Hot Topics-December 2013

December 09, 2013

December 9, 2013


 'Tis the Season for Holiday Schemes
Be cautious when shopping this holiday season, a time when schemes become even more popular. Here are some schemes to be aware of:

  • Stranded grandkids: It’s the classic “grandparent scam.” If your grandchild, other relative or friend calls or emails to say they have been robbed or hurt overseas, check before wiring money.
  • Fake coupons: Be cautious when downloading coupons. Always make sure you are at a retailer’s real website. Be especially careful with coupon sites that ask for personal information.
  • Counterfeit gifts: Low prices on luxury goods are almost always cheap counterfeits.
  • Pickpockets: Keep your purse or wallet secure when shopping. Don’t get overburdened or put shopping bags down, even for a moment. Thieves are watching!
  • Santa scammers: What could be more exciting than a letter from Santa addressed directly to your child? Make sure the website is real and not gathering your data for identity theft purposes.
  • Fake charities: Charities count on end-of-the-year giving, so be generous if you can. But be careful, too, because scammers set up fake charities with similar-sounding names.
  • Travel scams: With busy holiday travel, bargains may be tempting. Be cautious when booking travel plans through online ads, never wire money to someone you don’t know, and ask for references.
  • Romance scams: Everyone wants a special someone to meet under the mistletoe, so holidays are prime time for scams. Be careful with an online sweetheart who gets cozy too fast or asks for money.
  • Puppy scams: Be very careful buying pets online, especially during the holidays. You may get a puppy with problems, or you may get nothing at all.


Gift Card Purchases
Gift cards are a popular item to give during the holiday season. With the gift card scheme, the number can be taken off the back of the card, and then the people doing the scheme use the money that the purchaser put on it. When the consumer uses the card, it has no funds. The BBB encourages you to take these steps before purchasing a gift card:

  • Buy from sources you know and trust. Avoid buying gift cards from online auction sites because they may be empty, counterfeit or stolen.
  • If you can, ask for a card from behind the counter. These cards are hidden from people who could possibly take the number off the back of the card.
  • Inspect the card before buying it. Verify that no protective stickers have been removed and that the codes on the back of the card haven’t been scratched off to reveal a PIN number. Report any damaged cards to the store selling the cards.
  • Give the recipient your original receipt so they can verify the card's purchase in case it is lost or stolen.
  • Check it out. Make sure you are buying from known and trusted sources. Always check out a business at


Delivery Package Theft
Wrapped and delivered with care ... or not! This holiday season many people are ordering gifts and having the items shipped to their house. There are people who will follow a delivery truck and steal the box once the delivery truck has left. Here are some tips the BBB recommends to keep this from happening to you:

  • Know what company is delivering your package.
  • Know the tracking number. Most delivery services offer text, email or Web-based notifications that allow you to track your package’s delivery status. Track your purchases often until you receive the merchandise. Contact the store immediately if your package is not received when indicated.
  • Request a signature confirmation upon delivery. There is typically an extra charge for this service, but it will prevent the delivery person from leaving the package unattended.
  • Request a delivery time when you know you will be home. If you won’t be at home when the delivery is scheduled, consider having the items shipped to a trusted neighbor or friend who will be home. Tell them to be on the lookout if the delivery person does not ring the doorbell.
  • Give special instructions for delivery if needed – Ask the package delivery company to leave your purchases somewhere they cannot be seen from the street, e.g. the back porch, behind the back door, etc.
  • Request that the package be held at the delivery company’s local delivery center, and pick it up there.
  • When you do receive your merchandise, examine it immediately. If you believe it’s been tampered with, contact the store immediately.


Bogus Websites
With consumers buying gifts this season, the BBB warns that some websites are bogus. Often, these bogus sites will look very similar to the actual site they are mimicking. Look at these tips before ordering from an online website you haven’t used before:

  • Check for misspellings and items that are out of place; these are red flags.
  • Use websites that use https.
  • Shop on trustworthy Web sites. Shoppers should start with the BBB to check a seller’s reputation and record for customer satisfaction at
  • Look for a customer service phone number and verify the address. Call the customer service phone number to ensure they are the real deal. Also, verify the address by contacting your local United States Post Office.
  • Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.
  • Don’t use money transfer services to send money to people you don’t know and trust, especially people you’ve never met in person. Money transfer services do not guarantee the receipt or quality of any goods or services an individual may purchase using wire transfers as a payment method.


Malware E-cards
Be watchful for holiday e-cards this holiday season. Make sure you know the person before you open an email from them. Viruses and malware often travel in email attachments or links. Don’t click on an email from someone you don’t know or a name you don’t recognize. When in doubt, delete!

  • Delete an email if you don’t know who it is from.
  • If you see typos and grammatical mistakes, these are red flags.
  • Look out for unsolicited emails from companies that you have no association with.
  • Make sure you have current antivirus software and that all security patches have been installed.


Want to report a potential scheme or alert the BBB of unethical business practices? Send us an email to

For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB representative, contact: Tiffany Whisner, Coles Marketing Communications, 317-571-0051,