Three types of scams typically increase during the holiday season. Scammers attempt to extract funds from unsuspecting individuals who are hoping to earn extra money for holiday spending, give money to charities, and shop for gifts online.

 

   -- Earning: Many people want to earn extra spending money for holiday 

      shopping, and may be tempted by offers to "work at home" or become a 

      "mystery shopper" for a product or retailer. The recipient may be asked 

      to send a wire transfer or money order for a start-up kit, or the 

      recipient receives a large check to cash -- which turns out to be 

      fraudulent -- and is instructed to spend some of the money and wire the 

      rest back. Once the consumer sends the money, there is no way to get it 

      back. 

 

   -- Giving: Legitimate charities increase their solicitations during the 

      holidays to take advantage of feelings of goodwill, but many scammers use 

      fake charities to try to steal money from well-meaning consumers. If a 

      charity isn't well known or sounds like a scam, consumers should check it 

      out thoroughly before making a donation. 

 

   -- Shopping: Products and deals advertised on the internet that seem "too 

      good to be true" probably are. Scammers entice consumers into believing 

      they're getting a deal, and ask for advance payment through a money 

      transfer or money order. Consumers won't receive the merchandise, and 

      they won't get their money back. 

"Never wire money to someone you don't know," says Kim Garner, senior vice president of Global Security at MoneyGram. "Fraudsters don't take holidays so it's important for consumers to be alert to signs of possible fraud and follow the three R's rule."

 

   -- Recognize: Savvy consumers should look for red flags when someone asks 

      them to send money through a wire service or money order, because 

      scammers often request these methods knowing that once the money is sent, 

      it cannot be retrieved. 

 

   -- React: When they identify a scam, consumers should immediately put an end 

      to any transaction or conversation -- hang up the phone, delete the email, 

      or end the back-and-forth messaging. 

 

   -- Report: Report the suspected scam to the local police, and file reports 

      with the Federal Trade Commission, National Consumers League, and 

      Internet Crime Complaint Center (if the suspected fraud was online).