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12 Scams of Christmas

It’s a joyful time of year, but it also brings scammers out of the woodwork. Here’s what to look out for:

Fake Charities 

Lots of charities try and raise money during the giving season. But are you sure that email you got actually came from the charity in question? Scammers love to imitate charity emails but re-direct you or your payment information to their own sites. 

Remember, the safest way to give is to look up the charity’s site in your browser and give directly. 

Fake Gift Draws 

Enter to win a new PS4 sounds great. Enter a bunch of private information to a fake site sounds less great. When entering contests, make sure the people offering the gift are who they say they are. It’s pretty easy for scammers to set up a site with the logos of Wal-Mart or Best Buy, for example.

The Puppy Scam

Lots of parents shop for puppies in the classifieds during the holiday season. Unfortunately, lots of parents also pay scammers up front for puppies that they never receive. If you see an ad with a puppy, do a reverse image search (here’s how). If you see the puppy in a lot of different places, the ad probably isn’t real. And it’s safer to adopt from a shelter anyway. 

The Grandparent Scam

Grandpa or grandma get a call from someone claiming to be a relative who’s just been in an accident or something and needs money. This particularly cruel scam relies on loving but confused seniors. That’s why it’s important to talk to the seniors in your life about scams

E-Cards & Other Viruses 

‘Tis the season to get cards and letters from friends and relatives you don’t talk to a whole lot. However, beware any e-cards or other suspicious emails. E-cards and other attachments are common ways to deliver viruses onto your computer. If it’s unclear where an email came from or if an attachment looks odd, better to delete it. 

Temporary Holiday Jobs

Is your teen picking up a little extra work over the holidays? Great. Just make sure they’re applying to something real and not giving their information away to someone taking advantage of them. 

Counterfeit Items

Beware offers for steeply discounted big-ticket items. A brand new TV for $50? A Nintendo Switch for $75? We’re not saying it’s impossible, but that’s really the kind of thing you want to verify. If something is too good to be true, it probably is. 

Credit Card / Bank Card Fraud

Beware of card skimmers and other types of card fraud. The more stores, online or otherwise, you buy from, the more chances someone has to steal your information. Make sure you go over your online bank statements more frequently during the holiday season. 

Fake Shipping Notifications 

When you buy something online, keep your confirmation email. That way, when other emails come in saying that your item has shipped, you can compare to see if the new email looks legitimate. Scammers will send out phishing emails that look like shipping notifications but ask you to enter more information. 

Unusual Payments 

Beware of online vendors asking for unusual payment methods, like gift cards or crypto-currencies you’ve never heard of. The safest payment methods are traceable and, if there’s a problem, reversible.  

Fake Bank Account Warnings

Got an email from your bank warning you that you’re overdrawn? And you need to enter your bank account information right now to see what’s happening? That’s a phishing email designed to steal your information. You can always call your bank to see if there’s anything to worry about. 

Similarly, if you get a call to the same effect and the caller wants you to ‘verify your information’, just tell them you’ll call back. Then you can dial the number of your bank, go through your banks regular security steps, and get the real story. 

Santa Scammers 

You get an email or see an ad offering your child a personalized letter from Santa—for a small fee. And after you fork over your credit card payment and maybe even a little personal information, you wait and wait and wait . . . and the letter never comes. 

Terrible, right? Well, the safest way to avoid this particular scam is to write that Santa letter yourself. Bonus tip: get a family friend to transcribe it for you. That way your very clever kids won’t recognize your handwriting.