Now that Fall is in full swing, many consumers have started their holiday shopping. With the various stores and websites we buy from as we work our way through everyone's wish lists, it's easy to become a target for scammers.

ShopSmart magazine has introduced a new feature in their November 2010 issue where they expose the newest scams that can torment consumers.

Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of the magazinesaid,"At ShopSmart, our main job is to help consumers shop with confidence by providing information they need to get the best deals, but just as important as knowing how to sniff out great buys is understanding what it takes to avoid rip-offs. So ShopSmart put together a guide about the latest, sneakiest scams, and simple tips that can help consumers protect themselves."

ShopSmart's "Shopping Scams" feature highlights the newest scams and how to avoid them, the top sites to visit to help you stay safe online, and how to keep from getting taken advantage of by virtual pickpockets.

Some of the scams featured are "smishing," "teeny, tiny charges" and "counterfeit electronics."


"Smishing" is the newest twist on "phishing" - when you get an email from a supposedly trustworthy source like your bank or PayPal, claiming there's a problem with your account. The scammers hope you'll click the link in the scam email and enter in all your account information that they in turn use to steal your money.

Instead of an email, the "smishers" send you an SMS text message to your phone. The text says there's something wrong with your account and they provide a phone number they hope you'll call and then be duped into providing all your information.

How can you prevent getting "smished"? Do your research. Before even thinking about calling the number, Google it. If it's a legitimate number, it should match the information on the financial institution's official website. If it's a scam, you'll probably uncover websites full of other people who also got "smished" and want to talk about it.

An even better way to protect yourself is to simply call the financial institution and ask them if there is a problem with your account. A customer service rep can tell you everything you need to know. Plus, by letting them know you got "smished", they can in turn alert their customers of the scam.

Teeny tiny charges

When scammer gets a hold of your bank or credit card information, they may start off by robbing you a little at a time. Charges as small at 20 cents may show up on your statement along with an unfamiliar, yet corporate sounding company name and a bogus phone number.

Stop scammers in their tracks by staying on top of your monthly statements. If you check your accounts online, get into the habit of checking them several times a week, or even once a day.

If you think there's a fraudulent change on your card, no matter how small, call your bank or credit card company immediately to dispute it.

And do it fast - while you have as much as 60 days to report unauthorized charges on your credit card, you only have a couple days to report fraudulent changes on your debit card. Otherwise, you could be liable for the first $500 in fraudulent changes.

Counterfeit electronics

That brand new, in-the-box Nintendo Wii being sold on eBay for a Buy It Now price of $75 may seem like the perfect gift to put under the tree. Mostly because you're getting such a bargain, as the gaming system runs about $200 brand new. But if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Counterfeit electronics may seem like old news, but they're still being sold, ripping off and disappointing consumers everywhere.

All kinds of electronics have been illegally copied, including computers, phones, and handheld gaming devices.

Popular auction sites like eBay try to crack down on sellers hawking counterfeit goods, but there's only so much they can do. And there's only so much they can do if you get ripped off.

The safest plan is to spend the extra money and purchase electronics from well-known, reputable dealers that offer full refunds.

And check the box. Look for a label statingthat the product has been certified byCSA International or UnderwritersLaboratory.

Look at the product, too. Are there misspellings on the package? If the box is see-through, does it contain all of the listed components, including batteries, cases, and power cords? Is the manufacturer's contact information, including address and phone number, clearly displayed? If not, it's probably counterfeit.

But what if your desire to save money trumps your desire to own authentic electronics? In the long run, using counterfeit electronics can do more harm than good. Many of them could have substandard wiring, faulty fuses, flammable plastic casings, and could contain harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury.

With as busy as we get during the holiday season, it's easy to forget the simple steps it takes to keep our bank accounts safe. But the extra time it takes to do a little research pays off greatly in the end and makes for a happy, stress-free, scam-free December.