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Security & privacy

Top 3 holiday scams you and your loved ones need to know about

‘Tis the season of lights, and you can already see the decorations going up everywhere. If you plan to buy decor online, be careful! Scammers are hitting the market with false ads and lousy merchandise. Tap or click here for holiday decoration scams to watch out for.

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, family and good times. But scammers will use every opportunity to steal your money, including holiday celebrations.

We’ve compiled a list of three of the most prevalent scams making the rounds. We’ll tell you what to look out for, what you should do and how not to become a victim in the future.

Note: If you have older relatives, sharing this article with them is a good idea. Many of the scams going around now target the elderly.

1. Family emergency scam

Scammers often impersonate a distant relative or a long-lost friend when trying to trick you out of money. By going through your social media information, they often see your family connections and use that information to their advantage.

By claiming to have been in an accident, in the hospital, arrested or have a broken-down car, they will appeal to your compassion so that you send them money.

Be very careful if you get a call or message from someone you haven’t spoken to in a while and they are asking for cash. The scammers can also employ another person to act like a policeman, hospital nurse or traffic officer.

Things you should do:

  • If you have an alternative contact number for the person, try to reach them there. You could also contact related family members to verify the claim.
  • Scammers are hoping that you will be panicked or confused and will act impulsively. After getting a phone call or message, take a breather. Think about the situation for a bit and try to verify the situation independently.
  • Never send money, no matter how convincing the scammers might sound, before verifying who you’re actually sending payment to.

Scammers make their calls using an area code that appears domestic but comes from outside the U.S. Tap or click here for area codes to watch out for.

2. Delivery scams

We’ve covered delivery scams in the past, but they’re ramping up as we approach Christmas.

The scams involve criminals sending you bogus text messages about a missed delivery and urging you to text them back or click on a link. Criminals can also phone you from a random number and claim the same missed delivery.

Here’s what to do:

  • If you are not expecting any deliveries, delete the message. Do not respond to it, as the scammers will know that your phone number is active, the address is correct and they have your attention.
  • The text message may contain a link where you supposedly rebook the delivery. The message and the link are fake and will send you to a fraudulent website. You’ll likely be asked for sensitive information like payment details.
  • Never give out personal information to somebody that you don’t trust. If the call or message comes from a real delivery company, they should already have your details and the tracking number.

RELATED: Watch out for these Amazon scams during your holiday shopping

3. Too good to be true

When special shopping days approach, watch for fake advertisements and scam messages. These usually involve highly-sought after products at incredibly low prices.

Several variations exist of these scams, but according to the FBI, the most prominent one is where the seller never ships your order. For example, the price of a luxury handbag might be too good to ignore, and you decide to buy it. But you’ll receive no communication or delivery once you pay for the goods.

Here’s what you can do to stay safe:

  • Verify a seller’s legitimacy before moving forward with a purchase. Check their feedback rating if you’re using an online marketplace or auction website. Be wary of buyers and sellers with primarily negative feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
  • Never wire money directly to a seller.
  • Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item.
  • Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. Contact your credit card company to dispute the charge if you see a suspicious transaction.

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