The 12 scams of Christmas

Buyer beware - even during the holidays. (Source: MGN Composite)
Buyer beware - even during the holidays. (Source: MGN Composite)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - While the holiday season is full of charity, there are unfortunately some crooks who are only looking out for themselves.

Here are twelve ways scammers are looking to take instead of give.

12. Malware gift cards – Be careful when opening emails from a name you don't recognize. Viruses and malware can often be embedded in the message itself or in links you are expected to click through.

11. The 'stranded grandkids' scam – This one specifically targets seniors. Someone calls claiming to be a grandchild who has had a 'situation' come up, and rather than talk to their parents or risk getting in trouble, they reach out to you. Michele Mason with the Better Business Bureau said this is designed to make you panic and think you need to help your grandchild – often, the target wires money or buys a GreenDot MoneyPak and gives the caller the number.

10. Counterfeit gifts – If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. "There are a lot of sites that offer too-good-to-be-true deals on items based on the brand name you see associated with it," Mason said.

9. Pickpockets – "Be aware of your surroundings and be aware of who is close by. Try not to carry any valuables because there will be people trying to take advantage, stealing from you," advised Mason.

8. Stolen gift cards – Make sure when you get the gift of plastic that the protective coating on the back hasn't been tampered with or removed. Someone can get the number and access the funds on the card. "We've had many cases where someone has just gotten the number from the card and already downloaded the funds and left the card on the shelf," said Mason.

7. Fake coupons – Mason said you really want to stick with those that are being offered by retailers and only use coupons distributed by the retailer, especially when doing comparison shopping.

6. Bad Santas – Even the jolly old elf himself is not safe from holiday scammers. "If you see someone from a store collecting for charity, be aware and do some homework and make sure you recognize the organization they represent," Mason warned.

5. Fake charities – Along the same lines, do homework and make sure you're contributing to a legitimate cause.

4. Bogus websites – Be wary of emails trying to lure you to a site. Mason said there's a good chance that the website is set up to gather information, only to disappear a day later.

3. Travel scams – With the busy holiday season, you may be tempted to jump at those airfare or trip bargains from emails or phone calls saying they're trying to fill in some spots. Mason said there are local travel agents who can get great deals for you.

2. Phony significant others – Exercise caution when looking for love around the holiday season, especially online. "Be careful with someone approaching you online, especially on sites like Facebook – you might get a message that says they saw your picture and are interested and want to learn more," Mason said.

Our final item on the list of the Twelve Scams of Christmas is one that scammers use to tug at the heartstrings of every member of the family.

1. The totally fictitious puppy – Be careful when buying a pet from an online source. You may end up with an animal that came from a puppy mill, one that is sick, or nothing at all.

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