In the final days before Christmas, holiday scams are haunting shoppers once again. As you finish buying the last of your presents, watch out for these Scrooge-like schemes:
1. Feast of the phishers
“Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer,” the BBB warns. “Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS, Federal Express or major retailers with links to package tracking information.”
Also, be wary of any communications received from charities to which you've never given money.
To outwit these scammers, don’t open any emails from senders you don’t recognize, and definitely don’t click on any links or download any attachments in these messages.
And if you get an email from a particular retailer and you haven't recently made a purchase (or signed up for the mailing list), assume that it's a phishing attempt and don't click through just in case.
2. $0 gift cards
Gift cards may seem like the perfect gift, but they can also be the perfect scam.
Sometimes, cards that are sold online from sites other than those of major retailers can turn out to contain little or no money.
But gift card scams abound in stores as well. Sophisticated criminals copy gift card information right off cards on the rack, wait for a shopper to activate the card and then swoop in and steal the funds.
For the safest possible purchase, buy gift cards directly from the source. And when buying in-store, remember to check that the scratch-off activation code on the back is untouched before purchase if the card was openly on display.
3. The doggie double-cross
You may be shopping for more than clothes and electronics this season. If you’re hoping to add a four-legged family member, you’ll need to be careful here as well.
In the so-called puppy scam, unknowing prospective pet owners locate a supposed breeder online and wire money for a dog they hope to adopt, but are ultimately left without a furry friend.
The Humane Society of the United States recommends avoiding such scams by adopting Christmas puppies from a shelter, animal rescue group or breeder to whom you’ve been referred by someone you trust.
4. Package pilfering
Ordering some of your gifts online?
The downside of convenience is that the pile of packages that arrives on your doorstep may be tempting to some unsavory sorts. Already people across the country—from Texas to New Jersey—have reported boxes being stolen.
To prevent becoming a victim of box burglars, you could require signature on delivery for anything you order for yourself and ask anyone you expect to be sending you things to do the same. You can ask the shipper to hold your goods at its local outpost, where you can then pick it up.
5. The wallet grab
Criminals may be getting savvier with their online schemes, but the traditional pickpocketing and smash-and-grab techniques still exist.
Crowded malls filled with frantic, distracted eleventh hour shoppers are a pickpocket's dream come true.
So, as obvious as it may sound, make sure you take precautionary measures, such as holding your purse and/or wallet close to the front of your body, keeping all bags zipped and removing any purchases from plain sight in your car.
Courtney Jespersen writes for NerdWallet DealFinder, a website that helps shoppers find the best deals on popular products.
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