The ingenuity of criminals knows no bounds, especially when it comes to the holidays. You’d think that scammers would be merciful during this time of peace on Earth and goodwill to man. Nope. This is when they step up their scamming efforts, which means you need to be ever vigilant.
Here are six scams to be mindful of this holiday season.
Be Careful Where You Donate
The holidays are a great time to make end-of-the-year donations that you can deduct from your taxes. Unfortunately, scammers know how to play on people’s heartstrings and they’ll set up fake charities with slick online websites in order to scam you out of money that should be going to help others.
To make sure you’re giving to a legitimate charity, AARP recommends, “Before donating to a charity, make sure it is registered with the Secretary of State and ask how much of the money goes to the charitable fundraiser and how much goes to the charitable purpose.”
Be Wary of Fake Gift Cards
Often used as a gift for the person who “has everything” or as a small supplement to be given besides a larger gift, gift cards are a very popular gift to give. However, gift cards are also a vehicle for scammers to use. For example, how often do you see great deals on gift cards on online auction sites? As it turns out, those “great deals” are very likely for stolen, worthless cards.
The easiest way to avoid this sort of scam is to only purchase gift cards from a trusted, licensed merchant. Also, if you’re purchasing the card at the store it’s for, ask the cashier to check the balance of the card so you don’t get scammed into buying a bogus card placed on the rack by the thief.
Be Sure to Track Your Packages
The holidays are crunch time for parcel delivery services. For thieves that may lack hacking and technical skills, simply walking up to a front porch and stealing a package is an easy way to make some fast cash. They may even have zero use for what’s in the box, but that won’t keep them from walking off with your goods, just in case there’s a chance that it contains an item of value.
To prevent this risk, when you order a package make sure that your signature is required in order to receive it. This will prevent the package from being left on your steps for a thief to easily grab. Also, remember that you can have the package delivered to your work address if nobody will be at your house to sign off for your package.
Watch for Credit Card Skimmers
Some thieves even have the know-how to steal data from your credit card using skimming devices at ATMs and other POS devices. Therefore, it’s preferable to shop with a credit card over a debit card, and there’s a lot to be said for cash being a secure way to pay for things. Also, look closely at the device before scanning your card. If it looks like it’s been tampered with, then you’ll want to alert store management.
Don’t Fall for Bogus Deals
Finally, it never hurts to rely on some relatively timeless shopping advice: if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before completing any purchase that seems like the deal of a lifetime, make sure you at least familiarize yourself with all of the terms, and consider the ones that probably aren’t mentioned. No deal is worth risking your financial future for.
Be Safe Online
Finally, there are plenty of scams to be found online. The best way to avoid getting taken by an online Grinch is to follow best security practices. These include:
- Before submitting any sensitive information, look for the padlock icon in the address bar, along with HTTPS at the beginning of the URL.
- Only shop on websites that have a good reputation.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi when shopping online.
- Avoid using your debit card online. Instead, use credit cards and gift cards.
- Be skeptical of unsolicited emails in your inbox, especially when it comes to fake invoices and bogus shipping orders.
By avoiding these six scams you can shop with confidence this holiday season. It’s also important to keep in mind that these scams are utilized by thieves all year round, so you’ll want to always be looking out for them.
Have you fallen for any of these scams or encountered any of them while shopping? If so, share with us your scam story in the comments.