Tis the Season of Holiday Scams

Dec 27, 2012

In song, the gifts of Christmas include partridges, turtle doves and French hens. But scammers seek a different type of bird — pigeons who’ll fall for their holiday-themed hoaxes. To commemorate those lyrical dozen days, here are 12 tips to avoid getting plucked this holiday season.

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1. When doing online searches for names of popular gifts — or even words like “toys” and “discount” — never click on links before you carefully read the website’s address.

Beware of unfamiliar vendors or ones whose addresses have missing letters, misspellings or other tweaks of a legitimate company’s name (such as www.tiffanyco.mn instead of the legit www.tiffany.com). Click on these bum addresses and you may be steered to a scammer-run site that unleashes rogue programs known as malware onto your computer. Or you may be taken to a “cybersquatting” site that poses as a legitimate company’s online outpost to sell cheap counterfeit goods and collect credit card numbers.

2. Before ordering, check the site’s “Contact Us” page for a phone number and physical address and a “Terms and Conditions” page for return policies and such. Bogus websites often don’t have these pages at all or have crude imitations (being loaded with grammatical errors is one tip-off).

3. When buying gifts online, don’t provide your credit card or other information unless the page’s address begins with “https://” The “s” is for “secure.”

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