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5 on Your Side: Avoiding holiday scams

7:23 PM, Dec 21, 2012   |    comments
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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - 'Tis the season for holiday shopping. It's also a good time to make sure you're playing it safe in stores and online.

5 on Your Side's Mike Rush offers tips to help shoppers avoid holiday scams.

The rush is on to fill those holiday wish lists, but amid all the hustle and bustle in stores and online, criminals may be targeting your wallet, credit cards and personal information. Here are a few helpful tips to make your shopping trip a happy one.

Kelly McGuire's got her hands full. A new baby and a Christmas list to fill. She's only got two hands, so she has a game plan.

"Well, the key for me is I always keep my purse on my arm, I never leave it in the cart, and I don't leave my cart," says McGuire.

Experts say McGuire's got the right idea. Planning ahead, so you don't fall victim to a holiday scam can make all the difference.

"So you're at the mall or in a store and there are lots of people around, you might be overburdened with packages, you really still need to keep up with your credit and debit card and when you put that debit card pen in the machine you need to make sure people aren't hovering around to see what your debit card pin number is so that you can protect that," says Chris Thetford with the Better Business Bureau.

Giving a gift to someone who's hard to shop for? Gift cards are hugely convenient, but you need to remember two things.

"You want to make sure that the packaging on a preloaded gift card is intact, you might just want to go on a buy a gift card that they load the funds on at the store," says Thetford. "And the final thing to remember is that gift cards can have declining values every year with service fees and charges, so you need to keep that in mind when giving a gift card."

If you're avoiding the crowds and shopping online, the BBB says avoid offers that look to good to be true.

"Shop with reputable sites, check out the companies you are shopping with and always pay with a credit card when shopping online so that you can challenge charges if you don't get the goods," says Thetford.

So whether you're shopping online or in stores, like smart shopper Kelly McGuire, take along some common sense.

"You know sometimes it's tempting to leave it, step aside and grab what I need, but you just have to stay with your things at all times," says McGuire.

Another tip for online shoppers, when you supply your credit card number, make sure you're doing it on a secured site. One where it says "https" in the URL spot, that means your information is in encrypted going to the retailer.

KSDK

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