Looking forward to the holidays? So are the scammers.
Christmas brings with it many wanted gifts, but some lumps of coal will be delivered too. This holiday season Better Business Bureau serving Upstate New York urges consumers to take stock of common holiday scams and follow some tips before their happy holiday season goes sour.
If you own a cell phone, chances are very good you’ll receive spam text messages, or will in the near future. Gift card text message spam will hook too many into deals or winnings that just aren’t there. And while smart phones can offer up great information and price comparisons, when it comes to making a purchase it’s important to go with only with trusted retailers.
“The holidays ring in opportunities from imposters every year,” said Warren Clark, Better Business Bureau President.“Consumers start to panic as shopping days wind down and then find themselves caught into any number of traps. It’s important to always verify the retailer is authentic and has a trusted track record. With our help consumers can avoid a lot of these common ploys.”
BBB offers advice to avoid holiday spoofs this giving season:
BBB phones are ringing with complaints already from consumers who paid for a gift that hasn’t arrived or a counterfeit gift received. NFL merchandise, Ugg boots, cameras, cell phones, tablets and other technology gifts are among those subject to impersonation.
- BBB Advice: If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Luxury products for cheap prices are likely counterfeit.You could be helping fund drug traffickers or terrorists.
It’s easy to recreate a website withf amiliar logos. Some red flags to watch for are http instead of https, a lack of contact information and asking for payment by wire or money card. 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 supposedly 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 you aren’t household names, checkout the business with the BBB before you buy.
The holiday season is a time of giving and there are many charities that need the help especially in this time of year. Be sure your generosity is going to the right places. Scammers can easily set up charities with similar sounding names and fancy looking sites.
Credit Card Fraud
You may have good credit but scammers are out to change that this time of year, hunting for ways to steal your financial information. Skimming, a common theft BBB has seen spike during the holidays, steals your credit card information leaving you stunned and with less than you planned to spend on your own gifts. It can happen when a clerk either swipes the card twice to steal money out of the register, saves your card number details to use later or a third party card reading device is installed in the card swiping terminal.
- BBB Advice: Keep your cards close by, out of view and never gone for too long while making a transaction. When checking your holiday list twice, make sure to check your financial statements weekly or even daily if possible. Don’t wait for paper statements. The faster you catch a suspicious charge and stop the fraudulent use of your card, the better off you’ll be.Contact your financial institution immediately for help. BBB offers more tipsto protect your credit from the FTC.
Santa scammers: A letter from Santa addressed directly to your child is likely to make them light up. However, be sure the source is legitimate before giving up your data and leaving you at risk for identity theft.
- BBB Advice: Check privacy policies before entering your information to know how they will use it. If you don’t see a policy – head to another site. It’s always important to review your financial statements and keep your computer secure by using firewalls, anti-spyware and antivirus software.
E-cards are an easy way to send holiday greetings, and viruses, however if you don’t know and trust the sender - beware.
- BBB Advice: Don’t click on an email from a name you don’t recognize. Deleting is your best bet if you have any doubt.
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—fora much steeper price. The problem is that some sellers will gladly take your money but you’ll never receive your gift.
- 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.
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.