Smart Spending

How to Avoid Holiday Scams

‘Tis the season to be wary.  Unfortunately, not everyone will be thinking about peace on earth, good will towards man but how to take advantage of holiday distractions instead.

Scam Online Shopping Sites

The biggest complaints the Better Business Bureau get each year involving holiday scams  has to do with fake online shopping sites.  Though nothing but your own research and intuition can keep you safe from these holiday scams, here are a few tips to look for:

  • A contact and about us page with physical name, address and phone number.
  • The BBB Seal of Approval,
  • SSL Certification seals (click or hover mouse over the seals to test they are real).
  • Before entering any information, check for the “https” in the web page address.
  • Click on the padlock on the status bar in the web address to verify information.
    (Check your browser’s help file or  if you are unsure how to use this function)
  • Install software that warns you against unsafe websites.


Phishing is posing as a trusted source asking for personal information.  Spammers frequently send fake links to PayPal or eBay during the holidays or pretend to be your bank or credit card trying to get in touch with you.

  • Don’t follow links directly; type the URL into your browser instead and go directly to your banking/credit card or retailer site and look for information there.
  • Do NOT open attachments, click on any links especially holiday e-cards from someone you don’t know.
  • Do not download any executable programs (files ending in .exe) that have been sent to you.


Smishing is phishing via text message.  Never respond.  If the text says there’s a problem with your bank account, call the bank directly and not the number provided by the text.

Pop-Ups and False Ads:

As you complete transactions, beware of pop-up windows that offer money back on your next purchase if you join, you could be enrolling in a membership program you did not intend to buy instead of completing your transaction.

Disable pop-ups on your computer, and keep anti-virus software up to date.  Don’t leave feedback or sign up to win prizes on a pop-up ad.

Gift-card swiping:

Thieves scan the gift cards on racks at stores and strip the card of its value.  That’s why you should only buy gift cards kept behind the counter/register.

The BBB also warns against buying gift card from online auction sites that are likely to be counterfeit or have no value.

Debit Card Skimming:

Always be aware of what’s going on about you and keep your wallet or purse in a secure place—particularly when you are struggling with packages out in a mall’s parking lot.

When making a purchase, cover your hand at the ATM and on the checkout line so cameras can’t possibly record your PIN.

Don’t use an ATM with someone lurking about or if it looks like there has been tampering done on the machine.

 Check out that charity

Always do your homework before giving money to charities. Beware of sound a likes and requests to support police or firefighters. Contact your local police or fire department to see what percentage of donations, if any, they will receive.

The Better Business Bureau Wise (BBB) Giving Alliance offers information about national charities,

Make sure everyone in your family is as aware of these holiday traps and know how to be safe on line.

Simply put tis the season to be wary of holiday scams so that your holidays are merry.