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Holidays are supposed to be a joyous time — but scammers can replace the joy of the season with the headaches of fraud. Help yourself and take some simple precautions to keep the Grinches out of your bank accounts during the holidays.

Phishing emails

Phishing, or emails with fake links designed to get your personal information, often ramps up at the end of the year. Fake delivery confirmations are an annual favorite.

Popular ones include the personalized letter from Santa to your child, solicitations from unknown third parties that offer gift cards or discounts in exchange for taking a survey, and fake renewal requests for things like insurance coverage.

Fake charities

Unfortunately, fake charities often pop up during the holidays to take advantage of people’s generosity. Social media has become a popular method of attack for these scammers.

Please support your favorite charities, but thoroughly vet any new charities that ask for your money. Legitimate charities will be happy to answer your questions.

Phone scams

More people are home over the holidays, so phone scammers step up their efforts accordingly. In general, you should not give your personal information over the phone in any call that you did not initiate.

E-cards

Holiday e-cards are increasingly popular, but they can contain viruses. Verify them separately with the sender before opening.

Bogus websites

Online-shopping bargains may be unusually good for a reason. Scammers may create slick websites offering merchandise at cut-rate prices without any intent of delivering — or worse, as a front to steal and misuse your account information.

Before you order from a website, verify both that the company is legitimate and that you have not been directed to a spoof of their website. Do not use external links, and enter the correct company URL in your browser. Look for “https” in the header — the “s” reflects a secure web page.

Take care with mobile use

Ordering on your mobile device may be convenient, but if you are using a public, unsecured wireless connection, you are increasing the risk that your information may be intercepted and stolen.

It is more difficult to verify on a smartphone that you are connecting to a legitimate site, and more tempting to use convenient links that could redirect you. Per the above suggestions, type in the correct URL in the browser. If you are connecting through retailer apps, verify that the app is valid.

Gift cards

You can buy major retailers’ gift cards almost anywhere now — even at gas stations — but check them carefully. If the activation codes are exposed, scammers may have already copied and used the information, leaving you with a worthless card.

Change your passwords

What could be more fun than sitting in front of a roaring fire with hot apple cider and changing all of your passwords? There are plenty of things that are more fun, but not many that are more useful.

Use credit over debit

Credit cards will not protect you from scams, but they can limit the damage. Your liability for defective/undelivered items or fraudulent use of your card is $50, and many credit companies will waive that. Debit cards are linked to your bank account, so it is easy for thieves to drain your account without your knowledge.

We hope that these tips can protect your personal information and keep you safe from the evil schemes of the holiday Grinches. They are mean ones, those Grinches. Don’t touch them, even with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

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Moneytips.com is a website that answers people’s money-related questions, publishes guides explaining products and services available in the marketplace, provides calculators to help people plan and budget, and produces related content.

Featured main page image by 05com, used under Creative Commons license.