“A fool and his money are soon parted” is an old English proverb that some scammers take seriously during the holiday season. It seems like every Christmas new scams are concocted to separate honest people from their hard-earned cash, and this year is no different. Here are the latest Christmas scams, exposed courtesy of the Better Business Bureau, that occurred this holiday season.
There are popular items every holiday season that seem to sell out everywhere and scammers take advantage of this by setting up fly by night websites that offer that item. Sometimes these sites are designed to look exactly like the big online retailer sites. Individuals looking to cash in on the craze set up a website selling or auctioning off these hot items and once they have enough money, they take the site down and are gone in the wind. One small thing to look for is the “s” in https://: this s stands for secure and means that the website you are on is relatively safe. Additionally, make sure that you are only shopping with reputable online merchants. Odds are, that if Amazon, E-bay, Wal-mart.com, and Toys-R-Us.com are out of the item, it truly isn’t available.
Despite being around for quite some time, this scammer favorite is still in action this holiday season and comes in two forms. The first is rather simple: a thief reads and records the numbers from certain gift cards and will call the issuing company to see if it has been activated (after purchase). If it has been activated, they have everything they need to spend the loot on the card and you are left with worthless plastic. To prevent this, try and buy your gift cards as close to Christmas Day as you can.
Gift Card schemes come in a different variety and that’s the free kind. You have probably seen them online: offers for free gift cards in exchange for participating in an online poll of some sort. Don’t be fooled though, these are almost always scams that are working to try and gain enough information about your computer or IP address to set up future phishing schemes. If you get an email about free cards, mark it as junk and don’t click on any links that pop-up on websites.
Speaking of phishing schemes, another tactic fraudsters use to get your personal information to steal your identity is fake shipping notifications. It’s not uncommon for people shopping online to have a flurry of deliveries leading up to Christmas, and scammers take advantage of this by sending out false email notifications telling you to click a link that will open you and your computer up to identity theft. Some keynotes to remember: you already paid for the item and put your delivery and payment information on the site you made your purchase on; there is no need to do it a second time. Also, nearly every e-commerce company provides tracking information that you can use to verify the delivery company and items purchased.
Christmas is the season for giving, and many thieves are out to pray upon all that goodwill. You may receive fake charity emails or even phone calls asking for support of a legitimate charity. While we certainly think that real charities are great, don’t be so quick to hand over your cash to those you haven’t heard of before. All establish charities will have a website you can refer to, so make sure to check that out and you can also verify charities on give.org, which is sponsored by the BBB. If you get a call, make sure you avoid any high-pressure situation where the person on their other line pressures you to give immediately.
Make sure you are aware that there are many forms of scams on social media and online. A little extra precaution will go a long way to ensure you don’t fall victim any time of year. If you receive social media invitations, or email or phone solicitations from someone you don’t know, it’s best to treat it as a threat to your holiday cash. If you have noticed any peculiar merchant behavior or have been taken advantage of by a holiday scam, make sure to submit a complaint to the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Internet Crime Complaint Center.