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5 clever holiday scams you need to know about

The holidays are a time for family, giving, celebrations, shopping, and, unfortunately, an uptick in scams. You need to blend a reasonable dose of wariness in with your holiday cheer when you’re browsing online, checking your email, or trying to track down this year’s must-have toy.

Here are five scams that are heating up for the holidays and how to avoid falling for them.

1. Counterfeit Fingerlings

The hot toys this holiday season are the hard-to-find Fingerlings from WowWee. These tiny, monkey-like creatures hang onto your finger and react to sound, motion, and touch by moving and making cute monkey noises. What’s not so cute is the counterfeit market that’s emerged around these must-have gadgets.

Third-party sellers are offering knock-off versions of Fingerlings that look at lot like the real thing. WowWee recently obtained restraining orders against 165 counterfeit Fingerlings sellers, but a quick search of Amazon and eBay shows these false toys are still sneaking onto the market. One of the most prevalent knockoffs mimics the looks of “Boris,” a blue monkey with a shock of orange hair.

Follow these tips to avoid fake Fingerlings: Buy only from authorized sellers (such as Toys ”R” Us or directly from Amazon, not from marketplace sellers). Be wary of artificially low prices. Check the packaging, which looks different from the official box. Fake toys may have “Happy Monkey,” “Finger Monkey,” or “Fun Monkey” written on the box.

While Fingerlings may be in short supply, WowWee promises that more stock will reach retailers as the holiday season progresses, so don’t settle for anything but the real deal.

2. Fake Amazon emails

Amazon is the king of the hill when it comes to online shopping, so it’s no wonder scammers try to disguise themselves as the big retailer when trying to pull off schemes to steal private data and financial information. The Better Business Bureau recently warned about the latest version of this in the form of an email claiming to be from Amazon that asks you to verify your personal information.

The email is well-disguised with Amazon’s logo and colors and it includes a link leading to a third-party website that has no relation to the retailer. If you receive this email or one like it, don’t click on that link. This is a bold phishing attempt that aims to either infect your computer with malware or steal your information.

Can you spot a fake email? Take our test to find out.

3. “Free” gift cards

Receiving a free gift card sounds great, but don’t be tempted by emails, websites, pop-up ads, text messages, or social media posts promising you something for nothing. These ploys can be disguised attempts to get you to share your personal information for purposes of stealing your identity. We’ve even seen a clever fake email that promises an Amazon gift card in exchange for taking a short survey. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

4. Fake shopping websites

You’re cruising around online, looking for a deal, when you come across a website that looks legitimate and offers incredible prices. But you’ve never heard of it before. Is it real? Look closely. Are there misspellings, missing photos, or other telltale signs of bad web design? Does the retailer list verifiable contact information, including a phone number? Look up reviews from the seller. Beware of vague or nonexistent customer service, refund, and privacy policies.

Another form of this same scam happens when a fake website has a name or URL that is very close to a real retailer. Double-check that you’re on the legitimate site you intended to use before you hand over your credit card information. There are plenty of good, real deals to be found during the holiday shopping season, so don’t get drawn in by fakes.

Learn three ways to spot a malicious website.

5. Fraudulent package delivery notices

Both UPS and FedEx have warned customers about fraudulent emails directed at unsuspecting shoppers. The emails may include tracking numbers or a notice that a package could not be delivered. They encourage you to click on a fake link or may have a computer virus disguised as an attachment. Don’t click and don’t open the attachment.

FedEx stated, “FedEx does not request, via unsolicited mail or email, payment or personal information in return for goods in transit or in FedEx custody.” UPS has the same policy. If you receive an email that asks for this, then you know it’s not legitimate.


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