HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - As you get ready for the holidays, there’s some warnings you need to know about when it comes to all of the tactics scammers and thieves are using this year.
The Better Business Bureau is breaking it all down to help protect you and your hard-earned money.
Scams can pop up in many different ways over the holiday season and Elizabeth Garcia, president of the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama, wants those in the Tennessee Valley to be armed with important information.
“Sometimes scammers can offer to take you off of legitimate established marketplaces such as Ebay or Amazon and offer you a great deal if you complete the transaction off of those sites. However, that’s a scam. Watch out because you could lose a great deal of money,” she explained.
There’s also fake package delivery notifications.
“They may be looking for bank information or credit card information to confirm that you are the person to whom package is to be delivered. All of that is a phishing scam, trying to get personal information or banking info from you,” Garcia added.
And it’s hot right now on social media- the secret shopper or secret gifts scams, including the secret sister scam.
“You get a notice saying if you send this amount of money or buy this gift and send it on to a certain number of people and in return, you’re going to get lots of gifts or money in return. It has lots of variations. In reality, this is just a pyramid or Ponzi type of scheme and you’re not going to get back what you believe you will,” Garcia stated.
Package thieves are also very busy right now looking to snatch boxes from your porch. The BBB suggests having a family member or neighbor pick them up for you, hold it at the distribution center for pickup or have it delivered to your business or place of work
Bottom line- watch out for offers that are just too good to be true.
“Think before you click. Think before you commit to a payment. If you take one moment to say to yourself- does this make sense? If it doesn’t, walk away. If it does, certainly go forward with it. Think before you act because if you do, nine times out of 10, you’ll avoid becoming the victim of a scam,” Garcia added.
Last year, Thanksgiving weekend saw one million more Americans than 2016 out shopping. The National Retail Federation expects this year’s holiday retail sales to increase by 3.6 percent to 4 percent more than $678.75 billion.
BBB® shares the 12 Scams of Christmas and ways to avoid and identify them:
Look-Alike Websites – Many consumers will see an increase in the number of email alerts announcing deals, gifts, and sales. While mailers can look legitimate, the links may lead to look-alike websites meant to trick you into entering private information or give scammers an opportunity to download malware onto your computer. To protect themselves, consumers should:
- Review the sender’s address, as businesses will often send emails with a proprietary address, like @bbb.org.
- Look for misspellings throughout the email.
- Hover over links without clicking to see where they reroute.
- Only enter sensitive information into a website that begins with "https" as the "s" informs you that it's secure and information entered is encrypted.
Social Media Gift Exchange – Purchasing one gift and receiving several in return may sound like a harmless way to give and receive presents, but this seasonal scam is a pyramid scheme, which is illegal.
Grandparent Scams – Scammers target seniors posing as a grandchild or other family member and claim they have been in an accident, arrested, hospitalized or another urgent issue. The circumstance often requires money be sent immediately to resolve. Targets should:
- Verify the situation by calling the family member in question directly.
- Check with other family members to see if the claims are true.
- Be wary if you’re asked to wire money or send gift cards in place of making a payment with a credit card.
Temporary Holiday Jobs – Many businesses require a little extra help with the holiday rush and often seek temporary employees, however, beware of fraudsters who attempt to glean personal information from applicants. Job seekers trying to avoid this scam should:
- Apply for to the job in person or by going directly to the retailer's website (not following links).
- Be wary of anyone requiring you to hand over personal information over the phone or online before meeting for an interview.
- Be suspicious of a job that requires you to pay for equipment or software upfront.
Free Gift Cards – Who doesn't love free stuff especially around the holidays? Scammers hope to take advantage of that fondness through phishing emails and pop-up ads offering gift cards. If you come across one of these offers you should not:
- Open the email as it can be a phishing attempt but, if you do, don't click the links. Instead, mark the email as SPAM or JUNK.
- Share any personal information to receive the card as the scammers will use the information to steal your identity later.
- Click the ad but close out of the app or program you are using, clear your history and turn on your ad blocker.
E-Cards – Christmas cards are sent out this time of year and while some friends and family may be going high-tech by using e-cards so are scammers. Spot a friendly e-card from a scam by looking for:
- Whether or not the sender's name is easily visible.
- Be wary if you are required to enter personal information to open the card.
- Avoid opening any suspicious email. If you see an attachment that ends in “.exe” which indicates an execute command and could download a virus, do not open it.
Fake Shipping Notifications – Delivery notifications can often be expected throughout the holiday season as many consumers go online to purchase gifts, but some of these announcements may be phishing scams. These false notification emails often use a legitimate businesses name and logo to trick you into opening the email and allowing thieves to gain access to personal information and passwords. Targets should know:
- Most online vendors provide tracking information that can be used to verify where your items are and identify the delivery company.
- You are not required to pay money to receive your package, that payment was made when you make your purchase.
- Delivery services do not need personal information to deliver your items.
Phony Charities – Charities often get a boost this season as consumers are in the giving spirit but scammers seeking to take advantage can pose as charities or needy individuals soliciting donations. Here are a few tips for spotting scammers:
- Look for sound-alike names.
- Verify the charity at Give.org.
- Review the charities website to make sure they specify their plans for donations and how they will be used to address the issues they claim to combat.
Letters from Santa – Many legitimate businesses offer personalized letters from Santa, but some copycat scammers are only looking to glean personal information from unsuspecting parents.
- Be suspicious of unsolicited emails offering special prices or packages for letters from Santa.
- Check bbb.org to verify the legitimacy of any company that offers letters from Santa.
Unusual Forms of Payments – When making your holiday purchases be wary of anyone asking for a strange form of payment as they often can't be traced or undone. These may include:
- Prepaid debit or gift card
- Wire Transfers
- Third parties
Travel Scams – Traveling for the holidays can get expensive, and bargains may be tempting, but some offers may be scams that end up costing you more instead of helping you save. To avoid travel scams consumers should:
- Be cautious when it comes to email offers, especially if it is from an unknown sender or company.
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know.
- Ask for references.
Puppy Scams – While a year-round issue, puppy scams hurt families seeking to add a family member to their household for the holidays. Puppy scams are often difficult to avoid as cute pictures, and good deals pull at the heartstrings and wallet. To prevent this fraud, consumers should:
- Do an image search online of the photo given of your pet. If multiple websites pop-up, it’s probably a scam.
- Know what prices to expect because if the cost seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Search bbb.org for accredited breeders and rescue shelters.
- Never pay using a money order or via the Western Union or Moneygram, instead use a credit card, which will give you the added protection of being able to dispute the charges.
Source: BBB.org and National Retail Federation (NRF)