Retailers do big business during December — but so do thieves. With so much money flowing freely, con artists are out in full force.
If you’re not careful, these Grinches can rob you blind, leaving you with a financial hangover that can last throughout 2018.
We’re all trying to spend less on our holiday gifts, and our eagerness to save a buck is at the root of many of scams. But, armed with a little knowledge, you can keep thieves from stealing your money — and sapping your yuletide spirit.
Following is a list of some major scams you must avoid during this holiday season.
Bogus discount gift cards
But it’s important to shop at sites that are reputable, so you don’t get ripped off. As Money Talks News contributor Karla Bowsher explains in “How Unwanted Gift Cards Saved Me $300 Last Year”:
Look up the guarantee policy of any marketplace you shop — and spend discounted gift cards within the guarantee time window. This is how I got all my money back on one or two discounted gift cards I bought that turned out to be duds.
Online deals that are too good to be true
Mom was right: If a deal appears too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers know people are looking for the perfect bargain during the holiday season. They are only too happy to take your holiday cash and leave you with a lump of coal.
The Jacksonville, Florida, office of the FBI offers the following warning:
Steer clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand name merchandise or gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product, as you may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity.
Social media giveaways
We hate to break it to you, but you probably haven’t been selected to win a $500 Best Buy gift card. However, you may have been selected to have your data mined by a scam artist.
Again, heed the warning of the good folks at the Jacksonville FBI office:
Beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards, even if it appears the offer was shared by an online friend. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests that lead to participation in an online survey designed to steal personal information.
Is a retailer asking you to pay with an iTunes or Amazon gift card? This should be a huge red flag, according to the Federal Trade Commission:
Scammers ask you to pay in ways that let them get the money fast — and make it nearly impossible for you to get it back. If you’re doing any holiday shopping online, know that credit cards have a lot of fraud protection built in.
Another red flag: Anyone who asks you to pay by wiring money through services such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
Fake charity rip-offs
Yes, some heartless souls will prey upon your good intentions by setting up fake charities. Using names that sound like the real deal, these thieves call you up and tug at your heartstrings until you fork over your credit card number.
For tips on contributing to a charity safely, check out “6 Tips to Donate to Charity the Smart Way.”
This is an oldie but a goodie: Thieves who don’t have time or skills to make up elaborate stories or set up websites simply head to the mall and take your money.
Pickpockets might work alone or in tandem with someone else who causes a distraction. Your best defense is to take only the cards you need when shopping and keep your wallet in an inside pocket. Ladies, use a purse that can be zipped shut, and cross-body style is always more secure than wearing your purse on your shoulder.
Holiday e-cards with a side of malware
Holiday e-cards aren’t so fun when they conceal malicious software. If you get a card from a name you don’t recognize, the only clicking you should be doing is on the delete button.
Are you aware of additional holiday scams? Warn us by commenting below or on our Facebook page.
Chris Kissell contributed to this post.
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