Holiday scams that will catch you off guard

ByDiane Wilson and Catherine Chestnutt WTVD logo
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Holiday scams that will catch you off guard
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The holiday season is in full swing which also means scammers are out in full force.

The holiday season is in full swing which also means scammers are out in full force.

In order to protect you and your family, here are some tips to keep your money in your pocket.

Fake websites

When you're shopping for an item online, watch out for ads that pop up advertising a hard to get toy or product. Also, watch out for sites that offer it for much less than the retail price.

This happened to Erica Poole who thought she had found one of the hottest toys for Christmas this year, Gigi the unicorn Fingerling from WowWee.

The website that Erica purchased the Fingerlings from claimed to be authentic; however, they were not the real thing.

Fake Fingerlings
Credit: Diane Wilson

"Besides the state of damage, it's obviously fake because it's cardboard packaging and the name of the unicorn is wrong," said Poole. "The name on the packaging is Alika, it's supposed to be Gigi."

Alika the unicorn was also missing her mane.

For this Raleigh mom, she had to learn the hard way to be wary of clicking on ads advertising some of the hardest toys to get this year.

This also happened to Edward Fitzgerald when he tried to find Fingerlings for his kids.

After our story, a generous viewer sent him to authentic Fingerlings.

Sometimes it can be easy to spot a fake website if you check the URL.

Some websites include "" or "" Check to make sure the site you are visiting is spelled correctly.

Also, make sure the website is secure and it has the "s" on https and the lock symbol.

If you're shopping online, never pay with your debit card! Use your credit card instead so you can dispute a claim if you're having any problems.

Unsure of the website you're visiting? Do a quick google search to find reviews and complaints, that way, if people are having problems you'll be aware.

Social media

Detective Mike Copeland with the Chatham County Sheriff's Department warns social media users to not post pull frontal face images. He said this allows scammers to make fake ID's using your picture.

Don't share your phone number on social media sites. If you do, this allows scammers to make a call pretending to be a grandchild, friend, or loved one in legal trouble.

This is known as the "Help Me Scam," which a Chatham County grandpa just lost $65,000 to because he thought his grandson was in trouble.

Other scams that can get you for money include the Secret Sister Gift Exchange, Kidnapping Scams, and the Puppy Scam.

Always be wary of people who are demanding payment immediately.

Also be cautious of romance scams.

This time of year many scammers pretend to be in the military and need help getting home for the holidays. When they start asking for money to help get home, you need to end that relationship right away.

Gift cards

Gift cards are a popular gift this time of year, but before you purchase a gift card, make sure to check that the numbers on the back aren't already scratched off.

Sometimes, scammers take pictures of gift cards in stores with the number already scratched off, put them back on the shelves, wait for someone to buy a card, and then use it before the purchaser knows it's been redeemed.

Be careful buying from resale sites that sell gift cards at a discount. It's been reported that once the gift card arrives it's already been used or is expired.

If you are buying gift cards online, make sure the site clearly states its guarantee policy.

Using email

While e-cards can be a fun way to send a holiday greeting, watch out for malware e-cards.

Senders are attaching viruses along with the e-cards, so before you click to open it, make sure you know the sender.

If you don't recognize the sender, be sure to delete the e-mail. You can also call the retailer directly to verify they are trying to get a hold of you.

Watch out for fake shipping notices.

If you get a shipping notification that appears to be from a popular store like Amazon, Target, or Fed-Ex claiming your item has shipped but asks for personal information so that the delivery can happen, don't click any links, just delete the e-mail.


Be careful with public Wi-Fi; Copeland said using public Wi-Fi in coffee shops and hotels is risky.

He said someone else in the store could create a substitute hot spot, high-jacking all the Wi-Fi traffic and collecting credit card numbers and account numbers.

Never use your social media sites on public Wi-Fi, especially when buying anything or using online banking.

Never turn off your firewall and make sure your antivirus is up to date to ensure you are protected.