an effort to buy it. To exploit scarcity, scammers set up websites offering this product, as do dishonest online auction sellers. After raking in the money, the scammers shut down their “stores” and disappear. If you’re “lucky,” you are simply left with no gift item. If you’re unlucky, you can be further victimized by identity theft.
  2. Phishing Scam, run by someone who will use your credit card information to charge more products and services to your account and/or sell the information to identity thieves. In most cases, however, phishing scammers launch websites that look nearly identical to those of larger, reputable merchants and not unknown companies. Typically, you’re contacted by email with a tempting offer or dire warning, and then directed to click on a link, which takes you to a fake website. Once there, you’re told to enter personal and financial information wanted by the thieves.
  3. Charity Scams. Scammers may pose as representatives of charitable organizations that are real (or merely sound real). At this time of year, their emotionally-charged appeals are more likely to strike “pay dirt” with normally savvy people, like the scam that’s soliciting donations to help victims of the California wildfires. You can be sure that other scams will soon be asking for donations to this cause and many others. The scams may involve nationally recognized charities aiding well-known causes, or local groups handling problems closer to home.
  4. Gift Card Scams. Nearly every major retailer offers gift cards, many of which hang on racks at checkout counters. Today, most cards are protected by scratch-off security codes and protective packaging to prevent information theft. If cards are not protected, however, scammers can write down the numbers while the cards are on display, and then call an 800 number to learn when the cards have been activated.  After that, stealing is as simple as rushing to the merchant and making purchases before the REAL cardholder gets there.
  5. Holiday E-Card Scams. You may receive an email from an unnamed “relative,” “neighbor,” or “friend” who has supposedly sent you an e-card that can be viewed by clicking on a link. Clicking on that link, however, may unleash anything from spyware and pop-up ads to viruses and Trojans. In some cases, you will need download software from the e-card website. While the software is supposedly needed to “run” your e-card, it can contain unwanted or malicious software.