BBB Presents: The 12 Scams of Christmas
These scammers are definitely on the naughty list! This holiday season, BBB warns consumers to be on the lookout for Grinch-y scams and cons.
1. Misleading social media ads BBB Scam Tracker receives reports of consumers paying for items that they never receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for, and receiving counterfeit products. When you see flashy ads pop up on social media, do your research first before you click buy. Check out the business profile on bbb.org and read reviews.
2. Social media gift exchange Variations of this scam pop up every holiday season. They typically revolve around exchanging bottles of wine, books, or small gifts. In each version, participants unwittingly share their personal information along with those of their family members and friends, and are tricked into buying and shipping gifts to unknown individuals. Bottom line: it’s an illegal pyramid scheme.
3. Holiday apps Browse Apple’s App Store or Google Play and you’ll see dozens of holiday-themed apps. Before you download, review privacy policies to see what information will be collected. Be wary of free apps as they can sometimes contain malware.
4. Alerts about compromised accounts BBB has received reports on Scam Tracker of scams that claim consumers’ Amazon, PayPal, Netflix, or even bank accounts have been compromised. Victims are tricked into thinking they need to provide personal and/or financial information in order to rectify their accounts. Be cautious of any unsolicited calls, emails, or texts you receive.
5. Free gift cards Scammers have been known to send bulk phishing emails requesting personal information to receive free gift cards. In some instances, scammers impersonate legitimate companies like Starbucks and promise gift cards to loyal customers. They may also use pop-up ads or send text messages with links saying you’ve been randomly selected as the winner of a gift card or prize. If you receive any unsolicited emails or texts with gift card offers, do not click on any links and mark the messages as spam or junk.
6. Temporary holiday jobs While there are many legitimate seasonal job opportunities, job seekers should beware of employment scams aimed at stealing money and personal information from job applicants. Watch out for job opportunities that seem too good to be true, and research companies first before accepting a job offer.
7. Look-alike websites Be wary of emails with links; these may lead to look-alike websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases, and sharing private information. If you’re not sure about an email, do not click on any links.
8. Fake charities Typically, 40% of all charitable donations are received during the last few weeks of the year. BBB advises donors to watch out for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be individuals in need. Verify a charity at BBB’s Give.org. Whenever possible, donate to a charity through their website with a credit card.
9. Fake shipping notifications Scammers are using the surge in online shopping to send fake shipping notifications that are really phishing attempts in disguise. They may also try to trick people into paying new (and unnecessary) shipping fees.
10. Pop-up holiday virtual events Scammers have been reported creating fake event pages, social media posts, and emails charging admission for what used to be a free holiday event. The goal is to steal consumers’ credit card information. Confirm with event organizers if there is an admission fee. In cases where there is a charge, pay with a credit card. If the event is free, watch out for scammers claiming otherwise.
11. Top holiday wish list items Ridiculously low priced luxury, big ticket, or popular items are almost always cheap counterfeits or knockoffs. Be very cautious when considering purchasing high-value items from individuals through social media sites.
12. Puppy scams Many families, especially those with children, may be considering adding a furry friend to their household this holiday season. Don’t fall prey to a pet scam. When purchasing from a breeder or individual, always request to see the animal in person first before making a purchase.