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Simply Money

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3 sneaky scams to watch out for during the holiday season

Peace. Hope. Thankfulness. The holiday season is officially here! And if you have the right mindset, not much can ruin this time of year. That is, unless, you fall for a scam.

Be on alert for these three popular scams as we head towards Christmas.

Gift card fraud

Gift cards, once a much-dreaded gift to receive, have grown in popularity over the years thanks to their convenience and the extensive range of restaurants and retailers now offering them. In fact, in 2017, they were the #1 most wanted holiday gift according to WalletHub.

But that massive display rack at the grocery store loaded with seemingly endless rows of gift cards is a scammer’s paradise. A thief can easily access a gift card’s number, scratch off the security code, and put it back on the rack – meaning you buy a gift card that’s already been drained.

To avoid this, always try to buy your gift cards from a store cashier or the retailer’s website. And, if you are buying off a display rack, ask the cashier to scan it so you can confirm the amount on the card, just to be safe.

Package tracking scams

This time of year, your inbox is probably full of email confirmations with package tracking information. Scammers are hoping their fake package confirmation emails will get lost in the shuffle – and that you’ll fall for their trick.

Be on alert for any emails that look like they come from UPS, FedEx, or USPS and include an urgent subject line such as, “Delivery Failure” or “Delivery Status Change” or “Please Confirm Your Shipment.” If there’s an attachment, do not open it. It’s probably loaded with malware that will infect your computer if you click.

Also, look for grammatical errors and typos in the email. This is a tell-tale sign of a scam. If you’re using a desktop computer, hover over any links – but don’t click! If the “link preview” doesn’t include the official website from the supposed sender, that’s a bad sign as well. Just delete the email.

Social media “gift exchange” scheme

“Gift exchange” postings seem to be everywhere on social media during the holidays, especially Facebook (have you seen the “Secret Sister” one?). The gist goes like this: if you buy one gift, you’ll get up to 36 gifts in return. All you have to do is message the person posting the original invitation for more information, which usually includes sharing your personal contact information.

Unfortunately, these so-called gift exchanges are actually pyramid schemes – which are illegal. The only person who really benefits is the one who starts the scam.

The Simply Money Point

As unfortunate as it is, scammers will try their best to ruin your holidays. They “win” the moment you let your guard down. So, stay vigilant and trust your gut.

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