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The original item was published from 10/27/2023 12:05:20 PM to 10/27/2023 12:16:07 PM.

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Fraud Alerts

Posted on: October 27, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Avoiding Holiday Shopping Scams

We may have enjoyed the warmer temperatures a little longer than usual this year, but don’t get too cozy because as the temps start falling the scams are heating up when it comes to holiday shopping scams. As the fall nights get colder and we start thinking about holiday shopping, please heed these tips to help you spot and avoid the top holiday shopping scams. And as the old adage goes and continues to ring true; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is… and just might be a scam!


What it is: Scammers launch a copycat website of a well-known retailer – or, create a website offering popular, sometimes previously "sold out" merchandise at crazy discounts.

How it works: A classic phishing scam – often by email but increasingly through links on social media sites – the email appears to come from a legitimate company and the link sends you to a phony website where you're asked to enter personal information.

What to do:

  • Search the retailer; type in "vendor name + scam" and see what comes up.
  • Type URLs directly into your browser; do not click on a link from an email or social media site unless you are absolutely sure the message is from the legitimate business.
  • On the payment page, look for "https" at the beginning of the address (the "s" stands for "secure").
  • Shopping on a new site? Look for a return policy and contact information including a real address, a toll-free customer service number, and other ways to reach the company if you have a problem.
  • Use a credit card (not a debit card) when shopping online for greater protections against possible fraud.



How it works: Thieves hit a store gift card rack, secretly write down or electronically scan the numbers off the cards, then check online or call the toll-free number to see if someone has bought the cards and activated them. As soon as a card is active, the scammers drain the funds. By the time you try to use the same card, the money is long gone.

What to do:

  • Only purchase gift cards from reputable sources. Better yet, get them directly from the store they're from – and preferably directly from the store cashier – and ask them to scan the card to ensure it has the correct balance.
  • Carefully examine both sides of the card and look for signs of tampering such as an exposed PIN. If you find anything questionable, ask for another card and examine that one, too.
  • Online gift card purchases should be made directly from the retailer's website. Never buy them on auction sites even if it looks like a great deal; these cards may be stolen or counterfeit.
  • Keep your receipt as proof of purchase until the card's value has been exhausted.
  • Do not provide your personal information: no reputable business will require you to provide your Social Security number, bank account information, or date of birth in order to purchase a gift card; you're not applying for credit.


How it works: The end of the year is a prime time for charitable donations, and scammers try to take advantage. Fake charities are among the most popular holiday scams: scammers either misuse the name of a genuine organization, or make up their own.

What to do:

  • Only donate to charities you know. If a new charity piques your interest, be sure to verify it on  
  • If you get a request via phone, STOP. Be suspicious. We recommended that you call the charity directly using the contact info on their website and ask if they can send you material about themselves to your mailing address.

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