There's nothing festive about fraud!

Add these tips to your list and stay safe from holiday scams.

BankSmartBe cautious shopping online. Although fraud at brick-and-mortar retailers has declined due to the implementation of chip-card readers, fraudsters have shifted their efforts to online activity. Look for "https" in the address (the extra "s" is for "secure") and for a lock symbol.

Look-alike websites: When shopping online, make sure to use only legitimate websites. Wach out for URLs that use the names of well-known brands along with the extra words.

Fake shipping notifications: These notifications may have attachments or links to sites that could download malware on your computer to steal your identity and your passwords. Avoid falling victim to a holiday phishing scam.

E-cards: Electronic cards can be great fun but be careful. Two red flags to watch our for are:

  1. The sender's name is not apparent
  2. You are required to share additional information to get the e-card.

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 Better Business Bureau ( to find out which ones are legitimate.

Emergency scam: Practice caution if you receive a call or email from an individual claiming to be a family member who has been involved in an accident, arrested, or hospitalized while traveling internationally. Never send money unless you are able to validate the story with another trusted family member/friend.

Phony charities: Scammers will look to take advantage of holiday generosity through fake charity solicitations in email, on social media sites, and even by text. Verify the legitimacy of charities at before donation.

Temporary holiday jobs: Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays but beware of solicitations that require you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to retailers main website to find out who is hiring.

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

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

Social media gift exchange: It sounds like a great deal; buy one gift card and get 35 in return. But it's just a variation on a pyramid scheme and it is illegal.

Here's what you can do to protect yourself...

Online/Mobile Banking: If you do not use online banking websites or mobile banking apps on a regular basis, then you're missing one of the best tools to monitor your finances. At a minimum, you should review activity weekly to make sure everything is accurate.

Fraud/Balance Alert: Most banks and credit issuers offer some type of alert for things like low balance/low credit limits, large transactions, an unusual activity. Make use of these handy tools to be warned right away that something suspicious might be underway.

Statements: Statements are more than just a reminder that you have to pay your bill. They list all transactions that occurred during the reporting period. If you are monitoring your accounts weekly through online/mobile banking, then there should be no surprises here...but that does not mean you should skip reviewing statements. Consider it a double-check to protect yourself.