As Christmas draws nearer and the shopping days wind down, the Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers to be a bit wary of scams posing as retailers and well-wishers.
"Do not let the rush of this last shopping week lower your guard when it comes to personal security," said Gary Almond, president of BBB serving northeast California. "Think before you click and be vigilant when shopping."
Turlock Police Sgt. Stephen Webb said it's not unusual to see more fraud cases during the holiday seasons, especially with phony charities.
"People are spending more money and feeling more charitable at this time of year, so there's more opportunity for fraudulent activity," Webb said.
The BBB lists the top five last minute holiday scams as:
Online shopping scares: The busyness of this last shopping week may cause a lowered threshold when it comes to Internet security, but beware of untrustworthy websites. Each holiday season, BBB receives complaints from consumers who never receive ordered items from online shopping sites.
BBB tip: Always check out online retailers at bbb.org before entering payment information. Call the listed customer service number to confirm it is in working order. Search for the company through a search engine to gain an understanding of its background.
Fake delivery emails: Phishing emails enter consumers' inboxes claiming to be from reputable companies like UPS, Federal Express and others. They claim to link to tracking information, but are really just filled with phishing links designed to get the consumer's personal information for fraud.
BBB tip: Don't click on any links or attachments in emails until the sender of the email is confirmed as the company. Red flags include typos, grammatical mistakes and unsolicited emails from unfamiliar companies. When in doubt, call the company the email came from to verify the legitimacy.
"People should be very cognizant of who they are giving their personal information to," Webb said. "It's okay to ask them why they need this information."
E-Card scams: E-greetings pop up in inboxes across the country during the holiday season. However, BBB warns to be leery of greeting cards from unnamed relatives or friends. The greeting could be a phishing email from a complete stranger.
BBB tip: If the sender is not identified, be wary of opening the card. Check around with relatives to see if anyone truly sent a card. Do not open it if you cannot identify the sender after checking with contacts. Ensure your anti-virus software is current before clicking any links in any emails.
Bogus charitable pleas: While the holidays are a time of giving, the holidays are also a time of profit for charity scammers. Beware of on-the-spot donations and emotional pleas from non-existent charities.
BBB tip: Always research a charity before donating at give.org. Avoid giving cash to individuals and always ask for information regarding the charity before making a decision.
Identity theft at the mall: Crowds can incite chaos, which can cause shoppers to lose track of belongings. Whether someone is looking over a shoulder at a PIN or swiping a card from a loose purse, keep track of all possessions.
BBB tip: Know where credit and debit cards are at all times. Cover the keypad when entering PINs and keep a close eye on financial statements to watch for fraudulent charges.
"Be mindful of the people around you," Webb advices. "Keep your receipts and compare them to your credit card charges and make sure they match up."