There's nothing festive about fraud

It's a busy time of year for everyone – including scammers.

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Add these tips to your list and stay safe from holiday scams.

Beware of deals: Hot items at huge discounts? Big red flag. Be wary – especially with unfamiliar websites, links, or posts on social media. Carefully read reviews; search the retailer's name with 'scam'; and type in a retailer's website yourself instead of clicking on links in emails or texts.

Shop safely online: Do not use public Wi-Fi to check sensitive financial information, or to make purchases using your credit card. And always use a credit card (not your debit card) when making purchases – you are better protected.

Skip the rack: Scammers have all sorts of tricks to grab gift card numbers and codes, and especially love when they are within easy reach on racks at many large retailers. Best to get your gift cards directly from the store they're from – and preferably from the store cashier. Ask them to scan the card to ensure it has the correct balance.

Avoid the "package delivery" scam: The convenience of online shopping during the holiday season means you may have lots of packages arriving from different retailers. Scammers take advantage of the busy time by sending convincing phishing emails appearing to be from UPS, FedEx, and the USPS – click those links and you are led to phony sign-in pages asking for your personal information.

Check the charity: Be very cautious of unsolicited phone calls, emails, and texts looking for donations. And before donating to a charity, make sure you know exactly where your money will go – and how much will be going to administrative fees. Verify the organization through and Charity Navigator.