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Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the official start of the holiday shopping season.  Shopping online or off is serious business, especially for scammers and thieves!

Popular Scams

  • Online Gift Card Scams.  It is best to buy your gift cards directly from merchants or online stores.
  • Stripped Gift Card Scams.  When you purchase a preloaded card from a retailer, always have them scan the card to be sure the full amount is available and look to be sure the packaging has not been tampered with or damaged.
  • Phishing, SMiShing, and Vishing. You can be scammed via email (phishing), text messages (SMiShing) or phone calls (Vishing) so be aware of unsolicited contacts.
  • Charity Scams.  'Tis the season for giving but don't fall victim while opening your heart and wallet!
  • Fraudulent Classified Ads and auction sales.  Check seller ratings, feedback and number of sales.  Be wary of sellers with 100 percent positive feedback unless they have years of feedback and sales to back it up.  Few feedback responses, especially those clustered around a few dates, or few sales--especially with 100 percent feedback--can be scammers who will bill your card but never get the merchandise to you.
  • Remember when shopping online that the site should always start with https when you're paying!  The 's' stands for secure.

Online Tips

  • If it looks too good to be true--it probably is!  Only shop from reliable websites.
  • Check the address bar.  Look for https://  (NOT http) in the URL before using your credit/debit card online.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls.
  • Don't click on links in unsolicited emails and texts.
  • Be careful of email attachments--those are great places to hide viruses.
  • Always hover over links in emails to be sure you'll be sent to a legitimate site.  Sometimes the bogus site will contain a virus or other malware.
  • Log in directly to the official website instead of using email links.
  • Contact the actual business directly to see if the sent email, text or phone calls are legitimate.
  • If you are asked to hurry or act quickly be especially cautious
  • Check your credit card and bank statements regularly.  
  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots and public computers.  It is NOT recommended to use them for personal web business such as using passwords or credit/debit cards.  
  • Disable Bluetooth, wireless, and Near Field Communication (NFC) when not in use to reduce the risk of your data being intercepted by thieves. 
  • Don't auto-save your passwords or credit/debit card numbers.

In-Person Tips


  • Stay alert and be aware of what's going on around you
  • Park in well-lighted space, and be sure to lock the car, close the windows, and hide shopping bags and gifts in the trunk
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash; pay with a check or a credit card (pay off at end of the month) whenever possible
  • Deter pickpockets and purse-snatchers.  Don't overburden yourself with packages.  Be extra careful with purses and wallets.  Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat  or front pants pants pocket.
  • Shopping with kids?  Teach them to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated. 
  • If a stranger comes to your door--beware because criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering gifts, so be cautious 
  • Be careful of home delivery at this time--maybe change to delivery at work (when possible), or have a family member or neighbor pick them up for you or have the post office hold the package

Links for More Information

Published on December 11, 2015