Scrooged: 12 Xmas-themed Scams

Phony bank reps

You've been doing a lot of shopping with your credit card this holiday season. Isn't it considerate of your bank to check and make sure that it's you? Sure, if it really is your bank calling. Unfortunately, this time of year if a great time for crooks to call and pry sensitive information from consumers. Unisys security experts recommend that individuals at home or work be wary of account checking scams in which a phony representative of a bank or supplier who contacts you by phone or email to ask for account details to update their records.

Graphic: Diego Aguirre
Callers will often claim that they need certain data in order to check the security of your account while actually obtaining very valuable information to carry out fraud. If you think the call is genuine, ask to call them back and check the number by visiting their website before you call back. It is relatively simple for the caller to spoof Caller ID such that your bank's name appears, regardless of where the call actually comes from.

Also be wary of emails seeking the same kind of information. Crooks are now devising links with lookalike sites where your logon ID and password can be captured.

Shady charities

It's the time of the year for giving. But it's also a popular time for scammers to devise cons to pry money out of well-meaning givers. If you get caught in such a ruse, you might end up donating to nothing or the scam artists could end up with your credit card or other information and use it for something much less charitable.

"Spirit of giving" scams have been around for decades. Unisys suggests that individuals watch out for emails or tweets from charities that ask for donations, particularly if you have never signed up to receive correspondence from them. Be sure to check that charity collectors in your neighborhood or near your office have some form of identification.

Work-from-home schemes

With the economy still in sour state in many parts of the country and the unemployment rate at its highest since 1983, a number of people may be looking for work to pay the holiday bills.

"Scammers are preying on desperate job-seekers in the poor economy with the promise of high-paying jobs and work-from-home moneymaking opportunities," according to a statement from McAfee. "Once interested persons submit their information and pay their 'set-up' fee, hackers steal their money instead of following through on the promised employment opportunity."

In fact, earlier this month Google filed a lawsuit against a Pacific WebWorks, a company it alleges runs work-at-home scams that unnecessarily charge people's credit cards and spoof Google's brand name. The bottom line: Work-at-home offers deserve a lot of scrutiny, and those requiring a fee up front are to be avoided.

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