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Watch Out for These Scams This Christmas

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Senior woman with bags doing Christmas shopping.
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Stealing Christmas

'Tis the season for shopping — and also for scamming, especially online. The Better Business Bureau found that 55 percent of scams take place online, with 75 percent of people ending up losing money from the scam. So how can you tell what can be trusted, and what is a front for fraudulence? The BBB has compiled the top 12 scams that are known to take place during the holiday season — beware before you shop till you drop. 


Related: Watch Out for These Scams Targeting Seniors

I'm Not on Social Media
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Social Media Scams

Those amazing-looking products that are showing up in your social media feed are certainly tempting, but think twice before you enter your credit card to order. The items could be counterfeit, completely different than what's advertised, or may simply never show up in the mail. It's worth looking into a company through the Better Business Bureau before plunking down payment. If it's too late and you think you've already been scammed, you can report the company to the BBB as well.  


Related: How Much Is Your Age Group Affected by Online Fraud?

Confused and embarrassed young man looks at the phone, holds a credit card in his hands
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Online Gift Exchanges

Beware of online gift exchanges, which are rampant this time of year. Some popular scams involve exchanging bottles of wine, $10 gift cards, and submitting your personal information into a list where you send money to strangers to "pay it forward." There's even a new version where you're encouraged to buy a $10 gift for a secret online dog. If you want to exchange Secret Santa gifts, it's best to keep it amongst friends, families and coworkers — not online strangers. 


Related: Funny White Elephant Gifts Everyone Will Want To Steal  

Loving senior woman at home on a video call using a smartphone during christmas season waving hello very happy and smiling
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Holiday Apps

We're not talking about the delicious treats you eat at parties, but instead about those downloadable holiday apps where you can track Santa on his sleigh, chat with him, or where kids can put in their holiday wish lists. As innocent as these seem, always be sure to review privacy policies to see what information will be collected; additionally, free apps may contain malware, so check it twice. 


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Fake Account Alerts

If you receive an email, text message, or phone call that your Amazon, Paypal, or bank account has suspicious activity and you need to take immediate action, it's probably a scam. If you're really concerned about your account, go to the company directly (and separately from any links sent to you) to check in.

Gift Card Isolated
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Free Gift Cards

Everyone loves a freebie, especially this time of year. But if you receive an email asking you to provide personal information to receive a free gift card, it's a scam. These scams may come in the form of emails that look like they're from legitimate companies. Send the emails directly to trash and do not click any links. 


Related: Have a Few Bucks Left On a Gift Card? You're Entitled to a Cash Refund in These States

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Temporary Holiday Jobs

A number of businesses hire holiday workers to help seasonally, such as shipping and delivery companies. But if an opportunity you're seeing online seems too good to be true, it probably is. These scams may promise big money, no interview, or ask for a payment up front in the form of training fees, supplies, or an application fee. Finally, never accept work without written confirmation and salary details. 


Related: These Companies Are Hiring Seasonal Workers for the Holidays

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Fake Websites

Be careful opening emails that look like they have links to legitimate stores and sites — this may lead to malware, fake purchasing, and information stealing. Some clear signs: no working customer service number, no physical address, and typos and grammatical errors.

stylish housewife making donation via smartphone application
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Fake Charities

It's the time of year for giving, and the time of year for scammers pretending to be a charity or individual in need. Before donating, verify a charity at Give.org to confirm it's legit. 

Woman following a parcel delivery in real time on her smart phone
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Fake Shipping Notifications

Chances are, you're having a lot shipped to you this season, and getting text and email notifications of a package's whereabouts is common. But some scammers are sending emails that look like a shipping notification in order to steal personal information. If you're being asked to click on a link in a shipping notification email, take pause.

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Virtual Holiday Pop-Ups

Seeing social media pages and emails advertising online holiday pop-up shops that you've never heard of and aren't sure of their brick and mortar existence? Be careful. If you're being asked for credit card info in order to attend the "event," it may be a scam. 

Christmas morning
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Holiday Wish List Items

Every year, there are those in-demand items that seem impossible to find; this year some of the top toys are Magic Mixies,  Squishmallows, and Bluey's Playhouse. You may be aware of knockoff luxury items, but toys can be counterfeited also. Think again if you're tempted to purchase these and other hot holiday items off unfamiliar websites, especially if they're listed for a low price. It's also worth being careful about purchasing these sorts of items from resellers on Facebook Marketplace or eBay.

New pet for Christmas
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Puppy Scams

A puppy under the Christmas tree is many kids' dream come true, and this time of year, scammers come out who know that. Nearly 80 percent of online pet advertisements may be fake, according to the Better Business Bureau. Never buy a pet without going to see it in person first, and never wire money for an animal. Your best bet? Head to the local animal shelter instead. 


Related: Cute Dog Breeds That Make Terrible Pets