More and more, the holidays can feel too much like a money grab. And it's not just your kids who are finding new ways to get your money. Con artists are cashing in on feelings of good cheer, too.
— The shipping scam. An email pops up saying that Your parcel has been returned to the UPS office nearest to you. It asks you to click on the link to provide a mobile number. It has a tracking number.
Susan Rosenberg, public relations manager for UPS in Atlanta, said UPS is not going to send an email asking for a cell phone number out of the blue. Scam artists may phone you to say UPS is waiting to deliver a package but needs your credit card.
She said UPS may send official notification messages on occasion but an official UPS email is rarely going to include attachments. A representative will always provide a tracking number, which you can use on the UPS website. But even that can get tricky; one fraud email that a reader saw had a tracking number. See http://www.ups.com/fraudprotection/. Send suspicious UPS email to fraudups.com.
— Don't be scammed out of $150 or more, if you get a call about computer tech support.
Boots Halstead, 80, took a call from a man in late summer who told her that he was from AMMYY — a software firm. He warned her that her computer had malicious software loaded onto it. He said it would be dangerous for me to use my computer and it was hacked, she said.
Halstead, who lives in Lansing, Mich., told the man to call back when her daughter was home. Unfortunately, the daughter who knows more about computers found the man's warnings believable. She logged into the computer, spent some time following the man's directions and then he asked for her credit card number.
That's when the daughter realized it was a scam. She did not give the credit card number. She later paid a legitimate outfit to clean up the computer mess created during her encounter with fake tech support.
The Federal Trade Commission announced a crackdown last month on six alleged tech support scams. Thousands of consumers were allegedly tricked into paying for removing bogus viruses.
Scammers were charging $49 to $450 for services.
— Don't let the Grinch steal the spirit of giving. Scammers create fictitious charities, including Sandy scams.
Fake victims of disasters attempt to use social media to dupe generous people. The same is true around the holidays. Don't donate to unknown individuals who need help buying gifts and post their financial troubles online.
— Be careful if you get a text that's allegedly from your bank.
Plenty of people sign up for bank text alerts, but scam artists are texting, too. Experts warn that scam artists imply the message is urgent and you must take action before your account is disabled. Call your financial institution before giving any information or clicking a link.
— Yes, Virginia, scammers can wear red suits, too. The Better Business Bureau warns consumers to stay away from any emails that involve Santa — especially if Santa is asking for your bank account information.
Multiple domain names are registered to the name Santa Claus. Limit personal information children share. And make sure there's no adult content on the site or via links. During past holiday seasons, some consumers complained of being duped after paying $45 for a phone call from Santa.
— Be ready for the regular seasonal flurry of hacking holiday e-cards, according to the BBB. Do not click on links or attachments in e-cards and other holiday greetings from unfamiliar senders. Get those spam filters ready.
Susan Tompor is the personal finance columnist for the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at stomporfreepress.com.