Vigilante Holiday Vigils

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Remember last year when you were looking for the perfect holiday gift for your niece, the one who loves astronomy? You saw an ad that allowed you to name a star after her.  Far out … literally. The problem was, only the International Astronomical Union can officially name stars. The company you paid just chose a random star, named it Kourtney, and sent you a bogus certificate of registry. YOU could have done that yourself … for free.

The point is, you should always be on the lookout for scams, but it’s especially important around the holidays. With our giving mindsets, we are more prone to falling for less-than-truthful claims or deals. And it’s even more difficult to pick up on a “scam” when the set-up is perfectly legal. Ugh. We know, right?

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few areas that are perfectly legal, but may prey just a bit on our trusting natures.

Gift Cards
They seem like a great gift idea; let the recipient choose whatever gift he/she wants from a specific retail outlet. It must be a good idea because Americans give $90 billion worth of gift cards each year. … 7% of which are never redeemed, meaning someone is walking away with $6 billion in unused gift money. And no, it’s NOT you or the gift recipient. These days most store gift cards do not have expiration dates, but you still have to remember to use them … if you don’t lose them first. Some experts recommend giving a pre-paid card like a Visa gift card—which offers greater freedom of choice—cash, or an actual present.

Click here to check out ranks and reviews for gifts cards.

Liquidation Sales
With the economy sputtering along, chances are good you’ve seen “Going Out of Business” and/or “Liquidation” sales popping up. Beware. Many times the businesses closing shop have “liquidators” on the scene, and they’re not there to offer you unbelievable deals, but rather to squeeze out the most from any remaining merchandise. That simply means that while prices may not be any lower than usual, they may actually be higher. Yes, as contradictory as it sounds, marking items up and calling it a sale is legal. This may not always be the case, but you shouldn’t let such events blind you to the possibilities.

Holiday Toy Craze
Cabbage Patch Kids. Tickle Me Elmo. Furbies. Wii. Kids just had to have them, and parents couldn’t bear the thought of their kids not having the must-have toy of the season. Such situations are very often recipes for price gouging. Fad toys are that one white-hot item that pops up every holiday season, it seems. Of course stores are low on supply while demand is manufactured to feverish levels. This inequity in the supply-demand chain means consumers will likely pay well over the usual retail cost. Your best defense here is common sense, which sounds easy enough … except when you have those big, baby blues looking up at you pleading for stuffed Angry Birds.


None of the above things are really scams in the legal sense, but they are situations that you should look out for, especially if you’re looking to keep that budget healthy. Just keep your wits about you when out with your list and hopes of finding the perfect holiday gifts.

If you’re looking at Visa gift cards as a gift idea, remember that Vantage has them available at any teller window. For more information, click here.