The start of the holiday season also brings the holiday fraud season. As people start spending a little more money than usual this time of the year, be prepared for scammers looking to take advantage of your good cheer. Here are some tips the Better Business Bureau recommends:
1. Look-Alike Websites
You will likely see an increase in the number of emails announcing deals, gifts, and sales. While the emails may look real, they may contain links that lead to look-alike websites meant to trick you into entering private information or give scammers an opportunity to download malware onto your computer. Try going to the seller’s legitimate address to see if the sale is real. Hover over links in the email without clicking to see where they reroute. And remember, 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.
2. Social Media Gift Exchange
Purchasing one gift and receiving 25 may sound like a great deal, but this is often a seasonal scam that is actually a pyramid scheme. Don’t do it!
3. Temporary Holiday Jobs
During this time of the year, retailers and delivery service companies are busier than ever, and consequently need the extra help. Before filling out a job application online, take caution against solicitations that ask you to share your personal information or pay for a job lead. Apply in person or go to the company’s main website instead of going through a third-party website.
Electronic cards can be a whole lot of fun, but you’ll want to be careful. Two red flags to watch out for are: the sender’s name is not apparent and you are requested to share additional information to get the card. Avoid opening any suspicious email but if you do and see an attachment that ends in “.exe” which indicates an execute command and could download a virus, do not open it.
5. 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. And never share any personal information to receive the card as the scammers will use the information to steal your identity later.
6. 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. You should verify the situation by calling the family member in question directly, or check with other family members to see if the claims are true.
7. Fake Shipping Notifications
Delivery notifications can be expected throughout the holiday season as many people order gifts online, 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. Most online vendors provide tracking information that can be used to verify where your items are. Also, you are not required to pay money to receive your package – payment for shipping was made when you made your purchase.
8. Phony Charities
Scammers take advantage of the fact that everyone is in a generous mood during the holidays. They do this by sending fake charity solicitations via email, on social media, and even by text. Before donating, check out the Better Business Bureau’s list of legitimate charities at www.give.org.
9. Letters From Santa
Watch out for fraudulent websites offering "Letters from Santa." Some of these sites promise a custom letter from the man at the North Pole but don't deliver. The scams usually come in 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 $19.99. 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. Don't do it! In the best case, you are simply out the $19.99. In the worst case scenario, you just shared your credit card information with scammers, who can now use it for identity theft.
10. 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, and never wire money to someone you don’t know.
11. Unusual Forms of Payments
When making your holiday purchases, be wary of anyone asking for strange forms of payment like prepaid debit or gift cards, wire transfers, and using third parties. These types of transactions are impossible to trace and generally cannot be undone.
12. Puppy Scams
create fake websites or online listings claiming to be puppy breeders, luring people in with cute pictures and promises of adopting a healthy puppy. Before the dog can be delivered, the expecting family must pay an adoption fee, shipping costs, insurance, and veterinarian fees via wire transfer. Once money is sent, the puppy never ends up arriving. Remember that if you have a puppy shipped, you don't know anything about it. Arrange to visit and pick up the dog in person.
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