BBB's 12 scams of Christmas: What to watch for during the holidays

While you're busy decking the halls, the Better Business Bureau is warning you to keep an eye out for those trying to take advantage of the giving spirit this holiday.

The organization has released the 12 most common scams, so you don't get scrooged.

1. Look-Alike Websites: When stores sell out, you may find the items online on a different website than the official retailer's site. Remember, it's easy to mimic a real website. Make sure the website has "https://" at the beginning of its web address. The "s" indicates the website is secure. Some dishonest sites will take your money and run, leaving you without the gift or money to buy it elsewhere. Check with before ordering online from a business.

2. Social Media Gift Exchange: Purchasing one gift and receiving 36 sounds like a great deal, but this seasonal scam is actually a pyramid scheme.

3. Grandparent Scams: Seniors should be cautious if they get a call from a grandchild claiming to be in an accident, arrested or hospitalized while traveling in another country. Never send money unless you confirm with another family member that it's true.

4. Counterfeit Goods: Luxury goods at low prices are almost always cheap counterfeits. Handbags, jewelry, watches, wallets, and electronic devices are among the top of the list of items counterfeited. Always buy from reputable sellers.

5. Free Gift Cards: Pop-up ads, texts, or emails offering free gift cards are often just a ploy to get your personal information that can later be used for identity theft.

6. E-Cards: Electronic cards can be great fun, but be careful. Two red flags to watch out for are: (1) the sender's name is not apparent and (2) you are required to share additional information to get the cards.

7. Fake Shipping Notifications: These can have attachments or links to sites that will download malware on your computer to steal your identity and your passwords. Don't be fooled by holiday phishing scams.

8. Phony Charities: Everyone is in a generous mood during the holidays, so scammers take advantage of that with fake charity solicitations in email, on social media sites, and even by text. Check out charities at BBBHouston.orgbefore donating.

9. Letters From Santa: Several trusted companies offer charming and personalized letters from Santa, but scammers mimic them to get personal information from unsuspecting parents. Check with the BBB first.

10. Unusual Forms of Payments: Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay for holiday purchases using prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, third parties, etc. These payments cannot be traced and cannot be undone.

11. Bad Public Wi-Fi: While Wi-Fi is convenient, it does have risks. Never turn off your firewall, and make sure your antivirus is up to date whenever you are connected to public Wi-Fi. Scammers are after your money and identity. Never use public Wi-Fi when you go on social media sites and especially when you use online banking.

12. Puppy Scams: Be very careful buying pets online, especially during the holidays. You may get a puppy mill pooch with problems, or you may get nothing at all because it was a scam.

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