BBB serving New Mexico & Southwest Colorado was founded in 1941. For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brand and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.
The holidays are a happy time for food, family, and friendship, but they are also a time for fraud. Consumers can fall into any number of traps over the holidays and become victim to identity thieves, hackers and deceptive merchants online. Better Business Bureau is warning holiday shoppers and donors to look out for seven common scams this season. While the rest of us are pulling decorations out of the attic, scammers are blowing the dust off of their traditional holiday scams. We can all help make these holiday scams a ghost of Christmas’ past by not falling for them anymore.
BBB recommends being on the lookout for the following scams this holiday season:
1. Online Scam Shopping Sites
We’re all looking for a great deal online, but some sites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for a “great deal” online but received nothing in return.
BBB advice: Always look for the BBB seal when shopping online and click on the seal to confirm it is legitimate. When shopping on sites that aren’t household names, check with BBB before you buy.
2. Finding the Season’s Hottest Toys and Gadgets Online
Every year, holiday shoppers fight over the “must have” toy or gadget of the season. When the item is sold out in stores, you can often find it online through sites like Craigslist or eBay—for a much steeper price. The problem is that some sellers will take your money and run.
BBB Advice: Shop locally on Craigslist and conduct the transaction in person—never wire money as payment. When purchasing items on auctions like eBay, research the seller extensively and always listen to your doubts if the deal doesn’t sound legit.
3. Identity Theft at the Mall
While you’re struggling at the mall with bags of presents, identity thieves see an opportunity to steal your wallet and debit or credit card numbers.
BBB Advice: Don’t let yourself get bogged down in purchases and lose track of your wallet. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your pin number while purchasing items or getting money from the ATM.
4. Bogus Charitable Pleas
The holidays are a time of giving which creates a great opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Also beware of solicitations from charities that don’t deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans.
BBB Advice: Always research a charity with BBB Wise Giving Alliance before you give to see if the charity meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. (http://give.org/for-charities/How-We-Accredit-Charities)
5. Phishing E-mails
Phishing e-mails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Common phishing e-mails around the holidays include e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or FedEx with links to package tracking information.
BBB Advice: Don’t click on any links or open any attachments to e-mails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. E-mail addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing e-mail. Also beware of unsolicited e-mails from companies with which you have no association. Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on the computer.
6. Free iTunes Gift Card
You may receive an email claiming to be from iTunes. The text will read: “You sent an iTunes Gift Card $200 to (teamtazdojo at gmail.com). Your receipt No.114509772”. A gift card image is then presented along with. The scam is, in the invoice there is a link offered “to cancel”, if you don’t recognized the transaction. Needless to say, if you click on that you are taken to a fake website where you are asked for personal information.
BBB Advice: Always buy your gift card from a reliable site or store. Random emails from fishy websites are out of the question. Be wary of these types of emails from other major retailers such as Walmart, Kohl’s, Target, Sears, Costco, etc.
7. Bogus Gift Cards
A common holiday scam involves free or big discounts on gift cards. These sites usually request enough personal information for criminals to raid victims’ bank accounts. Social media site posts also offer phony vouchers or gift cards, with some being paired with holiday promotions or contests. Some posts may even appear to have been shared by a victim’s friend. Often, these posts lead to online surveys designed to steal personal information.
BBB Advice: Check for legitimate contact information. Make sure the seller has a real phone number and address on the website, so you can contact them in case of problems. When in doubt, type the phone number into a search engine and see if it matches the seller or if others have expressed concerns or filed complaints. Make sure websites are secure and authenticated. Before you purchase an item online, look for “https” before the web address and a small lock symbol that ensures your credit card and/or banking information is secure.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national and international programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB serving New Mexico & Southwest Colorado was founded in 1941.