Top Five Holiday Scams to Avoid This Season

December 19, 2011

Denver, CO – December 19, 2011 – The holidays are a joyous time for togetherness and giving, but also a time for fraud. Consumers can fall into any number of traps during this time and become victim to identity thieves, hackers and deceptive merchants online. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning holiday shoppers and donors to look out for five common scams seen often during this time of year.

“Don’t let your guard down just because it’s the holiday season,” said Dale Mingilton, president and CEO of the BBB Serving Denver/Boulder. “Those who get taken this time of year tend to be too trusting and don’t take the time to do their homework like they normally would.”

The following is a list of the top five holiday swindles and advice on how to avoid them:

1. Phishing emails

Phishing emails are a common way for hackers to get at your personal information or break into your computer. Common phishing emails around the holidays include ecards 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 emails until you have confirmed that they are not malicious. Email addresses that don’t match up, typos and grammatical mistakes are common red flags of a malicious phishing email. Also beware of unsolicited emails 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.

2. Finding the season’s hottest toys and gadgets online

Every year, holiday shoppers fight over the “must have” toy or gadget of the season. When the item is sold out in stores, you can often find it online through sites like Craigslist or eBay—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 the transaction in person—never wire money as payment. When purchasing items on auctions like eBay, research the seller extensively and always listen to your doubts if the deal doesn’t sound legit.

3. Identity theft at the mall

While you’re struggling at the mall with bags of presents, identity thieves see an opportunity to steal your wallet and debit or credit card numbers.

BBB Advice: Don’t let yourself get bogged down in purchases and 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.

4. Bogus charitable pleas

The holidays are a time of giving which creates a great opportunity for scammers to solicit donations to line their own pockets. Also beware of solicitations from charities that don’t necessarily deliver on their promises or are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans.

BBB Advice: Always research a charity with the BBB (visit before you give to see if the charity meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

5. Gift Card Scams:

Whenever something is popular, such as giving and receiving gift cards, scammers take notice. As soon as a gift card is activated, a scammer may already have its information and start using it before you do. Stolen or fake gift cards are also being sold on internet auction sites. BBB Advice: Do not buy gift cards from online auction sites; these cards are often counterfeit or obtained by fraudulent means. Also, give the recipient the original receipt to verify the card’s purchase incase it gets lost or stolen.

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About the BBB
The BBB is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. The BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM on charities and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your BBB also offers dispute resolution services for consumers and businesses. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada. Please visit for more information.