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Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa
Don't Get Burned by 4th of July Scams
July 02, 2014

The 4th of July is only a couple days away, with backyard barbecues, fireworks and celebrations of the Red, White and Blue. Unfortunately, holidays often inspire scam artists who will try to take advantage of you and ruin your holiday plans.

Here are some of the most common 4th of July scams, and tips on how to protect yourself:

Deceptive Deals
One of the best things about the holidays is that retailers feature major sales events. However, in the rush to "act now or miss out," it’s easy to run into problems if you purchase something without understanding the seller’s terms and conditions.  Also, be extra careful when shopping online.  Fake retail websites are a popular scam around any holiday.  Scam artists create websites that may offer incredible savings, but these sites can prove to be traps for stealing your credit card information.

Always read the fine print - This should include details such as financing charges, delivery costs, limitations on returns and refunds or restocking fees.  This information must clearly posted on a website, or in the case of a retailer outlet, on the item itself or at the cash register.

Shop on reputable websites that use secure payment and security practices – Check the company’s business review at bbb.org, especially if you run across a website you’ve never heard of that is offering special 4th of July deals.  You can confirm whether a site is secure by looking for  “https://” in your web browser’s address bar.   It’s a major red flag if the vendor doesn’t provide contact information or if payment is requested by wire transfer or preloaded debit card.

Look for the BBB seal on e-commerce websites - Make sure a website’s BBB seal is authentic. When you click it, it should take you to the BBB website and pull up the company’s business review.  The BBB seal confirms BBB Business Accreditation and compliance with our Standards for Trust.

Watch out for “bait and switch” - If an item is offered at a certain price by a store or website, the seller should have a reasonable quantity of the item available at that cost. Be wary if they tell you that advertised merchandise sold out very quickly, and instead, offer you a more expensive item.  “Bait and switch” tactics are illegal.

Pay with a credit card -   Credit cards carry additional protection should you not receive your item or have any type of dispute.

Get a receipt -   A receipt is evidence of payment and is usually required to resolve any problem with a seller.   Be cautious when accepting an e-receipt by email; in such cases ask how your email address and any other private information you provide might be used.

Phishing
Many scam artists use social media to carry out their schemes.  During the holidays, they tend to capitalize on trends like eCards and viral videos that everyone wants to share.  Even though you may think you’re opening a 4th of July eCard from a friend or following a link to see a patriotic video, you may actually get an unwanted digital download.  Scammers embed this kind of content with viruses and other malware that can infect your computer or hijack your account, without your knowledge.

Never open suspicious holiday eCards or download email attachments that you’re not expecting, and always keep your anti-virus software running and up-to-date.  Don't open on an e-mail from someone you don't know.  When in doubt, delete it.

You can spot a fake email by hovering over the links and checking whether the URL leads to the business's website or, in a scam email, to a third party site.  

  • Read the email carefully for signs that it may be fake, for example, misspellings and grammar, and generic greetings such as "Dear member" instead of your name.  If you are not certain whether the email is legitimate, contact the business directly.
  • Do not click on any links or attachments from unfamiliar sources, and never agree to allow a stranger to “clean” your computer remotely.   Typically such offers are phishing attempts that can have serious consequences.   Don’t believe emails or calls from unfamiliar people who claim that your computer has been hacked and offer help.
  • Be wary of any urgent instructions to take specified action such as "Click on the link or your account will be closed."  If you did click on a link, run a full anti-virus software system scan.   If you suspect you have inadvertently downloaded malware, it might be necessary for you to have a professional clean your computer’s hard drive.

You will find additional consumer alerts and tips at bbb.org.