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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… for Criminals, Cheats and Scammers

Editor’s note: Eva Velasquez, President/ CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center, shares tips for avoiding holiday scams.

With the holiday season upon us, retailers and consumers aren’t the only ones getting ready. Scammers are already at work to maximize their profits during the busy weeks ahead. Keep a close watch on your money and your data by familiarizing yourself with these 5 seasonal scams that can wreck your holidays—and beyond.

1. Travel scams

There’s a good chance you’ve already begun looking for holiday travel deals, but it’s essential to only book your trip with reputable websites. Rather than give in to temptation and click on a suspicious ad, you can check out sites like Kayak.com, Google Flights, or Yapta that help you track the best time to buy or inform you of significant price changes. Also, remember that if there’s any flexibility in your travel dates, you can find even better savings.

2. Online shopping scams

Black Friday is fast approaching, but news reports of the chaos—and even some upsetting behavior by shoppers—make staying home and searching for specials online very appealing. The Internet is great for knocking out your gift list. But bogus websites that claim to have this year’s “hot toy” in stock are often malicious links that install harmful software on your computer, identity theft attempts that record your usernames and passwords, and other scams.

Make sure any site where you shop contains an HTTPS security designation, and make sure your antivirus software is up-to-date before the big shopping day. Limit your shopping to known websites that have a trusted reputation for customer service.

3. Email scams

Once your shopping is done, you’re not out of the woods. Some common email scams work by “spoofing” a major-name website like Amazon or PayPal. It’s a safe bet you have an account, so scammers send you an email stating that something is wrong with your order.

Reacting to the panic of not having your gifts arrive in time, you click the link to resolve the issue, only to install malicious software on your computer in the process. Never click a link you weren’t expecting; instead, go directly to that company’s website yourself and log in to look for problems (See also: What Is Spear Phishing?)

4. Employment scams

Who couldn’t use a little extra cash at the end of the year? A lot of companies rely on seasonal workers to help fill in at the holidays, and there are plenty of scams that try to steal your identifying information by offering you ridiculously easy jobs. Remember, you will never have to turn over your identifying information during the job hunt, so keep that data private until you’ve been hired.

5. Charity scams

The holidays are a time to think of others, and scammers are waiting with phony charity opportunities. Whether it’s collecting cash in person or social media posts that beg for support, remember to investigate a charity thoroughly before you give.

You can also save yourself the heartache—and the dip into your budget—if you donate throughout the year. Worthy organizations need your support all year long, so by giving at other times, you’ll know that you’ve done your part without being ripped off. (See also: 5 Budget Friendly Ways To Give Back)

Experian proudly provides financial support to the Identity Theft Resource Center.

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