The holidays are a great time for shopping!

But while Santa is busy giving gifts, there may be Grinches trying to steal your hard-earned cash.

The Better Business Bureau wants to warn the public about five holiday scams to watch for and avoid. They also have a Scam Tracker where you can research and report scams to keep yourself - and others - safe.


1. Online shopping scams. If a deal looks too good to be true, it may be. Look for the BBB Accredited Business seal when shopping online, and click to confirm it's legitimate. Make sure the company has a physical address, a telephone number, and if you're entering financial information, an "https://" at the beginning of the URL.

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2. Online ads for hard-to-find items. When stores sell out of hot toys or gadgets, you may find them online for steeper prices. Some sellers will take your money and run. If you shop on Craigslist, eBay or similar sites, look for local sellers and try to meet in person at a public place and with a friend. Never wire money and research sellers before you buy.

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3. Identity theft at the mall? Identity thieves can take advantage when you're juggling bags of presents and Christmas lists at the mall. This may be a chance for someone to either steal your wallet or look over your shoulder and copy down your card information. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times, and cover the keypad when entering your pin. If you can use the embedded chip instead of the magnetic strip, do it.

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4. Bogus charities. Scammers know that people are in the giving spirit at this time of year. Beware of requests from charities that you haven't researched, and don't give on the spot. Research charities before you give and check out the BBB's standards for charity accountability.

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5. Phishing emails. Around the holidays, watch for e-cards and messages saying they're from companies like UPS, FedEx or other retailers with package tracking information. Don't click on any links or open attachments until you've confirmed they're legitimate. Email addresses not matching up, typos and unsolicited emails are red flags. Make sure you have up-to-date antivirus software, too.

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