(CBS) — You’re in the holiday mood, ready to spend some money, but be careful: you could be the target of a holiday scam. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker takes a look at the top five scams that could ruin your holidays.
The rush is on, but the frantic search to find the best deals in stores and especially online can make shoppers the perfect targets for holiday scams.
“Oftentimes the consumer really has no idea that they’ve been duped until the item either doesn’t arrive or it arrives and it’s shoddy and poor quality,” said Gail Montenegro, spokesperson for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations.
Her agency is leading the fight against counterfeit goods. Last year agents seized nearly $1.7 billion worth of counterfeit items. And, this year they shut down more than 29,000 illegal websites.
How do you know that a site is counterfeit?
“You may not know. They make the sites look so much like the actual site,” said Montenegro.
Looking at a legitimate site selling Dr. Dre Beats headphones next to the fake one, it’s tough to tell the difference. On close inspection, there is support link on the real one and there’s no such link on the fake one.
“If you go to checkout and it diverts you a third party. A third party website, that is also a red flag,” warned Montenegro.
Shopping online also makes you vulnerable to other scams like bogus shipping confirmation emails from retailers or mail carriers. Those are created by cyber crooks trying to steal your personal information by getting you to click on a link.
“It’s always in my spam saying your package number and it even gives you a number. I don’t click on it. I delete it,” said shopper Joyce Enos.
You should also delete the fake email from Santa, promising a personal letter to your little one in exchange for your credit card number and the same advice for the too good to be true offers of popular items that pop up on Facebook.
In the stores, scammers target gift cards, scratching off the secret security code on the back or stealing the info from the magnetic stripe.
“When you do buy them they actually take the money out of your account,” advised Steve Bernas from the Better Business Bureau.
He recommends only buying cards located near the register where it’s difficult for thieves to operate.
One last piece of advice: when shopping online, before you checkout, make sure there’s a small lock in the corner of the URL.