6 Easter Scams You Want to Avoid

Easter is a time for family, but there are six scams you'll want to watch out for.

Easter is a time for family, colorful parties and egg hunts, but sadly it also attracts scam artists looking to make a quick buck during the high-fructose corn syrup free-for-all.

There are all stripes of Eastertime cons and scams waiting for you if you’re not paying attention — or even if you are. Some don’t really qualify as scams, whether we’re talking about those colorful plastic eggs for storing treats, sometimes loaded with lead paint, that old favorite Kinder Eggs, now illegal due to choking hazards, or folks selling bad chocolate. First and foremost, you need to be a savvy consumer.

But awareness isn’t such an easy thing when there are so many ways a person can get scammed. Here are six scams to watch out for.

1. Charity Scams

Some people say Easter was originally a pagan holiday to celebrate fertility, which explains the eggs and bunnies, but it’s primarily a religious holiday, and as such there are plenty of scams out there pointed at spiritually minded people looking to make the world a better place.

If you get an email from a charity, even if it’s one you’ve given to in the past, don’t click any links. Type in the URL or find it through search and make sure the address is correct. Scam sites will often be slightly different than legitimate ones. And although this should go without saying, never give a donation over the phone if you receive an unsolicited solicitation. Call the charity, or use a secure site to make your contribution rather than providing your information by phone, or send a check.

2. E-Cards

As I’ve said ad nauseam, including in my book Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves, never click strange links or download files you receive — even e-cards that appear to be from loved ones or friends. E-cards can mask links to malware.

3. Cute Meme Scams

The same thing goes for all the cute stuff you get via email this time of year. Before you click on the link below a message, ask yourself: Is it worth hours of hassle getting a virus off your computer or causing malware to install ransomware or a keystroke logger on your machine that gives a crook access to every financial account you visit on your computer?

4. Pet Scams

For better or worse (usually worse for the animals), adorable pet babies are a gift idea associated with Easter. In addition to the question as to whether unexpected livestock or woodland creatures are a good idea, if you’re going to go pet shopping for the holiday, beware that scammers are lying in wait to grab your money and disappear into thin air. Whenever buying a pet, do it in person.

5. Airline Scams

Easter Week is often during a school recess, and many people try to book last-minute travel. Be very careful when booking flights. Take the time to determine whether or not it’s a scam. For starters, only do business with a secure (look for the padlock next to the URL) and well-reviewed site, and make sure the address is correct. (You can see more tips for surfing the internet safely here.) Also take the time to read and understand the privacy policy.

It could be that you receive an email or a phone call informing you that you have a chance to cash in on a big win: Free airline tickets. There have been several attempts to contact you about the tickets (you won them through a sweepstakes you have never heard of, in which you were automatically enrolled when you purchased some product or service you can’t recall, and you’re going to lose the tickets if you don’t act quickly. There are certain requirements. But meeting those obligations will cost you far more than the alleged free tickets.

6. Last-Minute Vacation Rental Scam

The scam happens when a thief finds a rental property online and uses the details to create his or her own website and listing. There may even be bogus five-star reviews, and the deal will sound particularly affordable, possibly due to a one-day-only internet sale. You book the listing, pay either by credit card or wire transfer, and pack your bags.

Here’s the problem: When the time comes and you show up for your vacation, that’s not your condo. It’s not just a matter of bait and switch, where the gorgeous property on the website doesn’t exactly live up to the reality. In this case, the property is very real and even very beautiful … but you didn’t rent it. There may even be another family inside. You now find yourself on vacation with nowhere to sleep, and your scammer is nowhere to be found.

Tip: Whenever you’re booking a rental property — for any reason, not just a beach getaway — there’s a sneaky little trick you can use to verify the authenticity of the listing and the property. Instead of emailing, call the person, but first do an online search for other businesses in the area surrounding the property, then ask the contact some specific questions to which you’ve already figured out the answers. How far is it to the nearest beach access? Where is the nearest restaurant with a kids’ menu? How far are we from an emergency room in case someone in our group gets hurt?

The thing about an Easter sugar high is that it makes you happy, and then you crash. When it comes to these scams, it’s all crash and no high. If you have reason to believe you’ve been the victim of a scam, don’t brush it off. You can check for warning signs by viewing two of your free credit scores on Credit.com.

Image: FatCamera

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15 Easter Basket Gifts That Won’t Give Your Kid Cavities

Easter doesn't have to rot your children's teeth. Here are some non-chocolate gift ideas for Easter.

With Easter approaching, you could dash out to the nearest big-box store and grab one of those premade baskets off the shelf. That’ll do in a pinch, but in case you don’t want a basket full of colored straw and plastic Easter eggs full of sugary snacks, here are 15 Easter basket stuffers that will provide tons of fun for your kids — without causing a trip to the dentist.

1. Pals Socks

Pals Socks come paired as unlikely friends, like a cow and pig, dragon and unicorn and polar bear and penguin. These mismatched socks ($9 at PalsSocks.com) are vibrant and super-comfy. Kids and adult sizes available (in case you want a pair for yourself).

2. Little Live Pets Hedgehogs

The Little Live Pets Hedgehogs come in six colors and are a joy to play with. Touch their noses and they curl into a ball and then unfold when it’s time to play again. Three LR44 batteries are required (not included). They’re for ages 5 and up. A single pack is available for $10.39 at Toys R Us. (Toys R Us offers free in-store pickup for online orders. Here’s our list of retailers that offer this service.)

3. Kikkerland Carrot Erasers in Basket

Every child artist needs erasers. These tiny Kikkerland Carrot Erasers in Basket ($5 at Kikkerland.com) come in their own farmer’s market wicker basket. They erase like a charm and are so darn cute.

4. PJ Masks Mini Wheelie Vehicles

Fans of Disney Junior’s PJ Masks will love the PJ Masks Mini Wheelie Vehicles from Just Play. Catboy in his Cat-Car, Gekko in his Gekko-Mobile and Owlette in her Owl Glider, can roll and race and they are just the right size for their little fans to play with. Ages 3 and up. Each vehicle costs $6.97 at Walmart. (Frequent Wal-Mart shopper? You can find a review of its rewards credit card here.)

5. Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars

For something sweet(ish), the Earth’s Best Organic Sunny Days Snack Bars ($5.29 on Amazon) are available in apple and strawberry and taste so good kids won’t guess they’re healthy. Plus, they’ll be excited to see the Sesame Street characters on the packaging.

6. Surprizamals

Surprizamals are full of surprises. These collectible mini-plushes live in a plastic ball and are irresistibly adorable. For ages 3 and up, Surprizamals cost $4.99 at StuffedAnimals.com.

7. Welch’s Easter Fruit Snacks

A great alternative to candy, Welch’s Easter Fruit Snacks are available in chick, egg, flower and bunny shapes for Easter. And good news, one pouch of Easter Fruit Snacks has seven grams of sugar, as opposed to a Cadbury Egg, which has 20 grams of sugar. A 28-count box costs $4.99 at Target (full review of its credit card here) and at grocery stores nationwide.

8. Watchitude

Watchitude watches make fun and functional use of the slap bracelet trend. Watchitudes ($21.99 at watchitude.com) are available in lots of fun patterns, from sports themes to desserts. The kids will definitely want to learn to tell time if they haven’t already. (It’s a good idea to also teach your kids about credit, including the importance of keeping a good credit score. You can check yours free at Credit.com.)

9. Chick in Egg Zipper Plush

The Chick in Egg Zipper Plush is a delightful Easter basket surprise. The soft polka-dot egg unzips to reveal a sweet little plush chick. For ages 3 and up, Chick in Egg costs $9.95 at Papyrus.com.

10. Chef’s Cut Real Snack Sticks

Stick a few of Chef’s Cut Real Snack Sticks in the Easter basket of your carnivore kid. These tasty jerky sticks ($16 for eight at ChefsCutRealJerky.com) come in flavors like Buffalo Chicken and Japaleño Cheddar (pork and beef).

11. Playfoam Sparkle 4-Pack

For kids who love to squish and squeeze things like slime and magic sand, the Playfoam Sparkle 4-Pack by Educational Insights will be their new favorite. The colorful, sparkly and moldable dough holds a shape and never gets dry.  For ages 3 and up, a 4-pack goes for $4.99 at EducationalInsights.com.

12. Little Kids Peeps Giant Bubble Wand Party Pack

With the Little Kids Peeps Giant Bubble Wand Party Pack ($14.99 for a six-pack at Amazon.com), there’s enough bubbly fun for everyone. Each colorful tube is topped with a cute Peep and includes four ounces of bubble solution.

13. aGreatLife Sweet Ice Cream Kite for Kids

The aGreatLife Sweet Ice Cream Kite for Kids is small enough for Easter baskets but big and bright in the sky. The kite comes with its own instructional eBook and has a lifetime guarantee. A great excuse to get outside, it’s available for $11.99 at Amazon.com.

14. Alex Shrinky Dinks Mini Artist Activity Set

A fun indoor activity if spring hasn’t yet sprung, the Alex Shrinky Dinks Mini Artist Activity Set ($9.99 at Toys R Us) includes three Shrinky Dinks pictures, two frames, two easels and six pencils. Bake the colored-in pictures to shrink and frame.

15. Yoee Baby

Perfect for baby’s first Easter, the Yoee Baby will keep baby entertained with a teething ring, furry friend, bright colors, a rattle and crinkly spots for squeezing. Designed specifically for the developing minds of babies. Yoee Baby is available for $24.99 at Yoeebaby.com.

Image: Portra

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