1. Be careful when purchasing name brand items. Luxury products for low prices are most likely counterfeit; and most come to the U.S. from overseas. Handbags, wallets, watches, jewelry and electronic devices are at the top of the list of items counterfeited.
2. Fake websites. It's easy to recreate a website with familiar logos. We're all looking for a great deal online but shoppers need to watch for red flags such as lack of security on a URL, http instead of https, lack of contact information and asking for payment by wire or money card.
3. Fake charities. The holiday season is a time of giving and there are many charities that need the help especially in this time of year. Be sure your generosity is going to the right places. Scammers can easily set up charities with similar sounding names and fancy looking sites.
4. Credit card fraud. You may have good credit, but scammers are out to change that this time of year as they hunt for ways to steal your financial information. Skimming is a common theft that spikes during the holidays. It steals your credit card information leaving you stunned and with less than you planned to spend on your own gifts. It can happen when a clerk either swipes the card twice to steal money out of the register, saves your card number details to use later or a third party card reading device is installed in the card swiping terminal.
5. Santa scammers: A letter from Santa addressed directly to your child is likely to make them light up. However, be sure the source is legitimate before giving up your data and leaving you at risk for identity theft. Check privacy policies before entering your information to know how they will use it.
6. Malware from e-cards. E-cards are an easy way to send holiday greetings...and viruses. If you don't know and trust the sender - beware. Don't click on an email from a name you don't recognize. Deleting is your best bet if you have any doubt.
7. Shady resellers. Every year, holiday shoppers fight over the "must have" toy or gadget of the season. When the item is sold out in stores, you can often find it online through sites like Craigslist or eBay-fora much steeper price. The problem is that some sellers will gladly take your money but you'll never receive your gift. When purchasing items on auctions like eBay, research the seller extensively and always listen to your doubts if the deal doesn't sound legitimate.
8. Identity theft while shopping. While you're struggling at the mall with bags of presents, identity thieves see an opportunity to steal your wallet and debit or credit card numbers. Don't let yourself get bogged down in purchases and lose track of your wallet. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your PIN.
9. Shipping notification / Phishing scams. Scammers take advantage of the holiday shopping season with fake email shipping notifications. They pose as FedEx, UPS or the Postal Service. It comes as an email that appears to be a shipping notification for a package. When you click on the file, you find that it isn't a tracking notification after all. It's really a virus that will download to your computer.
10. Is that Wi-Fi connection safe? Public Wi-Fi is convenient, but risky. Never turn off your firewall, and make sure your antivirus software is current.
11. Travel scams. The holidays are a big time for travel. And for the most part, booking online is the most convenient way for many to go but remember, scammers could be on the other end of the computer. Before booking, make sure you are using a reputable, verified website.
12. Beware of who is on the other end of the phone. Whether it's scammers posing as a stranded grandchild or as the IRS, be wary of unfamiliar numbers on your caller ID or people on the end of the line who you don't know. Remember, the IRS will NEVER contact you over the phone.