— As we enter the holiday season, it pays to be vigilant to avoid scams or slip-ups that could put a damper on your celebrations. Here are some ways to keep your holidays happy. Beware of deals.  Be wary of those too-good-to-be-true deals, especially those that show up as links on your social media feeds. Check out reviews, search the retailer’s name with “scam” to see what comes up, and if it’s a retailer you already know and frequent online, go …

— An 84-year-old widow called the AARP Fraud Watch Network after accepting a free trial offer for a skin cream she had seen a famous personality touting on television. She had no idea she needed to cancel after receiving the free trial. She was sent more product at a cost of $200 and is now fighting to return the product and get her money back. How it Works:   Free trial offers often lure you into accepting a free product or …

— Free public Wi-Fi, available at places like airports and coffee shops, are convenient, but can be risky. How it Works: Scammers monitor commonly used Wi-Fi network names, and set up their own “evil twin” access points in hopes your computer or device will automatically connect to it without your consent.   Or they launch a “man in the middle” attack, by hacking into the connection between you and the free Wi-Fi provider.  Their goal? To grab your emails, credit card numbers, …

— In honor of Cyber Security Awareness Month, we have collected six valuable tips to help you and your family stay cyber secure: Create strong passwords. In fact, instead of a password, create a passphrase. Make it something unique to you and easy to remember. For example, if you’re a pie lover, your passphrase could be Ilovechocolatepie. Like to golf? How about Golfismyfavoriteactivity. Think of something that would be easy for you to remember, but hard for a thief to crack. …

— Social media scams come in many shapes and sizes. Two fast-moving scams we’ve seen lately are fake ads on social media sites and promotions for phony genealogy sites. The goal with both is to steal from you, whether it’s your hard earned money or your identity. How it Works: With online shopping scams, con artists post ads for too-good-to-be-true deals on hot items, like designer eyewear. The ads can show up as a sponsored post in your feed, or as …

— Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit bureaus, recently announced that a data breach likely compromised the information of approximately 143 million Americans.  The media swirl that ensured has left many people confused and alarmed. What You Should Know As a credit-reporting agency, Equifax collects information about consumers and how we handle our financial obligations. Equifax and other credit bureaus sell this information to lenders and credit-scoring companies to determine our eligibility for loans and lines of credit, and …

— Smishing is when scammers use text messaging to lure targets into sharing credit card numbers and other personal information. The name comes from combining Short Message Service or SMS (the technology used for text messages on cell phones) with phishing. How it Works: Scammers send hundreds, or even thousands, of text messages at a time in the hope that even just a few recipients take the bait. The text is urgent – you need to click on a link or …

— Scammers have gotten good at convincing unsuspecting victims that they have a computer virus. Their end game is to take your money or gain access to your personal financial information. How it Works:   You get a call or see a pop-up message on your computer warning that you have a virus (the caller will claim to be from Microsoft or Apple or another well-known tech company). They convince you to give them remote access to your computer so they …

— The federal government grant scam has been around for years but now, scammers are finding new targets through social media. How it Works:   You see posts from people on Facebook claiming they have been awarded tens of thousands of dollars in a grant from the federal government. They suggest that you could be eligible, too. You call the listed phone number, give some personal information, and are told you qualify — all you have to do is send a …

— IRS imposters are back at their old game – but this time, with a new twist. The IRS has reported that this current scam is being seen all across the country. How it Works:   Scammers call taxpayers to claim the IRS has already mailed them two certified letters about an outstanding tax bill, but the letters were returned as undeliverable. The scammer threatens immediate arrest unless the tax bill is paid using a prepaid debit card. The scammer falsely …