‘Tis the season for holiday shopping and those last minute consumers who frantically search for the best deal possible. Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut urges consumers to be prepared, and lookout for scammers hoping to take a bit of your holiday cheer.
BBB shares “The 12 Scams of Christmas” and ways to identify and avoid them.
Look-Alike Websites – Many consumers will see an increase in the number of email alerts announcing deals, gifts, and sales. These may look legitimate but the links could lead to look-alike websites meant to trick you into entering private information and give scammers an opportunity to download malware onto your computer. To protect themselves, consumers should:
- Review the sender’s address, as businesses will often send emails with a proprietary address, like @BBB.org.
- Look for misspellings throughout the email.
- Hover over links without clicking to see where they reroute.
- Only enter sensitive information into a website that begins with “https” as the “s” informs you that it’s secure and information entered is encrypted.
Social Media Gift Exchange – Purchasing one gift and receiving several in return may sound like a harmless way to give and receive presents, but this seasonal scam is a pyramid scheme, which is illegal.
Grandparent Scams – Scammers target seniors and pose as a grandchild or other family member claiming they have been in an accident, arrested, hospitalized or another urgent issue. The circumstance often requires money be sent immediately to resolve the situation. Targets should:
- Verify the situation by calling the family member directly.
- Check with other family members to see if the claims are true.
- Be wary if you’re asked to wire money or send gift cards in place of making a payment with a credit card.
Temporary Holiday Jobs – Many businesses require extra help with the holiday rush and often seek temporary employees. Beware of fraudsters who attempt to collect personal information from applicants. Job seekers trying to avoid this scam should:
- Apply for a job in person or by going directly to the retailer’s website (not following links).
- Be wary of anyone requiring you to submit personal information over the phone or online before meeting for an interview.
- Be suspicious of a job that requires you to pay for equipment or software upfront.
Free Gift Cards – Who doesn’t love free stuff, especially around the holidays? Scammers hope to take advantage of that through phishing emails and pop-up ads offering free gift cards. If you come across one of these offers:
- Don’t open the email as it can be a phishing attempt. If you do, don’t click the links and mark the email as SPAM or JUNK.
- Avoid sharing any personal information to receive the card as the scammers will use the information to steal your identity later.
E-Cards – Christmas cards are sent out this time of year and while some friends and family may be going high-tech by using e-cards so are scammers. Spot a friendly e-card from a scam by looking for:
- Whether or not the sender’s name is easily visible.
- Be wary if you are required to enter personal information to open the card.
- Look for an attachment that ends in “.exe” which indicates an execute command and could download a virus. Do not open it.
Fake Shipping Notifications – Delivery notifications can often be expected throughout the holiday season, but some of these announcements may be phishing scams. These phony emails often use a legitimate businesses name and logo to trick you into opening the email and allowing thieves to gain access to personal information and passwords. Targets should know:
- Most online vendors provide tracking information directly on their website. Use that to track your package instead of links sent via email.
- You are not required to pay money to receive a package, that payment was made when you made your purchase.
- Delivery services do not need personal information to deliver your items.
Phony Charities – Charities often get a boost this season as consumers are in the giving spirit. Scammers seek to take advantage and can pose as charities or needy individuals soliciting donations. Here are a few tips for spotting scammers:
- Look for sound-alike names
- Verify the Charity at Give.org
- Review the charities website to make sure they specify their plans for donations and how they will be used to address the issues they claim to combat.
Letters From Santa – Many legitimate businesses offer personalized letters from Santa, but some copycat scammers are only looking to glean personal information from unsuspecting parents or children.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited emails offering special prices or packages for letters from Santa.
- Check BBB.org to verify the legitimacy of any company that offers letters from Santa.
Unusual Forms of Payments – When making your holiday purchases be wary of anyone asking for a strange form of payment that can’t be traced or undone. These may include:
- Prepaid debit or gift cards
- Wire transfers
Travel Scams – Traveling for the holidays can get expensive, and bargains may be tempting, but some offers may be scams that end up costing you more instead of helping you save. To avoid travel scams consumers should:
- Be cautious when it comes to email offers, especially if it is from an unknown sender or company.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
- Research the company or website offering the deal.
Puppy Scams – While a year-round issue, puppy scams hurt families seeking to add a family member to their household for the holidays. Puppy scams are often difficult to avoid as cute pictures and good deals pull at the heartstrings and wallet. To prevent this fraud, consumers should:
- Do an image search online of the photo given of your pet. If multiple websites pop-up, it’s probably a scam.
- Know what prices to expect because if the cost seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Search BBB.org for accredited breeders and rescue shelters.
- Never pay using a money order or via the Western Union or Moneygram. Use a credit card, which will give you the added protection of being able to dispute the charges.
If you come across any of these scams this holiday season help protect yourself and others by:
- Keeping a close eye on your financial statements and quickly disputing any unrecognized charges.
- Submitting a report to BBB Scam Tracker (whether or not you lost money)
- Filing a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)