St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 3, 2010 – Holidays can be hectic, and scammers are counting on harried consumers letting down their guard, whether shopping online, juggling packages at the mall or simply reading their e-mail.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has identified five common scams that consumers should watch out for and avoid as they shop, whether online or in stores.
“While the rest of us are pulling the decorations out of the attic, scammers are blowing the dust off of their tried and true holiday scams,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB president and CEO. “We all can help make these holiday scams a ghost of Christmases past by not falling for them anymore.”
Online shopping scams: We’re all looking for a great deal online, but some sites offer electronics or luxury goods at prices that are too good to be true. Every holiday season, the BBB hears from holiday shoppers who paid for a “great deal” online, but received nothing in return.
BBB advice: Always look for the BBB logo when shopping online and click on it to confirm that it is legitimate. If you’re shopping on sites that aren’t household names, check them out with the BBB before you buy at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300. Confirm that the company has a legitimate address.
Nabbing the season’s hottest toys and gadgets online: When stores sell out, you may find the items online at sites like Craigslist or eBay— but for a much steeper price. The problem is that some sellers will take your money and run.
BBB Advice: Shop locally on Craigslist and conduct transactions in person. Bring along a friend if you’re uncomfortable meeting the seller alone. Never wire money as payment. If you’re shopping on auctions like eBay, research sellers extensively and listen to your doubts if the deal sounds fishy or too good to be true.
Identity theft at the mall: While you’re struggling at the mall with bags of presents, identity thieves may see an opportunity to steal your wallet or your debit or credit card numbers.
BBB Advice: Don’t let yourself get bogged down in purchases or lose track of your wallet. Know where your credit and debit cards are at all times and cover the keypad when entering your pin number while purchasing items or getting money from the ATM. Make sure you put your card back in your wallet after each purchase.
Bogus charitable pleas: The holidays are a time of giving, and that creates an opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Beware of solicitations from charities that don’t necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans. Resist demands for on-the-spot donations.
BBB Advice: Always research charities with the BBB before you give to see if the charity meets the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability. Up-to-date reports on local and national charities are available at www.bbb.org/charity.
Phishing e-mails: Phishing e-mails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Around the holidays, beware of e-cards and messages pretending to be from companies like UPS or Fedex with links to package tracking information.
BBB Advice: Don’t click on any links or open any attachments to e-mails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. E-mail addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing e-mail. Also beware of unsolicited e-mails from companies with which you have no association. Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed on the computer.