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December 11, 2021

Holiday scams designed to empty your wallet this year

In the good old days, holiday precautions could be boiled down to three safeguards: avoid the malls on Christmas Eve, bundle up if you’re playing in the snow and don’t eat too many mashed potatoes.

That was really it. Everything else was gravy. Unless your neighbours were these guys, everyone pretty much played by the rules in December.

Of course, that was before people started turning into scumbags. Scumbags who, according to one source, love nothing more than to scam us during the most generous time of the year. has labelled these holidays the “season to be wary,” warning consumers of the troublesome increase in festive schemes designed to sap us of our cash.

Holiday scams come in all shapes and sizes – fake gift cards and phony charities are two of the most common – but some recently reported frauds sink to diabolical new lows.

Consider last month’s killing of four cops in Washington state, just hours from the British Columbia border. You might have seen the story on the news, but you probably didn’t catch the depressing aftermath.

Once the case hit front pages everywhere, there were a flurry of bogus calls and solicitations for “donations” to the victims’ families, prompting even the Better Business Bureau to have to issue a formal warning.

Not scummy enough? Forbes also reports there’s a Faulty Cash Register scam run by store clerks out there looking to pocket your cash.

The con works like this: after a distracted customer has their order rung through, cashiers add a cash-back denomination (usually around $40) to the bill in the hopes the mark won’t catch on.

If they do – whoops, something’s faulty with the register. We’ll reimburse that right away. But if they don’t spot it, anyone not savvy enough to look over their receipt is out 40 big ones.

You can check out a full list of holiday scams here, but remember to keep an eye out this time of year, regardless.

Keep your credit card info private, make sure that charity is legit and be sure the Salvation Army logo isn’t drawn on with eyeliner before you toss a toonie in the bucket.

Because, you’ve seen what the Wet Bandits are capable of. You don’t want to support these masterminds this year.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...