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Christopher Elliott

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7 Scams That Will Cost You Money

Posted: 12/16/11 07:54 AM ET

The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year - for scam artists.

The average American household will spend about $1,700 on gifts, but not all of it will go to legitimate businesses. In my new book, "Scammed: How to Save Money and Find Better Service in a World of Schemes, Swindles, and Shady Deals" [Wiley, $24.95], I put scammers in my crosshairs and expose their secrets.

It's open season on consumers this Christmas. But you don't have to be a victim. Here are the top seven holiday cons, both legal and illegal, and how to avoid them.

Bogus Bell Ringers
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While a vast majority of charities are legitimate, it may be worth making sure that bell ringer at the grocery store is on the up-and-up. Is he with the Salvation Army, which sponsors the Red Kettle Christmas Campaign? Just because some guy is dressed in Santa suit doesn't make him real.

How to avoid it: Always give to a legit charity, and if you have doubts, don't do it.
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