The holidays are all about celebrating what’s good, but that doesn’t mean scammers are taking a vacation.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) reminds consumers con artists see busy, over-burdened shoppers as likely targets for their schemes.
Some common scams this holiday season include:
• Online shopping scams: Everyone wants to get the best deal on gifts, but some websites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every year, BBB hears from shoppers who paid for a great deal online, but received little or nothing in return.
BBB advises shoppers to look for trust seals, such as the BBB Accredited Business seal, when shopping online. Click on the seals to determine if they’re legitimate. A click on the BBB seal should take you directly to a firm’s BBB Business Profile, which includes a rating from A+ to F, a company’s time in business, contact information and more valuable information.
You should also look for a physical address for any online business and a telephone number. Any pages where you enter personal or financial information should have a web address or URL starting with https:// to show that it’s a secure site.
• Online ads for hot toys and gadgets: When supplies of a popular item are scarce, you may find the items on sites like Craigslist or eBay, but for a much steeper price. In some cases, these sellers will take your money, but fail to ship the item, leaving you without the gift or money to buy it elsewhere.
BBB advises shoppers to look for local sellers and conduct transactions in person. Bring a friend and meet at a public location if you’re uncomfortable meeting the seller alone. If you must buy online, research the sellers extensively and be skeptical of deals that sound too good to be true. Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
• Identity theft at the mall: If you’re struggling with bags of gifts, identity thieves may see an opportunity to steal your wallet or look over your shoulder to copy debit or credit card numbers. Make sure you know the location of your wallet and cards at all times. Be sure to cover keypads when entering PIN numbers, and put your card back in your wallet or purse after each purchase.
• Bogus charitable pleas: The holidays are a great time to give back, but some scammers take advantage of generosity by soliciting for sound-alike charities that don’t deliver on their promises. Before you give, check a charity’s BBB Charity Review at bbb.org.
• Phishing emails: Bogus messages about package delivery problems purporting to be from companies like UPS, Federal Express or major online retailers are a way for criminals to trick consumers into revealing sensitive personal or financial information. If you get an email message like this, check with the shipper or retailer through its official site rather than clicking on links in the suspect email. Beware of unsolicited emails from companies that you aren’t familiar with or that you haven’t patronized previously.
These are just a few of the most common scams this holiday season. BBB Scam Tracker is a great place to research and report scams. For more tips on being a savvy consumer this holiday season, go to bbb.org or call (573) 886-8965.
Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.