Beware of the 12 scams of Christmas

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PHOENIX - The first scam of Christmas: Charities.

This time of year, scammers pose as representatives from real charities to cash in on your giving spirit.

Take Charge America's Mike Sullivan.

“Initiate your own giving,” Sullivan said. “You don’t give because somebody requested the money you give because you decide who should get the money so that it goes where it's supposed to go.”

The second scam of Christmas: Fraudulent travel packages.

Take time to research your options and only purchase travel packages from reputable companies you know and trust.

The third scam of Christmas: Fake gift cards.

Thieves tell you you've won a gift card then steal your personal information when you fill out a form to accept the offer.

The fourth scam of Christmas: Naming a star.

“Naming a star is a nice romantic thing to do and if you can do it for a couple bucks it’s nice to do,” Sullivan said. “But don't kid yourself into thinking that the star is really named after you.”

Truth is, the International Astronomical Union is the only organization designated to name stars, and the opportunity isn't available to the public.

The fifth scam of Christmas: Dangerous holiday downloads.

Holiday-themed screensaver and animations are an easy way for scammers to spread viruses to your computer.

The same thing can result from fake e-cards, our sixth scam of Christmas.

The seventh scam of Christmas: Holiday job offers.

Almost all offers that claim you'll make big bucks working from home are bogus.

Sullivan says getting out of a financial hole simply isn't that easy.

“If somebody is offering you a deal that is going to make your life better, odds are it's not really unless you're done some work to make it real,” he said.

The eighth scam of Christmas: Fake contest alerts.

Scammers often use telemarketing to tempt consumers with prizes and fake sweepstakes.

The ninth scam of Christmas: Public wi-fi connections.

Try to avoid accessing personal information like bank accounts while using public internet providers in places like hotels or airports.

“There's an excellent chance that somebody is monitoring and capturing that information and whatever information you send, they now have,” Sullivan said.

The tenth scam of Christmas: Pay-in-advance credit schemes.

Delete spam e-mails advertising prequalified, low-interest loans or credit cards if you pay a processing fee.

That fee goes straight to the scammers pocket.

The eleventh scam of Christmas: Fly-by-night companies.

Mall kiosks offering odd gifts will be gone right after the holidays.

While it may not technically be a scam, your time to return any unwanted gift is very limited.

The twelfth scam of Christmas: Free I-Pad offers.

Software security company, McAfee found consumers are asked to purchase other products while accepting the offer.

Consumers provide their credit card number and of course, never get the free I-Pad, just the headache of having to cancel the credit card.