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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Better Business Bureau warns of Christmas scams

As we approach Christmas, just a reminder that there are as many or more ways to get scammed during the holiday season.

Better Business Bureau recommends shopping with caution and to keep an eye open for a variety of Grinch-worthy schemes and scams.

“When shopping or donating this holiday season, watch out for schemes trying to swipe your cash or steal your personal information,” said Aaron Guillen, BBB communications specialist.

The 12 scams of Christmas to watch out for:

1. Misleading social media ads. BBB constantly receives reports of people paying for items that they never receive, getting charged monthly for a free trial they never signed up for, or receiving an item that is counterfeit or much different from the one advertised. Always research before you buy.

2. Social media gift exchanges. Each holiday season, this scheme pops back up. A popular name for this scheme is the ‘Secret Sister’ gift scam. The scam works by promising large amounts gifts (perhaps bottles of wine, gift cards, books, etc) when you bring extra friends to the group; the more friends the better. The problem is that this scheme stops when the recruitment stops. Someone will be left empty handed. Plus — pyramid schemes are illegal in Canada.

3. Holiday apps. Apple’s App Store and Google Play list dozens of holiday-themed apps where children can video chat live with Santa, light the menorah, or track Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. Watch out for in-app purchases that may be charged to your card on file and review privacy policies to see what information will be collected from the apps.

4. Fake texts/calls for online accounts. Consumers will receive an email, call, or text message which explains that there has been suspicious activity on one of their accounts. It further urges them to take immediate action by re-entering private information and trusting whoever sent them the text, call, or email. Sadly, that can leave a consumer vulnerable to being hacked.

5. Gift card bar-code stickers. When buying gift cards at big box stores, make sure to double check the bar code on the back of the gift card. In December 2022, a scam circulated around the country in which an identical bar code sticker was placed on top of the current bar code. When customers bought their gift card, they were actually purchasing a completely separate gift card unrelated to theirs. If you don’t catch the con during checkout, you end up activating their card instead of yours. If you fall for this scam or narrowly avoid it, report it to BBB Scam Tracker.

6. Fake employers for seasonal jobs. Retailers typically hire seasonal workers to help meet the demands of holiday shoppers. With Boxing Day coming, shippers and delivery services are top holiday employers because of the increase in online orders. In fact, 65 percent of employment scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker were related to becoming a “warehouse redistribution coordinator” or some similar titles involving the reshipment of packages, which often contain stolen goods. Look for the Sign of A Better Business by searching the BBB Business Directory first.

7. Look-alike websites. The holiday season brings endless emails offering deals, sales, and bargains, but be wary of emails with links enclosed, especially from unfamiliar businesses. Some may lead to look-alike websites created by scammers to trick people into downloading malware, making dead-end purchases, and sharing private information.

8. Fake charities. The last few weeks of the year is a busy time for charitable donations. Donors are advised to look out for fraudulent charities and scammers pretending to be individuals in need. Find a trusted charity by verifying it with BBB’s Give.org.

9. Fake shipping notifications. With rampant online shopping during the holidays, there is also an increase in the number of notifications about shipping details from retailers and carriers. Scammers are using this new surge to send phishing emails with links enclosed that may allow unwanted access to your private information or attempt to trick people into paying new shipping fees.

10. Niche advent calendars. This is a new entry to the top 12 scams of Christmas. In past years, BBB Scam Tracker say reports about advent calendar ads on social media not delivering as promised. Some were not received, and others received inferior products or incomplete orders. Research before you buy, read reviews and find companies you can trust on BBB.org/search before purchasing.

11. Hot toy scams. Don’t be fooled by extra-low prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Last year, a Vancouver man reported to BBB Scam Tracker that he lost $640 after sending an e-transfer to an unknown seller in Victoria for a Playstation 5. The seller disappeared.

12. Puppy scams. Be sure to see the pet in person before making a purchase, if possible. While the number of cases are dropping, average monetary losses are still high, with an average loss of $850, according to our latest data.

Share your scam story
Local law enforcement is concerned about the impact of scams on area residents, particularly the elderly.
Consequently, this newspaper works with local police and sheriff’s departments to keep residents updated on common schemes. Scam Alerts will appear in future editions as often as possible in the coming weeks.
Readers can also find online scam updates Tuesdays at windomnews.com.
If you have been the target of a scam, your first contact should be local authorities. Also, feel free to contact us with details (we can keep your name confidential).
Send your story to: rahnl@windomnews.com, or call 507-831-3455. By sharing, you could prevent someone from being scammed.

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