Holiday Shopping Nightmares: 5 Scams You Must Beware Of

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If the prospect of holiday shopping isn't enough to scare you, imagine how awful it will be if, in addition to all the familiar challenges you know you'll face, you have to cope with getting ripped off, too.

When there's money to be spent, there are crooks waiting to steal it. And they get better each year at duping consumers into making transactions that leave them with nothing, or with something quite different than they thought they were paying for.

The folks at the business review site used their complaint database to compile a list of the biggest scams consumers are likely to encounter this year. Here are the top five:

1. Counterfeit Goods

More than 14,000 SiteJabber users have lodged complaints about the ongoing counterfeit epidemic. If you find a website selling alleged designer products on the cheap, chances are, the goods were made by a counterfeiter. Be especially wary about these seven most-commonly counterfeited products. Hoping to get a refund on that cheap knockoff? Forget about it. These retail sites are run from countries far away.

2. Gift Cards

Hundreds of users have complained about buying gift cards that don't arrive or have the wrong balance. The common thread among most complaints is that they were purchased via middlemen -- sites that pay less than face value for unwanted gift cards and then resell them. While it is possible to get a deal that way, it's clear it's also a way to get ripped off. So, be careful if you buy a gift card from anyplace other than the original company -- or you could end up with an empty card in exchange for your cash.

3. Coupon Scams

When consumers get sucked into just about any scam, it almost always comes down to the fact that people want to get a great deal. And that is what holiday shopping has become -- a months-long battle to offer and receive the best deals. So the idea of getting an extra 30 percent off -- or more! -- can be seductive, and amid the retail clamor of the season, it can sound normal. It can also be a lure designed to get you to give up your personal information. What will that get you? A big target on your back for phishing scams. Be sure you're using a well-established, reputable coupon site. There are plenty.

4. Cheap Electronics

Think you can really get an iPad for $9.99? Come on. Seriously. Not going to happen. But thousands of consumers have lodged complaints about their efforts to score one on penny auction sites. What a lot of people don't understand about those sites is that they operate quite differently than traditional auctions. Your hunt for that cheap iPad could end up costing you a lot of money and yield you absolutely nothing.

5. Holiday Travel

Want to jet off to Europe for next to nothing? Or how about a free cruise to the Caribbean? The offers might look real or seem believable, but they're scams. And they ramp up around the holidays as people realize just how expensive a real trip can be, making the idea of winning one all the more enticing. Most of these scams are attempts to get your personal information or to get you to cough up cash for your "free" trip to cover taxes, government fees or some other malarkey the con artists cooked up.
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