Cyber criminals don’t take time off to celebrate the holidays. In fact, it is a favorite time of year for scammers to strike — as many people are ramping up their end-of-year giving, getting some last-minute deals with end-of-year sales and gathering items for their tax returns. Here’s what you need to know to ensure you don’t fall prey to end-of-year scams.

The holiday season is a busy time of the year for different types of transactions, making it a prime time for all kinds of scam artist attacks. There are a host of ways scammers take advantage of consumers this time of year. Here are some of the most common, with tips to help you avoid getting ripped off:

Emergency scam, also known as the “grandparent scam”: Use caution if you get a call from a family member or friend claiming to be in an accident, arrested or hospitalized while traveling in another country. Never send money without confirmation. Call the family member or friend yourself, or ask for very personal information to verify.

Phony charities: Taking advantage of the generous mood during the holidays, scammers often target donors posing as fake charities and nonprofit organizations via solicitations in email, on social media sites and even by text. Go to Give.org before donating.

Shipping scams: If you receive a shipping notification that purports to be with FedEx, UPS or the postal service, double check it against your original purchase information. Scammers sometimes send fake emails with a link or attached “receipt” to try to download malware onto your computer. Avoid clicking on links and attachments from unsolicited emails or texts.

Phishing: Unfortunately, phishing attempts often increase during the holidays. Scammers pretending to be with the Internal Revenue Service, debt collection companies or charities may attempt to get your personal information. Be wary of these and other unsolicited calls over the holidays. Don’t click on links or download attachments in emails or text messages.

Gift card balance scams: This is one of the newer scams on our list. Here’s how it works: You receive a gift card and want to check how much money is on it. You search online and find a website that claims to do just that. All you need to do is enter the card’s ID number and PIN or security code. However, when you attempt to use the gift card, the balance has disappeared, as scammers have used the information you provided to drain the money off your card.

If you need to check a gift card balance, go to the site listed on the back of the card itself or go to the company’s website and look for a link to the gift card page.

Find more holiday season do’s and don’ts in the BBB Holiday Helper Guide. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB Scam Tracker.

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