Beware of Seasonal Ripoffs: The Better Business Bureau Offers Tips to Protect Yourself

December 11, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - December 11, 2012 – “Tis the season” generally brings happy thoughts… but unfortunately, we must still be aware of the Grinches among us. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) offers ten tips to consumers to avoid theft, fraud and scams during the holiday season.

"During the holidays we want to focus on the happiness of the season," said Steve J. Bernas, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “Because of increased activity with credit and debit cards as well as other accounts it is important to not become lax with security measures and to continue to be vigilant in protecting your accounts."

The BBB offers the following ten tips to prevent holiday scams:

1.      Think twice before clicking a link sent to you via email: Links may lead to viruses and allow scammers to get your personal and banking information. Instead, independently find the sites you want to shop on and check for free Business Reviews. Use only secure sites. Look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, the BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted.

2.     Remember criminals and scammers don't take a holiday: Check out businesses’ privacy policies before entering personal information. If shopping online be sure your computer has the most up to date anti-spyware software.

3.      Keep all receipts and read the fine print: Online businesses are required by law to send your product within 30 days unless otherwise stated or you get your money back. Understand that refund and exchange policies can differ significantly from one seller to another.

4.      Pay with a credit card, instead of cash or bank card: If it’s a scam you’ll have record of it and are more likely to get your money back by disputing the charges if you don’t receive the item or dispute false charges made to your account. No other form of payment offers this protection. Also, make sure to check your credit card statements often and not just when your bill arrives.

5.      Beware of gift card scams: Con artists can get important numbers off of gift cards before you have even bought them by scanning the identifying number before hand. They can then go onto the website and see when it is activated, and use it to purchase items. Instead, ask for gift cards behind the counter instead of the ones displayed and use your gift cards as soon as possible.

6.     Don’t leave your purchases in plain sight in your car:  The holidays are a car thief’s prime time to break in and steal your purchases. Either remove your purchases from your car or make sure they are out of sight.

7.     Verify the validity of a charity: The sneakiest Scrooges will often adopt a similar name to known charities, so make sure you do your research and always make out your payment to the charity and not individual solicitors. Visit for free info.

8.     Make a list and check it twice: Often consumers will head out to the malls and spend more money than intended, so make a list of what you want to spend and keep track of how much you are spending.

9.     If going with a layaway plan check out their policy, and if they are BBB Accredited: Layaway is an excellent option when paying for something expensive. Make sure to find out all the details, like how much you need to put down, interest costs, when payments are due, and return policies so that there are no surprises.

10.  Beware of deals that sound to good to be true…they probably are: When shopping online there are hundreds of websites offering to beat out great deals. Make sure to check if the website is legitimate at Sometimes paying less can cost you more.

For more shopping information you can trust, visit 


As a private, non-profit organization, the purpose of the Better Business Bureau is to promote an ethical marketplace. BBBs help resolve buyer/seller complaints by means of conciliation, mediation and arbitration. BBBs also review advertising claims, online business practices and charitable organizations. BBBs develop and issue reviews on businesses and nonprofit organizations and encourage people to check out a company or charity before making a purchase or donation.