PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With not that many weeks before Christmas, shoppers in stores and online are spending lots of dollars to make their holiday a sweet one.

But they are not alone.

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“All the con artists are probably on the same schedule,” says Point Park business professor Elaine Luther.

It’s a wicked holiday brew — anxious shoppers with little time, lots of money, and scam artists eager to swindle an unsuspecting shopper.

“They’re ramping up their business activity to coincide with the business activity of the more legitimate businesses in the area,” Luther told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.

And at Christmas we are all a bit more trusting, sometimes letting our guard down.

“Certainly we are more vulnerable to scams because this is the time of year when people feel like they can capitalize on folk’s emotions related to the holidays,” noted Mona Hawkins of Oakdale.

So what are some holiday scams that can turn your Christmas into a Grinch-like affair?

Well, start with that ubiquitous credit card which at a point of sale can be easily ‘skimmed’ or swiped by an unscrupulous sales assistant.

Luther says it’s hard to catch at the time of sale, but, “watch your statements, keep a record of what you ordered, keep a record of the amount so you can have some evidence of what went on.”

And, of course, report anything suspicious.

At the same time, avoid using your debit card for holiday purchases.

Why? Because in the wrong hands, the scam artist can drain your checking account.

“The problem is that the money comes directly out of your checking account and then you have to fight to get it back.”

“You might’ve just enlightened me, and I’ll just start cutting down on my debit card so much,” said Ed Ambrose of McKees Rocks.

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Another big scam — emails from carriers like the Post Office, UPS or FedEx requesting personal information to deliver a package to you.

Delete that!

Instead, says Luther, “You go onto their website and do track orders. Do not ever do it from an email.”

Some scam artists create fake charities to get your dollars.

Unless you’re sure it’s legit, check it out on the IRS website.

And here’s a popular holiday email.

“I just got one saying my daughter was in some kind of accident, and I needed to send money to help her, to take care of her at the hospital,” reported Alina Kurtanich of Wexford, “and it was like $1,500.”

Of course, it’s a scam and her daughter was just fine.

Even with all these types of scams, it turns out that certain people are more vulnerable than others.

But it has nothing to do with intelligence or status.

“I’m pretty gullible myself,” admits Erin Janiak of Beechview.

Recognizing that in yourself is key — and there’s good news.

“The traits that make you vulnerable also make you nice people that fit well in society,” says Luther.

Which led Mona Hawkins to suggest we can avoid scams, “if people would just stay focused on the true meaning behind Christmas — that it’s really about remembering our Savior — and giving and helping those who are in need as opposed to trying to get over and see what’s in it for us.”

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