It's the season of giving but con artists are taking--here are some tips from the AARP Fraud Watch Network on how to protect yourself from holiday scams:
Check the charity: Before donating to a charity, make sure it is registered with the Secretary of State and ask how much of the money goes to the charitable fundraiser and how much goes to the charitable purpose.
Skip the rack: Only purchase gift cards from reputable sources. Better yet, get them directly from the store they're from—and preferably directly from the store cashier—and ask them to scan the card to ensure it has the correct balance.
Surf safely: Do not use public Wi-Fi to check sensitive financial information, or to make purchases using your credit card.
Sign off: Require a signature on all package deliveries. You can also write specific instructions for the delivery company on where to leave your package, and don't forget you can always have your package delivered to you at work.
Use credit: Use a credit card instead of your debit card when making holiday purchases.
Don't stress: Pay special attention to your health and well-being during the hectic holiday season. Research shows that people experiencing an illness, loneliness or financial difficulties are less able to spot and avoid scams.
Beware of deals: Watch out for deals offered by companies with unfamiliar websites. Look for reviews on Yelp, the Better Business Bureau or even search the retailer's name and "scam" to see if it checks out before giving your payment information.