Tis’ the season for holiday shopping and spending.
Better Business Bureau officials say that consumers are expected to spend more this year than they did last year.
With all that spending, BBB officials say they want to warn consumers to properly prepare for scammers that are looking to take away a bit of that holiday cheer.
We sat down with Robyn Householder, President/CEO at BBB Middle Tennessee to learn how consumers can best avoid them.
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A lot of consumers will notice look-alike websites popping up this season. They usually come in the form of an email alert, promoting what seems like a great deal.
These websites also allow scammers to download malware onto your computers.
Always make sure to review the sender’s address, look for misspellings and only enter sensitive information into a website that begins with ‘HTTPS’.
Fake Shipping Notifications
A lot of holiday shoppers do the bulk of their buying online. Scammers are creating false emails alongside the real ones–just hoping you don’t notice. Once a consumer clicks on one, a variety of things can go wrong.
Consumers should make sure to check tracking numbers, read previous emails before opening, and look for scammer grammar.
Thousands of people mail cards to loved ones during the holiday season. Some are going high-tech, sending e-cards instead. E-cards are becoming another way that scammers can get your information.
There are three questions you can ask yourself to determine if an e-card offer is a scam.
- Is the sender’s name visible?
- Are you being asked to enter your personal information to open the card?
- Does this email look suspicious?
Letters from Santa
Millions of kids write a letter to Santa as a tradition. However, this could be a chance for scammers to acquire unsuspecting parents’ personal information.
A lot of legitimate businesses do offer personalized letters from Santa, but scammers are only looking for your information. Here are a few things you can do:
- Be suspicious of unsolicited emails
- Look for special prices or packages for the letters from Santa
- Do your research to verify a company offering a letter
Scammers are known to target seniors, but during the holidays it can become a more prevalent issue.
Scammers pose as a grandchild who needs help. They will claim they have been in an accident, hospitalized or even arrested. They will then ask the grandparent for money right away.
Here are a few things you can do to prevent falling victim to this scam:
- Call the family member in question
- Check-in with other family members
- Never wire money or send gift cards
Consumers tend to open their checkbooks to give back to charities during the holidays. Scammers are hoping to make the most from that generosity.
Here are a few things you can do to spot these phony charities:
- Look for sound-alike names
- Verify charity at Give.org
- Review the charity donation plan
Temporary Holiday Jobs
Lots of consumers look to make extra money during the holiday season. Temporary holiday job searches are just another thing scammers are hoping to take advantage of.
In order to avoid a temporary holiday job scam, consumers should:
- Apply for the job in person
- Go directly to the retailer’s website
- Never give personal information over the phone
- Don’t pay for anything upfront
Unusual Forms of Payment
A lot of people head to social media to find the best deals. Specialty shops often target people with ads on social media during the holidays.
Householder says you’ll know it’s a scam when they ask you for untraditional forms of payment.
Here are some things you can look for:
- Stay away from anyone asking for payment in prepaid debit cards, wire transfers or payment apps like Venmo
- Those purchases often can’t be undone
Free Gift Cards
A lot of people give gift cards as a present to loved ones, but scammers are hoping shoppers will fall for this ‘free gift card’ scam.
They will use a pop-up ad to lure consumers in. If you enter your personal information online it can lead to identity theft.
Here’s what you can do to avoid being a victim:
- Never open the email, as it could be a phishing attempt
- Don’t share any personal information to receive the card
- Do not click on the ad
- Close out of the program
- Turn on your ad blocker
Social Media Gift Exchange
This scam is considered a pyramid scheme. It’s called the ‘Social Media Gift Exchange’.
The idea is when one person purchases a gift and gets several in return. This scam is illegal.
Here are a few things to remember:
- This scam is referred to as the ‘Secret Sister Scam’
- Never give out your personal info: (telephone number, address, etc.)
- It’s a ploy to steal your identity
A lot of families like to give their kids a new puppy for Christmas and scammers take advantage of it. It’s called a ‘Puppy Scam’, and it’s an international scam.
Families that fall victim to this one are usually looking for a specific breed.
Here’s how to avoid a puppy scam:
- Shop around
- Check with a few local breeders
- Always pay with a credit card
Traveling during the holiday season can get expensive. Consumers should be wary of an offer that seems too good to be true.
There are a few things consumers can do to avoid travel scams.
- Be cautious about email offers
- Never wire money to a stranger
- Ask for travel references