‘Tis the season for giving, and consumer experts say swindlers are out in full force ready to capitalize on the good hearts of Arkansans.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge explains distracted consumers can fall prey to scammers more easily, so it’s best to try to stay vigilant.

Charity scams are a big problem this time of year. Rutledge says criminals are aware that legitimate charities are making their year-end push for donations.

“We want to make sure that you’re giving to legitimate charities,” she warns. “So please check with the Secretary of State’s Office to make sure those charities are registered before you give that money, before you click ‘send’ online, before you give your financial information out over the phone.”

When purchasing from an online retailer, shoppers can look for a lock in the address bar, a sign that the website is secure.

Another common online pitfall to avoid, she adds, is using public WiFi where online activity can be viewed by hackers.

Whether shopping in person or online, Rutledge says a credit card offers more protection than a debit card.

“A debit card is just as if you are handing over cash and there is very little recourse and it’s very difficult to get that money back if someone steals that card information from you and starts making purchases of their own unbeknownst to you,” she points out.

Rutledge cautions folks to be wary of how much information they share online, and to avoid cleverly disguised tricks, such as Secret Santa exchanges on social media.

“People say, ‘I’m going to send you this relatively inexpensive gift and if you’ll share it with this many people you will get so many gifts as well,"” Rutledge relates. “This is a scam. Just be wary of it, if it sounds too good to be true that you’re going to send one item and get 10 back – that’s a scam. ”

While people age 55 and over tend to not fall victim to scams as often as younger people, Rutledge notes when they do, they tend to lose more money.