Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to beware of different common holiday scams. We decided to give a little bit more information about these scams, how to protect yourself and what you could do after you become a victim.
When shopping online, make sure to use only legitimate websites. Con artists sometimes set up websites with official looking banners and copies of government emblems or logos. Instead of getting the help you need, these scam websites may provide false information or use your information to victimize you.
Tip: Watch out for URLs that use the names of well-known brands along with extra words.
Fake shipping notifications
In this scam, once you try to purchase a low-priced item and put it in your online cart, the seller sends a notification saying that “the item can’t be shipped to your location”. After a day or two, you will get an email saying that the item has been shipped to your address and “Amazon requires you to wire the money”. Essentially, the scammer diverts sales outside the checkout process. And, of course, not sending the product. These scams can also have attachments or links to sites that will download malware on your computer to steal your identity and your passwords. Don’t be fooled by a holiday phishing scam.
Tip: Call the company that you are ordering from and do not click on any links.
More and more people are sending holiday e-cards instead of regular cards because they are convenient and environmentally green. Cybercriminals will send you an e-card, asking you to download an attachment to pick up your card. However, the attachment isn’t really an e-card—it’s malicious software ready that installs on your computer. Two red flags to watch out for are: the sender’s name is not apparent; you are required to share additional information to get the card.
Tip: Do not open the attachment if you are not sure if the sender is legitimate.
Letters from Santa
In this scam, you get an email selling a “Handwritten letter from Santa to Your Child.” It encourages you to make your child’s holiday by purchasing “Santa’s special package” for a certain amount. You click on the link, and it takes you to a website. The site promises the special package contains an “official” nice-list certification and customized letter from Santa. There’s even a free shipping special that ends (not coincidentally) in just few hours. You decide to purchase and enter your credit card information. Scammers try to get personal information from unsuspecting parents.
Tip: Check with bbb.org to find out which ones are legitimate.
Seniors should be cautious if they get a call from a grandchild claiming to be in an accident, arrested or hospitalized while traveling in another country. The caller asks for money through a money transfer company, such as Western Union or Money Gram. Wanting to help their grandchild, the victim sends the money requested.
Tip: Never send money unless you confirm with another family member that it’s true.
Scammers take advantage of the generous mood at the holidays with fake charity solicitations in email, on social media sites, and even by text. Knowing that consumers like to give this at time of year, hackers send out fake messages requesting donations that appear to be from legitimate charitable organizations. However, these emails usually link to phony websites that take your money without passing it along to a good cause.
Tip: Never click on a link in a message that you receive!
Temporary holiday jobs
Retailers and delivery services need extra help at the holidays, but beware of solicitations that require you to share personal information online or pay for a job lead. Scammers know it’s nice to have a little extra cash around the holidays. They send emails to entice job hunters with promises of high-paying jobs and work-from-home moneymaking opportunities. Once you submit your information to them, the scammers are off and running with your information and your money.
Tip: Apply in person or go to retailers’ main websites to find out who is hiring.
Unusual forms of payment
Be wary of anyone who asks you to pay for holiday purchases using prepaid debit cards, gift cards, wire transfers, third parties, etc. These payments cannot be traced and cannot be undone. Protect yourself by paying with a credit card, which gives you additional protections such as the opportunity to dispute charges if the business doesn’t come through.
Tip: Use a credit card on a secure website; look for https in the address (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and the lock symbol.
Free gift cards
Recently, big brands such as Target, Starbucks, Costco, Shell, Zara, Winstream, Wal-Mart, or Asda are being used as a front for the latest phishing scams. Pop-up ads or email offering free gift cards are often just a ploy to get your personal information that can later be used for identity theft.
Tip: If you receive one of these offers or emails, contact the company and verify the deal.
Social media gift exchange
Participants are promised they will receive 36 gifts after only sending one gift valued at $10. The same scam surfaced last year, too. It’s most widely shared as a “secret sister” gift exchange. But it is showing up in other forms, too. But it’s just a variation on a pyramid scheme and it’s illegal.
Tip: Check with BBB before becoming involved in suspicious activity.
What if you have become a victim?
Depending on the size of the scam, you can try to recover your loss. Norman J. Groot, fraud recovery lawyer at Investigation Counsel PC, wrote several blogs on the subject: “The civil justice system’s primary purpose is to provide fraud victims with direct access to justice to seek restitution and retribution as against those who wrong them by permitting them to commence an action in their own name as against the fraudsters and their accomplices, and allowing them to control the pace and settlement of their action. Civil litigation is a branch of private law.” You can also always report your fraud story to us at Canadian Fraud News Inc. by filling out the online form or email email@example.com, or at BBB Scam Tracker.